Reluctantly, I walk through the tiny yard and knock on the door. It opens, Joseph says 'Thanks for coming” and I step in.
After a somewhat stormy love affair, he and Carmen had decided to “give it a try.” She moved in with him last July.
I'm here now to help him move her out. When we finish, he will change the locks on the doors and go out of town for a week.
On the advice of his lawyer, Carmen is receiving a letter at work instructing her to not return to the house, to refrain from all future contact, and that her belongings will be found in a storage facility. The envelope contains a single key to the storage shed, but no letter from Joseph.
breaking up —
Her presence is everywhere in the house, a blouse hanging on a doorknob, cosmetics in the bathroom, a woman's magazine on the coffee table. My first job is the bedroom. In the closet, beneath an endless array of dresses and sweaters, I find her red dancing slippers. “She's an incredible dancer,” I recall Joseph saying, “Like a feather in my arms.”
I pack her clothing, personal things that I feel I shouldn't be touching. A flower-patterned dress; a light musk scent. I have a vision of her dancing.. I try to be respectful by folding things carefully, but know that it won't affect her regard for me. I'm like a silent assassin. I want to wash her scent off my hands.
Joseph talks through the doorway as he works. “She gutted me financially and emotionally. Did you see all those clothes? She was a shopping freak. Bought everything she saw. I'm broke, I might have to sell the house.” I try to marry these images with the story he had told of them making crazed love on the kitchen floor. “We couldn't even make it to the bedroom,” he had said.
He fears that she will ignore the lawyer's letter and break in. “Last time we fought, she kicked the door in, then attacked me.” I look at him, a burly bearded guy. I can't quite imagine this woman cowing him.
We finish packing, begin loading the van. Joseph is at the edge of one of his anxiety attacks. “We have to hurry,” he says, “she might be here any minute.” I have to fight the urge to flee. For just a moment, I'm a boy again in the apple orchard listening for the farmer's footsteps.
As we carry out the final load, I notice a small calendar hanging near the fridge. Thanksgiving day, tomorrow, has been circled in.
Joseph looks over the small backyard, picks up two bricks, and locks them into the garage.
I raise my eyebrows in a 'What for?' expression.
"The last time we fought, she threw a rock through the window."
thanksgiving eve —
forthcoming in Contemporary Haibun, 2006; previous version published in World Haiku Review, 2002, 2-1