Sunday, September 10, 2006

Four September Good-Byes

I’ll take the subway from here, she said, or you’ll be late.
She leaned towards him quickly, beautiful in her sexless b-suit,
and they kissed quickly before she stepped out onto the curb.
See you, they said. She walked away from him,
past the brownstones where the men wait all day in limousines,
and disappeared forever into Manhattan’s impersonal shuffle.

His wife was still asleep when the carpool arrived.
His mother was up as usual, making breakfast for the kids.
She gave her son the little lunch she had made for him,
feeling guilty as always that it was so plain and thrown-together.
She lifted the kids onto the window seat so they could wave good-bye.
If she said good-bye herself, she could never remember afterwards.

Last night she told him that she was unhappy, with no love in her voice.
She still smelled drunk. He touched her bare shoulder and kissed it.
In the dark hallway he put one hand on the kids’ door for a moment.
He could picture them through the door, asleep in the rubble of childhood.
He wanted to stay home, but what had she said? Time to grow up.
So he grabbed his gear and went to the station, feeling strangely charged.

She woke as she always did: early, alone, and still tired.
The emptiness and sameness of her apartment felt unbearable that morning,
so she cleaned off some of the crust of age and left for work early.
She passed through Harlem on the way, and she remembered seeing it
last Easter, when people were walking to church, the little girls in Easter bonnets.
She smiled at the memory. Without knowing it, she said her last good-bye.