Published by Tattoo Highway 2006
Blue Lake, California 2000
The 10 o'clock news irritated me, but then not much pleased me those days. What to do with a world that cleaned up Times Square? What was wrong with the way it was? It was alive, sleazy, reliable. When I was young, I felt safe in its crowds. On trips to Macy's I could strut down 42nd Street in my red slingback pumps, checking out weirdoes, measuring my budding sexuality against the overt smut of the street. Now it's a corporate Disneyland. Depressing. I snapped off the TV and headed for the bath.
In the shower, I folded my tawny arms across my pale breasts, as I let hot water explode down my back. It was late November, and winter gardening had browned my arms up to the elbow, and skunked a stripe of tan across my feet. Except for the paunch of my belly and a pain in my back, my body was lithe for an old woman.
Sonny died Saturday night. I got the call Sunday morning. His sister's voice was starchy, (numb, she said) chatting that she had bought four plots--for Sonny, herself and her two children. I had no rights. Ten years of love was not a marriage. My plot shall be elsewhere, alone. It was hard to focus, her words seared my ears. Sonny does not care where his bones are. He didn't know or care where they put the body parts amputated over the months. I listened and hung up, the room alive with fusing colors.
He was there, right beside me. They all were. All those dead friends, relatives and lovers. Brenda. Janet. Frank. My young father in his aviator suit; my second-husband with his sad eyes. I couldn't see them, but they pushed in on me.
In my terry robe, I rolled the trash can out to the curb for next day pickup, as I did every week. A starry, cold sky covered Blue Lake. Out of the murkiness, a dog bounded down the empty street toward me. Under the street lamp, I saw his loose, wrinkled folds of fur--a big pedigree breed with a pushed-in face--and no owner in sight. He came boldly up to me, sniffed, then turned and wet the bushes beside me with his leg raised high, owning what was mine.
"Don't pee on my plants," I protested. I pulled my robe tighter. Christmas lights blinked from a house nearby. I spotted a rolled penny paper tossed on my lawn, and leaned to pick it up. The dog turned sharply at my move. Agitated, he woofed. I feared he’d bite as he lunged but then backed up, and locked his legs defiantly. I realized rolled newspapers carried another narrative. I hugged the paper to my chest, covered it with my sleeves. My heart thudded. Then, Sonny pushed against me. I filled with his merriment, his teasing taunts--the warm certainty of his large hand squeezing mine.
"Go on home," I said quietly to the dog. Remembering Sonny, I swaggered back up the driveway. Just like it was 42nd Street. My frayed gray slippers slapped the concrete.