Sunday, May 1, 2016
Midwinter - Short Story
Mercurial. Subject to sudden or unexpected changes of mood or mind. I suspect the word came from the Roman god Mercury, the Greek god Hermes, who, as I remember, was mercurial.
People often wondered how Ana could have stayed married so long to that man who was so mercurial. He would come rushing into the room full of life, full of plans, full of ideas. He would tell her how he wanted to conquer the world of finance, which was the final subject he had decided to major in. His final major because that was the subject for which he had the most credits. Just when he started to explain the paper that would complete his requirements, he stopped in midsentence, fell back in his easy chair, and brooded for an hour. He put on his coat and went to his apartment. He saw her again the next morning as though nothing had happened the night before. Nothing any different ever happened in that his mood always was capricious and unpredictable. However, there was one thing that was always the same: he always loved her. His changes were always motivated by his love for her. It meant so much to him that she was impressed by his knowledge. It made her happy that she would learn a new word or idea by what he showed her.
Ana, on the other hand, was phlegmatic. She often reminded Alan of the figurine his mother had kept on her vanity of the Georgian court lady: still and cool in a sumptuous blue gown and pearls. He would never figure out how Ana always kept her nails impeccably manicured, yet he never saw her fussing with her nails
The solicitude expressed by Alan toward Ana most impressed Dora, though she was taken aback by and never got over his impulsiveness; she was impressed by his perspicacity and would go on and on to everyone she met how pleased she was that he would be marrying her daughter.
Dora, Alan and Ana sat about the little table in Dora’s kitchen. She poured each of them a glass of white wine. Dora loved a glass of white wine before going to bed, but tonight Alan and Ana dropped in for a visit. So unusual, but she loved seeing them. Ana had been so happy since having taken up with Alan. Alan was funny. He reminded her of Eddie in “Leave It To Beaver.” He was so kind. He was so polite. He was so attentive. But thus far she had seen no mischief in him. He obviously wanted to love her because Ana loved her. She had raised Ana when Ana’s mother could not.
“I want to marry Ana, Mrs. Marsh.” Alan took Ana’s hand in his. His thumb rubbed against hers, creating a still life setup except his thumb was not still. It was quiet. It was love.
“That makes me very happy, kids. Why don’t you call me Dora. That’s okay now. I never got used to little children calling me Mrs. Marsh or Ma’am. I know they’re being respectful, but my friends all call me Dora.”
Dora looked at her own hands in front of her. She realized she was as old as her own grandmother had been when she herself had given birth to Ana’s mother.
Alan and Ana have each other.
Their baby died. For days she had been crying, crying all night. Why don’t you just curse God and die? Ana slumped into her pillows and wept to herself. Wept silently. Wept because there was nothing else to do. Why don’t you just curse God and die? Okay, I will. I will curse God from the bottom of my heart, from the soles of my feet, through the top of my head. I feel my head will burst. All I can do is scream. How could this happen to me, God? Everything was so perfect. Everything was going so well. It just doesn’t make sense! The new mother in the apartment next door had the audacity to walk her baby every morning. Doesn’t she know she can’t do this to me? She can’t be happy. Not now. Not in front of me.
Alan ran out of the apartment and sat on the stool in the nearby coffee shop. He did not hear the man behind the counter who asked him what he wanted to drink. The man noticed Alan was not there to talk. How many minutes? How many hours? Was I supposed to go to work today? Of course not. They wouldn’t expect me to. But I guess I’ll have to make funeral arrangements or something. Something. But maybe they don’t do that for a baby only a few days old. I will have a service for her. It would comfort Ana. He remembered Ana and decided he must go to her. He distractedly placed eighty-five cents in change on the counter, stopped to rub away some still water, and left the coffee bar to go to Ana.
I’ve always thought the bare branches of the winter trees beautiful. Especially when the ice forms on them – like they’ve been dipped in molten silver. Everyone tells me I’m the only one who feels this way. They are beautiful. They tell me that all is lying in wait for the budding spring. It is cold now. We suffer now, but in the spring the buds will burst forth, and will surprise us with the promise of our questions answered. Joy. Real joy. Thank you, God, for ever having given us little Amelia for a little while.
Alan walked back into their small apartment. There he saw Ana slumped over the table. Her arms sprawled in front of her, her hair a mass of iridescent curls. He loved her so much he literally felt the pain evident in her very being, manifest in her own heart. He went over to her and gently pulled her shoulders toward him. At first she resisted, so deep she was in her own sorrow.
He said to her, “I’ll never leave you again.”
She was not sure she had heard him. She looked up at him. He was a blur through her tears. “What did you say?”
“I promise… I’ll never leave you again.”
“I don’t understand.”
He took her hands and pulled her up then walked her slowly over to their favorite chair. The one where she liked to sit in his lap.
“We have each other.”
It was many years later. forty years later. Ana had just come home from the hospital where she had said goodbye to her husband
“Yes,” she said to him. “We have each other.”
It was midwinter again. Out the dining room window there were heaps of snow. The branches on the maple trees were heavy with snow. Periodically the silence would be broken by clumps of snow falling to the ground from the eaves of the roof. A bird hopped on her window sill and sang a pretty song telling her she would always have Alan. House finch or house sparrow? She remembered her dad when she was a little girl would point out to her “that’s a house finch. That’s a house sparrow.” But she could never differentiate between the two. She would always have her dad.