I wrote this several years ago but it seems somehow more timely now…
The night Edie met Lenny was at the tail-end of a very stressful day. Edie would not admit it was stressful. That would be un-cool, the result of not being centered or not smoking enough pot or not meditating. She often tried to meditate but she was constantly distracted, thinking about her job at the day care center, or about her U bill that still came due even though she had finally gotten her degree, an invoice of unclear items relating to classes long over but still to be paid for. And she just hadn’t been feeling right, not really sick but sort of tired and draggy all the time, and her tits hurt. She had finally decided to go to the ratty old doctor that someone had recommended because he was cheap. He asked a few questions about her period, yes, she had just had it, and told her to wear a bra. That was this afternoon and she was hanging around hoping to score a ride home back to the country or run into someone that would let her crash that night. She was admittedly relieved after her doctor’s visit but skeptical, too, and decided to forget about it and have a few beers at The Silver Spur. Since moving to the country with her girlfriend Tam, a good deal of her time, when not working, was spent finagling a ride or a free shower from anyone, really.
The house they moved to had seemed to be a dream come true. On closer inspection it was an old claptrap, drafty, dusty and mouse-infested. The pipes in the jerry-rigged bathroom that had been tacked onto the front porch, froze and burst the first night of hard frost. Their landlord had attempted to replace the plumbing but he did such a crummy job that they burst again at the next frost so running water would be out for the rest of the fall and winter. He settled up by giving them a slight reduction on the rent. It was too much trouble to move and besides they had wanted to live simply, back to the earth and all that. They both had to work in town and despite three old vehicles on the property, none seemed to be running right now. Edie hated to admit that on some days after reading in the sun and pulling pigweed in the yard, she got bored. Didn’t want to tell anyone that either. If her housemate was home and they had a project, well, that was different.
Everything was so much more complicated than it should be, like baking or cooking. The old wood burning stove had been so poorly maintained that it took hours just to heat up, then several more hours to bake anything or even cook soup. The last time she baked bread, it was a full six hour project. Since the cooler weather kicked in, Edie and her housemate kept the fire stoked all the time, mainly to keep warm but also to cut down on cooking time. That meant splitting wood and lots of it. Edie found she actually liked this task and volunteered all the time, spending hours in the pleasantly chilly evening air. The rise and swing of the axe, the sharp pleasant crack as the log yielded and opened, was more soothing to her than pot or attempts at meditation.
That afternoon, she ran into some friends, acquaintances really, but friendly enough to join for a beer and possibly get a ride home. The Spur was the new favorite of people who now lived in Iowa City, folks who had made this town and the country and small towns around it their home, after dropping out or finishing school. The old college bars had become too crowded, too obnoxious, too young and too loud. This place was thought a townie bar with it’s sort-of cowboy feel and mostly working class customers. The tall backed booths and hillbilly juke box were a welcome relief from psychedelia and frat boys.
The Spur had copied a popular lefty bar’s practice of calling a half-pint of beer a Republican and a full-to-the-brim pint a Democrat. Edie was finishing off her second Democrat and getting into a lively discussion about things to do to Richard Nixon to blow his mind wide open. The blond Marxist farmer, usually scholarly and serious, had suggested a heroin enema, much to everyone within earshot’s amusement. Except, she noticed, the mustachioed bartender, probably having second thoughts about his new clientele. She noticed a curly haired guy walk by, an appreciative and amused look on his face. That hair, it was auburn-red and he walked with a sort of bounce, the curls bouncing too. Soon he was scooting up to the table and into the booth next to Edie smiling at her, laughing and at ease. He knew the farmer, it seemed, well enough to buy pot from him, and joined in their beer-fueled conversation.
Edie found herself going on about The Grateful Dead concert that she and Tam, her housemate, had seen in San Francisco the previous spring. She really wasn’t that crazy about the band. Maybe it was the beer or maybe it was Lenny. His name was Lenny and his warm thigh pressed against hers in the crowded booth. His eyes were green, almost the same color as her own and he looked at her intensely making her nervous and talkative.
A sharp sliver of fall sunlight had disappeared from under the fake swinging doors and the group was separating, off to pick up girlfriends from work or fix boyfriends’ suppers. Lenny turned to Edie.
“Can I give you a lift?”
“I live way out by Downey at Midbuny’s.”
“I know. You said so, remember.”
Edie remembered very little. She was lightheaded and more than a bit distracted by this red-headed guy with the New York accent and the invasive eyes. A bit drunk too. She liked to say that she never got drunk, drank a lot of beer, but never got drunk. Was she drunk when she slept with the blond customer from the pizza place where she waitressed two nights a week, the one that kept pawing her, that repulsed and aroused her at the same time? That may have been a better excuse than just giving in to his relentless pestering, the one who vowed he would use protection and didn’t and she, if not too drunk just too oblivious to notice? It was not a big town and she was so angry and secretly ashamed that she avoided him and hoped never to see him again. That had been six weeks ago already and she hadn’t run into him yet. So far, so good. But this guy, he was cute and seemed genuinely interested and willing to drive her all the way out to the country.
“I don’t mind. I live near West Branch.”
So they were both country people and even lived in the same area, east of town.
He had a funny Dodge Dart with push button gears. They laughed and he showed her how it worked. Then, she got into Jerry Garcia again. It had to be nerves. She wasn’t that into The Dead. They drove south of town then east. It was dark by then but still mild, the sky distinctly blue, deep, deep blue. Once free of the town lights, stars spread out across the sky like gauze. They drove off the paved road and onto the white gravel that glowed in the moonlight, a path leading me somewhere, Edie thought, somewhere new and mysterious and a little scary. They came to the slight rise on the Downey road and she could see the cluster of trees and buildings that were now her home. The house was quiet and dark. Maybe Tam was staying in town. The dogs quieted down after racing out to the Dart to check on who was coming up the drive. Once inside, however, Tam, in a thrift store silk kimono, was warming water for tea and had candles lit all in the kitchen and living room. She was high, Edie could tell, and had her tarot cards out on the kitchen table, a half smoked joint resting in the chipped china saucer.
They had some tea while Tam, singing to herself softly, was intent on her cards. Edie sat on the old velvet couch sinking into the cushions, Lenny perched on the edge, still looking at her, appraising her. The house began to get chilly and it was getting late. She felt herself wanting to stay with this guy, not wanting him to be away from her. Then he asked,
“Would you like to make love?”
“Do you have indoor plumbing?” she said before catching herself.
He threw back his head and laughed, soft but confident. She could not commit to so intimate an act without access to running water, at least after not bathing properly for two days.
So they got back into the Dart, back on the white glowing road, clouds of dust following them north to the big farmhouse where he lived with a couple also from the East. Her bath was luxurious with Dr Bronner’s peppermint soap for bubbles. Clean and excited, she went to him and their story began.
The move to Midbuny happened fast and without much thought really. The name was the old telephone number spelled out. The telephone, however was long gone, as most other “unnecessary” conveniences. It seemed like all of Edie’s friends were moving out to the old shabby farmhouses outside of town, dreams of organic gardens and barefoot children running about. In reality, the upkeep on these old places had been questionable and idyllic dreams gave way to hard work. Still it was lovely to be out and in the quiet, especially in the early fall when Tam and Edie made their move. The softly rolling hills were still lush and still flourescent green, the corn tall and undulating like ocean waves in the breezy humid afternoons. Soft, hazy Turner-esque skies of summer were now brilliant and clear, autumn blue. Sometimes, when Tam’s old Chrysler was running and they were driving along one of the gravel roads, the noise would flush a pheasant out from the culverts along the side of the road, their russet feathers glistening, fearless since the lumbering drunk hunters hadn’t yet come to run them down. The girls seemed to have inherited a hoot owl in the back of their property near the garden and in those early fallevenings they heard his call, mournful and comforting at the same time.
Their first night there had been nothing short of terrifying, They could look back now and laugh but they had spent it clutching each other and flinching at every sound. Tam brought a rolling pin to bed, and they tried to sleep in the absent tenant’s room on a mattress on the floor.
Along with the hoot owl, they also inherited Jerry, the guy who was gone most of the time, they weren’t quite sure where, in some rehab program for selling pot and acid. Jerry was like a biker but protective and almost fatherly when he was at Midbuny. He had tried to leave them a pistol to keep around the house but Edie, declined, more frightened of it than of possible invaders. She was startled to even think of danger in this idyllic setting and was eager for Jerry to get back to his program and for she and Tam to embark on their quest of the simple life.
The garden to the side of the house had been planted by the previous tenants and apparently by Jerry as well. Along with the sweet corn and peppers and tomatoes were huge stands of marijuana. For the first few weeks, they had had unlimited supplies of weed, for their own use but also to lure their guy friends out to help with some of the heavy moving and fixing up. One night they came home after a movie in the nearest little town to find the garden stripped clean of the marijuana, yet hardly a tomato or pepper had fallen to the ground, an obvious planned hit. Edie was relieved. She had been concerned about the illegal crop despite feeling isolated out in the country. Farm folk are nosey and she didn’t like the idea of some of the losers that it could attract. And she wouldn’t have to deal with the former tenants who had decided they were Rastfarians, with their stringy, matted hair and adopted Jamaican slang. Tam was disappointed however and Jerry just laughed when he found out on his next visit from the rehab center. Maybe relieved too, Edie thought. You can’t be around that stuff forever without trouble and Jerry had enough of that already.
The old house had been without running water after that first early frost. The useless bathroom had almost floated off the front porch. Indian summer was upon them, the days warm, but they now had to go to their very kind neighbor up the road and walk jugs of water back to the house. And the place was alive with mice. The stench was every where. Their cats kept them out of the most used areas downstairs, but at night, Edie lay in her antique wooden bed under the weight of her grandmother’s quilt, listening to the squeek and scurry of them in the upstairs rooms, having visions of being overrun by the creatures.
Lenny soon became a regular visitor at Midbuny. Edie would be in the long process of baking, Bonnie Raitt playing on the radio. They did have electricity, most of the time, except for strong winds or other excesses of weather. The crunching sound of the Dart’s tires on the gravel road filled her with joy and anticipation. There was little traffic in front of the house, especially after dark. And with no phone, the unplanned visits were especially exciting and romantic to Edie. Lenny often stayed the night sharing her big, antique wooden bed, under a pile of quilts because it was getting colder with each day. In the morning you might see your breath and it took forever to get coffee going on that blasted stove. More and more he would spirit her off to West Branch, to his more comfortable house and the pleasure of running water. She felt especially bad leaving Tam, who smoked more pot and huddled closer to the old stove in the kitchen. They never seemed to be in sync with boyfriends, one always left out of the other’s happiness. Lenny was proving to be more than a fly-by-night pass-around boyfriend of which there were plenty in their circle. One night after spending two days in West Branch, Edie came home to find a embroidered heart on her bed. It read Lenny and Edie are in love in bright colored swirls and flourishes. Yes, they were and Tam was their witness.
But something else was going on that clouded her happiness. Her period had not come this month and thinking back, the last had been irregular and spotty. Lenny had been thrilled with her swollen breasts but she was not. She made an appointment in town between her two jobs, to see another, friendlier, younger and more sympathetic doctor at the free clinic.
This time the young doc said, “I think you know what I’m gonna’ tell you.”
Edie did know and left the office with a profound sense of dread. Most of her girlfriends talked a lot about when they would have their babies, how they would have them, at home and naturally of course. Tam’s good friend Louise had already had her first, in she and her husband’s apartment above his natural food store.
To Edie it was all theory. She was more intent on making a life with someone that included art , photography perhaps and music. Lenny was a piano player, Leon Russell and Carol King his idols. He had talked of moving back to New York and really working on a career. More and more he hinted at her being part of it and more and more she dreamed that she might be. Somewhere, looming, was her strict father, her Catholic girlhood, that taught her never to ask or to pressure, only to hope. She let the women’s talk of childbirth float over her as she imagined walking the gritty streets of lower Manhattan hand in hand with the red-haired musician, her version of that first Bob Dylan album? The Iowa countryside was still beautiful but it now seemed temporary and transitional. First she had to deal with this, this condition that she found herself in.
That day after her appointment at the free clinic, Tam’s car was running and she picked her up. They drove in silence back to Midbuny. Tam was not one for extraneous chatter. Once home, they threw the I Ching, perseverance furthers…always…always I get this, Edie moaned. My life is to be one of perseverance.
The next day she was depressed. The chill and the no-color sky did not help her state of mind. She climbed to the highest limb of the not-very-tall mulberry tree in the front yard, deciding to jump and perhaps alter her condition. She flinched at the last second and stiffened, straining her foot as she landed but she felt otherwise unaltered and profoundly foolish. And who to talk to? She wasn’t even sure who to blame. Mostly she felt as if she had contracted some sort of virus. It probably was that jerk from the Palace and who did she have to blame? She had also been spending time with Larry, the black-bearded sculptor, playing a game of sexual one-upmanship, this is natural and fun and no-strings. And she was playing the dangerous game of timing, rhythm, wherever that use of the word came from, she was not sure. Right now, it was a case of rhythm and blues. John, the young liberated doctor at the free clinic even seemed to expect a firm answer as to the “father.” She knew of his dalliances with any number of her women friends but the issues of birth control and child bearing still fell, heavily, at the feet of women. No changes there, Edie thought. God could not possibly be a she. God most certainly is a man.
In a state of funk, panic and depression, Edie contacted an agency, an eccummenical church group that gave her a list of clinics and hospitals she could contact to arrange the procedure, as it was so discretely referred to. Several were in New York and Lenny fell into the role of savior and caretaker. She was able to separate her feelings about men from her feelings about this man. She allowed herself to be saved. He would drive her, Tam, and Tam’s new boyfriend to New York. They’d make the trip fun, Lenny would visit old friends and his folks and Edie could deal with her “problem.” It really was the best hoped-for solution but it cost money and that Lenny could not provide, nor could Tam but she did the next best thing and got Edie hired on at the trendy new store where she worked, complete with an advance of wages, enough to pay for everything. Perseverance did indeed further and Edie learned something else, about friendship and kindness. That gave her the strength to head out in the Dart with her friends, as they drove straight through to Manhattan, the car floating along the interstate and toll roads in a cloud of marijuana smoke and sitar music.
New York was not quite as easy as Edie had hoped. The purpose of her trip could not be ignored. Looking in the Village Voice, she found a clinic on 9th Avenue in Manhattan. She and Lenny were staying with his friends in Brooklyn and he rode the subway with her, holding her hand tightly, all the way, despite the jerks and jostling of the train. The doctor at the clinic was long-haired, young-looking but spoke kindly and with authority. Her bravery and nonchalance had suffered on the subway ride, despite her boyfriend’s reassuring presence. The hippy doctor handed her a form with the address of a private East Side Hospital.
“They’ll help you,” he patted her hand. “You’ll be alright.”
Apparently, the hospital had become a center for these procedures, since a girl in her situation couldn’t get this done just anywhere, not in Iowa, that’s for sure. The yellow brick building was old and tired looking, but clean once you got inside. Lenny kissed her briefly on the cheek and left her after she had registered. Enough for him already. Edie was shown to a room, amazingly one all by herself. That seemed fine at first but maybe someone to talk to would have been good. All the women she saw looked worried or sad or so engrossed in their own thoughts, perhaps this was best. After all, this was something she had to do, she had no choice. It would be over soon and her life would resume, back to Iowa, back to normal, back to a job at the stylish new store. And her romance with Lenny that was just starting to blossom.
A nurse came in with a light snack.
“We’ll come get you about 10, then you can sleep and leave in the morning if everything’s OK. “
The word “if” hung in the air for a while. The nurse, like the others she had seen since arriving here, was Filipino, or so she assumed from her look and accent. Although she tried, Edie couldn’t catch her eye. The nurse was brisk and efficient, but not particularly friendly. Edie noticed the scapular medals pinned to her starched white uniform. Her Aunt Grace wore similar medals pinned to her cotton brassiere. She saw them when she had stayed with her last summer in her little apartment in downtown Waterloo. Edie closed that thought fast, ate a bit, then tried to nap until her time came.
She woke up the next morning, fresh air wafting in the window of the stale room. She remembered very little of last night, after a shot from an older, kindly doctor. The nurse, another one this time, larger and plumper, came in, pulled up the shades
“Have you had your baby?”
Edie did not comprehend. She was still groggy, a bit of pain down there, but otherwise she feeling “normal” except for the huge bulky pad between her legs.
“Call your friends. You can leave in about an hour. Have them pick you up at the 77th street entrance.”
The nurse bent towards her and handed her a telephone. Edie could see her smooth close-together brown breasts and the tiny gold crucifix that hung on a thin chain.
“You look like a nice girl. Go home now.”
Edie wasn’t sure if she was nice or where home was exactly but she was glad to see Lenny and Tam and her friend waiting for her and eager to get on with their visit to New York City.
They walked for miles it seemed, Edie letting her experience fade as they took in the sights of the city. She felt like she was having a heavy period, but nothing she couldn’t or did not want to handle. What she wanted more than anything was to not think about what she had just done, for everything to be as it had been “before.”
Two days later, they drove to Massachusetts to visit friends of Lenny’s who lived in a huge, rambling white frame farmhouse. The trees were starting to turn, more brilliant than she had ever seen in the Midwest, even along the Mississippi. The skies were clear, bright blue, like pictures she remembered from her mom’s old Ideals Magazines. Yes, the poetry was corny but the photographs of New England in the fall had looked just like this. And what would Mom, her real mom, think of her now? Edie felt like another person, in another life with no connection to who she had been back when her mopher was still alive.
Back in Iowa, the trees turned but less brilliant. Edie began working at the new store, and she and Lenny saw each other almost everyday. He’d pick her up at the store and they’d go to The Spur for “old time’s sake” ‘tho their times were in fact not that old. That winter, she spent a lot of time at his place, he had better heating than the Midbuny farmhouse. They cuddled beneath heavy, moth-ball smelling quilts and made love easily and often.
Sometime in the early spring, that time of year when it’s bright and promising one day, then wet and dirty and sloppy snow falls the next, it was about then when he stopped showing up at the store after work. They had never been much for calling or making plans. It seemed contradictory to the type of relationship they had, spontaneous, free, easy-going, no demands, that kind of thing. He’d come by the house some evenings and still want to sleep over. He wanted to try things, too, that Edie thought unnecessary, if they truly cared about each other, like screwing in the middle of a field by the house with the possibility of one of the staid old farmer neighbors driving by on their tractor or a blow job in his car on the side of the road someplace. And always pot, the more public the better, and if Edie objected, it was because she was uptight or too Catholic, she who had not stepped inside a church for five years and done about the most un-Catholic thing imaginable, just last fall when they had first started seeing each other.
One loud, over-anxious woman who she knew only through other people started being sugary nice to her and even gave her some trinkets she had brought back from Mexico, all the while telling her what a cool guy Lenny was. What was that all about? And one day, at Lenny’s house, when he was downstairs getting the car started, she spotted a letter he was writing to his parents. It seemed remarkably open as she revealed very little of her personal life to her dad. certainly not to her stepmom or her Aunt Grace. He was writing about a “new relationship with a remarkable artist,” a relationship he had “great hopes for.” Edie knew she wasn’t “new” and maybe had some tiny bit of talent but could hardly be thought of as “remarkable.” She hadn’t done much of anything art-wise since she got her degree two years ago, just crafty things, here and there, and picture taking on a pretty casual level. She knew it was not her that he was referring to. She didn’t have the nerve to confront him but he became more distracted and she saw him less frequently and people in town seemed to look at her warily when she talked about him, about them, like they were a couple.
One day a woman approached her on the street. Sheila was older than she was older than Edie, a New Yorker who dressed like a man, the sweetheart of the art department. She had never had two words with her before. She started telling her how “wonderful Lenny was and how he was going to drive her to New York.” And “Wasn’t it hard to believe that a guy like that still existed in this town since most of them were just creeps and losers.”
Edie was speechless. She felt her heart, the organ itself, literally drop down into her empty stomach. Had he sent Sheila to do his dirty work? She hated her so much right then, more than when Sheila’s gorgeous figure drawings were held up to the class as samples of how one should see the figure, she who had a master’s degree and had shown in galleries and sat in at all the undergrad life drawing classes.
Well, at least it was out in the open now but what about those plans to move to New York together, the ones they hadn’t talked about since forever? And how long had everyone else in town known about this. When Edie and Lenny finally talked, he presented himself as helpless. She, Shelia, was so talented but guileless “like a child,” he said. He was conflicted, he could still see Edie but it would be “different”. Edie sought out one of his friends who was kind but could offer no succor. Lenny had told him about Edie’s “great tits” but apparently had discussed little else about their relationship. Perhaps their’s hadn’t even been a “relationship” to him, Edie thought. And of course, his friend was loyal to Lenny and uncomfortable with this weepy, distraught young woman who he liked too in an awkward, platonic sort of way.
When Lenny and Shelia went off on their New York trip, Edie’s friends gathered around her, sided with her and gossiped about Sheila. It was only temporary relief but she allowed herself to gossip and hate as well. Yet she could not bring herself to hate Lenny. Tam was sympathetic but seemed glad to have her friend back and they started hanging out more, going to the bars and drinking beer and getting stoned with friends. Tam’s last fall boyfriend lasted about as long as the season. They also started talking about leaving Iowa City. They had hitchhiked to California that previous year and had once talked about going back there. Well, if Lenny’s in New York maybe I’ll go the opposite direction, thought Edie. It became The Plan.
Edie took a second job back at the Palace Bar and Pizza where she had worked off and on for years. This time she served drinks, in a tank top, cut-off jeans and striped knee socks and Kork-Ease. She was thinner than she’d ever been, often having only a Democrat at The Spur for lunch and some corn nuts, veggie and brown rice at home if she was being more healthy. Sometimes she worked the door, checking IDs for the bar, and guys hit on her a lot. One night Shelia’s former boyfriend came in and they found themselves in bed later after a drunken, weepy evening of confessions and anger. Edie was more sorry for him than for herself but avoided him after that, embarrassed and disgusted with herself.
She and Tam decided to rent another place in the country this time north of town. It too didn’t have indoor plumbing but it was cute and comfortable and had running water in the kitchen and a wood stove that worked. Her room reminded her of Van Gogh’s blue bedroom, with its blue painted walls, tiny bed and sloping wood floor. Edie let other guys come home with her and hoped Lenny would know. Besides, she was leaving for California in the fall. She hoped he knew that, too
They had one last night together. Edie gave in against her friends’ advise, against her own will. They made love in the hayloft of the quaint barn on the property. It was almost as romantic as Edie had hoped. She imagined herself a brave, long-suffering but realistic character in one of Colette’s novels. The next day she set up a ride west through an ad in The Daily Iowan. Tam wasn’t ready, as she put it, and planned to meet up perhaps in the spring. Edie arranged for her little cat to stay with friends until she could send for her. Then she packed some clothes and immediate necessities for the trip. Some books, bedding and collected knick-knacks would be sent UPS to her new address in California. She would move in with an Iowa friend now living in the Mission District in San Francisco.
The drive out was fairly uneventful except for a stop in Kansas by a small town cop looking to bust the hippy couple that was driving their big, old, loaded-down sedan. He was only able to ticket them for a sagging muffler, so after a two hour delay in the little town while that was repaired, they were back on the road. It was fall again, more than a year since that day at the Silver Spur. She tried hard not to think of him.
The Twenty-third Street flat was a San Francisco classic, rooms off a long hallway, kitchen at the back, sunporch and a view of staircases running the block. Edie’s Iowa friend, having lived in the city few years already, had a full life with her work, a boyfriend, other people and routines. Still, Edie got a job quickly and was bussing across town, getting to know the layout of her new city.
But the rain. That fall it rained and rained and rained. Like a Ray Bradbury story, she felt as though the trees and plants and buildings would melt if there was any more rain. The flat was high ceilinged and chilly. Her room was sparse with white painted walls and a narrow twin mattress on the floor. She had left an antique highboy and bed in Iowa with hopes that she could ship them out some day. That seemed less possible all the time.
In Iowa, Edie felt as if she was part of a family. On that first Christmas In San Francisco, she had not yet established a family. Two of her flat mates had left for visits home. Her Iowa friend was celebrating with her boyfriend. They did have breakfast together, quiche and fruit and good coffee, but the rest of the holiday lay ahead of her, quiet and empty. Where was home, anyway, where would she being going? Her stepmom’s house in Springfield did not feel like home. Her dad was part of another family now and Edie did not feel she was, not at all. Tam was in an apartment back in Iowa City not willing to endure another winter of icy roads and a poorly heated house in the country. Edie really didn’t know what Tam was up to these days. So there she was alone in the flat, listening to holiday music on the radio. Mission Street had been so alive those weeks leading up to the holiday. The markets bustling, Christmas lights and gaudy pinatas everywhere, and street vendors from South and Central America selling their wares on wobbly tables set up on the wide sidewalk. When the day itself finally arrived, the street was still.
Edie decided to go for a walk. It was hazy but mild, not raining finally. She marvelled at the palm trees running up and down Dolores, palm trees and Christmas in a city not unfriendly but still unknown. Up at the corner past Jamestown Hall, and onto Fair Oaks Street, she came across three little girls, carrying their new dolls from Santa, comparing and showing off to each other. Edie had thought to bring her camera and the girls eagerly posed for her. This, this is how I will know the city. Walking on to Dolores Park, her aloneness started to feel right. She was free to absorb, free to look, free to record. Looking out across the city, the green of the park, an occasional near-empty J-Church street car trundling by and the downtown highrises in the near distance, suddenly it all seemed wide open. If not welcoming, but right there – inviting, beckoning, teasing, daring.
It was that night, though, laying on the narrow twin mattress, she longed for the warmth of a body next to her, an arm around her waist, the weight of quilts holding her down, keeping her grounded. The old nagging feeling came back. Is there a place for love in her life? The kind that lasted? Did that kind exist? Was Lenny in New York now, with the artist? Were they walking the streets of New York hand in hand? She closed her eyes, trying to erase the image. Her mind drifted back to last year, when one possibility ended, another began and then it ended as well. But today, she had seen and felt all that new possibility just spread out right there in front of her.
Still, in that dark, bare room in the quiet empty flat she could not block out the face of the brown-skinned nurse as she came to her. She could not mute her voice.
“Have you had your baby?”
Maybe some day Edie thought, but no, not yet, not yet.