Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dried Flowers

There's a woman on Smartmom's block who lost her husband last September. A small, stocky woman, she waddles a bit as she walks up Third Street. And she  looks like the loneliest person in the world.

Her husband was much taller than she, handsome, with a full white beard. Barrel chested, he always looked so robust. Smartmom was surprised one day when she saw him coming out of a yellow cab looking so weak, his wife had to help him out of the cab and over to their stoop. At first Smartmom thought the man might be his father. He looked exactly like her husband just much, much older.

Smartmom mentioned this to Hepcat and he said he knew something was wrong. He'd seen him talking to someone about selling the BMW motorcycle he kept in the front cement yard of their building. "That bike meant the world to him. I thought it was strange that he was selling it," Hepcat said.

They learned that he had cancer soon after from neighbors on the block. One day SM saw two of his sons sitting on the bench in their yard and somehow she knew.

Smartmom never knew him at all. She only observed his comings and goings on Third Street. But she liked him: the way he looked, the way he talked to his adult children, his friendly, deep-voiced hellos, the closeness he emanated with his wife. Smartmom guessed, in that way you conjecture about neighbors,  that they were longtime Park Slopers, progressives, political-types. Through their front window, there was evidence of a former hippie life - Indian-print fabric, abstract paintings, cermaics, stained glass. To Smartmom it brought to mind: civil rights, New York in the 1970's, "We Shall Overcome." 

Infused with grief, his wife looks lost, aimless, sad all the time now. She still smiles at Smartmom on Third Street. But they've never been in the habit to stop and talk. Besides Smartmom doesn't know what to say. Clearly, this woman is trying to find her bearings in a world without her bearded man. The other day Smartmom noticed a vase of dried out roses in her window.

It made her sad just to see them there.

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