"Wait!" I screamed after her. "Your hat!"
She ignored me, which was to be expected. We hadn't talked, not really anyway, in more than 10 years. I scooped up her black hat. The mesh veil fluttered beneath my fingers ...
I'd come back to my hometown to visit my family. They had rejected me, tearfully, yes, but they had indeed said goodbye to me, my lifestyle and, seemingly my past. Given no choice, I had done the same and lived, happily but under a persistent shadow.
My parents had died two years ago, my brother and sister last year. I had only found out a couple of months ago in a conversation with an old teacher.
Deeply wounded, I blamed everyone who had blamed me - for something I couldn't control. Speciously my anger re-ignited at the dead.
There, here again now, was pain on top of pain and I thought I would never return. But holiday weekend plans had fallen apart and I found myself booking a flight and taking off toward the blues.
Such a small town, there were only three graveyards. Having slept overnight in a quiet motel along Main Street, having been slightly afraid to go to any restaurants, not knowing how her life had been shaped by tongues in her absence or who she might meet, she stayed inside, ordering pizza and watching ghastly TV while feeling equally horrible.
The veil in her hand showed that someone close to Theresa had died and it hurt not to be able to hold her as I had before.
The veil in her hand, the material now rubbed between my fingers, was so soft, as Theresa had been and would always be.
The veil in her hand, I suddenly pulled close to my breast and without warning drenched it in streaming tears.
Just a few minutes ago I had visited my family's graves, all four, all rigidly upright, with cold words facing me.
I had not cried, which hurt. I had placed four sets of wide-open irises down. Precisely, neatly.
The group of people in black drew me. I'd been just out of earshot. Feeling it would replace the funerals that I had missed I drew closer, trying to stay near to my family but drawn to the sights and sounds of the other.
The wind made me draw even closer, perhaps more than I intended and I listened to the words of remembrance, remorse and respect. I wished they echoed for my family but there was only regret. Regret that the rift that had forced me away had never been repaired.
But I had lived.
As the whispers of the last words faded away and sobs and sniffles walked away I approached the gravesite, perhaps to expect that I might know the dead. And the name was there, Mildred Overton, etched whitely, newly into stone.
Michael Overton, who had died in a war I had lived through but not known; her husband's name was weathered and smoothed by the passing years.
And, still shocked that someone I had indeed known well, was dead before me I looked up and saw Theresa. No one had been near when I walked up so boldly, yet something brought her to me, as it had 17 years before.
I recognized her instantly, heightened by her mother's name on the gravestone I'm sure, but she also looked so much the same and walked in the same graceful way. I think she approached me as a stranger to wonder who was mourning for her mother who hadn't been there just minutes before.
I think Theresa had wanted a quiet moment alone, with a mother who always understood, who had always been by her side, fighting the battles that I knew must have come to the both of them, mother and daughter.
I wasn't wearing a black dress. Instead, my dress was the blue shade of a dusk just after the last rays of sunlight had disappeared. At least that was what crossed my mind when I bought it.
I couldn't say anything as she approached, not that I even thought to. I did quickly think back a decade ago, when I had said too much.
She came closer but as I again looked up to face her, Theresa stopped. She looked so much the same, including the horrified and scared look on her face I had seen that last time. Though she started to say my name she instead turned sharply and walked rapidly away.
My breath went out of my body. I blinked away the sudden blur in my vision and that's when I saw the hat, lying there.
Theresa must have let it, unthinkingly, slip from her grasp in her urge to get away. With that thought of the past and present in my head, I bent to pick up her hat, calling at the same time, perhaps more loudly than I thought at the time, desperate to explain and to listen. But Theresa, too, never looked back as she disappeared.
NOTE: This was written in 25 minutes, an extension of a 10-minute writing exercise to continue on after the first two lines ending in "fluttered beneath my fingers ..." There's actually even more I can easily see doing to expand this story even more. And fix the first person / third person confusion throughout
- » Published on July 25, 2008
- » Type: Opinion
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