across these last few steps,
an echo and a chance —
the memory of a song,
the shadow of
She walked out into a cold November morning, not really caring where she was headed.
When she and her husband had arrived at the farm the previous night, it had been dark. When she mentioned she might want to walk in the morning, their hosts had said, “That should be fine. Just don’t climb anyone’s fence, and anywhere else you go should be good. I wouldn’t recommend walking on the ice just yet, though.”
Walking on ice was not a thing she was ever likely to do.
Friends of her husband had bought this place a couple of years ago, and had been after them to come visit ever since. She and her husband decided to go for a few days the weekend after Thanksgiving; her parents having elected to go on a cruise, part of their usual holiday plans were off.
It was about a six hour drive, made mostly in silence. They did not seem to talk much these days: when he drove, she scrolled on her phone and made occasional comments that he would acknowledge by slight movements of his head. When she drove, he pulled his hat down over his eyes and slept.
Upon arrival, he and his friend went straight to the liquor cabinet. She knew he would be drinking pretty much for three days straight: that, and watching football.
The sun had been up for half an hour before she had made her way outside. She walked down the driveway, chose a direction (uphill) and headed off. After about 20 minutes, she came upon a field with a beautiful tree and some tire tracks, largely iced over. She took a picture of it with her phone, then considered who she might send it to. She sent it to me.
Me: That’s pretty. Where are you?
Her: We are up on a farm near Frankfort for three days.
Me: Looks cold, but beautiful.
Her: How is your mom?
Me: My brother is with her now. She has good days and bad days.
Me: So how are things with you guys?
Her: Same. Bad. I don’t know that he ever loved me.
Me: Do you love him?
Her: Yes, or I wouldn’t be trying so hard.
Me: Are you still “in love” with him?
Her: … No.
Me: Call me.
So she did. We talked for about an hour, and I got the details above, and a myriad of others. Near the end of our conversation, she said:
Here’s the thing: I could leave today. I could just end it.
Why don’t you?
I don’t know. I remember a different us. He used to want hear about my day. He used to look at me when we spoke. It seemed like we believed in the same things.
She never answered my question.
I could hear, though, the sounds of her footsteps in the snow, the crunching of boots on leaves, and her breathing as she made her way, whether onward or back I do not know. The sound of a lifetime, years of heartache and hope, captured forever in the immensity of a moment’s reverberation.