What I want to tell her is this: it’s fitting, perfectly, that you who so assiduously hid the past from me, your past and mine, now bars your entry, refusing you even the briefest glimpse. You want so to grab onto it to have it carry you to a place removed from here by time and distance, where it is warm and most of the time, cozy. It is also fitting that you call out his name, as though he was in the yard pruning a tree, delaying dinner, the same he you cursed glad to have him out of your life and out of your house, you wished him dead so that you might call yourself a widow and share condolences with the other black draped women. You never mentioned the six months of foster care or the little sister who came and went so quickly when he had the audacity to drop dead on you one morning. This is what I would say to her, this is the curse I would place upon her but she no longer recognizes me, I am no more than a well dressed orderly come to remove her lunch tray.
She moves with the fluidity that suggests she has been trained as a dancer, though she denies it, says that she has no interest in dance, barely tolerates music and then only because it sometimes is a requirement. She smiles, though it doesn’t seem at all natural to her, more another thing she does because she believes is quite often required. Hers is a life of requirements and she strives to be compliant, choosing to hide a seething passion deep within, for it terrifies her: this is what she was taught by her mother, how she survived four older brothers, a father who feared his reflection in the whiskey bottle and quickly erased it,, the devil deal with consequences, the pain on her mother’s face, she often too slow to duck. She knows the day is coming when he will be repaid by her, and she hopes no one she loves is near Ground Zero.
She knew for a certainty that the shortest distance from here to there would be the one route he was incapable of finding. It had always been like this, impatient to get somewhere, he trying to accommodate her, yet still finding the most circuitous route. He was always embarrassed, apologized profusely until the day the solution appeared. For the first time she wanted to meander to get there eventually, to see what they might find along the way, to stop for a good reason and for no reason. And that was the day he discovered that all you needed to do was follow a straight line.
My grandmother speaks to me from time to time, in a voice that sounds remarkably like my own, but the dead borrow voices, it is so much easier than exercising their own, and there is so little need for words once they leave. She hasn’t changed all that much, still opinionated, still ready to have at it with my mother, who strangely doesn’t visit, doesn’t speak now in any voice, but that may be because the more recently departed assume we remember what they needed to say, and said repeatedly before they died. My grandmother still tells me to carefully consider my actions, to never confuse right and simple, to remember her and never, ever give another thought to Jack, the bastard third husband and the only one she ever dumped.