The Bust

Someone asked what the background picture to my blog was. I thought it was obvious. But then I looked at it more closely—from an outsider’s perspective. Seriously, what the hell is it?

I think it was an attempt to resuscitate the dead through the living. Instead, it was a reminder of what I wanted and what I couldn’t have.  In the photo, it sits ready to burn in a fire pit. Only it was too windy that day, and there had been no rain. I threw it in the pit anyway. Covered it with some clumps of dirt and gave it a dead bouquet. It was my way of moving on. I had wanted it to be some dramatic, engulfing fire, melting shimmering blue beads. But moving on isn’t dramatic like that. One day you wake up and realize that you don’t need relics of the dead. They are in you.

I remember Rhiannon laying on the carpet in her underwear, gooped up with Vaseline as I placed moistened plaster cloth on her body. That’s what you see in the picture. A plaster cast mold of Rhiannon’s bust, decorated in a celestial theme with blue beads and silver paint. Those were the days when I think we understood each other more; not that we talked, because that really wasn’t Rhiannon’s style. I did the talking. She would half listen, grunting in response as she simultaneously chatted on Yahoo messenger.  She was silent and emotionally distant unless you got her drunk, and it took more than a few shots to get her there.  I never saw her cry, not even when Emery died.

I had expected Rhiannon to be like Emery. Emery was born first; Rhiannon 6 minutes later with the cord wrapped around her neck.  Their mom didn’t know she would be having twins.  It was 1978, and the doctors always heard a slight echo when they listened to the heart beat. They blamed it on faulty equipment until Rhiannon came out second.  They were together for the next 23 years—inseparable shadows of each other, speaking their own language.

Rhiannon and her three cats moved into Crooked Tree Apartments with me in 2001. That is how I came to know Rhiannon.

“Is that the last box?” I asked Rhay.

“Think so.” She peered into her car window.

A neighbor approached us.

“Hey, you doing alright?” He directed this question toward Rhay.

Neither one of us had ever seen the guy before. He must have noticed the confusion.

“I’m the one who found you on the steps,” he said.

Oh god. He thought she was Emery.

“That was my sister,” she stated evenly. She looked a little grey.

“Oh. I’m so sorry.” An awkward pause. “Is she alright?”

“She didn’t make it.” Rhiannon was trying hard to control her voice. She focused on the cement.

The neighbor guy didn’t look so good.

“Was she diabetic? Was there something more I could have done?”

 “There’s nothing you could have done.” I assured him. “Nothing anyone could have done.” I repeated more to myself.

I wondered if he too would relive those moments on the stairs, asking himself what more he could have done or what if he would have gotten there sooner. I never saw him again.

Perhaps I had forced a continuation of my dream onto someone who didn’t want it.

One day I was pulling the vegetables out of the crisper, and I looked at Rhiannon’s face. After living with her for so many years, I didn’t really see Rhiannon. I had this image of what she was supposed to be and stopped really looking.  Maybe it was the new light in the kitchen or the angle as I stood up from the crisper. I noticed that she didn’t have any dimples. I looked at one cheek and then the other.

 “What?” she asked.

 “I just thought that you had a dimple.”

  “Nope.”

  Emery had had a dimple.

 

 

 bust3

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