The house is suddenly empty standing alone on a stark barren lot. The old drapes are drawn tight and little light enters, but there is no one there to see it. Every once in a while there is a rattle, a creaking, and you expect someone to appear in one of the now dark windows, the door to be thrown open, an invitation to enter or at least a wave, life asserting itself within, but it will not happen. You know the house cannot stand long unattended, that it will, too soon, fall away leaving only a hole to mark its presence.
You are driving through the Florida that once was, that is off the coast, and out of Orlando, the Florida of jalousie windows, run down once gas stations and the more than occasional double wide. Suddenly, you are in a Disney version of a semi-tropical New England, gated villages where cars have been supplanted by an endless stream of golf carts, where the Disney smile is a permanent fixture of most every face. In the community, as you walk into the town center, a town square imagined by Rodeo Drive, each night at five a wave of golf carts arrive , to plastic lawn chairs laid out in neat array soon to fill with those who so well remember when the songs to be played, and they, were young.
The old bus shelter has spray painted walls and a broken metal bench. Each morning he shuffles up the hill, a battered leatherette briefcase clutched tightly in his right hand, a copy of the Seattle Times “Nixon in China” in the other. He sits calmly on the bench case between his knees and waits patiently for the bus that hasn’t run this route for the better part of sixteen years. Still, he waits until the sun sinks behind the 7-Eleven, when he shuffles down the hill toward his small apartment satisfied with another day successfully done.
It is that moment when the moon is a glaring crescent, slowly engulfed by the impending night — when the few clouds give out their fading glow In the jaundiced light of the sodium arc street lamp.- It nestles the curb — at first a small bird — when touched, a twisted piece of root
I want to walk into the weed-strewn aging cemetery, stand in the shadow of the expressway, peel the uncut grass from around her head- stone. I remember her arthritic hands clutching mine, in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling of vinyl camphor borsht I saw her last in a hospital bed where they catalog and store those awaiting death, stared at the well-tubed skeleton barely indenting starched white sheets. She smiled wanly and whispershouted my name — I held my ground unable to cross the river of years unwilling to touch her outstretched hand. She had no face then, no face now, only an even fainter smell of age of camphor of lilac of must
Next to the polished headstone lies a small, twisted root. I wish it were a bird, I could place gently on the lowest branch of the old maple that oversees her slow departure.
First appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2006 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.
Much as every person is a Buddha every guitar can play a simple song. Some will lay it badly, some will break a string, some will play with an unspoken regret, but all have the capacity, recognized or not, to create a moment of memory. On this night there are two, both skilled, honed of fine wood, carefully strung, a purity of tone, and you know neither will fail to honor the song they play. But while one shows its mastery, intricacy of notes dancing from the soundhole, while the other sets a gentle rhythm, it is when the other takes up the song, that you realize it is playing it with a depth of soul that you will not soon forget.