By June Sylvester Saraceno
June Sylvester Saraceno is the author of Feral, North Carolina, 1965, her debut novel, listed in BuzzFeed as one of “18 Must Read Books from Indie Presses.” Her poetry collections include "The Girl From Yesterday," "of Dirt and Tar," and "Altars of Ordinary Light," as well as a chapbook of prose poems, "Mean Girl Trips." She is director of the low residency MFA program at UNR-Lake Tahoe, director of the literary speaker series, Writers in the Woods, and founding editor of the Sierra Nevada Review. For more information visit www.junesaraceno.com
For Lily and Robin
One of us is retired, another close on her heels, one unemployed. We live unpartnered. We meet for dinners, birthday celebrations, movies. We check in by text, but we are solitary creatures. Though our web of connection is strong, there is plenty of open space in our warp and weft.
Sometimes I see us as three versions of a love story: One leading a celibate life since the birth of her son almost 30 years ago, one a widow whose love lasted a lifetime, and one freed from a final passionate alliance gone horribly awry. There may be other fates. These were ours.
One’s son was a toddler the last time she spotted his father hovering on the fringes of their lives, a musician with a mean streak and wandering ways. Her fell wish was that he’d just disappear and he did. The power of wishing. One married her childhood sweetheart and lived happily in the realm of coupledom. Until a thief entered. In his dementia her husband lost her name, lost his language, eventually lost himself. She held him when he screamed, when he wished simply to die. She held him when he did. The power of staying. One married a swaggering man, dizzied by passion. For decades she was wound to his addiction, a manic bobbin. Then she cut the thread. The power of leaving.
When we are together, we tell our stories again, stories we already know, but we weave in and out of them in a sort of wonder. Maybe we’re looking for meaning.
“What did I ever see in him? Still, I’m grateful for the gift of my son, grateful the other man-child is gone.”
“Where did the strength come from? He wouldn’t sleep, so I couldn’t. He screamed so loud, the neighbors called the cops.”
“Why did I wait so long? Why did I throw away all those good years on a bad choice?”
We have some wine. We laugh. Sometimes we go long spells without seeing each other, but we always return. Our past looms before us, unfinished after all.
I tell them one day the loose end for me, the missed stitch in the chest, open wound.
“The thought of never being kissed again.” The words catch in my throat. I press the pads of my fingers to my lips. They nod. They know. I swirl and swallow the last of the malbec. One lifts the bottle to refill my glass.