License Chapter 57
LICENSE FOR SEPTEMBER
And here it was, September. And the air was warm and chill at the same time. Last year this day had been on a Friday. And this year it was on a Saturday instead. At this time last year, on a Friday night, he should have been playing to a packed house at the Lyell Road Tavern or Stoney’s. Instead he had come to sing to her. And he had stood right there, next to the couch, with his dark mahogany guitar and his green t-shirt and his tight jeans, with his hazel eyes and crooked smile and tousled sandy hair. And she had sat right there, on one of the dinette chairs, listening to him sing, watching the emotions pour out and overtake his face, his voice laughing the words or crying them, cradling them or chewing them up and spitting them out, feeling those emotions pour then into her. And he had made her realize she still loved him. And she had let him leave anyway. And the next morning? How could it be true? How could it possibly be true? She had rushed to the hospital. He had been so weak, his skin so pale. Almost as colorless as the white sheets on bed, as colorless as the white walls. But he had still smiled at her. And he had squeezed her hand.
And then….And then….
And he used to have purple hair and he used to play in a band and he used to wink at her in the crowd. He used to snort sometimes when he laughed and eat his French fries with gravy and guzzle his beer. And he used to run his hands so slowly down her body and kiss her so tenderly that she swooned.
But not now. Not since that day last September. Not anymore.
Dixie hadn’t been aware, not on a conscious level, that this was the exact one year anniversary of that devastating weekend. But the knowledge of it must have been keeping time in the back of her mind because when she looked, sleepy eyed, out at the little patch of petunias across from her window, the purple and white striped ones had stood out, bolder and brighter than all the others. And she had pictured Greg’s Malibu parked there. And she had known.
Sobs burst from her mouth, instantaneous and uncontrollable. They filled her ears and vibrated in her chest, too low and too deep to possibly be coming from her own throat, yet somehow they were.
She wandered from room to room, aimless, untethered, desolate and lost, barely able to see through the torrent issuing from her eyes and missing Greg so much that it hurt.
Then, as suddenly as the tears and the sobs had started, they stopped, leaving her with a dull, consuming emptiness that made it hard for her to breathe.
She wished Mike was here with her now. On Saturdays, she usually woke up with him at his place but last night Mike had to wine and dine clients so she had gone out for a burger with Dee Dee and Hilary after work and then slept at home. And she had woken up alone. And today was not a good day to be alone.
She had her phone in her hand, ready to call Mike, when she heard a little tap on her door and the key turning in the lock and there he was.
“Mike! I was just going to call you. I’m so glad you’re here.” Dixie ran into his arms and laid her head on his shoulder. “Today’s….” Her voice faltered and cracked, hovering on the edge of tears.
“I know, Dixie. I know what today is.” Mike’s tenderness and compassion were like a balm, spreading solace over the ache in her soul.
She stood there, silent, not moving, letting the protective circle of his arms comfort her, while he stroked her hair.
“Mike?” she whispered softly after a time.
“Yeah?” Mike whispered softly back.
“Will you take me to Betty’s Pantry? There’s something I have to do there.”
“Anything you want, Angel.”
Dixie moved slowly out of Mike’s embrace and went to the closet, rummaging around and moving things out of the way, searching for something, while she explained to Mike what it was she wanted to do.
“I painted a memorial to Greg on the side of Betty’s Pantry last year, right at the spot where……, where everything changed. It’s probably faded over the course of the year, in the snow and rain and wind and sun. And I don’t want it to fade away. I want to do it over again. Make it fresh and new.”
Finally she found what she had been looking for – the template she had made, the thick purple paint and the stiff brush.
It was not nearly as faded as Dixie thought it would be. The inch and a half high letters were still completely legible, still completely purple. Mostly it was just dirty – splashed with muddy water and stained by salty slush and the dried and splattered remains of a soda that had spewed on it from someone’s accidentally dropped cup.
Luckily, Dixie had thought to bring a jug of water and a couple of sponges. And afterwards, when the wall was clean and the paint was refreshed, she had stood before it with her head bowed, clinging tightly to Mike’s hand.
She had spent the day remembering Greg, missing his existence, mourning his loss. She had drawn strength and support from Mike’s presence and his unconditional love. But suddenly she found herself relaxing her grip, extricating her hand from Mike’s, giving herself space.
There was something else she had to do. Here in this spot, where Greg had stood for one last moment still vital and strong, just before the blade of a knife took everything away from him, what she needed now was some time alone. She needed to do more than remember Greg. She needed to talk to him.
“Mike, would you mind..,” she started to ask but her request remained unfinished. Somehow Mike seemed to know what she needed almost before she knew herself.
“I think you need a little time alone, Dixie. I’ll wait for you inside the restaurant. You take as much time as you need.” He put his arm around her shoulder, gave her a little hug and kissed the side of her face and then he walked away.
Dixie took a deep breath. She sat down, cross legged, on the black pavement, her hands in her lap, her back against the gray wall right next to the purple letters, and closed her eyes.
And the words that had been collecting in her head and in her heart all day came tumbling out, searching for a wave length to carry them to the ears of the one that she had lost.
Betty herself was pouring Mike a cup of coffee when Dixie slid into the seat across from him fifteen minutes later. Betty did a double take when she realized who it was.
“Oh my goodness! Dixie Andrews! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your segments on the daily news! They really make my day. To what do I owe this honor?” Betty was glowing, all smiles and sunlight.
Suddenly a cloud seemed to drift across Betty’s face, blocking the sun of her smile. She was looking at Dixie’s hands, had noticed the few flecks of purple paint on them and the somber look on Dixie’s face.
“It’s been a year hasn’t it? Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. For that to have happened in my parking lot. I’ve always felt that somehow it was my fault.” Betty stood there, shaking her head slowly back and forth and clucking her tongue against the back of her teeth.
“Listen,” she finally continued, “you and your friend order whatever you like. It’s on me today.”
“You don’t have to do that, Betty!” Dixie objected.
“Stop fussing. I know I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to do anything. I want to do it! And just to let you know, our lunch special today is a Turkey Reuben with Fries.
“It’s really good!” she added, a partial smile returning to her face.
“Is it too late for biscuits and sausage gravy?”
“Honey, it’s never too late for biscuits and sausage gravy! You’ve got it!” Betty turned to Mike then, “And what about you? What would you like besides the coffee?”
“The coffee’s really good by the way! And to eat, hmmm, I guess ……” Mike began but before he could inform her of his stomach’s desire, Betty started talking again.
“You know, you look really familiar. Maybe I saw you… Oh! I know! Aren’t you the one that modeled the swimsuits with Dixie?” Betty chuckled.
“Yeah, that was me alright.” Mike chuckled too, rolling his eyes at the embarrassing memory of it.
“What a hoot that was! Those old timely swimsuits really cracked me up. And, not to embarrass you anymore than I can see you already are, but when you came out in that skimpy little Speedo, your face was so red! I nearly peed my pants I laughed so hard!”
All three of them were laughing now.
“Betty, I should introduce you. This is my fiancé, Mike Chatelain.”
“Your fiancé! How wonderful! Well, congratulations to the both of you. So then, Mike, have you decided what you want yet?”
“Since you made it sound so good, I’ll have that Turkey Reuben special but could I get it with onion rings instead of fries?”
“You’ve got it!” And Betty hurried off to turn in their order.
“How come you didn’t get the biscuits and sausage gravy too, Mike? You said it was your absolute favorite during the Take Out or Leave It Contest!”
“It was my favorite! But you already ordered it! I figured I’d get to taste yours.”
“Oh no! Mine is mine! If you want a taste, you’re going to have to order your own!”
“Seriously? Well, if that’s the way you’re going to be, don’t even think about trying to snatch one of my onion rings!”
It was just small talk, gentle teasing, surface skimming. Dixie could see Mike watching her closely, gauging sadness versus sparkle, ready to offer support, understanding, or even protection, if she still needed it.
So much love for Mike surged up within her she thought she’d float away, a love filled balloon sailing up to join the clouds. Soaring up and then smiling down! Just like her words to Greg had soared heavenward in the parking lot minutes before.
‘I miss you, Greg. Every day. I did so many things wrong, made so many mistakes. And I am so thankful that at least I got the chance to tell you I loved you and that you didn’t have to leave this world not knowing. Thankful that love was the last thing your ears heard and that your heart felt.
‘I saw you, you know. Like an ethereal mist leaving your body. I felt you, like downy feathers brushing my cheek. And I heard you. Softer than a whisper breathing in my ear and fluttering in my heart. I got your message. That you expected me to go on. Do you know how hard that was? To go on? I almost couldn’t do it! But I had angels living right here on earth that helped me and I did go on living, just like you wanted me to.
‘I’m engaged to one of those angels now! Mike! I’m in love and I’m happy! Mostly. But sometimes I wonder what would have happened if you hadn’t died? What my life would be like? Would we have gotten back together? Would it would be you I was going to marry now instead of Mike? But wondering about things that can never be doesn’t help anybody. It’s going backwards instead of forwards. And going backwards isn’t good for you.
‘You were my first love, Greg. There will always be a spot in my heart that’s yours. A place where I keep my love for you safe and forever. I’ll never forget you, Greg. Never.’
A light breeze had started up while Dixie was talking, ricocheting off the wall of the building and moving the little fly-away hairs at her temple, making them tickle the side of face. She kept brushing them away with her fingers, slightly annoyed. But then a different thought entered her mind. She stopped brushing away the little hairs and sat still. The faint essence of a tickle moved softly down her face to her lips and hovered there, like a delicate kiss. It moved across her nose and touched her closed eyelids, first one and then the other. It drifted down touching her hands and she tried to touch it back, to hold it, but there was nothing there to grasp. And then the sensation was gone.
Dixie had never told anyone about the ethereal mist, the feathery kiss, the butterfly whisper that she had experienced in the hospital room after Greg died. Who would believe she had seen a ghost? Not a ghost really but a transcendental presence.
She could just imagine the look on people’s faces if she did tell them. They would probably nod their heads in false sincerity and pretend that they believed her. But they would just be humoring her, a silly girl, who had been lost in grief, reaching for straws. Behind their hands they would scoff and roll their eyes at the absurdity of it all.
But she knew what she saw. She knew what she felt.
She had felt it outside Enigma’s on her birthday too.
And she had felt it today.
Betty returned then with their lunches. The lovely aroma of the sausage gravy steamed up into Dixie’s face from her heaping plate.
Hungrily, she gathered up a mouthful onto her fork. And reached across the table with it. The first taste for Mike.
And there was Mike, pushing his basket of onion rings towards her. To share.
Smiles spread across their faces as they dug in.
“Mike?” Dixie asked, suddenly serious, her blue/green eyes gazing across the table into Mike’s eyes of grey, “Do you believe in ghosts?”
The trace of an understanding smile touched Mike’s lips. He gazed back at her, his eyes as serious as her own.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever actually experienced one but I believe they’re out there. I believe in the possibility.” Mike paused, staring into her eyes.
“Tell me about it, Dixie,” he whispered softly.
Gravity has no hold on me
I float like a balloon
Softer than a whisper
But a whisper needs breath
And breath I have left behind
Higher and higher I float
Surrounded by calm, acceptance and serenity
Still, although up is where I go
Down is where I look
But my living eyes are closed
Ones that I have loved
I see them on the ground
They look up as I look down
They wale inconsolable
So much grief, so much sorrow
I ache to comfort them
Try to tell them my soul is at peace and free
But words no longer belong to me
Still they weep
Time is what they need
Time will blend their heartache and sorrow
Into a new normalcy, a happy tomorrow
Burning tears and anguished sobs
Will be replaced by nostalgic memories
Whenever their thoughts turn to me
Time passes differently here
Minutes and smells
Colors and days
Music and shapes
They all combine
I float content
And hope they know I watch over them
In the twinkle of the stars
In the warmth of the sun
Love and life go on
In more ways than one
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Print editions available at Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport & Simply NY on Culver Road. Online at Amazon and Diane’s website. Comments, Questions? Contact Diane Rivoli through her website www.dianerivoli.com.