“When I was thirteen I desperately wanted to be a doctor like my father,” Irie whispered to the woman sitting beside her.
“I know, I know, you’ve told me that a thousand times.” Evelyn touched the younger woman’s face lightly. “But are you sure you want to go back there after so many years?”
“Oh shit, sorry. I always bring that up don’t I?” She took a sip of her coffee. “I just feel that I need to have a stronger connection with my childhood home. After all, I haven’t been back since I was thirteen.”
“Well, I think it’s a bit late to try and relive the past, don’t you think?” Outside the French door panes the sky was darkening. The Sound was still visible. The choppy waves created a virtual seasickness being so close to the isolated dock.
“It’s just, at my age, I just I need to find my roots. I need to find a part of myself that I left behind so long ago.” Irie hauled her bulky frame from the chair and stood looking out the rain splattered windows.” I guess I’m being a bit maudlin but going to Great-Aunt Esther’s funeral has made me a bit introspective. When I was young I was so idealistic. I had all those visions of greatness. I was going to save the world. Remember when we were all going to go off and join the Peace Corps like JFK wanted us to do, marry an equally idealistic man and raise fine children.” She sat back down dropping her considerable bulky frame into her favorite Stickley armchair.
“Hey girl you want to smoke some weed? I brought some with me.” Evelyn reached into her oversized purse, rummaged around and pulled out a little box, a pretty pale blue pipe and matching Bic lighter. “We’ll consider this a medical marijuana moment, shall we,” as she filled the pipe with her favorite herb of the week. It was named “HeadBand,” because when she smoked it she had deep, intense thoughts.
The sky outside was almost black, the heavy curtain of clouds obscuring any remnants of light. The waves disappeared replaced by the reflection of the two women in the rain speckled panes, softly illuminated by the soft orange glow of the two old fashioned kerosene lamps Irie had lit earlier.
The pale, sweet smelling smoke exhaled by the two women filled the small-enclosed porch. “I guess it is because my dad was almost unnaturally handsome in my eyes. He was so tall and had those beautiful grey eyes.”
“Oh Irie, but you are just blinded by what nonsense you want to remember. Me being your older cousin know a whole different Dr. Thomas Browne.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I never told you before because I didn’t want to blow your expectations.”
“You were always so naïve and sheltered growing up. Your mother was always acting the part of the sacrificing mother to protect you and of course to protect herself. She wanted a gentile life. She didn’t want any strife or discord. But you never knew anything about how life really was.” Evelyn looked over at the incredulous face and felt sorry for her. “It was your mother who kept up the front for your sake.”
“What exactly do you mean Evie? You know my father died right after my thirteenth birthday. My mother in my estimation was cold and calculating. It was my father who was warm and kind.”
“Little cuz, that’s so typical, a kind of reverse Oedipus Complex. Kill the mother and marry the father. I thought you were so much smarter than that.”
“Well cuz, if you are so smart you better tell me the real story. I’m thirsty after that pot. I’ll open some wine.” Irie pulled herself up from the chair, ambled into the adjoining kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of St. Michelle Riesling. She returned to the porch with the bottle, a corkscrew and two wine glasses set them down on the table and uncorked the wine.
As she was pouring, Evelyn said, “I don’t mean to hurt you but since you opened this particular can of worms you better know the truth before we go.”
“Wow, I can’t tell if this is going to be good or bad. Here, let’s toast to the truth.” They touched glasses lightly. Evelyn re-lit the pipe and passed it to Irie. The two cousins blanketed from the back by the warm lantern glow and the absence of light in the front, paused in reflection for a quiet moment.
Evelyn took a sip of wine, ”Your father, Irie, was a great man, yes. He was very handsome, very light-skinned and had beautiful grey eyes. When his family emigrated from Barbados they settled in Mississippi. Your father went to Meharry Medical School in Nashville and became a very respected surgeon. He married your mother and went back to the Shelby area to be a doctor to the poor farmers there. Your mother had fallen for his good looks and his sweet talking ways. I don’t want to diminish that aspect. He was a fine doctor and a great asset to that poor community and they loved him in return, literally.”
Irie sat up in her chair her eyes now open wide. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“What I’m saying is, when we go back for this funeral look closely at the people around you. You’re going to find quite a few people younger than you by at least thirteen years who look a lot like you.”
“What are you saying?
“I’m saying you are going to meet dozens of sisters and brothers light and dark skinned, with grey eyes. That’s how he died. A heart attack brought on by his prodigious program of impregnation.
When Irie stood up she knocked over her glass of wine, the reflection of her mouth, agape, filled one of the darkened windowpanes.