Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Night Echoes (Blogophilia 34.8)
The sugar maple shrugged its shoulders against the night breeze, not caring at all. The midtown skyline splayed out behind it, projected light bouncing off the gathering clouds. Another couple sprawled on the grass, another small romance. It was like the others it had seen in the fifty years since it was planted. Couple either came together, or didn’t. To the tree life went on.
Bart and Holly didn’t notice either. Their eyes locked on each other as the wooded edges of the park faded into the dimming light. As the temperature dropped, a sweater appeared out of a bag to fight the chill. A piece of chivalry not unnoticed. Empty Chinese food boxes piled next to her cane and across the cheap blanket kept in the trunk of the Lincoln for emergencies. An impromptu dinner on the ground qualified as a good emergency. Time paused. Nothing mattered except the moment they were in, foreign and scary to each of them in different ways.
Holly had been a preemie and spent her first few weeks in the hospital. Surgeries to correct scoliosis and a club foot happened when she was young. She had always been the weird kid in the corner, even to her family. She survived school and started college because she was expected to. She managed two full years until boredom and depression drove her screaming.
She met Psycho on a trip overseas. He was a big, tattooed brute who had been kicked out of the military for dereliction. In her naïve way, she thought that was so rebellious and cute. It helped he was a good fuck. The abuse began as soon as the ink was dry. Bruised and minor fractures glossed over for fear of worse. He made most of his money with retail fraud and shoplifting schemes. Her job was to return stolen merchandise for refund. Slapping and cigarette burns followed if she didn’t follow orders. It was lucrative, but it kept them on the move to stay ahead of the law.
It was in an apartment outside Baltimore when he threw her down a set of stairs and broke her hip. It became the last straw. Her father came and brought her back home. Permanent protection orders were granted in both Maryland and New York where even Psycho’s lawyer couldn’t contact her directly. He got eight years for the assault and the last she heard he had theft warrants in three other states. There was still the worry of having to testify, but it didn’t look like she was going to be needed. The only thing she had to remember him by was the limp.
Bart and Amy’s story began in the college library. He was English major and she was Pre-Law. They ended up taking classes together. He was brought up Baptist and she was Jewish. He was from a small town about a hundred miles away where everyone knew each other. There were no Jews there and she blew his mind. Raven hair and silky curves invaded his dreams all the way to her death and beyond. She thought he was funny and sweet, but the family didn’t approve of the Goy. Her father especially thought Bart was an embarrassment and kept trying to split them up. They dropped out school after she became pregnant and they quietly married before a judge. Her family disowned her and never would speak to them until she was on her death bed.
Everything went tragic. At 29 weeks, Amy’s placenta abrupted, tearing her womb almost in half. Their daughter didn’t make it. It was a bleak several months afterward, but they became inseparable. The bond would be tested many times. He had a bad car wreck and was laid up for a while. There were no complaints, just her lovingly spoiling him. When he set up his insurance office, she would keep his schedule. Small disagreements stayed that way and they settled into their quiet life, depending on each other for small things and large.
Then her kidney’s failed, then cancer followed and life became a succession of medical visits. When it was all over, her family, who wouldn’t speak to them for thirty years, attempted to cut him out of the funeral arrangements and get her estate. In their mind the marriage never was legal, license be damned.
An awkward silence came as the story came to an end. A rumble of thunder rolled in the background. Bart gathered the empty boxes off the blanked. Holly watched as he made his way to the sidewalk to throw them in the trash.
“It’s funny.” The squeaky little voice seemed to echo unnaturally against the ground. “All the time the Psycho and me were together, we never had a picnic.”
A flash of lighting briefly illuminated the craggy face.
“Oh, we had picnics, but they were planned weeks in advance. Amy never was one for impulse. There was a schedule for everything and everything according schedule. Her motto was: ‘I plot my life to leave out the stuff readers skip’”
Bart reached for the bottle and refilled her glass.
“I remember the first time I saw you on online. It must have been after your ex put you in the hospital. Something about you reminded me so much of Amy, almost if you had been my daughter.”
“What, that we both ended up in emergency rooms a lot?”
That brought a sad laugh.
“No. Your spirit is like hers was before the medicines sapped the joy.” He took a sip out of his glass. “In the last few years, all she worried about was money.”
“I know that feeling.” She stared into the glass. “After Psycho got arrested, I found all the bills from the nudie bars he was at when he wasn’t beating the fuck out of me. Finally paid the last one six month ago.”
She began to shift uncomfortable. “Help me up. My leg is going numb.”
He brought his hands under her arms to lift her. Her thin, rose covered arms went around his neck and his right hand found a home at the base of her spine. They began to dance under the maple tree. A song softly came from her.
“Step to the left. Step to the right. Middle of the Floor, feels safe tonight…”
She snuggled in a little closer. She had a bald spot at the crown of her head. Kissing it brought a contented purr.
“…Dancing on, the edge of a dream. Move in close, will I like what I see?”
The rain began to fall and Holly began to giggle.
“When I was a little girl, I use to love to run in the rain and dry myself in the forest breeze. Ma said I would catch my death doing it. I would always wear the same pink dress, a shear top and ruffled skirt.” A very wicked grin opened up. “You could see everything through the wet fabric. But I didn’t care. I felt so free in the rain. I ran naked one time when Ma was out of town. It was me, water dripping skipping down the path to the woods to let the air dry me like a sheet.”
With a small turn, the dance went around the tree.
“Amy and I would do something like that when we were dating.” Sadness filled his voice. “Run in the rain until we were soaked to the skin. Then we spend the rest of the day taking drying each other with soft cotton towels. I can still hear the cackling as the towel tickled across her privates.”
“Did it happen anymore after you got married?”
His voice broke.
“We did one last time about two weeks before she died. Right over there near the gazebo. She wasn’t feeling joy, just sadness and pain. The smile came back a bit, but it wasn’t the same.”
Bart laid his heaving head to her shoulder, letting the rain fall on her as they danced on. As the storm passed, she whispered in his ear.
“This going very fast.”
“Ever been on a rollercoaster and the car is near the top?”
“Well, we’re seatmates. We are riding this to the end.”
The kiss seemed to last forever.
Song Lyric: Edge of a Dream. Song in Her Head © 2009 Sarah Jarosz