She thought for a long time about the various birds she brought to her story in the car. Why had she chosen them: hawk, raven, crane—surely there were more melodious names, more colorful ones. Would Dell’s son have joined in if she had called out other names? No, it wasn’t her words; something else was holding him back. Was he grown-up already and suddenly too shy to speak his mind and let loose his usual parade of the fantastic? She wouldn’t know. In so much of life, our minds are elsewhere. Some one had said that more poetically than I, she thought. I have my dead. That was Rilke. Why did she think of that now? Grief slipped in like a thief, when one’s mind was wandering. I have my dead. Yes. Mine. A collision of losses seeped in, crowding her thoughts. She walked to the windows to see the loons had returned. It felt too early, too sudden. A melancholy came with the draping mist, pulled like wool over the olive water of the lake. One loon preened its black and white herringbone feathers while the other floated silently, two solitary figures in this muted world. The redbud on the shore that once was so brightly pink with blossoms, was now hung with a few yellowing cordate leaves. The locusts next to it had long ago shed their petal-like growth, and once-gilded leaves littered the muddy black earth below like some shrugged off cloak. She turned to tell someone this and only found a dusty ficus, inherited from her mother, that somehow kept its dull life afloat in this still indoor life of no birds, no bees. Who was she thinking she would tell?
She lit the two white tapers and drew a bath. She poured herself a Pastis. How cloudy it was: The drink, the world, her mind. How cloudy and how white: The bathtub, the candles, her skin. She let herself slip into the heat of the bath, smoothly soft the porcelain, like the marble of him. How she had felt the heat, that terribly violent and delicate machinery that ran under his skin, beneath that thin weave of his white shirt, patterned with small red leaves, tiny acanthus. How would it feel to have them drift down over her?