The Late Visit
and past due conversation...
Grass makes me itch. Not just a little twinge here and there, satiated by a light scratch of the nails. No, I’m talking red welts and hives. The kind of itch that makes you wish you could just remove your skin. But I’m sitting here anyway, in the bright green hive inducing grass, wishing I had worn jeans, because I needed to see her. The afternoon sun is high above us, not a cloud in the sky, radiating such heat that I can barely breath. The sweet smell of roses tickles my nose and I rest my finger under it, holding back a sneeze. It almost hurts -- holding back a sneeze -- but there are more important things to discuss.
“I’ve missed you, you know.” I say, needing to get the words out there. “I know that sounds strange. I’m the one that stopped calling.”
Of course she doesn’t answer. I didn’t expect her to, but I had to say it. "I’m sorry it took me so long to visit. I just didn’t have the courage.” A bird cries out in the distance, a crow I think, with it’s shrill caws, and I want to think it’s sympathizing with me. Can it feel my regret? Does it know how much it burns inside me? Or maybe it’s just angry, screaming at me. Go ahead bird I deserve it.
I can see her shaking her head at me, the short bob of her hair shifting with the movement and brushing her rosy cheeks. Her eyes are rolling at me as if I’m an idiot. Any other day and she would tell me I was being silly.
It can’t yell at you Anna, it’s a bird, she would say, ever the realist. But today she is silent.
“I have a daughter now. Can you believe that? Would you have ever pictured me with a kid? She’s playing with my mom right now. My mom, a grandmother. That’s almost as strange as me being a mother, don’t you think?” I’m rambling now, trying to fill the silence. “You would like her. She’s so silly, just like you, she makes me laugh every day. She sings to no one in particular and dances with invisible dragons that live in the trees. Isn’t that funny?”
Why won’t she laugh? It’s not fair that she won’t laugh. I miss that laughter, the way it bubbled out like a just opened bottle of champagne, pouring over everyone around her.
Plucking a straw of grass and rolling it between my fingers, I start to remember the good times. Singing in the gym during PE when all the other kids were playing basketball. The screeching sneakers and the echoes of bouncing balls hitting the floor would drown out her soprano tones and my lower alto ones but that was ok. We weren’t singing for an audience. We were singing for us. I need to remember the better times. I need her to remember the better times. The times before we fought and drifted apart.
“Do you remember what it was like when we were kids? We used to sing together all the time.”
I sigh and wonder if she still cares about things like that. Tears sting my eyes and I fight them back. I hate how crying makes my face look, all red and blotchy, like my skin is attacking itself. An immune response to grief. Of course, it would fit right along with the hives spreading on my legs. Why did I wear a dress? I never wear dresses. Then I remember that she loved them.
“What was that song, the one we liked best? It was a gospel song. I wasn’t very religious but we could sing the heck out of that song couldn’t we?”
She won’t answer and I’m wracking my brain trying to remember the song. Why can’t I remember it? It’s important. So important but I can’t. It’s gone. Just like she is.
“I’m sorry I can’t remember it but I brought you flowers. Yellow roses, but I don’t know if you will like them. I can’t even remember your favorite flower.” I waited too long to visit. My memories are fading and they are all I have left now. I should have written these things down. “Just tell me one more time and I’ll be sure to write it down, okay?”
The tears are coming now, I can’t stop them. I brush my hand over her name, Molly Grace Bennett, perfectly etched in granite, then over the dates below it.
“Has it really been five years since you left? How many since we last spoke? Ten?” Closing my eyes, I start wishing, maybe even praying, to hear Molly’s voice once more. Had I known she was going to leave this world so soon, I would have made more of an effort to stay in touch. “Would that have made a difference?” I ask out loud, not just to her but anyone or anything that might hear. “Would you still be here?”
I know it’s not Molly speaking but I can hear her voice in my mind, as clear as if she was sitting right in front of me. I can imagine her barefoot, with toes in the grass, unlike me she always liked the feel of nature on her skin.
How would that have made a difference? My soul was ready to go and my heart just stopped beating.
It sounds just like something she would say. “I thought you were a realist. You had an infection, it didn’t just stop beating. Your heart was literally too big.” Then I laugh because I’m arguing with her, even now, and she’s not even here.
A gentle breeze is starting to blow, whipping the hair off my shoulders. It’s strangely cool in this baking summer heat, and somehow, I think it’s her, using the wind to try and comfort me the only way she can. Or maybe that’s just what I want to believe, to grasp onto anything tangible.
“Thank you,” I say, drying my tears. “Thank you for being my friend and I’m sorry I wasn’t always there for you.” As if on cue, another breeze blows by, this one harder, and almost knocks me over. “Okay, Okay, I get it.”
Standing up I see my daughter playing in front of the old church by the cemetery. It’s paint is peeling and the weeds are growing faster than the grass. Molly would have said that the weeds were prettier anyway, and for once we would have agreed. My mother, looking younger than her years, is running after the giggling two year old through the white and yellow wild flowers. It takes me a moment to realize she is chasing dandelion seeds, set afloat by the sudden gust, laughing as she reaches out to grab them with her tiny hands. Her laughter reminds me of bubbles and times long past. Smiling, I turn back to the headstone and run my fingers along its smooth grey edge.
“Thanks for the wind.”