Driving west towards Los Angeles on a city street I am marveling at the wind. The Santa Ana’s have returned like an abandoned lover – shedding pine tree’s of their summer dressings. From a stoplight I watch a man gather the remnants of a tattered tree and shove them into a graffitied dumpster. My eyes sting. Sting from my bedroom window that stayed open and allowed the dirt to fly in during the night. Sting from the short walk between my front door and the car.
For no reason, none at all, I think of my grandmother Irene. She is dead, which still upsets me to say. And though I think of her often, when I place her bracelet on my wrist (gold leaves and citron beads), or hold the back of the chair she gave me (60’s paten-leather mustered treasure), I rarely stop and allow myself to miss her. There are just so many people to miss and to let one linger seems too dangerous a decision.
But in the safety of my car, with the wind screaming on the outside, I allow myself a few moments with Irene. Here is what I think on. Her red lipstick. Her hands – how they were always cold, how her fingers were perpetually bent from arthritis and how her nails were at all times manicured. I picture a cardigan – a cream colored one, soft like cashmere, though I doubt it was. A smell settles into the car, a mixture of flowers, a night cream, the absence of fresh air.
She would hate this weather. She would request more blankets. And then more blankets. She would tell me, though I checked already, that somewhere, in some room, a window was left open. I can see every window in her tiny apartment even now and they are closed. I see the glass door that leads to the balcony. The humming birds that gather to sip from her red feeder. The photos on her wall – my brothers and I framed in ovals. I have on a red sweater, a ponytail sprouts from the side of my head. There is her bed, the one from the hospital. There is her couch, brown and covered in doilies and towels. And there her table, stacked with mail and pill boxes.
And now it is all empty. No worse, now it is filled with another’s treasures. A stranger. A stranger occupies that space of ours where I spent disorientingly hot summers cocooned under afghans she layered over me in the night.
A broken tree skips in front of me, the wind chasing desperately after it. My thoughts jump and stop like a needle on a record coming to an end of a long song. I am sweating and crack the window. Again, I am with the wind, with the bare-armed helpless strangers and the streets of my city.