She’d lost count of the time and of how far she had walked. Focused as she was on her quarry, her surroundings were a nebulous backdrop: buildings with three walls, corridors that stretched as if elastic, streets that stopped and melted into holes. Inside her head, she was circling but her feet moved relentlessly forward.
Her throat ached from asking the question and her heart pinched from hearing the answer. She had started by asking neighbors, “Have you seen David?” Then at the emergency and drop-in centers, “Has a David Foster been brought in?” The answer, with lowered heads and thin smiles, “No one by that name.”
Then she remembered that in his confusion, her husband might have given his second name—Joseph— the one he favored as a boy. “Have you anyone named Joseph Foster here?” she had ventured. “No, have you tried the police?” Of course she had, first thing.
His wallet was still in the hall drawer so her husband was without ID. If she’d had the time to sew a tag with his name, address and phone number on his clothing, she might have heard by now. Fifty years earlier, she had done that for their son Kevin. She was no longer a good shepherd to husband and son, her lambs at the two ends of life. Her son had wandered off to Turkey where he worked creating something ephemeral with computers. Her husband had drifted into another country, equally unfathomable.
If only David had walked into the nearby woods like he had last time. Then, the sight of his red scarf hanging on the fence post had led her to him. It was his habit now when he got warm to shed his clothes, like a child running towards the sea hurls off his shirt the quicker to dive into the water. Even in winter, if you didn’t watch him, he dropped his scarf, gloves, even his shoes leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the hungry birds. He Hansel; she a reluctant Gretel.
Had the direction he had gone been obvious, she could have called in a posse of neighbors and spread the burden over more shoulders like pallbearers sharing their onerous load. With help, even she, at eighty-five and in failing health, could hold up one corner without stumbling.
Neighbors—few known by name now—assured her “Probably visiting a friend.” He had none left. Anyone who knew his name from the local scandal years ago would smirk, “Probably left town with another woman.” As if he would know where to find a woman.
More probably, he was just drifting along the streets or sleeping rough, wondering why his wife hadn’t made him a lunch as she had for forty years and if she would join him soon.
~ Melodie Corrigall
Published at Emerald Bolts (Ireland). http://emeraldbolts.webs.com/melodiecorrigall.htm