She sat in the grassy aisle long after everyone else had left. Not on the grass. She would sit on the grass if she could. Be close to the earth. But her vertebrae were arthritic, her hips stiff as rusted hinges, and her knees hadn’t bent in years. She sat on the black padded seat of her walker, and looked straight ahead, and a little bit down. Soon, she thought, they would lock the gates. They must lock the gates to cemeteries, otherwise the mothers would never leave.
Her only child. The other people at the ceremony looked at her with horror. Their eyes said, Look, there is a woman who has suffered the worst blow a woman can suffer. She had wanted to say, but had not, Don’t worry so much for me. There was no blow. It was what was next. It had been a long and capricious illness. Long, long, long—he had suffered more years than not. There are certain things about a person that change when one is dying more years than they are living. There are certain things about a person that are not taken for granted when one watches someone dying that long. Joy was one of them. And it was alright, really, because after a while other things came to fill its place. Anxiety took the place of a timepiece, grief kept her heart beating. To assuage the pain in her throat, swallowing became as regular as blinking. It was remarkable, how one emotion flowed in to take the place of another, like water in a dry ditch.
They had buried him under a tree. Not right under it, but out where the the branches still slapped dappled light onto him. It was good, because he had been too much in beds to sit under many trees. Some day the stone around his name would be tarnished with dirt and plastered with leaves, and that pleased her, because it would give him character, the kind of character people who are sick do not always have the time to design.
The sun was in her eyes now coming through the tree branches, and a bird, realizing time was scarce left in this day for activities, spiraled through the air out of nowhere and lighted on a wind-tossed tree branch. It was a little grey bird, with a white chest, but perched now right in front of the grapefruit sun, it was a burnished burgundy silhouette. It was an eager creature, full of quick movement and energy. It posed and preened with wings stretched wide, basking in the backdrop of the entire sun. It was a proud bird, and beautiful—it owned the world!
She felt a blooming inside her. A baffling, unstoppable uplifting of spirits, and a smile. How long had it been since something so presumptuous as a smile had approached her? How long since simple amusement had dared to pluck at the great woolly gravity that smothered the earth? And she thought, Where did this come from? Where do they come from, these things that we feel?