Friday, August 05, 2011
Women Survive their Men
"Women survive their men."
Ruth raised her head. She'd been focused on some point, miles away, on the table in front of her, and looked sharply at her mother, Anna Goldberg.
"What?" she said. "What's that supposed to mean? Is that that I've to look forward to now? Years without him?"
Anna shrugged. "It's just something I read.”
The two of them sat, in almost-matching black clothes, in Ruth's home. Recently Ruth and Andrew's home. The kitchen table stretched between them, separating them by far more than its three foot width.
Anna shrugged again and moved her hand as if to pat her daughter's arm, but stopped and let it lie in the middle of the table. "But," she said, continuing, "I had you. Maybe it was easier…"
Ruth bristled and Anna stopped speaking. Her hand moved an inch nearer her daughter.
She sighed. "I didn't mean…" She stopped and then continued. "You know what I mean."
Across from her, Ruth closed her eyes for a long moment, then opened them again. She nodded. "I know. I know." Her voice held a lifetime of weariness.
She looked around. Many of the kitchen surfaces were covered with food containers. Leftovers, from the day, a day full of visitors.
"Leftovers," she said, her voice quiet. "A lifetime of leftovers." She looked at her mother. "Is that what I am now? A 'left over'."
Anna opened her mouth, closed it again and shook her head fiercely. "No," she said, "never that."
Ruth's gaze was level. "Then what, Momma? What?" She shrugged her shoulders, the gesture identical to that of her mother. "My career? Throw myself into my work?" Her voice took on a ragged edge. "Or the first bed I find?"
Anna bit back the retort that sprang to her lips, though the emotion flashed in her eyes. Their gazes clashed and held, Ruth's face stubborn. Then, after a short while, Ruth looked down at the table again. A strangled sound, half-sob, half-laugh, escaped her lips.
"I'm sorry, Momma," Ruth said and shrugged again. She looked up. "You know what I mean."
Anna nodded, pain evident in her face.
"You grieve," she said after a long while. "You grieve, as you are doing now, as I did for your father."
The silence grew long as the evening settled into the quiet rooms of the house.
"You grieve," Anna said again, "for as long as you need. Your Andrew was worth that."
Ruth nodded and and placed her hand flat on the table. They sat, mother and daughter, on opposite sides of the table, hands almost touching, and the darkness grew around them.