I don’t know what possessed me to visit that particular castle on the gloomiest day of the year, but I’d been out of work for a monthand needed a distraction. Lo and behold, there was a notice on the door they had desperate need of an assistant. With my unrelated background in floral arranging, I expected my application to be rebuffed.
But the owner hired me on the spot and I was extremely grateful. Room and board were included, so I packed up my meager belongings and returned that night to begin work immediately.
My new employer asked if I had anyone to list in case of emergency. No, I said, I’m all alone in the world.
“Excellent.” She smiled and locked the door behind me.
The old man hobbles along the path, clutching his guitar and a bouquet of red roses. He is coming to visit her grave again.
The flowers are for her favorite color and the music is for her love of dancing. Once, he showed me a photo of her holding their grandchild, and her wrinkled face glowed with joy. I know he doesn’t see her as old though—he sees a dancing girl in a red dress skipping through the mists of time.
He places the flowers on her stone and begins to play “Spanish Harlem.”
As he catches the faint jingle of Christmas music, his mind drifts to thoughts of what he’s missing. He remembers the festive decorations welcoming all to a warm and lively home. Family, friends, fun, food… the last time celebrating an auspicious occasion: he’d been promoted to a manager role and was relocating.
The real estate broker assured him that the condos were just like a real house. Their descriptionincluded key words such as sunny and inviting and cozy. Cozy would be the most apt, he thinks as he nukes a frozen dinner in his tiny kitchen, resigned to spending the holiday alone. No point in going out and trying to make new friends on Christmas Eve when everyone is wearing a mask.
He walks to the window and gazes into darkness. A lonely strand of holiday lights twinkles around the palm tree in front. He has the notion to stroll outdoors and check the other windows to remind himself that he isn’t the only person on the planet. Out of habit, he goes to grab a coat, but then realizes he doesn’t need one.
I thought she was my whole world, but I was wrong. She was my universe, and when she left, she took it all with her. Stars, planets, moons, rainbows… they’ve disappeared. I watched her depart with everything as if it meant nothing. She held it all as lightly as balloons on a string, with her blue summer dress floating around her pale skin like a cloud. I sit in the dark now, cloaked with the heaviness of loss, and people come and go with endless casseroles. I don’t speak for fear of blurting out my secret; it grows relentlessly larger and will soon consume me. On that day I shall emerge from this cave and join her, and we will share the universe again.
It was a night like this, when the mist rolled in so thick you couldn’t even see a fist right in front of your face. Everything was grey as the grave. All my plans fizzled as drizzle began and I saw the flash of silver in your hand. I knew you meant to say goodbye where no one could hear me cry and you could disappear without a trace. Though I accepted my fate, I didn’t mean to slip on the slick stones and push you into the river. It still gives me the shivers all these years later when I visit this place. Darling, I miss you every day, but it seems you got your wish after all, in a roundabout way.
I may have had some wine, perhaps a cordial or three, at the neighborhood block party. As a very religious boy, I was raised without the taste of alcohol (aka “devil’s juice”) in my parents’ home, and I was not used to the effects. In my hazy state of mind, it occurred to me I needed to do my laundry, since I was leaving early tomorrow for orientation week at the university. After lugging my clothes bag across the street to the laundromat, I noticed a new bulletin board with colorful notes, advertising things for sale.
Available immediately ~ ancient model, purrs like a kitten, still in great shape, low mileage, minimal wear and tear. Call for details.
I needed a new car something fierce. If I could grab this one tonight, perhaps I wouldn’t have to carpool with the other students. They would smoke, which I hated. I called the number. A woman answered.
“Hello,” I said. “I would like to hear more details about what you have for sale. Is it really as great as you describe on the ad at the laundromat.”
“Even better,” she answered in a strange husky tone. “Why don’t you come over right now and I’ll show you?”
She gave me the address and I walked over. It was only a few blocks. When she opened the door, she was wearing a filmy robe and I tried not to look below the neck. I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.
“Aren’t you adorable?” she said. “Come on in.”
I went inside and she closed the door. “Where’s the car?” I asked her.
“You’re looking at it,” she said and dropped the robe.
Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the school the next day. Luckily, though, my laundry was intact. I brought it back to her place and stayed for three years. She was stunning and taught me about the ways of the world. I will always be grateful tomy first love. And someday, I’ll get my degree and be more than an assistant manager in a donut shop.