There is gossip, of course. Someone has been arrested and gone to jail. Someone is leaving his wife. Someone hit a parked car outside the bar and drove into the north side hills, into the blackness up there. Someone wants a copy of your funeral portrait with the vodka-and-cranberry. Someone has been lying to me. Someone and I have terminated our professional relationship.
There is progress, too. Most days now, when I get out of class, I take a detour home. I drive down King Road, taking carefully the hairpin turns along the state park toward the big box storefront lights on Route 13. It’s dark early and no houses out that way. I park in the darkness and turn my headlights off. I listen to whatever music won’t let go of me, and I scream.
I consider this progress, anyway. You would say, “Don’t be morbid.” But I prefer the banshee howl to the strangled numbness of the first days. I would rather scream than try to scream.
I keep listening to this song by a band you never heard of, and even if I had played this song for you, I know you would have said, “That’s nice, hon. A little sad, though.” And it’s true, the song is sad, it’s about death. And I know you would have heard the cloying melody and dying heartbeat bass drum and missed the lines I keep replaying to hear: But there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart…
Mom and I went to lunch the other day. Greek place. She ordered spinach pie. The restaurant was bright–fresh white walls, oceanic murals, dolphins leaping equivocally with waves in slate blue and creamy orange. We talked plainly about grief. She said she has to ask herself sometimes if you are really gone so soon, and if I could, I’d violate her privacy to call and tell you, “See? She isn’t sorry she met you.” She paid in cash, and I thought of every restaurant you ever took me to, the exact change and tip in folded bills on every Formica table, and I thought of you as we were leaving and the old Greek man behind the pastry display case said, “Thank you, thank you, sweetheart,” because I knew right away he was the father of a daughter.
S&S check in nearly every day. They defer their pain to hear mine all the way out, all the way to skittering silence over bread crumbs and dregs of wine on the table. B. has been good to me, too. Today, he reminded me about the staff Christmas bonuses.
K. decorated the bar. It looks better than any other year, she hung glittery stars from the ceiling and the little tree glows in the corner like a nightlight, like a campfire going out in early dawn. It’s just slightly bigger than the one we borrowed from your parents all those years ago and never returned. Remember how we forgot to unplug it after the new year, and the tiny colored lights kept winking on with the timer? Six ‘o clock every night. Year after year after year. And when we moved into the new house, we brought it and put it on those stairs that are walled-off at the top. The Christmas tree that never died on the stairs that went to nowhere.