The house, so full with the heavy breath of prayer and the shifting feet of the waiting, settles another inch and the long vigil is suddenly over. Ona’s mother is dead. One after another, the women untangle their hands from their rosary beads and feel relief in knowing that now there will be more productive things to do than pray.
August 30, 1957. SS France
Whoopee! Junior Year in Paris. Universite de la Sorbonne, here I come.
Arrived in New York Friday, right on schedule. But let me tell you, baby sister, there’s a big difference between Birmingham trains and the trains up north. For one thing, there are no separate cars. It’s whites and coloreds all together, if you please. And no “Mornin’ ma’am.” Just hustle-bustle.
When my husband called the other day, I thought there was an emergency. We’d only talked once in the five months since we’d been separated.
“It’s about our son, David,” Frank said, as if I might not recall the name of our only child.
“Wait,” I said. “Have you been drinking?” It was one in the afternoon, a Saturday.
“I got a post card from him today,” Frank said. “He’s not in college any more.”
“What?” I said. “Where is he?”
Everyone loves a dead body.
The yellow tape, the grim-faced police officers and the emergency vehicles contrast with the peacefully falling snow and Christmas decorations strung along the cul-de-sac. The children’s thoughts are no longer of Santa Claus as they watch the men unload a black bodybag containing Darlese Claxton. Everyone stands by their doors, staring. Even big Julio Sanchez, who rarely leaves the comfort of his couch, takes in the scene, his three-year-old son in his arms.
After finding the ring in the bar of soap I told Herb there were two things I needed to do before I married him: get the shovel out of the lake and take the red rose from Danny.
Herb looked at me in his brittle, self-effacing way and said, didn’t I love him?
The soap had begun in the shape of a pink mollusk shell. He had given it to me on Valentine’s Day five weeks before, and it had taken me all that time to wear it down to a nub at its center.
February. Plowed hills of gray snow bordered Philadelphia, block after block. Clattering trains and muddy sidewalks echoed unkept promises and, each day on the busy streets near his office, Walt heard the unnerving chatter of businessmen and false camaraderie. After work, Walt bent in against cold air, crossing icy walkways under the hulking metal of the Ben Franklin Bridge. He wanted nothing more than warmth. Uncomplicated company. At the Waterfront Bar, American flags snapped and collapsed in the shifting winds, and Walt spent the better part of each night there trying not to be so angry.
Your mom told me write this down, just in case. She worries. Never tells me straight out I should quit, but she thinks it all the time. I know. I see it in those looks. Those big bright eyes make you feel like you better come up with something quick and you find yourself thinking, what?
Andy watched the cars around them puff vapor as his grandfather’s Cadillac slid through the Sunday church traffic on Cheltenham Ave. Pop flicked cigarette ash out the driver’s window. “Lock your doors when you drive through Olney,” he said. “You were born in Olney.”
Andy held his breath to keep the smoke out of his lungs and closed his eyes. His temples throbbed; the backs of his eyes ached. He’d had seven shots of airplane gin the night before, on a flight that landed late in Philly thanks to driving sleet. Four hours of sleep had done nothing to ease the pain.
It was Christmas, the first Christmas after Claire’s wedding, and Deirdre did not seem well. This wasn’t an easy distinction, as Claire’s mother had spent two decades complaining about this pain or that one, her migraines and fevers and swollen feet. But this time she seemed uncharacteristically quiet, weakened on the inside. Every visible feature was frantic, insistent, too bright.
The theory that my life thus far has been a compilation of bad decisions occurs to me as I am darting down 10th Street, in pursuit of my boyfriend who is not actually my boyfriend but in fact a complete stranger who, like me, takes the 7:19 train into Philadelphia every morning. He looks to be all of nineteen years old and I am twenty-eight and therefore far too old to be trailing this boy through the streets of Chinatown , skulking half a block behind him and wondering if that is his girlfriend he is talking to on his cell phone.