Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rachel’s Clothes

I scrub the floor with her old clothes, my tired hands trembling as I drop a dirty shirt or sweater into the trash, one more piece gone. And my life moving forever into the future, though much faster than I’m working. When my time comes, I’ll still have half her wardrobe and a filthy house. But it’s the best I can do. The best I’m willing to do, Susan says. She might be right, but she always knew Rachel better than she knew me, and was first bothered when she recognized one of Rachel’s favorite jerseys next to a pail of water on the kitchen floor, like I was some madman using Rachel’s skin in some nefarious manner, like using an angel’s wings to do the mundane, if not profane. As if that could hurt Rachel, when we know nothing can hurt her now. Though perhaps we don’t even know that, not really, not for sure. There are demons enough in certain places, places I may have to give up avoiding.

Susan says I’m not ready. I never argue with Susan, not out loud anyway. There are some people who are just always right, to the point when we ignore them when they’re not wrong. I still find it awkward and miraculous that when Rachel left, Susan stayed. I long thought of them as a package deal, and expected them to make their exits together. Not to die, of course, but to disappear in a puff of smoke, to be shuttled off to the place where they both truly belong, a place I believe in only very infrequently. But here she is, Susan, with Rachel gone. Not in a puff of smoke, but in a twisted sculpture of metal and glass, and she never a fan of modern art. I wanted to put that car, what was left of it, on the lawn in front of some government building – perhaps a school or courthouse – with a panel attached to it with some clever titled I haven’t yet settled upon. Susan says I need to let go of my anger, but it isn’t anger I feel, not exactly. And she’s not one to talk there. I’ve seen her hurling stones at God and beating her own car with her fists. In those moments I am unusually calm, and I think she loved Rachel better than I did, and it’s then that I feel anger. At myself, mostly. But also, and perhaps more specifically, at everyone else. 

But that wrecked automobile should have been used for something. Rachel hated things to go to waste, but maybe she hated modern sculpture even more. “Just make a jungle gym instead, so at least children will get enjoyment from it,” she’d say. I didn’t like the sculptures either, but sometimes I would take up a contrary position if only to get in a word or two. No, that’s not it. I took up a contrary position not so I could speak, but so that Rachel would continue speaking, to give her more fuel. I always loved her voice, the passion there, even when about something trivial, something she knew to be trivial, and there’d be this twinkle in the sound, like even in her most serious moments there would be a clue to the humor if only you paid attention. I lived to hear that. At least, that’s the way I look at it now. Susan might tell you something different, might say I often didn’t listen at all. She might say I wasn’t even there to listen, that there were times when Rachel went to her if only to be sure she was heard. Or maybe not. I’d like to remember myself as better than I was, if only because that might mean I’m now better than I am. And I’d like to think that at least some of the time I actually deserved Rachel. When I was there, when I wasn’t off with those who spoke without passion, without a twinkle, without humor. With those who might not have spoken at all. I’d like also to say I’ve forgotten those others. But that’s not the case, and banging my head against the cabinets and walls doesn’t dislodge those memories from my brain, or even make their presence more bearable. At least, not yet. Rachel should reign supreme in my thoughts, in my memories, in my imagination, the others disappearing, or at least fading back a bit. Susan would say… No, I say that that should have been the case when she was here, and sometimes it was. But only sometimes.

I don’t ever want to get this house clean, but I will keep at it. And Susan may stick around to remind me of things I shouldn’t forget as well as some things I should. And after a time we’ll be gone too, soon but perhaps not soon enough.

(Copyright 2015 by Michael Doherty)

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