Gone

“Dark the oceans, dark the sky, Hush the whales and the ocean tide, Tell the salt marsh and beat on your drum, Gone their master, gone their son, Dark to light and light to dark, Three black carriages, three white carts, What brings us together is what pulls us apart, Gone our brother, gone our heart.”

There’s a gray dress that hangs in my closet. Not hidden. Not lost. No it just hangs there in plain sight, reminding me, haunting me. And there it remains. Watching me. Untouchable yet present.

It’s not an ugly gray dress. It’s more nondescript than anything. The kind of gray you forget exists until you see smog polluting the air. Or rain clouds before the threat of a thunderstorm. The type of gray you could pass by a thousand times without notice. It’s only saving grace, a black button adorning the neck: uniting the collar and providing appeal.

I’ve worn the dress twice. All the same, I’ll never wear it again. Even more, I won’t throw it away.

You see, I buried my brother in that dress. “Buried” is the wrong word for the mockery of a funeral that was held for the parting of a beloved. “Buried” implies that my brothers body rests somewhere in hallowed ground, where you can visit to mourn and reminisce.

I guess I should say I wore the dress the last time I saw my brother. “Saw” also seems off in this context. It would make one think that the seeing was mutual; as if there was a capacity to be seen as well as to see.

A more apt way to describe this last porting would be to say the final memory of my brother’s lifeless body was in this dress. A gray dress with a black cardigan on one of Arizona’s hottest days.

I dressed as if I needed to make an impression on such a somber occasion. I dressed with the hope that death didn’t warrant such drab attire.

I remember falling, wailing— a pool of gray abyss. A chill transmitted from trying to warm a corpse. A piece of myself dying along with the death I felt in my brother.

You always think you have more time. Ultimately when everything is taken away, you’re left with an unwearable gray dress.

The Seven Year Itch: Chapter 2

Present day

While Trixie decides between which scrubs to wear today, she thinks on Alex’s hasty goodbye.  Even after seven years together, he still doesn’t know how to leave properly. After a moment’s hesitation, Trixie realizes she shouldn’t be so harsh with him. He has gotten better over the years. At the peak of what you might call their “good years” he would at least buss her on the cheek or put his forehead to hers before leaving, creating a closeness that Trixie craved at the moment.

Trixie reaches for her day planner, a habit she kept since college, trying to think of all of her appointments today. Finding today’s date Trixie notices that she has work from 8-4, then group at 7, which gives her enough time to go to the gym. She’ll need the intense workout to clear her head before the group therapy session this evening. It’s her turn to share, talk about the events of the past year, the turning point leading to the distance in her marriage and the crossroad where she’s currently standing.

All of the couples in group have had similar experiences, a series of moments that hold them hostage and haunt their movements. Alex went for the first two sessions, until he found the whole experience taxing and overwhelming.

“Why do we have to keep reliving what happened Trixie? I don’t want to continue to talk about past events. We’re here, now. Let’s be happy for today. You need to move on. I’ve moved on.”

“It’s like you want me to pretend he never existed. A AingilÍn, my angel. I carried him. I listened to his heartbeat. I felt his hand squeeze mine. I can’t just let that go as if it never happened. I want you to go with me Alex, I need your support. I need help to move on.”

“Trix, I can’t. I can’t keep going week after week to hear these sob stories. I’m sorry this happened. But life doesn’t stop because of a tragedy. We have to move on Duchess.”

Alex was always good at compartmentalizing his life, sectioning off difficult emotions until he either repressed them or was ready to handle the aftermath. Trixie used to envy that trait. Now what she feels is a mixture of resentment and despair. Mentally shaking off bad memories, she heads to the closet in search of her gym bag.

After a 10minute search she realizes Alex must have taken hers by mistake on his way out today. It was a mistake to buy matching grey bags, the only distinction being the navy handles on hers and the black handles on his. Trixie starts removing items from Alex’s black-handled bag, prepping it for her own use. On the bottom of the bag Trixie discovers a disposable cell phone, not Alex’s normal smartphone. Opening the phone, Trixie sees the same number listed repeatedly in the call log—‘Stunner’.

That’s what Alex used to call his conquests in college.

Scrolling through the text messages her eyes can’t help but alight on love words and a rendezvous.

Trés Café 8pm. I made reservations. See you soon love-bug.

This latest date is set for tomorrow, when Alex is supposed to be in San Diego. But Trés Café is off Walnut Street in Montclair, right outside the city, near where Alex grew up. When Alex would want to connect with his high school friends after work, he’d go to Trés for dinner and drinks. This can’t be a coincidence. Trixie looks down to see it’s 7:15, if she doesn’t leave soon she’ll be late for clock-in and to relieve the overnight nurse. Throwing clothes in the bag, Trixie places the drop phone on top, sealing it in the zipped duffel. She grabs the rest of her work stuff and her purse before shutting the bedroom door.

It’s time to confront ‘love-bug’ and figure out what the hell is going on.

Photos line the halls from the bedroom to the stairs and down to the ground floor. Pictures from college, of family gatherings, of Trixie and Alex’s wedding, the honeymoon in Fiji, holiday celebrations—this was their life. And with one text message, Alex had called in to question the sincerity of every smile and sentiment captured on film.

Tears threatened as Trixie reached the garage, passing the ½ drunken juice Alex left on the counter, juice she would normally grab to finish on her way to work. Now she couldn’t guarantee where his mouth had been. Her husband. Her best friend since freshman year of college. Looking up, Trixie wonders what will be taken next.

The Seven Year Itch: Chapter 1 cont’d

Trixie rides up to her room, takes off her sweatshirt and grabs her apron off the hook behind the door. She digs around one of the shelves where she has her 8” sauté pan. Grams wouldn’t let her leave Oregon without being able to fend for herself. She doesn’t believe in fast food, only good home-cooked meals to keep the body young and healthy. Half the time Trixie can’t even stomach the food at the caf.

From the fridge Trixie grabs the remaining half of an avocado, spicy mustard, butter lettuce, muster cheese, mesquite turkey, honey wheat bread that Grams sent from home and bacon. She puts everything, along with plates, napkins, and utensils, on a deep-seated English breakfast tray her dad had carved years ago and heads to the kitchen.

There she puts the bacon in a pan and lets it cook while she slices up the avocado. Alex walks in on her singing softly to herself.

I’ve got a brand new jones, And nobody even knows, When my baby is gone, It’s my thang, yeah, my thang…

“Robin Thicke right? The white dude with the long stringy hair?”

“Oh, ha! Yep, that’s him. Alan Thicke’s son. He had that self-titled album Thicke  but he’s coming out with another one this month I think…

So, you have a choice. You can either trust me to make you a sandwich or you can slap some cold cuts on some bread and call it a day”

“When you put it that way, I guess I have to trust you. What do you need me to do?”

“Just sit back. Keep me company. Tell me about yourself.”

Trixie takes the cooked bacon from the pan, drains off some of the bacon grease, but leaves enough on the bottom of the pan to coat the avocado slices. While the avocado cooks, she places cheese on one side of the bread, and mustard on the other. Lays the bacon on the side with the mustard and puts lettuce on top of the bacon. She then layers the turkey slices on top of the lettuce. Turning the avocado, Trixie looks back at Alex.

“Do you know any stories Alex?”

“Stories? Not really. I guess I know a few fairy tales, but only the basics”

“Where are you from?”

“North Jersey, West Orange area. My mom works in the city as an Ad Exec for a tech company. What does your grandmother do?”

“She runs the farm. I guess you could say we’re real country folk. My father was an architect, but he really loved working with wood. He made this breakfast tray.” Trixie said pointing to the tray on the counter.  “Carved all of the leaves and flowers himself. He had such an eye for detail. We have a farm of about 30 acres. The land is prone for berries. But we also have a few milk cows. My brother helps out a lot on the farm when he’s not at training camp. He enlisted fresh out of high school and now wants to be a cop.”

“This may be in bad form, but I don’t know a lot of black farmers, is—was—your father white?”

“Irish actually, my mother is black— a Creole from Louisiana. They met when they both studied abroad in France. I guess you could say it was a whirlwind romance. And you? Where did the hazel eyes come from?”

“My mom has hazel eyes. I guess I got those from her. My father’s a lawyer in New York. They met at a deli downtown while they were both interns at Price Waterhouse Cooper. I guess you could say he was an average looking black guy, with a lot of charisma to charm my mom. She says I look like him when I smile”.

Placing the finished sandwich in front of Alex, Trixie heads back to clean up the kitchen before joining him. As she walks back she tosses over her shoulder “He can’t be that average Alex, you’re pretty handsome. And you have a great smile”.

“Why, thank you ma’am. Are you going to eat too?”

“Yes as soon as I clean up a bit.”

“Eat first, and I’ll help you clean after we finish”

They both sit down and dig into their sandwiches. “This is really good Trixie. I want to lick my fingers and scrap my plate!”

“It’s just a sandwich Alex! Here take my other half, I’m full.”

“Are you sure?” Alex says already reaching across the table for the remaining sandwich on Trixie’s plate.

Trixie wateches him out from down turned lashes. She wants to make small talk, but feels awkward and unsure of herself. Best to just stick to business. Licking her lips, Trixie smiles and says, “When you’re done, why don’t you dry the dishes as I wash?”

“Sure, yes, of course” Alex mumbles through a mouth full of food.

They start to clean the kitchen in companionable silence. Hair tumbles into Trixie’s eyes as her hands dive into the soapy water.

“Here let me help” Alex sets down a plate he was drying, reaching for Trixie’s upturned face. He slides the spiral strands behind her ear, caressing her cheek along the way. Trixie looks down to his hand on her cheek then back up to Alex’s eyes with a cheeky grin.

“Thanks”

“Don’t mention it”.

The dishes are done and they load up to head back to Trixie’s room. Alex insists on carrying the tray. Once inside they put the dishes and tray away.

“Trixie where’s your roommate?”

“Oh she dropped out a couple of weeks ago. She decided to live off her trust fund and travel the world as a troubadour. Can’t say I blame her, that seems like pretty fun living.”

“Luck-y!” Alex says in an awed sigh. “It’s very different from my own living situation. Seth trashed our room. Red Dixie cups everywhere. I’ll probably have to kick someone off my bed when I head back. With any luck I’ll catch a few winks. I’m debating if I should just head back to the library.”

“Oh man!” Trixie responds sympathetically. “That really sucks. At least Pam wasn’t a bad roommate while she was here. Kept to herself mostly. And we both liked music.”

Suddenly an idea pops into Trixie’s head, ” Hey you know you can crash on her bed if you want. It’s no bother. I have some extra sheets around here somewhere”.

“Really? You don’t mind?”

“No, really it’s fine. Just let me make the bed”

“Cool I’ll head down and grab some stuff from my room and be back in a flash”

“I need to take a shower. I’ll leave the lock in the door so it’s open when you come back.”

“Ok see you in about 20mins”

Twenty minutes later Trixie heads back from the shower, in pink pajama bottoms and matching grey and pink V-neck from Victoria secret. As she opens the door, Alex is already there sprawled out on the bed in basketball shorts and a tank top. It’s hard to breathe when you actually see the muscle protruding out on his arms. He wears a lazy grin when Trixie walks in the door. She holds her towels and clothes like a shield in front of her trying to look everywhere but at the handsome man lying in Pam’s old bed.

“Hi” Trixie says shyly.

“Hey yourself” Alex responds.

“Umm… so, if you need a lamp I have a small one. Otherwise I’m going to go to bed. I can’t believe it’s almost 5:30. Do you, uh, do you need anything? Water or something?”

“Trixie you’re a really nice girl. I can’t believe my good luck. We’re gonna be good friends. I just know it”.

 Friends… yea right. The feelings swirling around in the pit of Trixie’s stomach were a little more provocative than friendly. She laughs nervously and finishes getting ready for bed, trying not to look and the hunk of man in the other bed.

Alex tries hard to not follow Trixie’s every movement as she flints around the room. He can smell the body wash she used in the shower, a potent mix of sandalwood and vanilla. He watches her put lotion on her elbows and rubs the rest on her hands. She adds moisturizer to her face and then fingercombs her hair before plaiting the strands into a braid that lands on her shoulder. Shorter curls not long enough for the braid created a halo around her face. She walks over to him with a smile, and he has to shift to hide his attraction.

“Do you want another blanket? Sometimes it gets drafty in this room.”

“No… uh… No I’m fine. Thank you. For everything”

“Okay then, goodnight Alex”

“Goodnight Trixie”

Alex woke a few hours later. Trixie was still sleep on her back one hand underneath her pillow, the other resting on top of the cover near her stomach. Alex walked over, watching her chest rise and fall, once again noticing how beautiful she is. She stirred a little in her sleep, head facing the wall, smiling slightly as if she’s having a good dream. Alex leans down and kisses her cheek. She sighs a little; her hand lifts as if reaching for him. He straightens, then grabs his stuff and heads out.

When Trixie awakens later in the afternoon, she notices a quietness that denoted Alex’s absence. Her face pulls into a slight frown. He could have at least said goodbye.

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