I just listened to a program on NPR about the most memorable sounds from the past decade. You know the sort of thing...the ball dropping to begin the Millennium, a sound clip from President W on 9-11, Harry Potter's voice, a report from New Orleans during Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti...
There were several memorable sounds for me in the past decade. It started with a certain Justice of the Peace saying, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," proceeded through "Mom...I'm going to have a baby," and on to "I got accepted at Cornell College in Iowa," and "Mom, can Aidan and I move in with you?"
But, of course, Dearly Beloved, you know what sound haunts me the most. It's the sound of that shot that was fired three years, four months and eleven days ago. The shot that made me a widow and a survivor of suicide. The shot that killed my dream of love, my hope for age...my very identity, really.
As Rob said, shortly thereafter, the thing I was best at was being Mrs Prior. I'm still Mrs Prior, but it's not nearly as much fun with Mr Prior mostly scattered in the wilds of Virginia. I say "mostly," because there are a few crumbs of his ashes still in my possession. Ashes come in a plastic box, inside a cardboard box. Inside the plastic box is a plastic bag. Unfortunately, in Jim's case, there was a tiny puncture in the bag, and a small amount of ashes had leaked out into the box. I poured out the bag, but didn't notice until later that there was more. Not being really sure what to do with that, I left the box in the trunk of the car, where it has remained for two and a half years.
I remember New Years of 1999. Addy was in the hospital, and refused to let us stay with her to see the New Year in. She sent us off to party. New Years had never really been the same to Jim since 1996, when his father died on December 30th, so we just headed out to the country with a bottle of champers and some paper cups. We parked on a little hill, and sat there, waiting to see if all the lights were going to go out, or if airplanes were going to fall out of the Texas sky...or if any of the dire predictions made in advance of that moment would come true. Reassured, we kissed, toasted, watched fireworks and went home. Jim said it was the best New Years ever.
Last year, I worked on the New Years show at Sam Bass, because the previous two celebrations had not been particularly celebratory. It's hard to be at a party, watching all the couples kissing, when your own kissee is gone forever. It's just as hard to sit at home watching the ball drop, and the other ball drop, and the other ball drop, drinking champers alone. At least, at the theater, I'm among friends, and nobody notices who is or is not being kissed. You'd think, at my age, that such things would no longer matter, but such is not the case. I guess it's true that inside every old woman there's a young one, who hasn't quite got the message the mirror is trying to convey.
One of these years, I'm going to wake up and notice that I've forgiven Jim, but that hasn't happened yet. That shot still echoes through my heart.