I was in the Quicksilver Bar the day she took sick. Same place where not long before she looked over at me and stared. I was staring back, else I would not have seen the way she looked at me. I may have been just about there by then, but I was not too drunk or high to know the look of a woman asking to be addressed by her name, how she first said Marleen-ah. She was sitting at a table in that dive, with people to whom she was paying little or no attention. I got up the gumption to go over and ask her, May I buy you a drink? She arose from her chair and sashayed over to the empty stool at the bar next to my beer. We had a stiff drink together. She said she ought to be going. "May I see you home?" She thought that "would be right nice." "Is that a Southern accent?" "Southern California."
She had that slow, lazy-looking amble when she wasn’t drinking. She was a sight to see. You can’t imagine. Nor can I remember it exactly, though there is enough to say a few more words. All I knew when I looked over and first saw her looking at me was what the cojones in Hemingway know, but that’s bullfighting and this was a different mode of grace . . . This was whatever it became, but it did happen, as they like to say, "at first sight." For me at least. She asked me to come on slow, she had work to do. Call me sometime . . . I did, many times. I don’t recall how long after that she took sick. I do know the day she asked to go to the infirmary we were talking animatedly in the Quicksilver when suddenly she said she felt poorly and wanted to see a doctor.
When I’m asked where she is now I have to say I don’t know. I know where we were that first day and I know I called her and saw her after that I don’t know how many times, and when she took sick I escorted her to see a doctor and went back to see her many times before the day she must have felt better and wanted to resume what we had been doing in the privacy of how many embraces because her ten bare toes prodding me meant what we knew from before she landed in the infirmary. Those toes as creamy as her voice indicated, well, I won’t tell . . .
Even though she’s alive to me now only in memory, I don’t know if she stayed in New England or returned home, where she could see the Watts Towers from her mama’s house. I do remember the texture of her skin, the timbre of her voice, her own musk, the slowness with which she moved, saving up what was coming. I may remember nothing more, but that, in itself, stands for all of her. Ask any dying aging man, some younger than me, and they’d tell you how precious memory is even though they can’t remember what it’s called.
I don’t want to go on talking about her, makes me miss her more. Marleen-ah Hatcher . . . la-di-da lady, if you see this call me here . . . some days I feel like what I’m doing I need a little encouragement from you to keep going. You know, like wetting your finger before you turn the page to say what never fails to surprise me, or smile when I say "Oh," and you do what you want and one or the other of us–it’s my move usually–goes on from there beginning in earnest what was promised but who between us could have known for sure?
(29 March 2011)