I waited for his words to sweeten, to fall like a sprinkling of sugar over my pain. But his voice continued to fill the air like a viscous black strap molasses — significantly bitter and stunningly slow.
“I’m not sure, er, how it happened,” he said.
Not sure? It made sense now, hindsight and all. How had I not noticed his restlessness, the dower expression, the way his shadow fell — stunted and forlorn? He’d changed from full grown man to hobbit-sized in the matter of a month.
“Hey, do you remember that song,” I ask, “Black Strap Molasses? Groucho Marx and Danny Kaye and some others I don’t recall sang it…”
“What on Earth are you talking about?”
I sang a few bars, “Black strap molasses and the wheat germ bread. Makes you live so long you wish you were dead…”
“You need help.” He picked up his suitcase, the old plaid Samsonite without wheels, and waded through the thick air toward the door. My eyes followed the suitcase. I’d found it for him on line, ‘Condition: True vintage. 50’s. Overall good, not perfect,’ I’d liked that, ‘Some minor cosmetic imperfections. Oh! And there is some light dust in the crevices.’ I’d connected with the old bag, felt a kinsman-ship of sorts. And I watched now as it walked out of my life, his hand gripping it — too hard. I sneezed and he and the suitcase hesitated but did not stop or look back. He just turned the peeling knob and, together, they stepped out into the rain.
It’d rained for days. California’s drought was finally over. “The poppies are visible from space!” they shouted. My Facebook page blew up with images of thousands of them. Cups of gold spilling down hillsides ringed by traffic jams — everyone rejoicing. I didn’t need the pictures. I could see them just outside the front window, closed now, backs tucked against the gloomy day, swaying on their slender stalks like undernourished children pulling orange rain hats down low.
I was still in the chair I’d chosen when he said I ‘should sit’, the chair that had been my favorite, the chair that now served as a vessel for my loss. I sagged into it, like a spoonful of mashed potatoes, allowing the gravity of heartache to pull me downward into the stained cushions. Perhaps they would find me here one day, and think I’d merely fallen asleep? With no trace of the lashing my heart took or knowledge of how I longed to be a simple shoe, or cup of tea, or faint wind slipping through the curtains on a warm spring day…I’d slide through the window, shimmy down the length of faded cotton, then push upward again — releasing the fabric like a giant angel’s wing. Then, like a feather riding on the breath of unseen currents I’d rise and fall and rise again.
For artwork I created inspired by my short stories, please visit my artist page on Redbubble.