The day wasn't promising. A morning run with my good friends, the Middletown dead, in the Wesleyan cemetery. I like them. I like Rebecca, wife of Thomas Cooke. After life's fitful sleep, her headstone reads, she sleeps well. I like the thin, toothlike tombstones, made with a bare minimum of stone. The trees are starting to bloom.
I feel comfortable in the Jewish section, by the tennis courts. The Mittlemans have the most recent plots I've seen. Stones placed on Judith's headstone, the grass still in square sections from her burial.
Another Mittleman headstone in another neighborhood of the cemetery, similar design, minus the star of David. Sadie died within a few years of Judith. I wonder about the Mittlemans, their sway in this town.
I believe this will be the best the day has to offer, but my stepdaughter, A, calls. She's in Rhode Island, she has the day free. I can get in a car and see her, as simple as that. Less than two hours to drive.
I stop at the diner for lunch before I set out. B makes me knee-weakening food, sends me off with bread and muffins for A. Across the table are a young Polish-American couple, eating here for the first time. The girl's forehead creases with pure pleasure in the taste.
I drive. I've forgotten that I used to love driving, before I lived in a place where it wasn't necessary, the kind of place I'd always wanted to live. When I first got my license, driving meant freedom, and that feeling comes back as the miles roll out under my wheels. Music and NPR on the radio.
A is so beautiful I want to hold up my hands to shield her from the world, but it's too late. The last time I saw her, she was a girl, but she's all her own person now. We have dinner at a Thai/Japanese/Vietnamese place near the airport, and talk ourselves out, almost.
Back on the road and back to my home for the month. New friends invite me out. The girl from the diner, the Polish-American girl, works behind the bar. She seems taller and blonder and more authoritative here. She smiles to see me. My cohorts run out of steam early, school starts on Monday, they're all professors, they all have classes to prep.
I walk home alone and alert, listening to the sound of my feet. I feel rich and new and awake in the night. My neighbor asks if I have a cigarette. No, I say. I gave 'em up. Smart, he says, pulling back into the shadows, The cost these days.