Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Musings, 18 June 2011

Good morning,

The song of the mourning dove rises over the rooftops of the houses around me. The distant drone of cars on the main thoroughfare occasionally punctuates the stillness, along with the chatter of squirrels and an intermittent whoop of something I don't recognize. Morning; Brookside; another weekend.

I feel tension flowing from my body and breathe in fresh air to replace it. I am surrounded by a green veil of early summer leaves. I am hidden from traffic by the fluttering flag, the pale concrete of my porch, and a jumble of rocking chairs. My feet rest on an old grey rug, damp from the storm that briefly raged in the night. As creatures call to one another and a train cries in the distance, I am silent.

Over the gentle din of morning sounds, I hear another voice, speaking my name. I turn, and see a profile gone fourteen years this week. A strong chin, pale blue eyes, wide shoulders; a body in constant motion. I feel something long suppressed rise within me.

Another day, another house, another morning.

His figure huddled over a percolator, and I stood a few feet away, observing surprisingly dense stubble on his chin and a sweep of straight black hair falling over his eyes. He glanced in my direction and muttered, you don't look much better! before turning back, waiting for the bubbling coffee to settle in its pot. When the noise of the brewing ceased, he filled two mugs, and handed one to me. I moved ahead of him, through the living room, and out onto my mother's porch.

We both were docked in our family home, my brother Steve and I. It was the fall of 1977, and I had just come home with my tail between my legs, from a ten-month attempt to establish myself in Boston. I had escaped there after a pale conclusion to an undistinguished college career marked by nothing more or less glamorous than a stumble across the commencement stage and a few dim memories of classes that I frequently skipped. If I was 22, my baby brother Stephen must have been not yet 18, and maybe still in high school.

We sat in metal lawn chairs, on the wide brick porch, gazing on the street where we had played as children. Neither of us spoke. My hangover gnawed at my stomach. I glanced over at my brother, nervous, wondering if he could tell. The silence lengthened.

After a few uneasy moments had passed, Steve turned towards me, earnest eyes searching my face. What are you going to do now, he asked.

I knew he didn't mean, now that I had awakened, feeling sick, and had doused my nausea with the thick black brew. I set my mug beside his and looked across the street. I studied the house where old lady Venable had lived and, I understood, where she had died. I remembered her standing at the fence of her backyard watching my brothers and their friends party, in 1970, when I was fifteen and my parents had taken their first vacation, leaving my sister Joyce in charge of us. We thought Mrs. Venable disapproved of the hippies, and the motorcycles, and the blare of the Grateful Dead from the stereo. We derided her, even as we feared that she would come across the street and tell our parents about our parties.

I sighed. What was I going to do, now? I had gone to Boston ostensibly to start graduate school at Boston College, but fell of my own negligible weight, stumbling over the nightlife of the actresses whose apartment I shared. They thrived in their day jobs and caroused with their friends, while I sat at the table and wished that I could have their lives. I fled when we learned that our building would be converted to co-ops, and they said they did not want me to move into their new digs. We advertised for a roommate, not a sister, one of them snapped at me. I packed my clothes, my books, and an old rocker that I found at a junk store in Cambridge, into the back of my brother Kevin's car, and retreated. That had been a month ago, and I had spent the intervening time getting reacquainted with my old haunts in the Central West End and pretending to look for work.

The morning waned around us, and the sounds of the neighborhood rose. I could hear my mother in the living room. She opened the drapes, and gave a little wave to her children. I spared her a thin smile and turned back to my brother. I don't really know, I finally admitted. I can still go to grad school. SLU will still take me, in January.

He studied me for a few minutes while I avoided his gaze. Then he looked away, into the yellow leaves of autumn that swayed in the morning breeze. You ever wonder what the point is? he finally asked.

I could have answered honestly. I could have told him that I would have done anything to avoid that question, and often did. I could have told him that I had not one inkling of what the point was, nor of how to begin to figure it out, and the drive to know took me behind the wheel of a car with Scotch in my veins and an iron vise gripping my stomach. I could have assured him that the point had thus far escaped me, and that the quest for it haunted me and lurked in every bad line of poetry I ever wrote.

Instead, I laughed. No, not really, I told him. I'm not even sure there is a point.

He stood, then. He tossed cold coffee into the yard, and gave out a quiet, pale
chuckle. Me neither, he agreed. And the world turned a click to the right, as my mother opened the front door and summoned us to breakfast.

It's June, it's 2011, and I feel the warmth of the summer sun on my bare shoulders. I am hungry. The cursor dances on the screen, beneath the pale smears of dirt that I have let accumulate. My husband has already left for a breakfast meeting, and our two boys sleep the thoughtless sleep of their generation. Far away, in a small brass box adorned with a skull and roses sticker, the ashes of my brother Stephen have faded into a nearly painless memory.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Missouri Mugwump™

My photo
I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.