The gods pinged me again. They had no sense of decency, coming in right there on the outside steps of the Rotunda just before my son walked me down the aisle at his wedding. I turned and saw the reflection of us standing there in the glass door. I saw us clearly. I saw us from where the gods saw us from way out there somewhere. That’s me, in the long elegant black dress, hair all done up around my head, one hand holding my son’s arm and the other dangling a black shawl, like a child holds a blanket. We look alike. Both tall, both slim. Then the ping. It suddenly seemed strange that the cells of this 6’2” man spun off and popped out of my body and ended up standing next to me as a full grown man, irreversibly tied to me, no matter what.
They’ve been after me all my life, those gods. I don’t know what I did, but it must have been something big. They are determined I must go through life backwards. Maybe they thought I had it too easy. Maybe they thought I had too much life, that I saw too much good in the world. Or maybe they just thought I was shallow and needed to learn a lesson or two.
But I’m here, at this wedding and I’m smiling while this man, this man the gods forced through my body at 18 and out into the world, before either of us were ready, is saying his vows today. In spite of the gods watching us.
And I see his hands, the pigment gone white, in irregular lines, that look like drawings of continents against the darker skin. And now the nails, warping at the base. His tux is a little too big now, with the weight loss, the tiny incision holes over the kidneys hidden. But he looks fine. He is fine, still.
Even the grand matriarch on the bride’s side, the grandmother, caught me in the bathroom and said “We just love Calvin and are glad to have him come into the family.”
I said, “He’s only on loan.” She didn’t know what I meant with those words.
And they look fine, he and his radiant bride, later at the head table, smiling and laughing, so beautiful, so full of promise, so ready to do the marriage and children scene, all the way till. . . . I can’t say the word.
He found the right one. I feel a mother’s love toward that.
I said my speech. “You want so much for your children, you want things to go right, to be easier for them. And with these two, I think they are they lucky ones who have it all.” Or something like that. Tears well up in my voice and I stop. People clap for me and I sit down. I should be feeling wildly ecstatic right now, that they married their best friend and it’s going to be a good marriage, but that just makes it worse. Bastard gods! I’m mad and getting more mad by the minute.
I mean, what were the gods thinking? They dropped that boy on me before I even had a chance to get out there in the world. They stole that from me, my youth, my choices. But I got over it. And now, when I’m getting older, they’ve come to steal him back before I’m gone? I mean what the hell? What’s the point? For god’s sake, can someone please tell me what.they.were.thinking?
I must have been mouthing some pretty good swear words, in the middle of this beautiful reception because soon Mae, tall Mae with black braids and feathers at the end trailing down her back, came up to me and grabbed my arm.
“Come on Maggie,” she said and pulled me toward the door. I quietly let her lead me. As we passed tables, Janice stood up and joined us. Then Linda, and Maria and Sookie. We stepped out of the glass room, into the darkness and headed down to the amphitheater in the small lake.
All six of us, in our beautiful dresses and high-heeled shoes, wine glasses in our hands, crossed the bridge and stepped onto the circle of grass where hours before the vows were spoken. We lined up in a row. Six beautiful women, aged 36 to 56, strong women. Each of us had been pinged by the gods, as a mother or sister or wife, all of us angry at the gods at one time or other. We stood facing the lake under clouds tinged pink from the huge lights coming out of the glass building behind us.
Our heels sunk deep into the earth.
Then we gathered a strong breathe, and howled. We howled, again and again, more and more, at the top of our lungs, the sound skimming across the lake, shaking up into the trees. Six she wolves, snarling and snapping back. And as we sunk deeper into the earth, howls of women past rose up through our feet, filling our bodes and shaking our chests, their voices joining ours in our throats. And with one final voice, we pinged those gods back with a howl from every woman past, present and future.
Then we were quiet.
We waited as our howl released into the sky and out of sight and the lake became just a lake and the trees just trees.
Mae looked at me. She was talking to me without words, but I could hear her say “you all right now Maggie.”
I drop my head into one accepting nod, our cue to pulled our heels out of ground and make our way back to the glass building.
(c) Copyright Shelley Maasch, All Rights Reserved