Read [Part I] HERE
Read [Part II] HERE
Read [Part III] HERE
His hands. There was something about his hands. How one would touch her pale forearm. Wiry thin and long but held together better than in a willowy way. It would stiffly stay in place and somehow absorb all her worry and doubt. He was maybe seventy. His hair was short white cotton his face was drawn coal black. He wore an eggshell-colored suit and a white fedora most times. Other times or as the day played on, he dressed in only the layers underneath. A white dress shirt, loosened buttons, then rolled-up cuffs. A white undershirt. An oil painting rendered in reverse built back to its penciled sketch.
Cheryl sat next to him on their beige plaid sofa across from their TV console encased in faux cherry wood. It was turned off. Her legs were crossed and over his lap, her head rested on his shoulder. The radio was turned off. No lights were on and the sun shone in, filtered through lace curtains. Children played softly and happily in the streets. You could hear Mrs. Meyer in her powder blue house dress with royal blue piping struggling to get her garbage bin to the curb. Birds sang. She was at peace.
It was a peace particular to the moments they spent together. They didn’t speak much, they didn’t have to. It was good just to share silence. Sometimes they’d take walks through the neighborhood after the sun went down and when the air grew a bit crisp. He’d offer her his jacket and they’d stroll hand-in-hand. He’d always walk alongside the curb and she’d run her hands through the shrubs and flowers that lined-up like friendly soldiers outside the small homes they passed. He’d sometimes tell her about himself and she’d mostly just listen intently. He would protectively place his frame between her and any passersby.
He’d also tell her all about herself. Her wants, her dreams. After, they’d sit at home and drink tea, and eat the light sandwiches he had painstakingly prepared. He’d bring them to her carefully and thoughtfully, and admire her as she drank and as she ate and the spot on the cups and plates where he had held them were her most favorite places. She could still feel his touch there. She would see the sinewy strength in his forearm and hands and a feeling of calm safety would wash over her. She sipped slowly and ate slowly. The liquid and the food would evaporate in her mouth behind her distant smile.
It was all foggily-filtered through lace and appeared to her as soft watercolor paintings without much detail when viewed up-close but with an overall encompassing comfort. He brought her a flute glass of sparkling white wine and a handful of grapes, a wedge of cheese. She felt as though time meant nothing and all that mattered was somehow there, with them in a space outside of clocks and schedules and she could not conjure up the face of another human being if she tried but she did not.
She watched him stand at the window as he watched through its panes and gently stretched his frame and spoke of his love for her. The wine slowly went into her with the grapes, with the cheese. It all tasted like being happy. Like being fulfilled. He checked the door of the spare room and sat next to her. She fell asleep in his arms. It was always the same dream; a field a meadow a rolling hill and a weeping willow by a pleasantly babbling brook. Wildflowers and frolic. In the distance softly-rarely seen were the surrounding golden bars of an enormous birdcage and the gentle scraping of the collar tight around her neck.
Sam’s legs were wet noodles and walking was tricky but then running came to him and he ran and ran until his lungs burned and until tears streamed from his eyes. His bare feet bled as he raced all but naked through the deaf-mute night. His mother needed him and her voice rang silently all about and inside him in the unfamiliar darkness. And he ran. And he ran until he stood over her, splayed out helplessly screaming on their kitchen floor. He was late. Terribly late. She had tried to open the prescription bottle but it rolled away from her still closed and the claw hammer in his hand made sense of her panic.
Sam continued to scream lines from the Mourner's Kaddish as he raised the hammer high. Cheryl half awoke to sinewy strong hands and their ebony flesh caressing her willing glistening porcelain skin.
Concludes with [Part V] in August 2023
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