Charlotte walked into the store feeling heavy. Sammy looked up at her then back down at his paper. She went straight to the back for a cup of blues before returning to the counter.
“You are the subject of many a rumor, lady.”
For once, Charlotte did not shut him up with her pet phrase. She sat silently next to him, staring blankly in front of her.
“Liz and I had a fight last night.”
“Uh-huh. You two patch it up this morning?”
“No. I left the house before she woke up. I just came from Huckleberry Park. Can you believe that? I was walking around that damn park for about an hour early this morning.”
Sammy turned and faced her, with one elbow on the counter.
“Saw Bill running for the bus. He waved ‘hi.’” Sammy smiled. “And I saw Mrs. Parker sitting on her stoop, just staring into the park. She didn’t even notice me looking at her. You know how you get when you’re watching something good on TV? That’s how she was staring into the park.” She paused. “You know, Sammy, until that moment, I didn’t really understand. We’ve all heard her go on about how the Park used to be or how the neighborhood used to be. And we remember, we just don’t think about it.”
“But until that moment, seeing her staring into the park, I never really understood just how lonely she was. And I don’t mean that she don’t have people who visit her or talk with her. I know she does. But she’s lonely, Sammy. She’s lonely for her used to be, you know what I’m saying? She ain’t just lonely for herself, she’s lonely for all of us. It was like I could see the world through her eyes. And it all just came together.”
Sammy nodded his head, eyebrows low over his eyes.
“I went over to her and we said ‘hi’ to each other. Then we both just sat on the stoop and stared at the park. And that’s when I decided to start running.”
Sammy let out a big sigh and put on a warm smile. Then he got up and shuffled behind Charlotte so that he could go to the stereo.
“Hang on, I got it here somewhere.” He found the CD he wanted and put it on. Soon the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah rang throughout the store. Charlotte nearly busted a gut.
“Miss Charlotte, I’ve been waiting to hear those words from you for too many damned years!” He bent over and gave her a hug as the Hallelujahs sang above them.
“You crazy, Samuel Turner!”
“Now,” he said, standing upright again, “we’ll figure out the particulars later. We got a whole lotta work ahead of our behinds. But right now, you march through this store and get what you need for dinner tonight, then go home this evening and make y’all’s special dish and patch it up with Liz. Cause you two are in for a long haul, and you’ll need each other.”
Charlotte stood up and walked to the vegetable counter.
“You’re beautiful, Sammy,” she said, as she picked over the onions.
Charlotte lingered over her wine. Her partner did the same. No words passed between them. They let Sarah Vaughan do the talking. Their plates were empty and all they had before them were half empty wine glasses and an empty bottle. Liz brought it out from the blue cabinet in storage. They only touched the blue cabinet on special occasions.
Liz wasn’t surprised to wake up to an empty bed. That’s the way it usually happened the day after a fight. By morning the processing had begun and by the afternoon the particulars of the argument had all but vanished. Only words of regret lingered based on what had been said that was best left unsaid. Both knew the fight was bullshit. By evening it was a race to see who could cook the “I’m sorry” dinner the fastest. This time Liz won. She left work early and went straight to the store and straight home to start the pot. A simple dish, but she knew it was Charlotte’s favorite. Charlotte recognized the scent as soon as she walked in the door. On cue she put Divine One on the stereo. Then she entered the kitchen with her shy giggle. Liz was already smiling. She began to laugh as soon as she saw that Charlotte had bought the same ingredients for the same dish. They both laughed at the training each had received from the other after 17 years of marriage. But then the words became few and far between, not from a continued state of hostility but simply because there wasn’t much left to say. What few words they exchanged provoked further giggles and shy smiles.
At the end of dinner, over the wine saved for such occasions, they relied only on each other’s sighs and the words sung by Miss Vaughan so succinctly. They didn’t need to fight anymore. The fighting came from having to make a decision. By dinner time they recognized with measured calm that the decision had already been made for them. Having accepted that fact, all that remained were the sighs, Sassy, and the sips of wine.
© 2011, gar. All rights reserved.