“The wedding of history with the coffee we drink in our ever shrinking days awakes our need to reinvent love.” Etel Adnan, Night (2016)
Here is a rough draft, below. Five hundred words, on the subject. Elizabeth may embark on the final journey. If she dares. Return, recapture, reinvent. An idea.
Kathryn was quiet. She had seemed unusually tired all week. Said she might be coming down with something. But she continued to clear off the table, make coffee, feed and encourage her friends. But quietly. She shook out the woven placemats, crumbs in the wastebasket. They sensed she was holding thoughts back. Maybe a cold? Perhaps. An excuse, if she needed one.
Kathryn spoke, her back to them. Or she began to speak. As if. To no one. Or to them all. Billy or Newcomb or Hollister. Or just Elizabeth. Or to an author, trying to craft Kathryn’s mind, its whereabouts. Kathryn. The woman. The source. Anchor, and refuge, the gentle warmth and open arms. Solid welcome. Without complaint or criticism. Suddenly tired. Or certain. Afraid they might not understand. Or listen.
Kathryn placed her hands on the edge of the sink and stared into the gray water and began, then stopped, shaking her head. Soap and spoons and forks. Orchestration of cleanliness and pleasant freshness from smudges and flecks and smears. Easy to fix. Stainless steel. The past welled up in her. The years. The memories. Her friends. Her own children. The dreams. The past.
“You remember every bit of it, don’t you?” They looked up from their thoughts. Then at each other. Kathryn was speaking to the dish pan. Or to the cabinets. Or the ceiling. “You recall every bit. Your story. Each day, fleeting thoughts woven fifty or sixty years ago. How things might have happened. Or did happen.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Your story.” Elizabeth cleared her throat. A piece of a word escaped.
“No, Elizabeth,” Kathryn said. “Your story. Your book.” She turned from the sink. Eyes glistening wet. Swollen lids. “Your story. Almost gone. It’s ninety-nine point nine percent true, but you want the one tiny piece which you lost. Or about which you know nothing.” She stared at Elizabeth. “You can’t find it in the past. That man in the shadows. Or that woman. The joy you might have had. Maybe a moment.” She shook her head and closed her eyes. “Or forever, if you could have caught him! Or her.” Elizabeth had never seen Kathryn’s tears. Never, she thought. No tears. Ever.
“But it was what I knew. What I remembered,” Elizabeth said. She felt her own tears. “I was trying to make sense. I wanted to know.”
“But honey,” Kathryn said, “you can’t find it there.” She drew in a long breath. “Not in the past. You have to make it. You have to rewrite it. In daylight and touches and embraces.” She smiled sadly at Elizabeth. “You have to create the life, honey.” Elizabeth slumped in her chair. “You have to rewrite it,” Kathryn said.
“But where would I start? It’s too much. The story was fifteen years. Or fifty. To write it.” They sat in silence.
“Maybe Rita knows,” Billy said.
“The letter,” Hollister whispered.
“Or your mother, Elizabeth.” They stared at Billy.