...scattered pictures/of the smiles we left behind....
Dark ponytail above black T-shirt, and disembodied combat boots. of course I choose to sit there to unsnarl four days worth of tangles. Someone sits down directly across, pretending not to stare. I feel as though I've an extra sex organ, as though I'm washing my breasts in public.
Shriek of acceleration, lift, nose, heels, JUMP! and the ground falls away. I see Movieco along a roofline, the Mall a large shoebox among Lego blocks.
Sharp line of demarcation where overhead blue meets flat white plain of cloud, cut straight and smooth across top third of oval plexi porthole.
A flight attendant so swift she's faceless drops coffee and a biscuit on a napkin adorned with a sketch of Paris. The plastic packaging of the biscuit- of course I mean cookie- defeats me. I eat berries from Mother's backyard, sweet purple juice painting lips and fingertips, pen and paper. Novel lies neglected in my lap.
Descend into Atlanta through layers of color. Smears of white across cobalt bleed into azure, as we are enveloped by smoke grey haze. Underneath, rocky lumps are an airborne ice field above deepening blue.
Arrive just in time at gate, to find the flight's switched gates. Barefoot tiptoe run from B-12 to B-33, hot pink hat in hand, and ensuing confusion cushioned by the Sam Adams that kept me from owning pertinent information earlier.
My contact spies the pink hat; retrieves and delivers me. I rent a car from a woman with a Katherine Hepburn voice, a 97 Buick roughly the size of Manhattan. I drive in New Orleans for the first time ever.
Navigate through maps and streets to a facility nicer than I expected, meeting a woman whose face is familiar. I recognize the photographs in her room: My mother as a child, her sister, my great aunts when they were young, my sister, my grandfather...me. I do not correct Grandmother when she introduces me as her niece. I supply my name as she looks questioningly at me when someone asks. We stroll in the courtyard. She points out an egret, a lizard, mentions several times how much she enjoys looking at clouds. She leaves to use the restroom, and I wonder if she'll remember to return.
We watch television in the common room, the residents strangely touched by the death that dominates the media. During dinner, a woman holds up a spoon.
"Do you have one of these?" she asks.
I hold up my spoon, Grandmother holds up hers. Clearly, we have just shared A Moment.
We sit outside. Grandmother checks her watch.
"We should go in. It'll be time for dinner soon."
"Grandmother, we had dinner already."
"Did we? Well, we won't need any more, then. Enough's enough."
Our conversations are circular and surreal, more so when I don't participate and simply listen to the residents themselves. I am reminded of a scene in Asimov's short story, "I'm In Marsport Without Hilda!" during which Spacelined passengers free-associate under the influence of a tranquilizing drug. One starts, another picks up, and it rolls around, around, around, before winding down until all is quiet.
"He was a good man."
"The one who died, what's his name?"
"Yes, Reagan. I've been enjoying every minute of his funeral."
"He was a good man. He died, you know."
"I feel sorry for his wife. She's never shed a tear, not one. I wonder how she does it."
"It's such a lovely service. I've been enjoying every minute of his funeral."
"Yes. He made cowboy movies when he was younger. He died, you know."
"I know it. I've been enjoying every minute of his funeral."
"His wife is so strong. She's never shed a tear."
"He was a good man."
"The one who died."