The women helped her mourn. They made her tea, folded his clothes in ways she’d never seen, in ways he’d never done. They bustled, and cackled softly with great economy, like putting a toe in a stream while not causing ripples to play off the light. Like not changing history.
They put his socks in his shoes, threw away his underwear, even the ones dug down deep in the hamper. They cursed under their breaths, "what a damn shame." They drove everything, two plastic dairy boxes and an old curled-leather suitcase worth, to Donna’s Thrift and Shop two counties away. They never wanted her to see another man wearing Charlie’s clothes.
Her great-aunts came from Brooklyn, weathered culture shock, found the gin, and tried to persuade her to list the house. But empty, it was more like him than full, and what was the alternative anyway? Move to Brooklyn, impose upon one of their fifth-floor walkups, eat Chinese, and pickles from a barrel in Crown Heights while talking about nothing?
She preferred the ghost of memories to starting over, so they finally huffed off, their matching luggage, crocheted scarves and minor indignation trailing behind like too much perfume. They vowed to keep in touch with her more often, from far away, and they did.
She ate the casseroles that had miraculously appeared in her freezer, went back to work at the bank, tried to make people meet her eyes, not with pity or concern, just "how are you and isn’t it chilly today?" She bought a dog, named her Lucy. If they'd had children, that would have been the name of the girl. Matthew for a boy.
She moved a favorite chair and good reading lamp into the garage, formerly Charlie’s hallowed castle of rust and all things 1955. There she talked to Charlie from time-to-time, holding an old catcher’s mitt, rubbing the palm with her thumb. She knew he loved her still, and so she sat in his garage, read her beloved classics with the smell of leather in her lap, Lucy chasing dust motes in the corners. She never wanted to find another, it was quite peaceful.
The women felt sad for her, a little territorial and concerned about their own husbands. There was never any need. She was calm and clear-eyed as a Madonna, passing her days as always, her nights midway between stream and shore, she and Charlie continuing the memories and causing ripples, and she was beautiful.
About the Author: Tobi Cogswell is a poet and co-editor/co-publisher of San Pedro River Review. She occasionally writes blogs, blurbs, reviews and short-shorts, although she has to be careful not to turn everything into a poem. Her seventh chapbook The Coincidence of Castles is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. Her collaborative full length collection of poems and photographs with Jeffrey C. Alfier, The Color of Forgiveness, is forthcoming from Mojave River Press.
Photo Credit: Leesa Cross-Smith