Monday, October 15, 2012
Gretna woke up At 1:05 pm. She looked at the over cast sky and wondered for the first time in ages what it would be like to be out in the air. She was on the sixth floor and the cars scurried about completely unaware she was watching. Physical therapy had been hard that day but the good news was, she would be going home soon. Who would have thought that she would look forward to being on crutches? A tiny bird landed on the window sill and darted it's head back and forth. It's back and feathers were gray and it had a burnt orange breast. She gasped and held her breath, surprised by the sight of it. She watched him there for a while and he flitted off again. The mundane things she took for granted seemed like magic. She had been on the other side of a dark window long enough.
There was a photo album, some flowers and a card on the rolling tray next to her bed. It had a denim cover with little cloth flowers sewn into it. She let her hands drift over the book. She opened the first pages and saw the desert pictures from their last day together. She was wearing leather Indian boots that came up to her knee and a mini skirt she had made out of an old pair of jeans. She had on a small jacket she found in a Salvation Army store. One button at the bottom was fastened and the jacket puckered just a little to betray the skin beneath. Her chiffon scarf hovered in the air pulling away from her in taught waves. Her hair blew over her face and into her mouth and she was looking at Joey with awe and love oblivious to the camera. The shutter snapped and she was suspended there in the wind at sunset. He made her feel so pretty. She had confidence back then. How could she loose something as simple as a feeling, or a posture? She lost those things, along with her faith and the belief that he would come home. There was always one more day between calls, letters and checks. The time stretched out between them and she lost hope that things could ever be what she had hoped. She could never shake the feeling that she was his girl. Some part of her believed he would just appear on her doorstep, and they would remember they had a love that could weather anything. She played the scenario out a million times in her mind. He was the mirage she followed into sleep every night.
She used to carry a small camera and she took pictures when he wasn't looking. She took a picture of him waving from a train station in Flagstaff. He had been offered a job by someone they met at a campground. She would drive back to Tallahassee and he would send money. She took a picture of him there, waving and smiling with a single leather bag slung over his shoulder. His hand was on the heart of his jean jacket. She remembered every patch she sewed on that jacket. She remembered every time she rested her head against that coat. The Jackson Brown eight track was playing in the deck he put in the glove box of her V.W. bus. As she took the picture "My Opening Farewell" played. She never thought for a minute she would never see him again. She was so deeply in love, it never occurred to her that things could slip away so easily. She didn't know that everything in the world hung by tender threads. At that moment everything was fine. She watched him go through the big wooden doors. She pulled out of the station and headed down interstate forty. It was the beginning of her new life. In seven months she would have a baby.
"Hello miss Gretna." The nurse walked in carrying her chart and the Doctor followed.
"Well we are going to have to kick you out of here next week. All we have to do is take out the rods and screews. You still have a long road back to being your old self, but it looks good."
"Your old self." It hung there in the air like some challenge from the doctor. She hadn't had a drink or a cigarette in weeks. She had lost twenty pounds. Her color had changed, her thinking had changed and she only coughed a little in the mornings. She had spoken with a dietitian. She remembered being a vegetarian when she was young. She remembered music she used to like. She remembered what it felt like to not to be dying one minute at a time. It was funny how physical pain made her forget the fears she'd been hiding from. She even dreamed again while she slept. It had been years since that happened. Gretna's eyes welled up and she turned away to recover. There were the pictures she took of Kerry. She was such a beautiful little girl. The last pictures in the album were new photos of her house. The new porch, the cleaned living room and kitchen looked like something from an impossible dream. There were plants in the yard and that damn stray dog was on the porch looking healthy and clean. The last picture was of the black man that found her the day she was hurt. He was leaning on a saw horse in overalls. He had a handkerchief in the other hand. He was smiling. The caption below it read:
"Mr. Roscoe has been working on your house Momma. He is an angel. The house will be ready for you next week."
Gretna put the album down where she could see it. She left it open on the pictures of the house. She felt that feeling you get after Christmas. That feeling of being excited about having something new, that you had always wanted. She pulled the nicotine patch off her arm, and fell off into a deep sleep.
She was driving that old bus in the desert. She felt young again, it was a crisp early day. Jackson Brown was singing to her again about Arizona. It was just past sun up and there was no one on the road but her.