Throw your ego off the bus and let it get trampled in mud. At all costs, do not give in to maybes of grandeur. I give you this pebble whether you want it or not, because I’m trying to spare you the delusions that drained my youth. Back then all was flood and I was fish. I danced, I sang, got paid in pennies, spent them on yogurt, let someone else buy the booze. My sister, your mother, she took the other path, buying yellow slickers for the rain, kissing the one man only, no matter what. Now, well, you see, her candle’s almost out, and she’s calling me to run her bath because she does not want her husband or children to see her body this way. She’s in there, the water getting cool all around her skin, her knees floating. I have scrubbed her as gently as possible with a wash cloth from the matching set. I have kissed her on the forehead like we used to do to each other when we were girls, making up for our mother’s lack of kisses. In a moment I will go back in and lift her up, pat her dry. But right now I need to tell you this: you will be tempted to skip it all and fly my way; don’t. When my time comes I will have no one attending but the blackbirds, and then only if there is bread nearby. I will have no piece of me standing by or carrying on, and these are more important than you can imagine when rage and glitter are so close and so easy.
A Famous Bridge
She did not intend to blaze her own channel, nor did she ever choose the marathon over the sprint. Yet here she is, after winding all over the country doing whatever next appeared in front of her, on a famous bridge at night, the great Pacific squeezing itself into a puddle under her. Loose strings all tidied, no one at home to worry or impress. Past her prime, she’s full of ire at her doughy muscles, brittle hair, scattered mind, and full of shame for her ire. The ones she admires do, in fact go gently into the night as the sky turns from blueish to blackish; if they once skied or sailed, they find other things to do. But she had been voracious with the opposite of chastity, and the contrast is too much to bear; she simply lacks the humility and creativity necessary for growing old. She hasn’t done the research, does not know exactly what happens to the heart, the lungs, the skeleton on the way down and then at impact, and she is not the kind of person to do anything on a whim, without knowing the facts. The water hits you like concrete, that’s what she’s heard, but she’d have to look up the physics of it, of how liquid morphs into rock. To get to the bridge you hike up a loop of roads and trails scented with cedar and salt. On the way back she hears rustling, assumes raccoons, then delivers herself to the grid of streets full of parked cars waiting for morning and drivers. A man approaches, older. No stains, no stink, but he looks like a grump. “What are you doing out on the street at this hour?” he asks, gruff and curious. “Same as you,” she says, defiant and weary. “Not afraid?” he says. “Nope,” and in this, she realized, she was not acting coy. When exactly had she lost her fear? Did it drain out slowly, a marsh at low tide, or disappear all at once, leaving not even a ring behind? Now the man came close, a look of pity on his face. “You must be dying,” he said. “No more than usual,” she said, not stepping back. Another scurry, a cat, probably, releasing a hint of rosemary from a bush. “Are you sure?” the man asked. “I’d get checked out,” he told her, wagging a finger. She walked on, looking forward to a trip to the clinic, something to do during normal working hours. Maybe they’d discover an illness and her trial would be over of its own accord, either sooner or later. Her body would shut down before it fully decayed. She took this as a blessing not a curse, and immediately knew she should be ashamed of her relief, but she’d had enough of shame.
Frances Lefkowitz is the author of To Have Not, named one of five “Best Memoirs of 2010” by SheKnows.com, as well as hundreds of articles, essays and stories in national literary and consumer magazines, from Tin House, Blip, GlimmerTrain Stories, and The Sun, to Good Housekeeping, Whole Living , and National Geographic’s Green Guide. Honors include the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Literary Fellowship and special mentions for the Pushcart Prize (twice) and Best American Essays