Your name is a secret backroad tattooed on my heart
The flowers + wine are goodies — but your visit — is Di —
I can’t even write your name, let alone in the calligraphy it deserves. In the slant of your words I look for a road to follow. I hold a séance with your old letters and the cards levitate, flickering images of women and penmanship forming smoke rings in the air. Women/friendship/angels/art — your truth.
I made it to OKCity for the wedding + they had a blizzard. Sitting here nursing a cold + a half. We will celebrate our birthdays jointly when I return. I saw my sister — that was the best present.
Your letters — em dashes like a hand on my arm. Maybe that’s why I read them now, to feel the blessing of your hand. Those hands that painted ladies without faces because they are any woman, every woman. Those hands that stitched a wedding dress on lunch breaks. Those hands that sliced avocado, poured strong coffee, placed black china before me. Those hands that described stories in the air:
How you pulled Tallulah Bankhead drunk from the bar and sobered her up. More than once.
How you were a hand model for Elizabeth Arden.
How five o’clock heard the tinkling of highballs echo through the atrium, top to bottom; you could set your watch by it.
There’s always a house tour. I’m going to sneak that martini glass back to its proper spot. It’s on butcher table — it’s a hoot. Till we talk.
The words I can’t make out are the ones I treasure the most. I carry them in my pockets like stones: tiny highways of grief and possibility. An oracle.
I rarely wrote you letters, brought flowers and goodies instead. Always said I love you. I’d leave your house and by the time I got home you’d have a card in the mail.
How did you know I had a weakness for anything Black. It’s a sweetie of a bowl — add to my collection. So like you. Your card is precious and a keeper —
Your voice could underline words without shouting: Don’t do anything rash. My biggest regret? I didn’t record your stories, your voice dressed in its art-opening finest. Your voice like you, larger than life. Your voice rich with laughter. Your voice strong and healthy.
I listen to the handful of voicemails remaining, weak ghosts of you, but hearing them mostly makes me sad because every message sounds like I never called you back. Untrue, but strung together, played back-to-back, leaving out the other side, a new story is written.
I’m staying low and sipping, only goodie is smaller waist. When I get back on my feet, let’s plan for you to go through all that glass and stuff I have for you. Till we meet. Lovingly —
I search for clues in the physical, knowing memory is little more than a rocky path.
Every rock a word a skimming a cat’s cradle back and forth, your hand to mine, mine to yours, until a tangle of string, a soft mess of tears.
I want to show you the jewelry I’m making, hear you gasp in delight. I want to see new art with your eyes. I want to listen to old stories with new ears. I want to pick up the phone and call you, come over for one more visit. Hear you say, always leave with more than you came with. I want you to be ungone.
The old joke: Does this road go to Montpelier?
Nope. Stays right heah.
Your letters are the road I travel to try and reach you.
Thank you for the darling mirror. It’s delightful. Also great lunch visit. I’m great believer in friends. I still have three friends I was in first grade with. Till we next meet or speak. Lovingly —
I called but don’t know if my message got on. How about lunch next Wed. — 12:00. But we will talk before that. Much love,
Traveling back, back, back is the only way forward I know.
Staying in one spot is still a movement: a floating, a holding. A slow erosion of heartstrings.
What haunts me is not the past but the future. A future that can only imagine the cards you would send me. A future that must take your words from the past and imagine them new, imagine them now. A future where my words can’t reach you but I must still imagine a next.
Till we next meet. Lovingly —
GEORGIA BELLAS’ work has appeared most recently in Almost Five Quarterly, Bird’s Thumb, Cartridge Lit, and WhiskeyPaper. Her favorite road literature is Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi and her favorite roads to travel are the Prom from Salthill to Galway, the mountain roads in Stemnitsa, Greece, and the foxholes of memory. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy.