Friday, April 19, 2013

from lay me out softly: for boston

Sorrow arrived in Boston and there was Kindness, waiting for her, tall and solemn, and she felt immediately calm, as if she were seeing a friend whom she had known for her whole life.  He took her bag and they walked to his truck with a picture of a tree on the side.  He drove her to his home, a Victorian three-story building with a weeping willow in the front yard and a latticework arbor in the back.  Dogwoods with white flowering branches and clustered birch trees and impatiens and peonies.  All this he had put in the ground with his hands.
They went to dinner at a small restaurant near his house and had wine with their vegetable risotto and Sorrow grew softer and less afraid.  Kindness held her hand a bit awkwardly on the walk home.  Back at his house, he kissed her cheek and handed her a fresh towel; she took a bath and got in bed in an attic room with antique wooden furniture and a Persian rug the color of a good Syrah, and slept heavily as if she had drunk the whole bottle of wine.
In the morning, Kindness took Sorrow out for oat and corn meal waffles with fresh berries and then they walked around the arboretum as a soft rain fell.  Kindness volunteered once a week there, teaching first graders about plants.  He showed Sorrow the different forms of weeping trees and opened a pod to reveal small white seeds hiding inside. 
Later, Sorrow went to a bookstore where she read from her latest graphic novel in the Sliver Lake series, Saturn’s Return.  Young women came up to her with bouquets of flowers, bottles of pomegranate ginger lime tea, letters written in glitter and arms covered with tattoos of quotes from her books.  Kindness sat quietly in the back and watched this. 
The next day, Sorrow and Kindness went to the Boston Gardens and walked among the smiling roses and weeping trees and rode on the lake in a boat shaped like a swan.  They went to Fenway Park and bought a Red Sox jersey for Lennon.  They went to the Museum of Fine Arts; in one room there was a large statue of Quan Yin, paint faded, palm upraised, long eyes filled with compassion.  Sorrow stood before her, trying not to cry, thinking of Saturn alone in a room with a needle, morning light harsh through the glass ceiling on his upturned face.  Sorrow wondered if Saturn had been the one dimming the switches or if it was the poltergeist of her own guilt that had done it.
As night fell blue, she and Kindness walked the cobblestone streets of an Italian neighborhood and ate bruschetta and pasta with pesto and then had cannolis for dessert in a pastry shop with marble tables and the hockey game playing on large screen TV’s.  The Bruins won and everyone cheered.
“You’re good luck,” Kindness said.
Back at the Victorian house, Sorrow took off Laine’s necklace and the tiny charm fell into the sink.  Clink.  Sorrow reached down the drain for it and realizing it was gone, called for Kindness. He came into the bathroom and told her he would get it for her, not to worry. She stood hovering over him as he reached in with a pair of chopsticks and tweezers a number of times.
“Maybe you should go upstairs,” he said kindly and she did; she got in bed and closed her eyes, visualizing Kindness’s deft hands retrieving the key and heart charm.
He was unable to do it with the tweezers, so Kindness, who had told her he didn’t want Sorrow to go back to her best friend without the charm, sawed off the pipe in his bathroom.  She lay upstairs in bed with her eyes shut tight, waiting for him to come in and say the necklace was gone. Bad things. But instead, she heard his laugh, gruff and soft.
“You numbskull,” he said tenderly, entering the room. “It was on the floor.”
He had sawed off the pipe and then found the charm on the floor!  She jumped up and down beneath him, gripping his shoulders.  “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Don’t worry,” he said.  “It’s no big deal. I can replace the pipe.  It’s just a small piece of plastic.  I’m just glad you have your charm. Nothing was lost or broken and no one was hurt.  Nothing bad happened. ”
That night she left the guest room, crept barefoot through the darkened house, got into his cherry wood bed and nestled against him.  His body felt tense but warm and she imagined that his heart, beating loud in his chest, was larger than other hearts she had known.  He lifted her face to his and kissed her firm and soft on the mouth and between kisses they spoke, though they did not make love.  They spoke about being alone for a long time, and forgetting how to touch another person and about how far apart they lived and how sometimes love could feel like death and that perhaps, if you got it right, in the end, death could feel like love.
“All I know is that, when it’s time, I don’t want to hang around messing with dimmer switches,” Sorrow said. 
Bless you, Saturn.  Rest in peace. 
She flew back to L.A. the next morning, leaving behind the winning team and the swan boats, the dogwoods like clouds and the rugs like wine.  Blue heart strung around her neck on a chain, the key dangling down.
There are no happy endings, with only good things, because we all, eventually, die.
For the same reason, perhaps, depending on what you believe, there are no sad endings. 


  1. i picked this story to read yesterday without knowing and felt a magic touch of synchronicity when i came to this part. <3 xo jenn

  2. As ever, you let in light among the leaves

  3. I love pretty much every word of this, but especially the ending. You end on such a graceful, philosophical note.