Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dirty Laundry In Cézanne’s Country #2: The Woman In The Garden

As Letty walked slowly and carefully
through the garden—depending on weather,
sometimes stonework would sink down or lift up—
she remembered once when Matt made her mad,
but even that moment had ended when
he tripped her up with a single comment.

They were in Toronto. He bought his clothes
from the Tilley Endurables main store
and she’d come along to help pick his stuff.
She said she’d never wear such clothing but
for fun she tried on a skirt and top and
liked them so much she bought them for herself.

That started what she called her Matt wardrobe.
She couldn’t believe she liked the clothing.
She was almost never surprised about
clothing and she blamed this surprise on Matt.
Outside the store, she kissed Matt and whispered,
“You make me feel like I’m a teenage girl.”

Matt hugged her and she realized he thought
that was a compliment. She pushed him back,
poking his chest with an index finger.

“I am not a teenage girl,” she told him.
“I have a son at boarding school. I make
hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
And you make me feel like a teenage girl.
You know: Clueless. At sea. Confused. Helpless.
Lost. Stuck. Desperate. Sinking. Sunk. Dependent.
No one wants to feel like a teenage girl.”

Matt forced himself not to smile. She could tell.
She wanted to punch him. But then he said,
“Being a teenage girl sounds exactly
like what it’s like being a teenage boy.”

That stopped Letty. She felt her eyes widen.
She felt: Clueless. At sea. Confused. Helpless.
Lost. Stuck. Desperate. Sinking. Sunk. Dependent.

She had always thought of men as having
the answers. Hell, of being the answers.
Simply, it had never occurred to her
that men moved through the same forest of doubts
as women. And that teenage boys lived through
the same tribulations as teenage girls.
She tried to speak but her lungs were breathless.

Matt hugged her. He kissed her with his arms tight.
“I’m sorry,” Matt said. “I say the wrong thing
all the time. Why do you put up with me?”

And then, of course, Letty wanted to cry.
So she just shut up and leaned against Matt.

That was when she first told him she loved him.
She was more surprised when she said the words
than she’d been when she’d admitted she liked
the silly Tilley Endurables clothes.
But she was too numb to feel angry. But
she felt so much like a teenage girl that
she wondered if she would ever grow up.

And now, Letty wondered, how many times
have I washed the clothing we bought that day?
How often have I carried this basket
to the washer-dryer in the garage?
How many times have I walked this pathway—

Under a patch of dry, brown leaves, her toe
struck the edge of a raised piece of flagstone.
Letty tripped. The heavy basket pulled her
forward and off balance. Letty screamed and
let the laundry basket fly from her hands.
She staggered, trying to get her footing
before she fell face first against the stones.

(Tomorrow: Dirty Laundry In Cézanne’s Country 3: The Message)

No comments: