Conversations with the Dead
"It’s cold out here. Do you want to go to the place across the street and get something to drink?" He asked me as he adjusted himself on the marble picnic table. I could feel his eyes on me though I was looking away into the water. The sky was flecked with gold, just above the morning fog that had settled over the North Shore Mountains. It looked as though some great thing was trying to cover up the fog with gold leaf hoping us common folk wouldn’t notice. Painting over past mistakes and regrets. I loved the water in the morning. The tides were just starting to turn and the horizon promised a beautiful day.
"No, I think I want to sit out here for a bit longer. You can go if you like." I replied absentmindedly.
I never knew what to make of these meetings between us. They always left me with the feeling that my lungs had withered up like chilli peppers left out in the sun for too long. We met once a year, out of habit now. There were no reasons to do so. I was like a smoker who only had one cigarette a year on New Year’s day to reminisce in the habit, to test myself. Yes I still had it. Yes I was still capable of inhaling the smoke and making smoke rings to impress the masses. I squirmed at the thought of my husband lying in bed at home, warm and the children still asleep in their bunk beds in their dinosaur pajamas. I wrapped the scarf around my neck a bit tighter, and brought the zipper of my coat all the way up to prevent my insides from shrivelling.
I hardly noticed when a hand reached over to my knee and tapped me gingerly, drawing my attention to a cup of coffee.
"Non- fat vanilla latte as I remember. I hope you still drink them." He said.
"Yes, thanks I do."
I winced at his thoughtfulness. I had no heart to tell him that I preferred masala tea nowadays.
We had some long, archaic story that is better left to dollar-store novels and Bollywood movies. One fall morning, we had decided on our next meeting and neither one of us had made the effort to follow through. We had both known that day that it was over. We had both known that we would have to move through life, not recounting what had happened between us. Like everyone in a room trying not to talk about the ugly wallpaper that encased them. We moved away. My life took me to publicity parties, and book signings. His, I don’t know. We never talked about it again.
On that fall morning, every year, we went to the same place, by the water. We believed that if we conversed with something that was past, that there was some kind of acknowledgement that would take place. Perhaps it would speak back. So neither one of us would have to wonder. So neither one of us would have to regret. Today again, was that fall morning, and every year it was the same. We watched the ferries pull into the dock, and sleepy people walking their dogs, each one stepping through a patch of sunlight that lay on the ground. Stars for just a moment. My eyes traced the footsteps of an old woman who took her basket of groceries across the street. She walked as though if she walked any faster, the wind would corrode the carrot sticks that peeked out of her wicker basket.
"My husband will be up now. I should go home. The boys have a game today." I said breaking a silence of several minutes. "Thanks for the coffee."
"It was good to see you again." He said, looking down at my shoes.
We got off the table. He gave me a hug and kissed my forehead. He still wore that cologne.
I walked back into the parking lot and drove to my suburban home, passing burnt trees that prettily lined our walkway. The slight breeze made them toss their leaves like celebratory confetti.
"Hey you! Where have you been? I made some tea." My husband greeted me. "I haven’t woken the boys up as yet."
"I was just out for a walk." I replied, kissing his cheek.
I unzipped my jacket. The warmth spread back up my neck, making my head feel warm again.
"Two sugars, just the way you like it" He said with a smile, handing me my tea.