Crinoline — Oil, Acrylic, and Enamel on Wood, by Tracy Harris

Lyda Wants To Weep

Lyda stands crumpled in a wrinkled sleeveless shirt. She faces the sliding glass that opens to her downstairs porch, the brown yard, and beyond, the sand dunes which hold off the great Atlantic Ocean.  The morning sun softens her edges, gives her an aura, and specklings of silver dust dart around her in the light.

Lyda’s body is leaden with age and her hair shapes a wiry garland. Both hands lay quiet by her side and she makes no large movement. She is still, except that her shoulders buck slightly, almost imperceptibly, and she is silent.

He watches her for a moment in the angled light and then he understands that she is crying—not a hammering sob from some new and hard-edged grief, but a tiny quiet crying from deep down, a small leak that has sprung from the soul.

sadpaintingLyda’s sorrow is quiet, but it has its own gravity; it is a force that tugs at her face and rounds her shoulders, and her sorrow carries the weight of false years.

She weeps softly this morning because, in this brief moment, in the klieg of this harsh and streaky sun, Lyda has a rare moment of acuity, a clarity of mind which normally alludes her.  And during this moment when her mind mists are gone, she remembers that she cannot remember. This awareness makes her sad and she is scared of what she will become.

But the tears today are mostly not for her; today she cries because she will not remember that a very sweet and good friend has just died suddenly and at a relatively young age and Lyda went to her funeral yesterday. She remembers the funeral just now, the sadness of the surprise and the sorrow, but soon she will forget.

Lyda wants to grieve for her friend, wants to hurt for her husband and their two daughters, wants to comfort them with her tears, but the mist will return and she will not, and she knows that she will not, and that hurts her more that any broken body. And because she wants to remember, and because she knows that she will forget, she stands there in the yellow light while the tears of her compound sadness form darkening circles on the front of her shirt.

He can see this in her reflection in the big glass door and he knows she wants to be held, needs to feel loved, needs her own comfort in this hard moment. He can see this—and he can sense this, and yet for some small time he resists.

These days he cannot align his emotions with hers. For decades their minds would track similar shapes on all things, a psychic exchange of the other’s emotional landscape. Recently they have fallen out of sync. He knows it is the dementia, still he is disarmed.

PabloPicasso-The-Shadow-1953Now he steps into her light and wraps his arms around her, remembers this frame in firm flesh and full bloom.  He enfolds her, tries to shush her soft sobs, and he murmurs the words that have become his mantra these past 18 months.

“It’s alright sweetie,” he says. “It’s o.k.”

But it is not o.k.  Lyda’s face, creased as it is by time, is not a face for weeping, and her sadness trowels on extra years.

Today she stands here and lets him hold her and he can feel the rhythms of her soft sadness and the trickle of her tears as they find a path through the hairs on his arm.

He knows that there is nothing he can do to stop these things, her memory loss, her having grown old, or the unspoken—her dying; time will have its way.  He can do only this, hold her and comfort her—and tell her these same familiar lies.

And that has become his great weight, and that has become his own great sorrow.

c 2011 David Lambert

September Surf

He sits hard at the edge of the sea, exhausted and voiceless. Adrenaline pulses through him and his head throbs. His wife hovers near. It is his wife they talk to.

Colors whoosh red and black behind his eyes, and little things, silvery white, float through his field of vision. Around him, commotion, foot falls, shuffling sand. . .and bodies moving, but he hears none of it, only the thud of blood pulsing through his brain and the muffled voices of his two young sons somewhere behind him.

And the headache, the headache. An offer of water comes, a towel, some ice?

The long sun rests hot now against his back and turns the salt to crystal that crinkles against his skin. There, on the verge of the tide, seawater erodes the wet sand beneath him; both find their way back to the sea.

‘Home,’ he says, and he pushes up to stand. He is unsteady, unaccustomed to his feet it seems. Tentative steps, a brief catch of balance. The crowd opens and he moves toward home.

Near the dunes his toes cleave the fine powder, hot still from the summer sun. He mounts the wooden walk that crosses to the street. Old wood, this ramp, silvered and splintery, with ridge-heaves from the salt and heat. Back there someone is yelling. His eyes sting. Sun and sweat, salt and sand. He wipes them with the back of his hand where the sand is least.

The sun has angled more now and cars pass, neighbors coming from work. Normal neighborhood, his, the noises, the movement; but the sameness strikes him as odd. He wonders about this until the pounding intrudes and overtakes his thoughts.

His wife moves beside him and takes his hand. The boys walk behind quietly.

‘You alright?’ she asks. He nods but does not answer. She understands, accepts his quiet, kens his exhaustion, and she does not ask again.

Their house is six back from the ocean, one short block, two cross-streets—a long walk today. It faces east toward the Atlantic. Houses on the street form a gantlet, a wind-tunnel that directs Atlantic breezes to their doors. Nearly every day their window curtains billow.

Theirs is an old house, cypress, a house not built for air conditioning. He has been fixing it now for 10 years, weekends mostly, and evenings, fixing it while their kids grow. This house has a singularity, a smooth brick floor that stays cool in the summer; a floor that won’t warp or wash away if a rogue hurricane pushes water up over the dune, down the street, down the thousand feet to their door. It was his grandmother’s idea, this floor, and it was a good one.

This late day he steps on the patchy grass of their yard. Near the house, near the low palm, he has rigged a shower, a galvanized steel rod with a plastic head to wash off the sand and salt. He walks past it today and opens the screen door. Inside is dark and the brick cools his feet, hot from the warm tar road. Did he lose his flip-flops? Leave his sunglasses on the beach?

Inside, in the cool dark, his body drains down and his knees take on signs of betrayal. He sits quickly as his boys come through the door. He is wet still with sand clinging lightly to his shorts and legs. Today his wife does not complain about the salt or the wet; she does not mention the upholstery, the fine wood.

His boys give him side looks as they walk by. His youngest looks scared. What do I look like that scares him, he wonders. He forces a smile their way. I’m o.k, the smile is meant to say. And he is o.k., mostly, and for that he is thankful. Except his head pounds.

He sits there a moment cooling his feet on the brick. Parts of the last hour play keep-away in his head, popping up between throbs. His running on the hard sand. Diving deep through the crushing whitewater. The small scared screams. The judgement of current and the rip, the big waves.

But the throbbing returns and he wonders if he’ll throw up. Aspirin, he thinks, and he walks to the bathroom.

Here the walls are stark and cool. He turns the shower on and spreads his hand against the tile. He leans his forehead into the water and he does not think of the sand and salt or what the water takes away.

He does not think how much he loves his family or this old house. And he does not think of the young mother back there on the beach, who was, for that one long moment, idly toying with her infant child while her two young daughters played in the clasping currents of the big September surf.

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