She's little, and frail. She's so frail I wonder how her body holds the strength that's there inside. She is grace. I sat in her glow at dinner tonight. She lost her husband fifteen years ago. Fifteen years. She keeps him with her, talks of him as though he'll be there when she gets home. She knows he won't but she can't help herself. She knows he's gone, that she's bringing him forward through her memory, consciously. Still, it's slippery. She knows it's her trick.
She asks me, How are you?
I put on my clown suit, smile at her, squirm and glance up at the ceiling and across the crown molding, and say, I'm fine. Really, I'm doing okay, I'm fine.
She has years on me, she knows better. She waits for my darting eyes to return to hers, says It takes a long time. She stretches out the very short word, long. In five words she tells me the truth.
Oh, no, I understand that, it does. You're right, it does take a long time.
She puts her worn and delicate hand on mine. It feels like lace.
Alison. She stops there, waits for the air to swirl around my recognition of my name in her voice, says it again. Alison, it takes a long time. Slowly she says it, firm and positive. It stays in the air between us. I hear her now. There is no response. There's not meant to be.
On the drive home I think about her touch, her words. I feel young. Foolish and young. I do not know. I think I do but I've only the slightest idea, a tiny seed of it. This path I'm on, it's only just begun. She knows.