The rock pigeon moans and I moan back. He pecks the window twice, fluffs up and flaps off the ledge. The ghost of my mother says, “You scared him. Be gentle.” I sway towards the stove with its burning onions, then hurl a tumbler against the wall, listen to the tinkle of the shards.
Nicole says I have to let go. “Been a year, Xavy. I can’t take it much longer.”
I don ’t know what else to do. I shake the hallway coatrack, watch the windbreaker, the Loew’s ballcap and Mother’s Chanel scarf fall. Again I put the leash on the dog and his tail wags but after the first twenty enthusiastic pisses on signposts he flops down, eyes accusing; he’s done. I tie his leash to the parking meter outside Chuck’s Icerama and walk on. Two blocks later I can’t hear his wail anymore.
I ’m taking twice the prescribed dosage of Celexa and have stopped seeing colors. In a novel I read long ago, the characters cut out their tongues. I don’t remember what they were protesting but the idea is liberating. The pain, though, and the blood in the mouth. I may just stop talking. I don’t need words.
When Mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer she told me to get ready, that she ’s about to kick the bucket. It wasn’t cancer that killed her but a driver who plowed into an intersection. When the phone rang, before I picked up I saw Mother waving goodbye. Nicole sighed. I don’t tell her that I see Mother everywhere, even in our bedroom, when Nicole’s earrings dangle.
Mother liked to tell me that when she was first pregnant, she was carrying twins. “For six months you had a brother,” she’d say, “and then he died and you lived.” I carry pre-birth guilt; certainly The Twin would have been a better son. On my sixth birthday she went into the backyard to blow up balloons and was bitten by a rabid fox. Uncle Frank wanted to take her to the hospital but she said she can fight off any poison by sheer will power. The week Nicole and I moved in together, Mother called to say she is watching a UFO land on her driveway, and if I hurry, really hurry, she’ll take me along.
In our attic bedroom Nicole is belting out “Night Moves” along with Bob Seger while packing her collection of boots. She teeters down the stairs with an oversize box, does not look at me, says she’ll send a cousin with a van for the big stuff. I chew on mint leaves, open my mouth but can’t speak. Mother takes her dentures out and nods from the corner. Her hair is achingly white-gray and her eyes throb with blue. “You’re better off,” she croaks. The dog whimpers, drools into my hand and I reach for the leash.