The turtles are no longer there

The turtles are no longer there

“How bad do you want your evening to be?”

We had been enjoying a glass of post-feast wine, Thanksgiving day. Just the three of us: me, him, his wife. I’d mentioned I had not heard from a mutual friend since my return to the country; that she had left me a couple of voicemails, hoping to get in touch, but I had yet to return them and that I would no doubt see her soon either way.

“Whatever it is, just tell me.”

“She died. Late September.”

Thick silence and then “I’m sorry – can you excuse me a moment please?” Chair is pushed from table into the bathroom and wept nonstop for five minutes, maybe more. Following this I composed myself, walked out, resumed the conversation, heard the death story (truly tragic), recalled fond memories, toasted her life, toasted her smile, wept a bit more and then set about drinking myself so silly that I eventually stumbled straight through the balcony screen door. Screen-door-down drunk: the drunk of death.

Today I went for a walk and arrived at the campus of the place where we both had worked. I used to work here. I spent a lot of time walking over these verysame patches of earth between meetings. Sunny Santa Monica same sky, same clouds, same trees, same breeze. One of my fondest memories of her, right here: I came across her sitting, here, on a blanket, lunchtime, half-lotus, carefree as the day she was born smiling and feeding bits of leaves to red-cheeked turtles. “Did you know? There are turtles in this pond!”

The pond’s since filled, and she is dead. Five fingers go up, straight up, until my arm is aloft, held high, perpendicular to the earth. The digits slowly and resolutely curl inward, one at a time, beginning with “little joe”, the right pinkie. Once again the fist develops. The fist I now shake at life, determined once again to beat it at its own dirty little game.

On the walk back to the office my sidewalk gives way to gravel, then grass and, eventually, nothing – the sidewalk is gone! Construction zone. Big, white, diesel trucks roar by loudly, inches away, nauseating heat from the engine on the left side of my body. I daydream that one of them smacks me solidly in the back and into the air I go soaring now, sailing, spiraling slowly feet yards miles weightless floating smiling we are both feeding the turtles. I miss you and love you.