You go on back, ‘Rissie. I got this.” And I hadn’t called Clarisse that since years before the divorce. “Okay?” Clarisse said; she was puzzled but not worried. I reached under the chair and when I did get it–what the girl in the sky-blue dress left– I put it, wrapping cloth and all, in my pocket.
Here is what I wanted. I wanted to wave my hands violently like some crazy bird, wanted to slap fists through the slats of those white chairs. The few people around me backed away. More people left, maybe because of me. I don’t know. A man ain’t got time to worry about all that he can’t fix when he fixing his world. Maybe ten, maybe fifteen remained, including Clarisse and Darla and Darla’s boy. I headed to the iron gate.
I started to pitch it over the black iron gate, because I knew what it was. I hugged it close, because I knew what it was. Everyone looked at me, was standing there right with me, but I felt all alone. I got it in my hand; my dead boy’s ring, and it feels like the beginning collection of a pebble-star going cross the universe. I have what she left me, the girl in the sky-blue dress, this sad angel-woman. And I want to give it back like a drunk wants to undo his ceaseless thirst.
I know what a boy would do… I could tell Clarisse, and she would hold me, despite her new man, despite the hell I brought to her heart with my busted-trying-to love. But a man can’t do that. I hear Darla in the distance by the arbor and vines, tangling, and pulling down weeds with her boy. I could go to her, but she wouldn’t understand how I lost a world with her in my life, and how her boy who want me for a daddy would look at me, and I could cry but a man can’t do what he wants. I keep the ring in my pocket.
“Tim, what’s wrong?” Clarisse said. Her new man, Marco, came up beside her, Marco’s hand was on her shoulder. “Think I cut my foot on some glass. Y’all stay back,” I said. No one really believed me. “Let me see, Timmie. May I see it?” Clarisse asked. But I wouldn’t show her any more pain to share. Darla’s shoulders shook in sadness by the arbor. People hedged a loose circle around me, until they too drifted away. That is how my daughter’s wedding ended.
After the wedding, the quiet eyes off me, the cigarette butts burned out in the now dewy grass, I still sat there in the park field where my daughter wed. I sat for hours thinking about that girl in the sky-blue dress, just me and Fat Robbie who had the cancer. We drinking 40 oz. St. Ides tumbled together with cheap white wine in paper cups and we can’t go home till we sober up. I see how Fat Robbie can’t stand long, how his clothes belted and cinched in, how much weight Fat Robbie done truly lost, how his skin is
all that holds his bones up, and how his bones seem to be seeping down. His wife
left him too. He don’t have no kids. He,
how we say, got “no recommend for him,”
when he go on. And he going on. Soon. We smoking cigarettes next to the arbor.
“You see that girl in the blue dress? You…,” I start and my throat choke up; I feel my dead boy’s ring burning in my pocket, know that someone done tried to knife out his name inscribed inside. I am angry, and folks know things around this place, ‘round the old neighborhood. I could find this girl in the sky-blue dress, if I wanted. I could finally have some righteousness for me and mine. And so, right now, I want to know what Fat Robbie know, but he just singing to himself. And this knowledge won’t be free. I know this, but I’ll pay the price.
Fat Robbie said, “Burn, everything just burns. Girl, you burn me right!” I know he heard me and I am feverish in my anger in the dark blue night. I try again, but Fat Robbie put his fingers to his lips and keep singing. “Tim, my man, I don’t think you will see me no more, so I’ll tell you something….” I wait with impatience. “This drink for crap,” Fat Robbie says. He tries to smile, wanting one back, but I can’t. I know he’s dying and he made a special effort to come to the wedding, and I’m trying so hard to hear him, trying to be a friend and hear this man. I know she wasn’t invited.
Then Fat Robbie look at me like he on a ship that’s going down and he telling me not to step out from the safe harbor. “It’s bitter, but just swallow it on down, man.” And Fat Robbie won’t talking about the St. Ides mixed with the wine we done put together. I make myself think then maybe she was some angel, her eyes speaking to me in sad underwater tongues. I will always wish she had not come. I will never want what she left me. The scratched inside of my dead boy’s ring cuts into my own finger. How could anyone leave me like this? Because that’s how a man has to do it; has to pour it out and drink down his portion, no matter if it’s all busted glass with the swallowing, and too damn late.