Mother's Day (Revision)
They stood together mostly, crowded shoulder-to-shoulder in packs, bearing each other up like pillars or sitting under umbrellas against the May sunshine, the heat radiating off the manicured grass and the colorful flowers contrasted with their somber faces. I saw them off to my right, a slap in the midst of a daydream and my indistinct afternoon shuffled off stage left and behind it was that familiar hole, gaping and irretrievable, that comes when I never expect it and stays past its welcome.
The lawn was a sloping green and red seemed the order of the day, roses pinned in lapels, Tiger on Sunday. Mother's Day. Generations bent to honor their matriarchs, passed from this world into the next and even as I drove by, just a flash, persistence of vision, I could see the sadness in their bodies, the heaving shoulders and bowed heads, their arms around one another as they stood or the bleak way they walked as if they weren't quite sure where to go. The blooms in the air went rank.
I kept my eyes on the rear-view as I idled out of sight and I wanted to go for a long, aimless drive, maybe the mountains, oceans of trees falling away amidst the ribbon of asphalt and one involuntary jerk of the wheel. Just as much, I wanted to turn around and watch them, because I felt what they felt, had taken their anguish as my own, smelled it coming off me in waves like an abandoned house, weeded and mildewed and dreams that withered. Tell me how you cope, I wanted to ask. Do they answer you? When they're gone and the one person you need the most falls silent, when you stand beside their grave on the impossibly green slope, hoarding against the desert heat, the illusion of life, color against the hardscrabble rocks and black plants of the foothills, and you turn to them still, begging for the circle to close.
I dialed her unconsciously, not like I used to. My reasons were, as my life, indistinct. To hear her voice, to poke at her with despairing needles, breathless excitement, mundane information and ennui, passing the time. Somewhere in the midst, I told her what I'd not told anyone recently, the black mood like noxious gas. Tears marched to their posts and choked my throat and I kept them there with every straining muscle I could gather, just out of reach, though she knew anyway, knows me well enough, the echoes of gouging loss.
The sun was falling behind the mountains, making the light hazy and thick, as we talked like actors in a play where I ad-libbed trying to find the right note and she repeated those rote phrases she always does, but with an unfamiliar warmth I'd forgotten. We ran out of original thoughts, mine like the dimming light, too heavy to lift, but the words fell like a soft rain on my neck, a comforting rhythm, a baby breathing in time with its mother's heartbeat.
I ate up road a little faster then and rolled down the windows. The air held a trace of spring. My mind raced off elsewhere, to another bitter ending, scorched earth and death becomes renewal, and I counted how many times in my life I've had to start over unfulfilled. From the beginning, from scratch, on your mark, get set and go. As I sped into the faltering sun, I wondered what it would be like to finally win.