How we would laugh whenever we went to that restaurant! After our third visit, we begged them…no pickles! Every time, the pickle juice made our potato chips soggy. That place was mad for pickles! Every plate they served had ’em. The food was actually great. That’s why everyone went. Eager, he proposed to me the night we ate barbequed ribs and hamburger dills. He couldn’t put my engagement ring on my finger because of the mess. We were saved by a roll of paper towels when the restaurant took pity on us. They almost had to hose us down! They offered each of us one free dessert to celebrate. But we’d had our fill of pickles. So we declined. On the night of our first wedding anniversary, we were considering whether to go fancy or revisit “Chez Pickles.” My husband decided that he had a craving for spaghetti. And there they were – waiting for us – two gherkins messin’ with the marinara.
Love slept beside me, and I realized he had become the future unveiling itself. For an hour, I allowed him to sleep, but woke him because he had “been too long away.” He pulled me close. Watching a curl fall upon his forehead, I reached to hold that moment as one might try to grasp forever. Time was passing. Mountains were windswept filling valleys as I tried to turn love into remain when all it could ever be in any moment was how I wish.
Uncle Robert left me this little house and the acre on which it sits. I painted the front door hunter green right after a week of unpacking, and in my second summer here, I was planting impatiens, little salmon colored flowers, along the front walk. The day was warm and showed promise. It was still early in the morning when a man pulled into the driveway asking directions to a Spencer Road to meet a realtor there about a house for sale. He got out of his rental car and walked over to me introducing himself as Jim Danvers. I was unable to answer his question, but he wasn’t doing such a good job of leaving. I offered him a cold soda and we sat on the front stoop talking. Only, all I could think was either he should stay or I should go with him. He had a caring smile and softness in his manner. And there was something else there that I knew I couldn’t let go. There was a lull in our conversation that didn’t need filling. Finally, as I stared out at the street, I said, “You’re home, Jim.” He said, “I know.” I continued, “This isn’t the way to your destination, you know.” He took my hand asking, “Who says I’m not already there?”
A friend of a friend, I stayed in his home in Tuscany. That fourth day, I began in pencil as he sat smiling. His eyes were where I started. He kept trying to see my work. I smiled without speaking. I was thirty-two and knew so little of his language. I think he became flirtatious then – still in his late twenties, young enough to believe infatuation was love. Across the table, his lips whispered words that hung in the air between us. When I showed him his portrait after forty minutes, he said, “Ahhh!” Then leaning toward me, when his lips touched mine, his mouth opened. But this I had not captured until I had finished drawing the mouth, until the eyes where I started – closed with his embrace, until we were in his bed where I learned afternoon meant love when I began my Italian lessons.
A breeze carries Chow’s Chinese Restaurant up the block depositing the entire menu through the windows of our second floor walk-up on the odd chance I have forgotten you. I remember your steaming egg drop soup on hot August nights and how you always attempted to share with me. Now I wish I’d tried some – for you. Instead of flowers, you gave me egg rolls, sometimes stopping by Chow’s on the way home from the subway. They ask about you when I go there. They look at my still bare ring finger, interested, meaning well. But I don’t know the words, can’t muster the courage, know I’d start crying if I told them you passed away four months ago. So I tell them I do this for you – pick up the order – which contains your chopsticks for our cashew chicken, your egg drop soup, one egg roll and your fortune cookie – there beside mine.
I crumpled the boxwood leaves with one hand then ran their scent across my pulse points and through my hair. I rubbed some dirt across my right cheek. My husband’s back was facing me where he bent over the vegetable garden he loved as I approached in my frayed denim shorts and cotton T-shirt. Baby’s breath and mums grew up my calves from where I’d shoved them inside my short suede boots. He heard me coming, stood and began smiling when he saw my legs. “Whatcha doin’?” he asked, his hands muddied with water and dirt from planting seedlings. I reached for his face and he bent down to kiss me with salty lips. “Gardening,” I said, because I didn’t know one whit about the garden and just wanted his attention. He knew this. He knew me. “Babe, I like how your garden grows.” “I thought ya might,” I said.