20 April 2010

On Washington Square

Menzel, frm The Ugly Earring

I had plans of sharing another Bergman anecdote with you, and maybe throwing some jazz hands in there, too, but instead, I'm going to share with you a bit of what I've been doing with Maxine Swann. This is what I wrote for this week's assignment, and if you could see me now, you'd see nervous hands shaking away:

It rained on our wedding day. The water fell from the sky like soggy rice, in fat, splattering globules. We were meant to be married in the desert, in a canyon lined with primrose, juniper, flowering agave, and apricot trees. But my mother was dying, so we traveled East and I borrowed her diamond earrings, the ones she was given by the first of her three husbands, the one I never met. We were married in my mother's apartment, the priest arrived like a soaking hassock; my mother was once widowed, twice-divorced, unrepentant and yoked to the past only by the great faith and this apartment. The ceremony and the simple shift I wore were tidy and efficient, and after the guests left, my mother sat on a small settee next to a window overlooking the manicured street, and lit a cigarette. She pushed the bottom pane of the old window open a bit. The water ran in a tiny rivulet onto the seam of the pushed back drape, but my mother seemed to not notice, or not care. Mother has lived in the apartment since she was a child, with spells in and longer spells out. This is where I grew up and this is where she wants us to live after she dies. I'm annoyed with her for letting the rain run onto drapes that she intends to leave me, and I lean over and snatch the cigarette out of her hand and steal a long, slow drag. I exhale out the window, and the smoke dissipates in the midst of hot summer rain. The windows are cloudy now with humidity, and smoke, and the after-effect of bodies pressed in a room, and the air is thick with the smell of tiger lilies, the only flower that itches the back of my throat, the flower that Mother loves like none other. I hand the cigarette back to Mother and our fingertips touch for a second. We both have long, restless fingers. I rub my thumb along the base of my left ring finger, and Mother catches a quick glance at her married daughter. Before she can open her mouth I quickly say, "Please Mother. Don't." She drops her gaze, puffs her cigarette, and trails her left hand out the window. A translucent pink petal falls from above and lands on the topside of my mother's hand, suctioned to her skin by the weight of the rain. Water streams down her fingers and the little puddle at the base of the curtains grows larger. Yellow taxis zip down the block, each one occupied. At the corner I see a man in a slim gray suit, with an umbrella in one hand and a flat cardboard box in the other. My mother stamps out her cigarette and closes the window. She looks at the puddle on the floor, and calls calmly for the maid. I kiss her cheek, one, then the other, gather my pale blue satin heels in one hand, my small veil in the other, and wander slowly down the hallway to find my husband.


Emerson Merrick said...

More! More! More!

Kelly said...

Oh wow. This is good stuff. Great stuff. Keep going.

Are you taking a class with Ms. Swan? I remember when her "Flower Children" was in both the Best Short Stories and the O.Henry anthologies. And wasn't it going to be a movie?

Bria said...

Really great. More please.

catbird said...

clearly your monday nights are time well spent. good on ya. More!!

jezebel said...

Oh, ladies! My hands are no longer shaking. Thank you all so.

Kelly: Yes, I am taking a writing workshop with the lovely M. Swann and I am devastated at the prospect of it ending in a few weeks. I'm not sure about Flower Children the movie, but it is ripe for adaptation.

east side bride said...

i ♥ it.

jasonwclark said...

"and the air is thick with the smell of tiger lilies, the only flower that itches the back of my throat"

You have the gift LB!
Hope you'll share more like this with us, because it's very good. When Bats and Swanns take flight together - how exciting!