Brenda hands me a slim volume of poetry wrapped in tissue paper. Elizabeth insists on paying for my dinner, delicious pakora curry for which I’ll long when I head west. We don’t embrace; we don’t say goodbye. We say, Happy Holidays. Chatter over dinner mirrors so many other dinners at Chai Shai, different only in that it might well be our last.
But isn’t that always true? I could step in front of a bus. My call over the shoulder as I slip into the Prius could be the only echo that either of them will ever have by which to remember me. The glimmering memory of my face could fade in time, never seen again, never brought to mind by the sound of my voice through the telephone.
Nonetheless I tell Brenda not to say too final of a farewell. I have another week in Kansas City. I’ll be in and out of town for months, finishing cases and visiting anyone who has time for a cup of coffee. I’ll carry the book of poetry with me, as I carry two others. It will get just as dog-eared and worn as the one I’ve had the longest, that of my friend David Arnold Hughes. A newer volume promises similar fascination, a collection by Will Leathem, owner of Prospero’s and a dear compatriot. I zip the bag shut, keeping all that beauty from going astray.
Duty calls this morning, after which I’ll go to Overland Park and sign this house over to its new owner. In the afternoon, I’ll slog away at the last of the packing. My faithful companion, he who has taken away vanload after vanload, will play the piano for me one last time before that, too, makes its way to a new home. We’ll sweep the floors. Then the sun will set on my last night in this house. Already I feel the tears gathering.
I am not complaining. I made this choice. I know it’s right for me. But still. But still. I’ll miss this place. I can’t deny it. I walk the dusty floors and sob. My son grew to manhood within these walls. I found my voice here, in lonely hours, before dawn, on the porch. I’ll take that with me. I’ll find my comfort in the knowledge that without my life here with all of its crooked turns, the joyfulness of my life from this day forward could not be possible.
It’s the seventh day of the forty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.