There’s no bridge here anymore.
My mom was so wrapped up in all the other things which have gone missing that she didn’t even notice the dismantling until months after the whole thing was gone, gone away.
We were walking in Prescott Park and she looked up and down and side-to-side, like she was a beagle on the scent of something, lined me and my brothers and sisters up against the waterfront, and took a bunch of pictures as we squirmed . . . and she still didn’t notice it was gone.
We walked down from the park, along the port, to what she persists in calling the “Letter ‘M'” boats–just like she did when we were still young enough for Sesame Street and Barney the dinosaur and she took every opportunity to call out letters of the alphabet.
Like her continuing tendency to call out “Moo cows!” when we pass them on a rural road, it got old before we did.
She took some pictures there on the dock, too, while we fled into the ice cream store and away from camera range.
When we were little the “Letter ‘M'”boats were sandwiched between two corroded mint-green bridges to Maine. Now I guess it’s more of an open-faced sandwich.
When we came out of the store, cones piled with what some ironic person calls “kiddie size” scoops, she was there at the mesh fence with her camera, looking towards the water in a slightly vacant way. But it’s not all that uncommon for her to look like that these days.
We started moving again, more slowly, because it was one of the dog days in August. Among us we could find only one pair of sunglasses before she insisted we get out of the house, and she had those.
And then she started talking about Sherlock Holmes and I realized that at least her subconscious had concluded one of its interior conversations.
“Did you guys ever read about the dog who didn’t bark?” She asked none of us in particular.
One sister and I mumbled “uh, huh.” I’m not sure if my brothers were paying attention. We waited.
“I was just thinking–you know how the bridge horn used to go off every time we were downtown? You’d get so excited–especially you,” she nodded to my brother the engineering student. “And we’d stop and rush over and watch the bridge go up and watch the ships go underneath . . . I haven’t heard that . . .” She turned towards the green bridge that wasn’t there, the one that would have been to our right.
I’m pretty sure she still didn’t see what wasn’t there to see.
This is especially weird because she sees so many things that she knows aren’t here any more. She looks at empty chairs as if my dad were in them. She lingers and picks up, but won’t use, the glasses he used to use to drink from, plunking in a handful of ice cubes and then stirring with his pinky finger. She keeps the books and journals he was reading on the table on the left side of their bed, including a “Killer Ken-Ken” book with a pencil tucked inside, as if he’ll be coming back to pick them up again. I know she’s got his passport and his wallet tucked inside her bag. I’ve seen her take them out when she thinks we’re not looking and run her finger over the laminated pictures.
She notices when a lone small-font apostrophe is abused on a sign, or when there’s a speck of a leaf peeking out from the puppy’s sharp little teeth. Maybe what isn’t there is just too big for her sometimes.