by Morowa Yejidé
I’ve got to drive up to Ypsilanti this weekend, and it’s got to be this Saturday because the Fourth of July weekend is when they run the specials on the grave plots. I want to get a good one. I want one with a tree, a maple. No, an oak. Rodman has the nerve to tell me this morning, after thirty-three years of marriage, that he doesn’t approve of me going—which is 100% insane because I don’t need his approval to pick out my own burial plot. He’ll be standing there, arguing with the funeral home director about what’s best for his wife, cramming his feelings into long, condescending discussions with the notary public and the attorney. I know him. He’ll be stretching his fury and fears into taut, pronounce-each-syllable words to the insurance representative and the social security benefits clerk. And he’ll do it all without looking me in the eye.
I don’t want to see all of that.
I’ll rent a car myself, and I’ll drive up to Michigan tomorrow morning and I’ll buy my spot at the Ypsilanti Groves of Peace. Done. Then I’m going to dump these damned horse choking pills in the toilet because for one thing, they’re placebos anyway. They didn’t work six months ago, they don’t work now, and they won’t work tomorrow. So I’m going to flush them and tell that ridiculous nurse that she can stop tattling on me to the oncologist about his nuclear-research-waste-away medications. If I’ve got to throw up, let it be from an Atlantic City frankfurter drowning in mustard and sauerkraut, or too much Ben & Jerry’s, or motion sickness on the boat Rodman and I used to sail on late Sunday afternoons.
We used to float together on the lake when the water was crystal in the dimming light, when the sun was melting like a great candle.
I’ve got to get stamps and send my sister Karen a card. I’ll write a little note of apology on it too. Because I’m sure I hurt her feelings when she said that I should stop smoking, now that I’ve been diagnosed, and I said: “What the fuck does it matter now?” That was a low blow, because for one thing Karen likes to hunt and gather all those natural things like mammals used to do in Jurassic times, except she goes to the organic store instead of the Amazon Rain Forest. She’s big on the tofu and nuts and berries, and who am I to judge? That’s just her bag, and she’s never said an unkind thing to me. Not since we were girls, when I wanted to go out with her and her friends, and she would tell me no. And I blew up at her for commenting about the Virginia Slims and offering me a chewable Vitamin C. I lost my cool. But it wasn’t as if I didn’t know what was happening to me.
I just knew too much.
I’ll write a note on Karen’s card and think only of when she was sixteen and I was fourteen, and she had miscarried in the bathroom. I had offered my shoulder for her to cry on, and she had said: Let’s run away. I’ll think only of us riding in the blueness of twilight on the open road, in the station wagon she had stolen from our parents. I had twelve dollars in my pocket and she had a driver’s permit in her purse. We had been free of everything in existence for thirty-five minutes on the New Jersey Turnpike before the police caught up with us. But I’ll think only of the two of us tracing those white lines, with the smoke stacks signaling our exodus, and the grey air burning our eyes and our souls. I’ll think of the fate we thought we controlled for thirty-five minutes when I lick the envelope, when I pin it under the windshield of Karen’s car without ringing the doorbell.
I’ll leave an informed message on the graduate student’s answering machine, Rodman’s mistress. She’ll want to know that after two years of being aware of her existence, I never once feared her taking my place; that years from now, after she’s finished graduate school and started her own family and sat alone with her thoughts by the window, she’ll understand that there are many ways to win and there are many ways to lose. She’ll erase my message after listening to it, but she’ll file it in the archives of her mind. She’ll reference it when the time comes and know that even if Rodman had never happened, I was right.
I’ve got to stop at the post office to send my novel to the United States Copyright Office, with a check for the filing fee. I don’t even care anymore that “One Day” was never published because for one thing, I know that there will come a day when all that constitutional white marble will be chipped away. All that monument stone will just be chalky silt, and somebody will go down in that mile-deep basement and open up my yellow-paged unbound book. They’ll open up the singular edition of “One Day,” and it’ll be just as good a read then as it is now. All about the woman, the heroine, that chose career first, that chose a man first, that chose to have pets instead of children. I’m not going to make a copy of it. I’ll mail the original.
It’ll be the only real proof that I was here.
I’ve got to get that dress I saw at Neiman Marcus: the red one with the A-line. I am not going to be put down in one of those ugly-ass granny dresses with the lace trim and the darts in the front; the kind of dress that you look at and right away you think of tired, muddy women in the Mississippi Delta. They buried Mama in one of those wrecks and I was never able to shake the sight of it. Mama in that sickening paisley sack, surrounded by bouquets of flowers that should have been given to her when she was living. Not me. That’s why I’ve got to pick up some long stems today. And I’m not going to the little florist by the house that I’ve been going to for ten years, just because I’ve known Margaret for ten years. I’m going to the market out in the country. They’ve got the biggest, prettiest flowers out there. All the way past the traffic and the downtown shops and the golf courses and the freeway, to the road that has only two lanes, where the world is small and quiet.
Where I can forget about all of the things I’ve been meaning to do.
MOROWA YEJIDÉ is a native of Washington, D.C. Her short stories have appeared in the Istanbul Literary Review, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, The Taj Mahal Review, Underground Voices, and The Adirondack Review. Her story “Tokyo Chocolate” was one of the ten stories published in the 2009 Willesden Herald Anthology, and was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and three sons.