March 6th, 2008
I parked my car in the usual haphazard fashion, bumping my horn as I scrambled out the driver’s side.
The man in front of me started, and shifted his reverie from the third floor window he’d been considering.
I mumbled “sorry” and began to hurry away, when something in his manner made me stop. I loitered a bit outside the parking meter, pretending to gather change. What was he doing, staring into that window?
He walked toward me, with his hands behind his back, as if out for a stroll. And maybe he was. What did I know?
I forgot my impending appointment for a moment while I braced myself. I wondered if I had a quarter in my pocket.
“My wife,” he pointed to the window, “my wife used to work up there, when it was a coat and dressmaker’s place.”
“Ah,” I nodded, grateful. “Ah, yes. I guess a lot has changed.” I looked around at the restored buildings splashed with bright paint and glued-on facades. “When was that?”
“A long time ago, a long time,” he paused.
“I used to bring her lunch.”
“That’s nice.” I think I knew where this was going. And I never come up with the good replies.
“Yes, right up there, she would sit. I could wave to her and she would see me,” he said it without smiling.
“Yes. Yes.” I tried to remember what the building looked like then.
“She died, you know. She just died.” He still stared at the window. “In December.”
“Oh no, oh, I’m so sorry.” Brilliant. “This December?” Well, of course it was.
“Yes, she worked right up there.” Now he looked at me. “I came to remember.”
“She was a seamstress?” I searched for something else to say.
His fuzzy brown eyes considered me, the window and the sidewalk before him.
“Yes.” He put his hands in his pockets. “I came to remember.”
“So…” With a shrug he began to walk away.
I barely watched him leave, instead I looked into the blackness of the window and imagined her there, smiling down at her husband holding two crumpled sack lunches. And now what’s left? Does the sidewalk hold the energy of her shoes tapping their way to work? Did the tree across the street retain the imprint of her gaze? Did she make her mark?
He came to remember.
“Thank you,” I called after him.
I never think of the good replies.