a woman dead for five decades (from a work-in-progress)
The dream was as natural as life. She was there, sitting in a big chair, and I sat with her, my daughter (about fifteen) at my other side. I held her hands with their long cool fingers. She had almost no accent. If the dream had been real life, she’d have been about 120.
We talked. I can’t really remember what we talked about but I was sorry I’d left it so long. I didn’t say this to her but I felt it intensely: if I’d known she was still alive, I’d have visited much sooner.
Holding her hand, I turned my face close to hers. I went to Horni Lomna, I told her, and tears ran down her cheeks. I should have brought you a picture. But those trees…
She said, not as an interruption, but as a memory: those were plum trees. The tears coursed their way down her wrinkled cheeks, water finding a route across dry land.
And spruce? I asked. Spruce, on the road leading to the church?
And is it the Lomna River that passes just in front of the house, with the little bridge over it?
She didn’t say anything.
I put my daughter’s hand in hers. This is your great-granddaughter, I said. But she was thinking about something else, her thin hair pulled into a bun and her house-dress faded. Or perhaps couldn’t see us there in the room where none of the dates fit together – her birth, the trees covered with snow in February in Horni Lomna, the age she was when I was born, my own age when she died, and what would a woman dead for five decades be thinking about in a room with two strangers sitting beside her? Maybe the plum trees by that small house, maybe the weather, maybe the years and what they’d brought, and taken.