Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twenty One

Dearest You,

When we first met, you were living in Los Angeles. My Dad called you a "big Hollywood screenwriter." He might have also called you a "bullshitter," but then, that's what he called a lot of people. The Los Angeles where you lived is very different in my memory from the Los Angeles where I live (and have lived for nearly twenty years.) Your Los Angeles is dreamlike, quick visions of bougainvillea and poinsettias grown to magical proportions. I see leaded glass windows and curved Mediterranean walls. There might have been a window seat with a view out over the city.

When you visited our house in New Mexico, it was always in the company of a different woman. You had been married enough times to know the ceremony by heart. You proved this by joining my stuffed animals in holy matrimony with our dog and my brother. Something along the lines of "Will you, dog, take this bear and this boy and these stuffed bunnies..."

Your voice was and is the voice of a midnight disc jockey, intimate and flattering and a little naughty.

I remember a dinner at our local Mexican restaurant when all the adults were drinking margaritas and all the kids were amped on Shirley Temples. My dad was drawing cartoons on the paper placemat and when I came to lean against his shoulder, you stood and dipped me back as if you were going to kiss me. Everyone applauded and laughed and I was embarrassed, but a little thrilled. You had put your hand over my mouth and kissed your hand instead of my lips and when you pulled your hand away, I could still feel it there.

There are a lot of stories about you that I wasn't in. There are a lot of stories about you that Dad told me in the kind of confidence that Alzheimer's inspires (that is to say, the kind of confidence you have when you don't really know who you are talking to or what you are talking about...) You admit to having some stories that aren't fit to print. Don't we all?

You didn't come to Dad's memorial and so the first time I saw you after his death, it was as if your grief, postponed, was in full flood. You walked around the museum and the house and your eyes filled. You watched my children run around in the dirt and the weeds and I watched your eyes move from them to me and I could see the startlingly quick flow of time passing. You admitted to being recently married. You were the same and not the same as I remembered.

I would imagine that I am the same and not the same for you, too.


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