Today was my grandfather’s birthday. We called him Papa though, and he’s in heaven now. And this isn’t about him – or me – but in honor of … inspired by …
A Glass of Cold Water
The sun rises slowly so that everything – the light, the birdsong, the smell of cooking food – is a long and tender hug. The musicians sleep until noon then sit about the plaza singing dirges as the day gets hot. He remembers his Papa would send him to the kitchen for a “glass of good cold water” on every summer day like this. Then he would take out his pocket knife, with a warning for it’s sharp little blade, and send the boy out to pick tomatoes for lunch in the amazing heat. He grew up with memories of water and fruit, but he still arrived at here and now, and there is no remedy for that.
It has been a summer of strange dust and barking dogs, and the music in the streets is flat. The players strum and knock their guitars with heavy silver rings to keep the beat. They sound like horses walking on stones in the shade. The trees drink all night from somewhere deep beneath the town, and put on clusters of yellow blooms. Any breeze will blow the flowers down around the fountain, to be swept away.
He works all morning, eats too much at noon and by evening he knows that he will never leave this place in all his life. He has an orange tree, clean shirts and a place to sleep in a room in a house that’s a cluster of rooms the use of which he has forgotten long ago. Except the ones for eating, bathing and sleep. All such things he does alone, and cuts many flowers for the dead. He has the music as the day goes by.
His room is hollow, a hollow room in a hollow house. Like living in a musical instrument, a sounding box for playing the noise from the freeway and the breath of the night wind. He sits in it after the sudden slow day, drinking cold water, letting the night play every song it knows. Everything vibrates, trucks brake for merging traffic, and the sun comes up softly again in the dust.
Life has few expectations, makes no demands, in a town this size. Just the little things, kind words and a gentle touch. So he made her breakfast the way she liked it, waited a moment and went out. Every day the same, and the summer ended and the oranges got ripe. The days got long again and he couldn’t keep her anymore. He offered her food and water with ice. He tried holding tight and letting go. Couldn’t think of a prayer except no and no. Which has never stopped the angels from their work.
He wakes up late and finds the blanket kicked to a heap beside the bed. The sun on the shutters is already hot and the horses in the plaza drink from the fountain, stamp on the stones. Or the players knock their rings in the singing air. He sits naked on the bed and wishes it was night again and not so far from here to where she went. Not so much bright and hazy world to search. Maybe he’ll try the closet where she kept her pretty things, or part the air by the trees like a curtain in the heat.
He could slice oranges and lemons with his Papa’s knife, leave them for the birds, for an offering of his solitude. Bittersweet. And a glass of good cold water.
A Glass of Cold Water by Kyle Kimberlin
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