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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How He Died

My friend reminded me, as we were having lunch
and I was forking a great big leaf of lettuce
into my awkward mouth on the first pleasant day
of spring after the longest winter on record,
that his brother had died.
“Oh, yes,” I said, “killed himself, wasn’t it?” Just then
 I imagined I saw Patty at another table,
Patty who left me with such longing.
But Patty would have been much older now
than the woman who pulled her hair behind her ear
in precisely the way that Patty always did. And my friend
was still talking. “How did he do it?” I said,
cutting the lettuce with my bread knife
into a more chewable size. Thinking back now
I believe there was some silence I did not notice.
The odor of hyacinths caught me
by surprise, pulling my eyes to the brick plaster planter
deep with soil by the walkway. My friend
decided he’d been secretly troubled for years.
Don’t you just hate berries in a salad?
                                                                     My friend’s
brother –something about a wife and a daughter
and an impulse too strong to resist but nonetheless
guiltily regretted, he stuttered.  And then
the woman turned around
to look for something in the red leather purse
she’d hung from the back of her chair.
I held up my hand to tell my friend
to pause. But I was right. It wasn’t Patty.
And I raised another spurt of lettuce toward my gaping mouth
and caught my friend’s eyes, staring back at me in pain
at how I’d left him hanging.

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