His face was hard-set, the wrinkles etched in like carvings on a stone, conveying no emotion. Emotion was something he threw away a long time ago. Grayed, thinning hair was combed over to the side atop his balding head. He wore glasses too, an old pair of black, horn-rimmed frames, sitting bent on his large, crooked nose. From behind those pieces of glass, a pair of gray eyes stared into nothing. They had been blue, once – full of life and joy and spirit – but the long, hard years had dulled them, extinguishing the light that once twinkled there.
I had a dream last night. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was driving to church with the windows down. It was nice and bright outside, the trees all a-blossomin’ and smellin’ sweet; but nothin’ sweeter than her sweet perfume.
She was sittin’ in the passenger seat up front, right next to me, and I could smell her sweet perfume – roasted apples and honeysuckle – just like I could all those years ago. I was so nervous, I could feel my heart racin’ at the scent, the idea that she was in the car right there next to me, letting me take her for a picnic sent chills up my spine and bumps down my skin. It was our first date.
This was before the war broke out, when everything was happy and peaceful, before those damned Japs blew us to hell.
Like I said before, we were on our way to the hill on the edge of town for our picnic, singin’ as we drove along through the neighborhood. Her voice was pure gold, the sound of it makin’ me smile as I tried to stay in tune. I was never much of a singer – couldn’t hardly carry a tune in a bucket – but Delilah never cared. She liked it when I sang with her. Said it was like our voices were comin’ together and dancin’ in the air. She was good with words too.
Next thing I know, in the dream, we were sittin’ on the hill, gazin’ up at the stars and the bright full moon. We must have finished lunch by then, and then got lost in our conversation. I was never real good at talkin’ with people – I preferred to just mind my own and do my own – but with Delilah it just came easy. We could talk and talk and talk and never know how long it’d been ‘til one of us asked the time. I remember one time we were caught talkin’ behind the church durin’ the service, because I said somethin’ that made her laugh so loud she interrupted the sermon. We both got in trouble, but it was worth it to hear her laugh. She always had the prettiest laugh… but I’m gettin’ off track again.
Like I said, the stars had come out, and the moon was shinin’ big and bright in the sky, and we were layin’ down on the quilt her grandmama made her when she was a little girl. We stretched it out to eat on, and now we were stretched out in it, me layin’ one way her layin’ the other, our heads touchin’ together in the middle of the quilt. We did that so we could whisper to each other and still hear as we pointed out different shapes in the stars. I never knew any big constellations, and neither did she, so we would make up our own – kinda like pointin’ out shapes in the clouds. Only I wasn’t pointin’ very many out. She was doin’ all the pointin’, I was too distracted by sound of her breathin’ in my ear, the feel of her check against mine. She must’ve noticed, ‘cause she rolled over and stared down at me, which made me gasp a little bit because the moon was right behind her and it made her golden hair glow in the night.
A tear rolled down my cheek.
She asked me what was wrong, if somethin’ was the matter. I just smiled. Reachin’ up, I curled her hair behind her ear and told her what I had been wantin’ to tell her since we were ten years old.
“You are so… beautiful.”
She kissed me that night, on our first date, my sweet Delilah, and I remember feelin’ like jumping out of my skin with joy and just wanting to melt with pure happiness. I remember it lastin’ forever. But… but in my dream, the moment her lips touched mine, she vanished. Like she was made of dust, the wind suddenly blew her away.
And then I fell. The whole world went blank, and I was fallin’ into nothin’ until BAM! I hit the bottom and woke up. I shot up straight in my bed, the sheets were soakin’ wet. I reached up to rub my face and felt tears. Afraid to look, but needin’ to anyway, I turned to the right and let out a sigh.
I was alone.
Ploppin’ my head back down on my wet pillow, I stared at the ceiling, makin’ shapes with the little bumps that were spread out like stars, cryin’ till I fell asleep.
My poor Delilah; withered and dead.