The 10 o'clock news irritates me, but then not much pleases me these days. What to do with a world that cleans up Times Square? What was wrong with it? It was alive, sleazy, reliable. I felt safe in its crowds. On trips to Macy's I would strut down 42nd Street in my red slingback pumps, checking out the weirdoes, measuring my budding sexuality against the overt smut of the street. Now it's a corporate Disneyland. It's depressing. I snap off the TV and head for the bath.
In the shower, my tawny arms fold across my pale white breasts, as I let the hot water explode down my back. It is late December, and winter gardening has browned my arms up to the elbow, and skunked a stripe of tan across my feet. Except for the paunch of my belly and a pain in my back, my body is lithe for an old woman.
My Harry died Saturday night. I get the call Sunday morning. His sister's voice is starchy, (numb, she says) chatting that she bought four plots--for Harry, herself and her two children. It is hard to focus, her words flap like bats in my ears. Harry does not care where his bones are. He didn't know or care where they put the thumb, toes, and leg they amputated over recent months. I listen and hang up. The room is alive with fusing colors.
He is here. They all are. All those dead friends, relatives and lovers. Brenda. Janet. Frank. My young father in his aviator suit; my ex-husband with his sad eyes. I can't see them, but they push in on me.
In my terry robe, I roll the trash can out to the curb for tomorrow's pickup, as I do every week. A starry, cold sky covers Blue Lake. Out of the murkiness, a dog bounds down the empty street toward me. Under the street lamp, I see his loose, wrinkled folds of fur--a big pedigree breed with a pushed-in face--and no owner in sight. He comes boldly up to me, sniffs, then turns and wets the bushes beside me with his leg raised high, owning what's mine.
"Don't pee on my plants," I protest. I pull my robe tighter. Christmas lights blink from a house nearby. I spot a rolled penny paper tossed on my lawn, and lean to pick it up. The dog turns sharply at my move. Agitated, he woofs. I fear he'll bite as he lunges, barking, but then backs up, and locks his legs defiantly. I realize rolled newspapers carry another narrative. I hug the paper to my chest, cover it with my sleeves. My heart thuds. Then, Harry pushes against me. I fill with his merriment, his teasing taunts--the warm certainty of his large hand squeezing mine.
"Go on home," I say quietly to the dog. Remembering Harry, I swagger back up the driveway. Just like it was 42nd Street. My frayed gray slippers slap the concrete.