Prudence’s Correspondence

Pru, really didn’t think U’d be at Henry’s last night. Was there totally by chance. U looked great tho. Miss U much.

FU

Saw U & Henry today. U looked happy. RU together?

FU

Saw Henry today buying flowers.

FU

How long have U been w/Henry?

FU FU FU

I just want to talk.

Pervert. FU

Saw Henry at bar this afternoon.

You sick bastard. I called police.

Too late for Henry. Too late for U.

F

 

 

 

Part Of The View

The Irish school girls beg for money, 2 Euros for the Irish Heart Association,on busy Grafton Street as early morning commuters hurry past. In their overly long plaid skirts, white blouses, and red sweaters, the girls look very prim and proper, until I overhear one say, “This is shite.” Her friend swings her empty white bucket in silent agreement.

I make my way as always to St. Steven’s Green to watch the swans and ducks, the gulls and lowly pigeons. A woman in a rainbow sweater strolls by her arms loaded with bread . She asks if I would like some to feed the birds, but I decline. She nods. “You’ve come for the view,” she says.

“I’ve come for the view.”

She smiles, and her eyes twinkle a little. “It’s a good view. Peaceful.” She moves on, throwing chunks of bread into the water. The birds set up a clatter for a moment, then settle again as I seat myself on an out-of-the-way bench.

Outside the the park modern Dublin moves at a modern pace; its streets are crowded and voices speaking a variety of languages fill its streets. The Celtic Tiger may have been wounded but not mortally. I believe Ireland will sneak back on little cat feet. It’s part of it’s magic.

I feel myself relax, the peace and green, and the serenity restoring me somehow. It only happens here. Perhaps Leprechauns really do lurk under the bushes, just out of sight spreading their magic to us mortals.

I hear footsteps behind me and the click of a camera as a man in a jaunty tan cap begins to snap photographs. When I offer to get out of his way he says, “Oh no, love, you are the picture.”

Enough

“I got something to say to you.” She folded her arms and glared at him over the carcass of the cold chicken.

“I kinda thought we’d hafta talk about what happened. Or what didn’t happen. I mean nothin’ happened.”

“Please, just stop. You’ve spent our whole marriage looking over my head at the girl just behind me. like Miss perfect is just waiting for you if only I’d get out of the way.”

“I never thought that.”

“Then you come home and cut your damn toenails and leave them on the floor for me to clean up. You leave the toilet seat up. You never once let me pick a TV show. You never even ask what I want to see.” She felt her left eye twitch. It did that sometimes for hours. Usually, Stan mocked her, but tonight he didn’t say anything.

“You told me I looked like a fat, old bitch.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did. You said I looked like Linnie Tucker.”

“Yeah, cause she got red hair too.”

“No because she’s a fat old bitch.”

He swallowed.

“I’m good enough to make your meals and clean up after you, but you’ve never once thought about what I want.”

“I bought that griddle you wanted.”

“Jesus Christ! I didn’t want it for an anniversary gift.”

“If you don’t tell me, how am I supposed to know?”

She sighed. “We’ve been married for fifteen years, Stan. If you don’t have a clue by now, why bother to try?”

He looked down at the table and cleared his throat. “Because I love you?”

She stood. “It’s too late.”

He was still sitting at the kitchen table when she picked up her two suitcases and left the apartment.

On The Ward

It’s very quiet on the maternity ward tonight. It’s as if the little ones and their mothers know to be quiet and still. I walk down the hall and listen to the tap of my shoes against the linoleum floor. I love evenings like this. They’re so rare. Usually the some little lamb is crying, or one of the nurses is traveling to help one of the new mothers.

I open the door to the nursery and wave to the nurse on duty. As usual, we’ve placed the largest and smallest babies in front. I breathe in the smell of my children and take a mental picture of their small round faces. The largest is a nine and one-half pound, blue-eyed boy with beautiful long lashes and blond hair, the smallest a chocolate drop of a girl with liquid brown eyes and fuzzy black curls who weighs in at almost four pounds.

They are a study in contrasts wrapped in their blue and pink blankets, tiny pink, white and blue striped hats perched on their heads.

On impulse I snap a picture on my phone.

I want to place them in the bassinet together and ask the boy to look out for her, this precious child, born to a mother who’s barely more than a child herself. I want someone to look at this little bundle and realize what a wonderful gift she is before I send her back to a home where her mama has to struggle to put food on the table or maybe struggle with her own demons. I want her to go to a nice happy home like this sweet little blond cherub where he’ll be welcomed and loved, and he won’t live with the fear of going to bed hungry at night.

I’ll fail. The people from Social Services have already been in to talk to her mama. I’ve talked to her mama. She lies in her bed, sullen and unresponsive, except to mutter, “He just walked out on me. How I supposed to work with a baby? What I gonna do now?”

Tomorrow I’ll send two children home, just like I have for the past thirty years. I’ll smile at the parents and wish them and their children well. I’ll wish for miracles. Just like always.

Dandelion Dawson and Me

Since Charlie died, I’ve mostly spent my time in the garden pulling the weeds and trying to keep the roses healthy. Truth be told, I never was much good at it. Charlie used to say I had a black thumb. The only thing ever grew for me were hydrangeas. We have great pink hydrangeas in the front yard. Charlie didn’t like them near his roses.

Susan next door always said it didn’t matter because I made the best angel food cake in the county. I haven’t made any cakes since Charlie died—almost four months now. I guess my heart just isn’t in it.

I was out in the yard one day when Susan leaned over the fence. “Martha,” she called, “you’ll never believe it, but those nice Richardsons down the block are building a mother-in-law suite.”

“For his mother or hers?”

“I don’t know.”

As it turned out, it was for her mother. Dandy. I’d only ever known one female in my life named Dandy. Her real name was Dandelion Dawson, the meanest girl I’d ever met. She haunted me and hunted me in grade school, and she grew up to be a nightmare in high school: tall, blond, and perfect. She was a dandelion all right: impossible to miss or to destroy.

I’d heard she married some big shot and moved to New York. Now we were going to be living in the same neighborhood again. I planned to call the realtor as soon as I cleaned out my house a bit.

A few days later Amy Richardson came knocking at my door with her mother in tow. Dandy Dawson had aged well. I told myself it was plastic surgery and botox, but she was in great shape.

“Mom said she and you went to school together,” Amy said in a bright, desperate sort of voice. “I thought maybe you might like to have a reunion.”

She almost ran out the door.

I looked at Dandy. “So what’s the story?”

“That was short and sweet. No nice to see you?”

“Do you want me to lie?”

Dandy gave me a smile. “Oh, she gets tired of me hanging around all the time. I make her feel uncomfortable about her life choices.”

“What’s wrong with her life choices?”

“Do you see the way she dresses? Straight out of Goodwill. My God. She’s a teacher. She has all those grubby, little specimens climbing on her all day, which she says she loves. And that husband of hers isn’t much better. They live in this development with their child, which I’m sure they expect me to babysit when they start back to school. It’s absurd.”

I gazed at Dandy’s beautiful tan suit with its white silk blouse and her gold jewelry and wondered why she’d chosen to live here.“So why live with them?” I brushed off my dirty jeans, thankful that at least I didn’t get fat. I’m still short and small, though I colored my hair a light golden brown. Dandy used to call me the Mouse.

Dandy shrugged. “My late husband burned through most of our money. I’m not poverty stricken, but living in New York is out. All this is temporary until I figure my next move.”

“So what about you, Martha. I heard your husband died. What’s keeping you here?”

“This is my home.”

“You shouldn’t be so sentimental.” Dandy looked around the kitchen. “If it were me. I’d sell it all and travel.”

“Well, I’m not you, and I have children. Well, I have a son. In graduate school.”

Dandy slouched into a chair. “Well, the truth is, Martha, your son will graduate and get his own life. So should you.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’d want to travel alone.” Of course I had always dreamed of traveling to London and Paris and Rome, but Charlie had been a homebody. He always did worry so about the roses.

“Now that I’m living with my daughter, I have money to travel again,” Dandy said.

Good God. Travel with Dandy Dawson. What a horrible thought.

She smiled as if she could read my mind. “Oh, come on, Martha. I wasn’t that bad to you. You at least never teased me about my wretched name. Do you know what it’s like to be called Dandelion Daisy Dawson? It was hideous.”

“I suppose.”

“We’ll do an easy one. London first. If you have a bad time, I’ll never bother you again. Swear.” She glanced at my filthy jeans. “Really. No one can actually enjoy grubbing in the dirt, can they?”

“Of course.” I said it vehemently then sighed. “Maybe not so much.”

Her face lit up in a knowing smile. “Then we have things to do.”

Inertia is a strange thing indeed. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, but once it starts to move, it zooms. “We have a great many things to do indeed,” I said.

In The Morning

Last night after four 24K Nightmares I thought, he’s kind of cute. Maybe he’d like to come over for a drink.

This morning I wake covered in my own shame. all I want to do is turn back the clock to yesterday morning. the worst thing is I don’t even remember what happened. I just know I hurt all over, and I feel like I was torn open by a drill.

I shuffle to the bathroom, bent over like an old woman, and turn on the shower as hot as it will run. I scrub until my skin is red and use an entire bottle of soap. I still feel dirty.

I head back to my room and yank the sheets off the bed and throw them on the floor. I want to burn them but I don’t have the energy. I ball them up and stuff them in the hamper, then pull on a pair of sweats, wrap myself in my comforter and curl back in my bed.

Your fault. Your fault. You let it happen. It all runs like a mantra, a brain loop.

A soft thud on the bed startles me, but it’s only Cat. She snuggles beside me, kneading me with her front paws, trying to get close. She only wants to get warm, I tell myself, but I open up the comforter and let her snuggle in beside me. She doesn’t see the shame. She nestles against me and begins to purr.

I stroke her for a little while until I begin to smell the lavender body wash and my eyes grow heavy.

Together we drift away.

 

A Thin Line of Vermillion

She lay in the tub, surrounded by the scent of roses, and tried to rid herself of his heavy, musky scent. It lingered, even when she sank below the water and held her breath for as long as she could. She popped up gasping.

His words echoed in her head. “You belong to me, and I will never let you go. You are my wife, my love, my muse.” His presence surrounded her day and night, even when he wasn’t there. His canvas monsters hanging everywhere, watched her move throughout the house. The servants looked at her with pity, but guarded the doors.

Once she believed that marriage to the great Portafaro would be a dream come true. He would take her to his great house on the mountain, and she would watch the peasants below; she would look out at the hungry sea and live like a queen. now she knew that all such dreams came at a price.

Soon the gold light of afternoon would give way to the purple shadows of evening, and he would return. Once again they would sit at the long table, and he would watch her with his hungry eyes then draw inspiration from her body.

It was never enough. His art demanded more each time. Every day she walked swathed in white, the soft, cool fabric almost too harsh against her purpled flesh. Every day she dream of escape.

On the porcelain sink sat his straight razor, and she stared at it languidly. it winked at her in the sunlight, whispering at her to come closer, and she rose from the tub to pick it up. She ran the edge of it over her thumb and watched the blood quickly bubble up.

A sharp rap at the door. “Senora, are you finished? Do you need help?”

“No, no, Carmelita. Just a few more minutes to soak.”

She stepped carefully into the tub. The underside of her arm was still smooth and white, save for the road map of blue veins that ran just below the skin. The razor barely stung as she drew it up. A thin line of vermillion opened up on first one arm then the other.

Already she felt dizzy, and she watched the white curtains billow out in the afternoon breeze. Wind chimes tinkled. Spirits lingered just beyond her sight, and if she listened, she could hear them calling her to follow.

“I’m coming,” she whispered. “I’m coming. He cannot follow me now.”

She let herself slide down under the welcoming water. The scent of roses covered her now, the song of the wind chimes grew fainter as the wafting breeze faded away. Silence.

I am free.