After 62 years a person should remember another person’s eyes, no? You’d probably say, “What was so special about my eyes? They were old.” See, your voice, it’s like you’re right here. But not your eyes, which were special. To me they were.
You should see me and Schnitzel moping around the apartment. Tessele, it’s so quiet without you. It’s funny, all the talking we did for all those years, though I could read you without your saying a word. I got used to your voice with me all the time. Even those times when some quiet would
have been okay too. Other voices aren’t yours. What can I say? Not even the kids, who call every day, like clock work. And then there’s the charming Irma Goettle (whose voice made you think Ethel Merman on steroids). She’s
constantly checking to see how I am. The answer is, not so good. Don’t worry, Tess. All of Irma Goettle couldn’t compare with your pinky finger. No, you will never be replaced, despite the scores of beautiful women I turn away night after night. So I talk to myself, like a crazy person, or to Schnitzel, which you might think isn’t so healthy either. Don’t judge. Schnitzel’s good company. She waits for you by the front door, wagging at every sound, including the dainty footsteps of Irma Goettle waddling down the hall. And, truthfully, my heart idiotically skips a beat when I see her tail going. Schnitzel’s, that is, not Irma Goettle’s. Schnitzel’s ears are better than mine these days, so I keep thinking maybe she knows something I don’t. Mostly, I still talk to you. Like you might be wondering about the weather around here or the state of my hip, which isn’t so great since you ask. I miss that voice asking, “Can I fix you a little something. A nice piece cake, maybe?” Funny how you had that touch of an accent ‘til the very end, which was one month ago today, in about 45 minutes, in case you’re not keeping track. The last thing you said, whispered really, was, “Arnie, Arnie.” Remember? I just listened and squeezed your hand, but I was thinking, “Tessele, open your eyes. Just once more.”
Last night I discovered some of your stew in the freezer –with the baby carrots and “top number one grade A steak,” as you called it. Then, hidden in the back of the refrigerator, sat a sad, lonely little dish of rice pudding, with cinnamon and raisins. I wanted to eat it, but, well, it was moldy. Throwing it away caused me pain right in my heart.
Remember when we met? Guys turned to look at you wherever we went, but you didn’t give a fig. Silly girl, just looking at me, always thinking I was so handsome and smart and witty. Which I am, though probably not everyone in the world would agree 100%, aside from the women knocking at the door. No wonder 62 years wasn’t long enough.
Schnitzel and I are wading through photo albums, her paw on my arm as I flip through the pages. Here’s a picture of you on my shoulders at the beach, laughing, your head thrown back; and you with Schnitzel as a puppy, nose to nose; in this one you’re sleeping, just the top of your head peeking out from the covers. I can’t find your eyes in any of them.
Finally! Here’s the one from about six months before you got sick. You’d been reading on the gray couch and glared at me when you saw the camera. Right before I snapped the picture you fussed with your hair for a second and said, “Oy, Arnie. I look like a mop!” Ahhh! There are those eyes smiling at me just the way they did 62 years ago. Remember?
Schnitzel and I are listening to a Sinatra record, like one we played on my Victrola so long ago, your wavy hair kind of stroking my face as we danced. Remember? And whenever you were gloomy or mad, like when I bought you that microwave for your birthday, I would play Frank and motion for you to come dance with me in the living room. Which, admit it, you could never resist.
He’s singing your favorite, “What’ll I Do?” Remember how you called it “Vut’ll I Do?” exaggerating the accent to be funny? I still laugh whenever I hear that song. Well, laugh and cry ‘cause really, vut’ll I do?