Gerri L. Short
It's snowing. A cold chill in the early Oklahoma morning, like
every other December day. Itchy wool scarf. Itchy wool hat. Peacoat.
Then the cooking.
Next, the visitors. And they will come. To bid goodbye.
It's still dark out here. I haven't even noticed the time.
The scraping, rusted metal end on the battered concrete drive
sends jolting shivers up the back of my neck. Shake it off. Think about
something else besides the screeching, freezing, lonely wind.
Amazing. From this angle, this shrug of a house looks empty. I
suppose it is now.
Stop yourself, now. It's too cold to cry. And there's too much to do.
Shovel. Toss. Salt here. Salt there. And over on that ice patch,
too. We don't want any accidents today. Salt. Salt.
This creaky old porch. That screen door should have been fixed long
ago. I'll...I suppose I'll fix it myself, now. Look at the paint on this door,
around these windows. Cracked. Rustic, maybe? No, just dilapidated. I could
probably do something with it, though. Straighten that worn welcome mat.
It doesn't look any better. Sweep around it.
Get inside! That ugly furnace. It's almost as old as I am. Does it jolt awake like that all the time? God, it'll take a lifetime to heat this empty place. My hands
are cold. Cold as death. Ha. Cold as death. As death! Remarks like that would
have gone unnoticed before last week. It probably wouldn't have garnered even a
smirk, a crooked smile, before last week.
Smiling, even crookedly, right now seems like something they can only do on Thursday night television.
And still too cold to cry. I can barely breathe.
Suppose I'll have to start with the kitchen. Any memories here? This
chair. Wipe it clean with a damp cloth. It still feels warm. And, of course,
a stray card in the corner. Aces. Bent. Figures. He must've had that in his
sleeve one day. Smiling and winning. Winking at me.
Sweep around this old kitchen table. Sweep around the card-playing and
old friends. Sweep around the jokes. Sweep around the plans made here.
That table could use a good polishing. No time for that today. Just
another thing I should have done. I could have done before now. Another thing.
To my list. Like so many love you's.
The dust on the table comes up easy enough It's still cold, though.
That old bed mocks me. It's size would suggest more than one person
sleeps here. The extra pillows, the comfortable sags. It all says that someone
was here. Or should be here. Now, though, it's just me. Me.
I think I'll put the blue sheets on. Hated though they were, it's
probably easier that way. I'll look at the ridiculous cornflowers and not think
so much. Smooth. Straighten. Tuck in those corners. Fix this grinning picture
on the wall while you're at it. That hideous frame around his face. I can't get
rid of it now. The walls we meant to paint would be laughable without this frame.
I think there's a draft in here.
Colors, whites, jeans. Three piles for the wash. The flannel shirt that
I can't touch will have to be swept under the bed. No one will see it under there.
Hang. Fold. Get the tangibles out of the way, in the back of the drawer.
The back of the closet. Away, into boxes.
Let's see. Scrubbing bubbles. The clawfoot tub looks like something out
of a museum. It must weigh a thousand pounds. I'm sure it's lighter than me.
I'll get down on my knees and make sure the floor and toilet both sparkle
like New Year's Eve.
I think it's getting light out. Daylight has betrayed me. The sun
will rise today.
The living room. Living. Lots of living in this room. It practically
pukes life and blue canvas couches. Straighten these books. Remember this one?
Page eighty-seven. I accept my exile. Sweep, sweep, sweep. The perpetually
dust-ridden wood floors only create a bigger dirt vortex with each stroke.
I can't fight this mess. They'll forgive me if I leave it be.
The phone calls will start any minute now. I'll avoid those and put my
hands in some dough. Grandma taught me how. Every time I make this dough, she
is standing beside me, telling me things, wonderful things. About how she lived.
She's been gone three winters now. Awhile, compared to three days. And I still
wait for her to call. She'll be wrapping her arms around him somewhere.
She loved him, too.
The good Christian women will come with food. Let this dough sit.
What else? It's too quiet in here. Hardly good for cleaning or
forgetting. Where's that album? Search, search. Think. In the hall
With everything else. I'm afraid I'll remember.
Look at that. More boxes. Newspapers. Comics. That dumb shirt I wanted
to toss for years. Well, out it goes. To the trash can. Out it goes. Out. Or,
I can probably put it in another box. Give it to someone as a memory. That might
be nice. I could live...I guess I could live...without ever seeing it again.
Here it is. Jimi. Can't heal a broken life with this album. But I can
sing at the top of my lungs. If I want. I can still sing. I can still do
Quietly, now, though. So as not to rouse up the sick feeling.
Everything looks clean. Antiseptic and clean. Jimi sings about an angel
A shower next. A hot, hot shower might heal me. And I still won't have
to answer the ringing phone. Steam in spiraling tendrils. The smell of freesia
and lavendar. Warm water on atrophic muscles. Should I be so soothed? If by no
Dry. Left arm, right arm. Left leg, right leg. The same way every
day until now. The same way for the rest of my life. Dry. And cold. Unbearably
cold with freshly cut wet hair. Darn, I should have washed some towels.
I'll never get it together today. Or ever.
Ringing phones. Ringing, ringing. Unplug them. It'll be easier this
way. Quieter. More silence. Less useless noise. Except Jimi.
Our bed is familiar and resonant. I'll just close my eyes for a minute
here, on this pillow, in this comfortable sag. And wait for them all to come. To
come and bid goodbye. To him.
I wonder if it'll ever warm up in here.