He was walking up the back lawn, having just put away the rake from cleaning up the leaves of the three oak trees they'd planted when they first moved into the house. Twelve years had gone by since that day; twelve years of spring leaves, summer storms, autumn trimming, and winter lights. Countless families of cardinals, squirrels, and goldfinches had made these trees their homes over the years, and she'd often sit on the patio, sipping on an afternoon glass of wine, imagining what all that chirping and screeching was about as they chased each other across the lawn and through the air.

The night was crisp, as it often is on a midwest autumn evening, and the clouds were moving slowly overhead in the darkening sky. It was just late enough that the solar lights along the patio had turned on, giving off a warm fuzzy glow that barely illuminated the back of the house.

Just out of reach of the light was the garden bed full of all those crusty, dying plants that she'd so enthusiastically planted that spring, only to forget to water them in the dogged heat of summer. All the while, she'd been talking about how they'd be able to use the vegetables in some elaborate dinner party meal. Needless to say, the plants didn't produce much, and what they did was often much smaller than what she could pick up at the store just down on the corner. But was she ever excited about those tiny tomatoes & peppers that hadn't quite turned red yet, even now, in the middle of September.

The thought of it made him chuckle. She was always doing things like that, starting these projects, and then half way through, either forgetting them entirely or getting too frustrated one night and never picking it back up again. She was a dreamer and a planner, but her execution was lacking. It was both what he loved & what frustrated him about her. Sure, she made the house a wreck one project at a time in her creative tornadic wake, but she was just so damn passionate about everything she did; it was hard not to love her for it, even if it did mean occasionally stubbing his toe on some random project piece in the middle of the night.

When he reached about half way up the lawn, he could just make out her silhouette in the kitchen window. She had been doing dishes, a rare occurrence on her part. As always, she was listening to music on full blast, probably driving the neighbors crazy. But she didn't care, he knew she was too busy dancing to care about what anyone thought.

He couldn't see her, but he could imagine her now as he reached the patio. She was wearing paint smeared black leggings with an oversized sweatshirt that she'd picked up at Salvation Army back in her twenties. She'd come home with it so excited to show it off because of the fact that it reminded her of Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Another chuckle escapes him as he remembers the moment she gasped, "Can you believe this was only $3.99??" because well, yes, he could believe it was only $3.99; what he couldn't believe was that this woman he married was crazy enough to have paid even that much for it- it was likely to burn someone's eyes out with how brightly colored and patterned it was. "Ugly as sin," he laughed to himself, just as he had that night she presented it to him.

He knew her thick curly hair was crammed up in a haphazard bun, pieces falling out around her face, and at the nape of her neck, defying all 4 of the bobby pins she'd tried using to tame it into place. She'd just discovered another grey hair earlier in the evening, and had shoved it all in a pile on top of her head to avoid finding any more of them; she was "too young for this crap, damnit."

He knew she was probably still carting the dish towel around in her hand as she twirled around in her slouchy socks bunched around her ankles, listening to what he could now hear was Tom Petty's "American Girl." He knew her head would be bent down towards her chest, and that she'd be alternating each of her shoulders to the rhythm of the music, arms bent at the elbow, fists loosely near her chest. She was probably lightly swaying side to side, lifting her heels with each movement of her shoulders, dancing in place as the dog laid on the cool tile across the room, wagging off beat each time she looked at or gestured in his general direction.

When he reached the back door, he could see that he was exactly right. Her eyes were closed, a small smile lighting up her face. She couldn't see him as he leaned up against the side of the door frame, or as he closed one eye & lifted his hands up in the air as if he were holding a camera. She didn't see him take the time to focus his invisible lens, push the imaginary shutter button, and whisper, "click."


Popular Posts