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So Much to Learn


Harry Buschman

(With poetry by T.S. Eliot)

 "And so you are going abroad; and when do you return?
But that's a useless question.

You hardly know when you are coming back,
You will find so much to learn." *

She loved to visit New York. She loved the Waldorf, the city seemed like a wonderland to her, at least when Fred was alive. They lived up-state in Tuxedo then and when he brought her with him to New York City she found it a place of magic -- a living metropolis with a heartbeat all its own. So much different than Tuxedo. Excitement seemed to be waiting at every street corner.

Now, she wasn't so sure. Light people. Dark people. Strange languages heard on streets that she couldn't remember the names of. Strange food in strange restaurants. It was different now.

Well, she wasn't going to stay long.

>From her window on the twentieth floor of the Waldorf she looked down at the cold gray street. Gray people, their hands thrust deep into their coat pockets slouched along Park Avenue, each of them leaned into the wind and occasionally withdrew a hand to pull a hat down tighter -- then quickly put the hand back in the pocket again. She closed her eyes to bring back the vision of the warm days in Ibiza where people walked, not to get somewhere, but for the joy of walking in the sun.

She thought of the warm nights too; but that was another story.

Then she called Myra. She hadn't seen Myra since Fred's funeral -- that was ... she had to think a bit ... four years, wasn't it. Yes, precisely four years. Myra's divorce and Fred's death almost coincided. Was it easier for Myra going through her divorce than going through the death of a husband? They were essentially the same thing; there are more bad feelings in a divorce, more things left unfinished -- and the nagging thought that the bastard was having a better time with someone else than he did with you. In either case you can't have them back -- somebody else has them now.

She wanted to tell all her friends about Rosario, especially Myra. Myra knew what it was like. Three months after her divorce she was dating -- and bragging about it. No sitting at home in the dark for Myra -- no telephone calls to friends in the night just to hear the sound of a human voice. Bernice knew what that was all about. If there was a difference between a widow and a divorcee it was the solitary confinement of widowhood. Her son Tommy was away at school with 3000 kids to keep him company; she'd call him for no reason. Then she'd apologize because there was no reason for her to call. He'd be patient, but he'd also be anxious to say goodbye. "I was just on my way to the library, Ma -- what's up ..."

"So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul Should be resurrected only among friends
Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom *

Myra looked as though she had been to ibiza. Her tan was deeper than Bernice's. She looked as though she'd been to the hairdresser too. "Tell me all about it," she asked. "There's a sparkle in your eye -- what's Ibiza like anyway?"

"Simply wonderful."

"People don't usually say, 'simply wonderful' about vacations, Bernice. They say that about honeymoons."

"Well they'd say that about the beaches in Ibiza. They're wonderful."

"I suppose you went native in the middle of all those hairy Spaniards."

"Naked on the beach? But of course."

"But, I mean -- you know, weren't you the least bit ...?"

"Myra, it's a question of anonymity. They didn't know it was me and I didn't know them. You just don't register. Of course, if you're with someone you tend to notice things."

"I don't know about that," Myra bristled. "I don't think it's that easy. You're there, they're there. You're both bare ass. How can you be anonymous?"

Bernice sighed. "I brought the pictures with me. Would you like to see them?"

"Of course!"

Bernice opened the first page of the album, cleared her throat, and with a gloating coolness, began a monologue that started with her arrival at the airport in Barcelona and detailed every moment of her stay. She left out things along the way, not because she forgot them, but for the moment at least, she wished to keep them to herself.

"I could have flown there from Barcelona, but Rosario talked me into taking the ferry. It's only 9 hours."



"Rosario. You said Rosario conned you into taking the ferry. Who the hell is Rosario."

"Oh ... I met him in Barcelona. That's he in the picture. Standing at the rail ... I met him in Barcelona."

"That's him, huh," Myra said with an innocent smile. "Somewhat younger isn't he?"

Bernice ignored the smile and turned to the next page in the album. "We met at an art exhibit in Barcelona just off the Ramblas, it was Velasquez -- you know -- the great Spanish painter."

"What were you wearing?"

"A blouse and slacks. White slacks. The blouse was a flowered silk -- oh, and shoes -- espadrilles. Why? What difference does it make?"

"Oh nothing, I guess. I suddenly remembered how we used to go to exhibitions in the Village -- when we were both on the make -- slacks that looked painted on. Clown make-up."

"I was not on the make, Myra. I just happen to adore Velasquez. It's much different when you see him in Spain."

"Why was he going to Ibiza?"

"Who, Velasquez?"

"Come on, Bernice -- Velasquez is dead. Why was your caballero going to Ibiza."

"Oh, Rosario you mean. He's a painter too you see ... his exhibition was opening in Ibiza ... at a place called Eulalia." She sighed. "Isn't that a lovely name for a town, Eulalia? He had his paintings with him ... that's why he took the ferry."

"Well," Myra sat back with the photo album in her lap ... "you seem to have set this thing up before you ever left for the island, Bernice. Why was it so important you go with him? What went on in Barcelona?"

"I told you. I met him at the Velasquez exhibition."

"Admire the monuments,
Discuss the late events,
Correct our watches by the public clocks.
Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks." *

To her annoyance Bernice suddenly felt the need to explain. "Myra, I know you can see he's younger than I. I know that -- I found it out the hard way."

Myra closed the album and looked at Bernice with a touch of compassion. "The hard way?"

"He's seven years older than Tommy. I found that out too, before we started out for Ibiza. I'm Tommy's mother, but that's something I didn't want to remember -- not then."

Bernice took the album from Myra and walked to the window. She looked out again at the hunkered down people tacking into the wind along Park Avenue. The light was fading fast, some of the cars had turned their lights on. The flags jutting from the second floor windows along the avenue were being pulled back inside for the night.

Suddenly she couldn't remember why she asked Myra to come over -- she thought it must be something about accepting the passing of her years, giving up finally and watching Tommy grow. Being a grandmother before too long. What happened back there in Ibiza? He was so gentle, so eager to please. Fred was like that -- maybe she wanted Myra to understand that. Something had gotten the better of her, something in the air, maybe the water. Whatever it was, it wasn't with her now, she must have left it there.

"Well! and what if she should die some afternoon,
Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow
and rose;
Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand,"*

*from T.S. Eliot, "Portrait of a Lady"


Harry Buschman 2003

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