Her black hair, her round face, her dark brown eyes
put him in mind of someone. Except for the eyes:
Drusilla’s were a darker brown, verging on black.
Chloe was tall too, but voluptuous, a word
Drusilla’s oldest son learned from Chloe. She could talk
about loving. Like they said, those who knew them both,
Jess was "crazy about her," she was "crazy about him."
It would be a long while before the song came out.
Only she would hear Patsy Cline’s "anthem,"
she called it, and she was widowed by then.
She remembered the love affair with Jess
in detail: "He was new cop on the beat.
I was walking with my boyfriend along the street.
He looked at me, I looked back . . . or was it
the other way around? I don’t remember now,
I was in love, our eyes were, did he love me?
That was my last night walking with that man,
I’d found me a real man now. I gave Jess all the love
I knew how, he told me he didn’t know a thing
about love. His childhood was one long wound.
You know the story, Floyce Milton, I don’t need
to tell you." We were sitting in her Las Cruces home,
where she lived alone, where she died not long after
I told her the story Jess’s brother, my father,
told me. When my father drank after he retired,
he would reach the point where he began to look down,
shielding his blurring sight, proceeding to ask me,
"Why did my folks always fight and break up?
When he came home she was glad, then after they
were happy again the fighting started all over.
Finally he left again, but he always came back
and she was sad all the time he was gone.
I never could understand why they fought
and split up and came back together and kept on
having children. Their sixth and last boy and first girl
were twins. She pined for him, he loved her,
how could he stay away? Not long after he was dead,
she gave birth to her second set of twins, girls
this time, Beulah and Lahoma she named them
before they were dead, less than a year old.
I never could understand her, or him,
I don’t know why. Did Grandma ever tell you?"
I didn’t know. He drained a bottle of the wine
he kept hidden in his backyard garage,
out of my mother’s sight. I kept cadging
from his dwindling pack of filtered Camels.
I tried to help by saying, "Isn’t that how Jess
and Chloe were? They never married or had children,
but they were in love and always were, she told me
that time she gave me the ring she had sold
at her store in Albuquerque. The guy who bought it
was hustling her when Chloe’s husband caught him
and broke his nose with one punch and the man
missed and marred the turquoise surface of the ring
when his hand collided with the wall. Chloe
gave him his money back, he bled his way
out the door. The ring’s silver was unmarked,
the face only slightly cracked. Chloe held out
the Navajo ring, and said, This is yours
so you’ll remember what I said, maybe even
the way I told you." And I almost did,
but I had to imagine–"dream up," Drusilla might say--
all the reasons why every love, each family
ends in sorrow or death, and both the same.
(8 October 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander