"Mother is the name for god in the lips and hearts of little children..."-William Makepeace Thackeray
For the first time in three years, I had obligations on the date. When I first noticed this circumstance, I was a little tepid; did I really need to be around other half-bald monkeys on this particular date? I'd not slept well and was therefore tired, emotional, and not above stabbing someone in the gall bladder just to watch their expression. The last few years, after listening to Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain, I'd disappear out into the bush. Walkabouts are good for sanity and the soul I'm not even sure I have. Obligations on the date was alien, and, a little macabre, given the context.
Like the first anniversary of my grandmother's death I had professional obligations, I up and did it, tug of melancholy in the gut and all. What else was I supposed to do? I swallowed a bag of broken glass and plowed on, rationalizing I should be grateful for the distraction. Even if Miles Davis still played within the walls of my skull the same way it did that one early, early morning three years ago with my father and brother.
I made a good show of it, thinking of the old Chinese phrase; hou lian ei tsin-thick face, black heart-a variation of Sun Tzu's battle stratagem of employing deception. I traded a jibe or two with sempi, and told a few travelers where to go and even suggested what to do when they got there. Only on occasion did the melancholy tug at my innards in a way that made me want to simper like a bitch.
It was getting toward the edge of the afternoon. I was looking forward to getting home to make tinga and listening to Miles Davis. A friend of mine's radio show would be on later. Perhaps a glass of wine or a tumbler of spiced rum. Maybe both, although, not in concert, lest there be conflict. Certainly, the quadrupeds would be thrilled to see me. I like to anthropomorphically imagine that Chevy and Whistler lend me special comfort on this date because it helps them mourn.
The woman was three years older than me, but already a grandmother. A circumstance I've yet to fully comprehend, despite the fact I have a girl-child who is now an adult. She told me of her grandbabies and her travels back to Montrose. She apologized for being scatter-brained. Just recently, she'd put someone close to her in the ground.
"My sympathies," I said. Even though I danced with the dead for money, I was never good at dealing with the next of kin. As a stranger-and they don't get much stranger than me-it seemed fake to express feigned empathy to someone who just lost a loved one.
"Thank you," the woman said, somehow thinking I was compassionate, something she'd accuse me of toward the end of our interaction. "It was my mom. She died on Christmas day."
Well, fucking perfect...
"It's three years to the day my mother died," I said, swallowing back that bag of broken glass again. I could feel threating moisture along the surface of my eyes. "All I can say is I know it hurts."
"She had dementia and cancer, but she didn't really suffer at the end. Just went in her sleep."
"Mine had cancer too," I said, inclining my head and biting my tongue from going into detail how my mother was moaning in pain at the end because there wasn't enough morphine in all the world to numb her ravaged shell.
The woman smiled weakly and talked about her mother, most of the time on the edge of tears. I just stood there, hands clasped behind my back, inclining my head on occasion, just listening. What else was there to do? It didn't take a hoodoo-voodoo bruja with a pack of tarots, a bag of ruins, or fresh chicken entrails to divine she needed a catharsis.
Finally, she finished, smiling weakly one more. She reached out her hand for mine. I politely accepted her offer. She brought my hand to her lips.
"I want to thank you," she said. "I can tell you're uncomfortable, but I appreciate it. It's been a pleasure to meet you today. You're a little angel along my way."
I inclined my head and smiled slightly. What else was there to do? Speaking would've been an insult.
"God bless you," she said as she turned to leave. "I don't know if you believe in god, but I think we all have our own religion. Thank you again."
I inclined my head once more. The slight smile on my face hid the lump, which threatened to explode in my throat. Maybe I did something that could be construed as good by letting her talk for a bit about her recently departed mother. Be that as it may, I could not help but think I'd deceived her.
After all, there's not one fucking thing angelic about me, unless it's of the fallen variety...