Love, the Gwyneth Paltrow movie star way.
Cool, short. Neat. On a city bridge in the rain. The bridge her grandfather built. Her boyfriend redeems a critical moment. He really is single and he can prove it.
Prove love? The real love I see is messier. The no excuses kind. The no “excuse me” kind.
In this same dress I have been here. The same shoes, three years earlier. In this same spot, I stood for an hour, to talk with a minister because there was no one else. I could not excuse myself from talking to him. From being nice. From saying the nice things that kept coming to mind so there was no quiet between us. Still thinking the mean.
How do I get away from him, I remember thinking. And now. My mouth threw words up to me, conjecture about the person who just died. Someone’s mother I did not know well. Things people say at funerals about the dearly departed. What people think between kind thoughts said. Soft comma nods at intervals that send clues of a sort.
What departed even means? What undeparted means?
Because clearly today, I am dearly undeparted.
A dearly undeparted, who still resides in her body, still harbors her voice in unvoiced ways.
I watch as Msgr. Flemming’s right hand goes up over his sweated forehead, over fried wire brows beyond where I can see without standing on a box. That his white floss hairs he flicks lay smooth on red skin tells me he is of a certain age. His voice, a certain ethnicity. His collar, stiff, black. One inch precision, like a large Chicklet candy licked dull, flat, tasteless. One I want to taste, to make sure. Try on, to inspect. To see if it has frays yet, is grey or yellow on its edges. Still square after all of these years. But I will not.
Why Monsignor even talks to me at this reception for Rosemary, I do not know. Before today, I never saw the man. I do not think I look important. But try to talk in that direction. For the old man I make a story about in my mind between smart thoughts said.
Her son is our friend.
I did not know his mother. Her son I only know so well. My husband’s friend. Good men both. Now I almost know a third. A monsignor, no less. That, and that a good man’s mother has just died is enough for me today.
Worn to a bend, Rosemary, when I met her the one time I did, survived by three boys and one girl. Her trophies who do not cut to the chase either.
Single, widowed, in her eighties. She lived one town over in a house on a hill behind a municipal park. Had lunch with friends I heard today. Their ranks thinning, marked clearly on the refrigerator in her loose scribble hand. Tells me Wednesdays were booked at noon into the foreseeable future at Katherine’s on Honolulu Av. where I imagine the ladies order a chocolate malt shake, melted cheese on wheat, tomato on the side.
Enough material for monsignor to conclude, recount, Rosemary was a good woman who did God’s work. Took up her cross like all good women.
Left to read between lines, I take this to mean she did not runaway.
To Paris, to New York. To Rome. From the children that look like her, their whining and reticence, more his than hers. Children she reminded to mind her words, that God sees everything, just like Santa and the teachers at school. Do not step out of line, speak up in demanding ways.
Nor do I think she uses the family’s rainy day money set in a jar on a shelf for selfish purposes. Knowing her son the little I do. This much is true, she was a good woman who did God’s work. Took up her cross did not run away. To Paris. Or New York. Did not learn French from the ruddy sweet man with one good sweater at Paris’ Sunday street market. The man who squeezes tomatoes like his mother taught him, or the woman seller nearby, with a long pug face who shows her how to pinch lemons. They are ready to use when they smell like the back of a French lover’s neck. Someone she says with arching eyebrows maybe Rosemary will meet in the country? Someone to share a baguette and Vespa with when she careens around the too slim roads. Roads that take her to San Tropez or Monaco with soft shoulder edges, drop away sides, pencil lines roads scratched into a mountain. No median to slosh into when the tanned stranger pulls alongside. His coup revving in the oncoming lane as he asks for a light. Two people alone who throw back their heads with glee, soundless laughs caught in the wind that go over the hill a shepherd hears. The kind of laughs with teeth you can count. The driver pushes an index finger into the air, indicates Rosemary should pull off the road at the lookout ahead. She smiles, shakes the waves in her hair, salutes him goodbye. He gives her a look that says, “poor me,” in a little boy way that starts a new round of laughs, the kind with teeth you can count.
(c) M K Smyth 2012