I didn’t notice you at first, not even when I held the door open, but as you moved past me with a thank you, I glimpsed your cream macramé top, the one I almost kept when I cleared out your closet. Beautiful. It stood out against the dull T-shirt and jeans, the scuff of that stranger’s sneakers. You disappeared into the store. Passing the shelves of wine in front, I noticed the empty spots that always appear after a weekend. I was at the fountain drink machine, pressing my foam cup, when, suddenly, you were beside me, smiling, asking what kind of ice. Is it crushed? I moved my cup quickly and let the pieces fall, pointed to them. Ah, no, you said. Cubed. But ice is ice. I understood this, standing beside you.
The night of your funeral, I reasoned with every quick glass of chardonnay that as long as I didn’t sleep, I was still living in a day in which I had seen you. I kept only the corner lamp on and stared at the couch where you’d huddled for months under a red blanket, gripping that silver tumbler, crunching ice in your teeth. It was as if you were gnawing your way out of grief.
In the store, you were older than you got to be, and nothing and everything like you, as small as your collarbone under the hospital gown. The macramé a shroud. Beautiful. You moved in closer than you ever stood next to me, and when you said, I love chewing ice, I saw it, the silver tumbler you held out toward the machine. I told you to go ahead, I was in no hurry, because I was standing in 7-Eleven, with my mother. When I handed the clerk a dollar, you slipped out the door. I looked after you—the way I did in the front of the church—longer than you’d ever allow.
Jill Talbot is the author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiction. Her writing has been recognized by the Best American Essays and appeared in journals such as AGNI, Brevity, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Ecotone, Longreads, The Normal School, The Rumpus, and Slice Magazine.
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