Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Musings, 21 September 2013

Good morning,

Autumn's gentle bite greets me at the threshold.  I've overslept, after a twenty-four hour period of cleaning, cooking and entertaining for our mini-supper club.  Over a table laden with summer's last best harvest, we dissected the comments of the pope; the tattoo trend; and red wine versus white.  I fell asleep with the ghost of a smile lingering on my face, my husband's snoring acting, for once, like white noise.

My dreams rose in an instant.  I wake, haunted, on the other side of the state.  I realize that I still sleep, but the images surrounding me seem real, touchable.  I stand, back against a wall, in a crowded apartment.  I clutch a thick, short glass, ice clinking, liquid swirling.  A nearby table holds trays of food which I ignore.  I take another drink and gaze around.

I know no one.  I've followed someone to this party who has now left, and I am thinking about doing the same.  But the Scotch is plentiful and free.  I gulp some down and move to another wall.  I close my eyes, just for a moment, and try to catch the thumping rhythm of whatever record spins on the turntable.

I feel something brush against my arm and open my eyes.  A girl stands beside me.  She wears a gauzy dress with thin straps.  She herself barely breaks a hundred pounds, and she stands an inch or two taller than my five feet three.  Her hands are empty; she glances at my drink.  I raise the glass and gesture toward the make-shift bar; speech seems impossible, with the blare of the music and the rumble of the dancers' bodies pounding the floor in crazy staccato.

"Not for me," she mouths; sound might accompany the movement of her lips, but I can't tell.  We stand for a few minutes, strangers holding up a common corner.  She tries to speak again and I shake my head.  She raises one  hand and points to the French doors opening onto the balcony.  I shrug; there's no reason not to leave the noise.

Once outside, we lean against the railing.  "You know these guys?" she asks.  I assume she means whoever lives here.  I tell her no.  We trade names and I finish my Scotch.  "You reminded me of my sister," she tells me.  "I thought you were her, for a second.  That's why I came over."  I wait; a revelation would surely follow.  But she fell silent.  I slid an ice cube into my mouth and  crunched it, tasting the lingering smoke of a quite decent single malt for the place, the day: 1979 in a two-bedroom flat in University City shared by four Washington University grad students.

My new friend shakes her head; she seems to be arguing with herself.  "I'm so tired of all this," she finally sighs.  "Party after party, night after night, bodies pressed too thick, too close.  The smell of sweat and too much perfume.  Doesn't it ever get you down?"

I think a minute.  I see what she means but I'm not sure I can speak.  I have suddenly realized that the drink I've just finished must have been my fourth or fifth, and I can no  longer remember why I'm there.  I look at her profile; her face seems tense, the set of her mouth angry.  I place my glass on the railing and try to say something, anything, to move the conversation away from an edge over which I do not feel capable of stepping.

The girl tosses her shoulders, reaching the end of whatever inner debate she had undertaken.  "Well, I finally did it, I finally dropped the dime.  I called Mom and Dad and told them I've had it with all this.  I haven't been to class in weeks.  I'm going on the road. " She slides  her eyes in my direction.  "I can't live their dream anymore.  I can't make up for what they lost."  She wraps her frail arms around herself; her shudder runs through my own body.  It's clear to me that I have become irrelevant.  Even in my drunkenness, I can see she's talking to someone that I am not.  She falls silent, and gazes down at the street, at the tops of the trees with their straggly brown leaves.

The girl stirs. " Well, I gotta get going," she finally says.  "It's nice to meet you."  She slips between the doors, and I stand, motionless, on the balcony.  In a few minutes, I see her form on the sidewalk.  She stops a few feet from the building, and turns her face upwards.  I swear, I swear, I hear her say, "Goodbye, Sis." And then she is gone.

I've lost my whatever interest I might have had in the party.  No one notices me leaving, or standing on the street baffled because I cannot find my little MG.  No one laughs when I finally realize that I gave that car to my brother and bought a Chevy Nova, which  I have stumbled past three times.  No one watches as I lurch from the curb, and run three red lights before I make it home.  And no one waits in my apartment but I sit on the couch anyway, hoping to hear someone's welcoming voice, until the Scotch finally wins, and I fall asleep, fully clothed, just as the sun starts to rise.

The radio says that it is 53 in Kansas City this morning.  My bones tell me that I did too  much yesterday; but oh, what a nice party we had.  It's a lovely day.  I shake off the ghosts, and move to the kitchen, to pour myself another cup of coffee.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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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.