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.


  1. Such a swirl of emotions to this: pain, grief, hope, love, the chasm between mother and daughter, between generations. You can pack so much into a slice at a table... Beautiful!

  2. "The kitchen table stretched between them, separating them by far more than its three foot width."

    That sums it up nicely.

  3. @Laura - thank you for the comment. From the writer you are, I really appreciate what you said.

    @Tim - I was happy when that sentence made itself known. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Emotionally charged - nice work, really get a feel for how each one is feeling

  5. Oh so full of emotion, pain and a sad emotiness. One understanding how the other is feeling, and the other not totally understanding how she feels.

    Very nicely done.

    Helen - from helen-scribbles

  6. This is so emotional, so much grief and pain! Very strong piece.

  7. Your dialogue is perfect: unfinished sentences work well when there are difficult things to say, and when the characters know each other so well.

  8. @brainhaze - many thanks for the comment. Glad the emotion came through well.

    @Helen - "One understanding...the other not totally understanding how she feels" Thank you for picking up on that. I'm guessing the understanding thing is a question of time. Glad you enjoyed it - and thank you for the tweet also.

    @storytreasure - thank you for the "very strong piece". Glad you enjoyed it.

    @flyingscribbler - Other than the first line, which was the opener for me, the dialogue took some work. Mostly paring away nonessentials. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I could really see this one in my head. Excellent work.

  10. I appreciate your skill at paring this down to what it is. Such an evocative title--it could have gone in so many directions. And it did. This hinted at so much more.
    Well done.

  11. @Icy - Glad I could paint the picture well enough. Thanks for the comment.

    @pegjet - The paring down I'm sure that's the word I'm looking for. Glad I left enough to still bring it home.