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That Last Night

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When we walking the endless flatness of Business Spur 495, footweary days growing shorter in the crisp Vember air, Soledad keeping company with Driver and all my littles complaining cause they ain't like sleeping rough. O how they miss the foods we grown, the lectric light, beds cosy and warm. When Massa woods giving way to old evacs, oak trees stretching tall and bare into the cold wintering sky above stands of balsam fir, now and again a child gathering purple chokeberries and gaping at us Sengles and Lowells marching by.

When we met by them Panish-speaking Marianos, climbed into their driving cars move faster than any horse could run. When I see New York in all its grimy splendor! Could drop Lowells a thousand times over into any single burrow, be like a raindrop lost in the reservoir. Never thought I see nothing like Las Marias, no way, but there I be -- postle to the new Maria. Only trouble is, I got to pretend she ain't the Ice I loved since the first day ever I saw her face.

When we settled in high partments in that noisy burrow while Ice pretend at being something she ain't, Maria and virgin. When she try to nestle in my bed and I send her away, fearful what Ambrose and them others might do, they catch her goating when she s'pose to be pure. When I sick with fury thinking on Ice with that roo she call hers, how she lean on him, light her cigarette from his, order they cocktails on the phone -- what my feary magination tell me they doing behind closed doors.

When I courting sly Felipe for Ice Cream Star, let him know we know his unmurder sin.

When she on her way to Quantico to convince they children on truce with Marias (and I tell you true, they gonna like that about as well as the Marianos do) for the sake of a cure might not even exist.

When children say she on her way across the Lantic on a boat to parley with them roos, our protector fierce and furiose.

All those times and others too: sure I think on that last night. How not?

When I sleep and when I wake and all the times in between, I think on that last night in Lowells. Last night my life look the way I spected it to be. Last night of home, all our hallways ordered, every role filled. All my children safe, the Lowell turning our turbines, o what I wouldn't trade to hear again that neverending sound. Lectric light gleaming bell over the diner, gleaming bell over the glassed-in rows of papa and tobacco, gleaming bell in every glazy window we salvaged or replaced with shining tin.

But nothing gleam as bell as my Ice Cream Star.

She ain't mine -- I know this true. But that night I let myself magine otherwise.

Can't describe this, not rightly.

It ain't bout bellesse, tho no child sides Ice take my breath away so. Like when I a six, before Lowells, when my Sengles was still mine, tryin to run or climb or carry and my throat closed with wheezing. Like that, but ain't like that atall. Ain't my body struggling to draw air. My heart, understand, struggling to beat. Ice Cream Star hold my wanting heart like a wounded bird and ain't even know it. Was ever thus.

And then that night she push open my sleeproom door, say she got business with me, when what she mean -- what she mean make the even the wisest of business look mally. She finally mean yes. Yes to what I been asking since ever.

In Lowells I been a king, but Ice Cream never cared about that none. If she'd have come sooner, I could have given her everything, but that don't matter to her neither.

That last night -- be almost like a papa tea memory. Washed soft around the edges and every craving sweetness too sharp to be real. Thinking back on it, my chest be flooded even now with a queery mix of wantings.

Want to hold her close. Want to kiss her breathless. Want to watch her soar, even if she go where I cannot follow. Want to send a runner to shout from the rooftop I the lucky child get to know what sounds she make pinioned on my fingers, splayed for my tasting. I the lucky child get to swallow those sounds. I greedy to swallow those sounds. Ain't want nobody else hearing that, never.

What I want don't matter none, but that night I let myself magine otherwise. Sure, I think on that night. That one night I magined Ice Cream Star could want me.

I told her I be loyal, and she laugh. I told her I be jalouse, and she change the subject. I told her I love her vicious, and she lie: she say she love me too.

Nay, maybe no lie. But ain't the only truth neither.

Posies coming for me, sure as rain. Be only a year away for me now, less she come back with that cure. Might as well come back from the dead: that's what I'll be, by time Ice Cream Star cross the salten sea and come back again. Most children say she ain't coming back, but they wrong. She like a story already, a tale from before the posies came, but I know truth. Ain't no one else can do this thing, but ain't no one else like Ice Cream Star. The fours and fives, the eights, they gonna live to be thirty like her damn roo. They gonna live forever, longer'n we can imagine, a full three lifetimes and ten.

My eyes be closed by then. I be feeding next spring's crocuses.

But when it's my time to follow the Mayor who came before me into time that ain't time, I'll think on that last night. I'll remember them softest sheets, and the sound of the turbines, and Ice Cream's body over mine, giving me every impossible kindness of yes I will yes tonight yes. I'll remember that last night in Lowells Mill, when I got what my heart most ever wanted, and be content.