Tag Archives: wife

Dreamwife…

ballet dancer

Dream Wife

Tran will not let me touch her anymore. Not like a wife should.

And who could blame her? My academic career is of no use to us here. It’s just dirt, smoke, and hunger now. I am no good at chopping wood or creating a shelter from rubbish. It is obvious to me: the men who are in demand now are those who can offer protection from the wind and rain and heat. Men with practical skills. Carpenters. Masons.

Tran is dirty these days, disheveled, but still lovely. And sexy too. Her legs still maintain the strength and shapeliness that got her to the National Ballet.

Each day we spend hours scavenging for food or pieces of trash we hope will be useful.  The Revolutionary Council has forbidden us from working. Our pedigree is too urban, too educated, for inclusion in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

In the evenings we swelter, the sheets so saturated they cling to us like giant leeches. I wake in a panic several times a night, thinking I am being enshrouded and dragged into a fetid swamp.

Sometimes, when I wake from one of these swamp dreams, Tran is not in bed with me. Of course, I’ve had my suspicions that she leaves for someone else’s bed. That would be the final humiliation.

Tonight, I’ve awoken again, my breath stolen by fear. I arch my back and expand my chest to swallow as much air as the humid night permits. I grasp at the sheets on Tran’s side of the bed. She is gone again.

An image of Tran straddling the stonemason down the street enters my mind and will not leave. She still has a ballerina’s body: hard, sinewy. She glistens in the moonlight and smiles down at her lover.  I let out a small groan and cannot decide if it signifies a voyeur’s pleasure or a cuckold’s anguish.

Then, another image fills the screen of my mind. Tran is in the alley behind our shack. She stands on a small packing crate, under an enormous, silver moon. Her arms extend gracefully to the heavens as she slowly spins. Then she leaps from one side of the alley to the other, like a jungle cat.  She floats and swirls. I can see she is crying, her tears turned to tiny drops of mercury by the moonlight.

I cannot turn away from all this beauty. I will not risk losing it.

But then Tran is here, sliding back into bed with me.

“Where have you been?” I ask her.

Her back to me, I can barely make out her muffled reply.

“Out.”

Advertisements

Melt…

Snowman

Melt

We built the snowman in the front yard the minute we got home from Mass General. Inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Claire had been silent until we were headed west on the Pike toward home. A heavy, wet snow had started to fall.

“I want to build a snowman when we get back,” she’d said. “A good, old fashioned snowman, with stick arms, button nose, and charcoal eyes. Keep him up in the yard as long as we can.”

So we rolled up huge snowballs and stacked them one on another.

“Your back, George! Be careful,” she said.

When we finished, Claire said, “Virgil. We’ll call him Virgil. Like Dante’s Virgil.” She looked at me with bright, liquid eyes.

All winter, Virgil looked in on us through the front bay window. He saw Claire vomiting after chemo, then crying in pain on the sofa. He saw me carrying Claire to bed where I read Dante to her. Her favorite book to teach.

Virgil was impassive as friends and relatives came and went that cold, joyless winter. Final visits.

One mid-March afternoon, I returned from the market to find Claire kneeling in front of Virgil, without coat or gloves. She looked so frail and colorless against the enormous mossy pines behind her. A winter sprite.

“Claire!” I stumbled to her through the slushy snow. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Almost adventure time, George.”

Then spring came, warm and wet. Virgil slowly lost shape and sank into the earth, taking Claire with him.


%d bloggers like this: