Note: This is the second installment of a three-part story that I’m currently drafting. It’s from my current project, tentatively called The Last Day of Summer. Please check out the first part of “Resurrection” here. Hope you enjoy it! -C-
Once all the crumbs had been brushed from table and fingers, and after she’d washed and stacked the dishes she felt a tug in her stomach at realizing that there was nothing left to do. The boy’s mother dried her hands on her blue jeans and, since the old woman was sitting in the living room and out of sight, she rested a moment against the cold marble countertop. Her elbow brushed against a pot filled with soaking lentils, making a scraping sound. She held still for a moment, but from what it seemed her mother-in-law was still sitting undisturbed, waiting for the boy to come back upstairs.
Soon, the boy’s mother would join her on the sticky, plastic-wrapped couch, but before she succumbed she craved a moment’s rest, a break from unspeaking. She pressed the back of her fingers against the marble, and in doing felt the ring, heavy and useless. In three months she’d lost both father-in-law and husband. Drinking from two rivers of sadness, each equally as bitter. She missed her father-in-law, a man like her own dad, more than the man. He was a good man with a loyal heart. The other man who had run off with that other whore, the one who’d let all the drunks in town put it in her. Dead and buried, her father-in-law had once had kind eyes and rough hands and a proud Catalan nose and he always had crumbs in his uneven beard. The man, who was once infallible was now selfish and angry, now had no detectable libido but possessed a huge member, useless as an unplugged garden hose. At least with me, she thought with a snarl.
She held her hands in front of her. There it was, clinging on to her finger, the final act of story that was long over. But she could not remove it. At least not yet. She was stubborn, like her father and like the better memories that floated to her whether she liked it or not. The honeymoon in Las Vegas, her first and only visit to the United States. She remembered being at the airport and the alien, arid wind sweep over her shaved legs and bare arms. The confusion at the car rental company, when neither of them could describe in English the kind of car they wanted and instead ended up with an ugly red sedan that was too small but good enough. The sudden desert storm and the black pyramid that rose between the golden towers as they approached the city. She’d felt like a newly-crowned queen then, entering her city with the king at her side.
Later, close up, she’d gaped open-mouthed at the infinite expanse of dark glass and at the angles sharp as knives that kissed before they met the sky. They’d spent a week inside that pyramid, the original design of which was intended as a tomb, she remembered reading somewhere. But with her new husband, there was nothing that could take away from the glamour and youth of it all. Especially when she lay naked as a flower on the hotel mattress, not yet knowing she was pregnant, curled up next to her love-spent spouse.
Are you coming? her mother-in-law called from the living room.
Startled, the boy’s mother, standing against the clean and lonely countertop, shifted her weight.
Of course, she answered. I’m done cleaning now.
She entered the living room. Her mother-in-law was on one end of the couch, sitting stiffly with an empty cup of coffee. The boy’s mother sat down on the other end, already struggling to recall the bland new topics of conversation that they had seemingly agreed upon. Weeks after the man had run off, his mother had taken pity on the abandoned wife and child and tried to act as if nothing was wrong. Only once had she asked how the boy’s mother was feeling after the man’s departure. And after the boy’s mother had lied and stoically proclaimed her strength, the mother-in-law’s response was the same adage she’d repeated time and again: Worse things have happened.
The boy’s mother folded and unfolded her hands. She met her mother-in-law’s eyes and then quickly brushed over the picture frames and her father-in-law’s dead eyes before resting on the barren coffee table. The well had run dry after the abandonment and then the death. The only thing left to talk about was the boy, and with him downstairs somewhere they had nothing left to say to one another. They’d never spent that much time together, even at family functions, never left in the same room alone without a third party. She was just the boy’s mother and the disappeared husband’s wife, nothing more. The sofa creaked under her when she moved to sit more comfortably. She smiled at her mother-in-law, who lifted her gaze at the sound, but the boy’s mother could still not think of anything to say. She wondered what it is they ever talked about besides husbands and grandsons. If it weren’t for the boy or the departed husband, would they even see each other at all?
Where is he? the mother-in-law suddenly asked. For a moment the boy’s mother did not know which he the mother-in-law was referring to. But before she could answer, the buzzer rang five urgent times, followed by four more, saving her from having to answer. The boy’s mother rushed to the intercom and pressed the button.
He’s been hurt, a little girl cried into the speaker. Come down quick.
The boy’s mother rushed out into the dark hall and down the six flights of stairs, nearly falling on the last step. As she caught her balance she thought of the door that she had left gaping open and of the shrill little voice and of the silent mother-in-law lightly descending in the faultless elevator, down towards whatever yet unnamed catastrophe was waiting to leap on her just outside, in the still summer air. And she thought about how, terribly, there was at last something to discuss.