Monday, April 21, 2008

katerina's purse

Katerina has a port wine stain covering the left side of her face that she used to cover with theatrical makeup. That was when Johnny was alive. In her purse are two copies of the same cherry chocolate cake recipe, a AAA card she holds up proudly. Twenty five years, she says, like it was an award. Maybe it is. She finds a small snap purse that opens to be a sewing kit. She looks at the buttons stuck to a length of tape, and tries to fit the tiny scissors back in the pocket but her crooked fingers can't help her anymore. "I sewed these buttons," she says. "Well, not these buttons." Then she unfolds a small piece of notebook paper. "My list," she says. A grocery list? I ask. She looks at me, serious. "Cosmetics." Then she pulls out a photograph of three people sitting on a sofa, the fat man in the middle with his great arms around a younger Katerina and some man. "Oh, there's Frank!" she exclaims as though he had just walked into the room. "He's dead." She smiles up at me, matter of factly. She has no idea who I am. You don't live to be ninety and not gain some familiarity with death. "Frank drank more than he should have," she said. I nodded. Who is this man? I asked. She held the snapshot in both hands and squinted through glasses that could have used cleaning. "That's my Johnny."

She remembered the names of all of the plants on her narrow sill, an african violet, tulips, roses (they were actually carnations, but from her vantage point, I gave her credit) and a lily. She asked me if I would care for the violet. I told her my mother used to raise them and all I knew is that they needed an east facing window, which it is in.

She is new to me, Katerina, and I hope she lives long enough to recognize me. I am senseless to wish these things, memory being what it is in my world.


asha said...

Sweet in your usual bluesky way, which is like getting a piece of yummy chocolate cake followed by an immediate punch in the gut.

msb said...

Do you think she would mind if you photocopied one of those recipe's and sent it to me? Cherry chocolate cake certainly sounds good.