“It’s seven years now since he’s dead and there’s no use in trying.”
Belding was at it. Belding! He was the normal one. But none of them are normal. Not out here in the dime villages.
And besides, he’d had drinks. You know.
I was wandering a bit while he talked. I looked splendid. Sequined shorts, gold flannel shirt. My hair was gelled back. I hoped not to spend the whole night here at the bar.
I asked “What did he die of?” but I could imagine it. Some farm accident or infected animal bite.
“A heart valve stopped working. He’d been sick a while. Home sickness is the cure, something broad to focus on.”
“Home sickness cures heart valves?”
His eyes bulged. “Of course! You put your energy into that sadness. Away from the heart. Let it work.”
He ordered another martini for himself. I declined a second. My eyes were burning. I could smell a good night if I could just get Belding to spend a little more.
“Hey, do you play? A good game?”
He looked at the door and shook his head. He was clean-shaven and the sheen was bright on his cheek bones. They caught the orange glint of the bar wreaths lined with dried roots and berries.
“No, no game for me. We played game, him and me. Lots of game.”
“What about us?” I said. I placed my drink on his free wrist. “Do you think you and I could play game?”
The music just then was a crass jam. It was the sign that it was later, later than I thought. If he wasn’t in I’d have to walk home in the dark.
“We could maybe, but it wouldn’t be the same. Our game was good.”
The music intensified. I felt ready to wriggle onto the bar and kick the air. It was slow horn and my brain was going that way.
“Belding,” I said, “let’s not think about this here. Are you and I going to dance?”
He looked surprised and shifted in his seat.
“Please,” I said, and put down my drink. “Dance with me.
I took his free wrist and tugged him away. He kept his drink in the other hand.
“Dance is good,” he said. “Sadness can’t do anything about it.”
“Oh, I agree,” and I put my arms around his neck. I smiled and he took another sip. “Dance is like the river boat. It just keeps moving, twinkling on down the river.”
Belding nodded. I thought of the long boats in the dark. The way they slowed and quickened.
“The cure’s good,” he said.
There was no use in it. I closed my eyes and shuffled with him.
“Tell me,” I said.
“I bet it could help you, too. You could use it. The good it does.”
“I’m always good,” I said. “Do you think I need more?”
“Sure. Save it for later.”
I moved in closer to him. I breathed deep.
“I’m sorry you lost him.”
When you pull a string you hope it unravels something. Makes it falls apart.
He took another sip.
“I’m still home sick,” he said.
“When you’re home sick, the rest of it draws back away from the mouth of the cave. Away from a place where anyone can see it.”
I pulled back to look at him. I said, “Who’s home, anyway?”
He finally looked at my eyes, almost into them. “Mama and papa? Baby boy and baby girl? Whoever the place, they can’t be here. They’ve got to be somewhere behind you.”
“I’m with you now. What about now?”
He tightened his arm around me.
“You’ll be my home. I’ll get very home sick over you. It’ll be a different place when you get back.”