She really hopes she doesn't get his ashes in her hair.
There's all these picturesque poems, anecdotes about scattering loved
ones' ashes. Things meant to be profound, symbolic. Crashing waves,
the sea endlessly ebbing and flowing. Mountaintops with evergreen
valleys, rolling on and on.
But she imagines it's going to be messy.
She takes a car service, the nose of the Buick pointing gently
downward, descending below the river. Into the tunnel.
An initial bit of claustrophobia kicks in. Little bits of
breathlessness roll into flashes of what if: a collapse maybe, a
terrorist-planted bomb. Scenes rush by from apocalyptic movies
remembered bits of news warnings. She focuses on the radio. A familiar, gentle
song they danced to . . . probably four decades ago.
Once, in this tunnel, in those years - their early twenties - she'd
leaned across to kiss his ear, her hand in his lap.
With a raised eyebrow, her then-fiancé raised his brows, his gaze
tracing hers. "Frisky, eh?" He'd said in the feigned Canadian accent
that always made her laugh. And she did. A low, sultry laugh in his
"I want to be on top of you," she whispered.
"Here in the car?" Using his mock-formal, British voice now, his hand flat against his
chest. "In the Lincoln Tunnel? Good God lady, is it even possible?" He
twisted his expression into a haughty scowl.
She smacked him playfully, falling back in her seat. "Of course not
here, silly." She rolled her eyes, feigning indifference, while all the while bubbles of excitement and want flit and flutter in her stomach.
Now, the memory's a runaway balloon, the string just out of reach.
On top of you.
She looks at the tunnel's tiled ceiling. She thinks about the
river above as the buoyant memory slips fully away, perhaps with a
slice of irony.
When the car emerges from the subterranean, she presses her forehead to
the window and squints at the looming buildings, stretched like
morning runners against the blue sky, ready to go. The energy here is as it always was. As it should be, she thinks . . . but still, it hurts.
Against her leg, the urn presses, nestled in her tote.
His ashes, he'd decided, were to be scattered in the city, with his
best memories. Falling in love with her, he said, year after year. A
lifetime of nowhere-to-be strolls. Endless conversations.
At first, he'd wanted his ashes everywhere. A sprinkle in Central Park,
a dash on the Upper East Side, a clump in Soho. A smattering in the
theatre district, at the Met, even in The Village and along the
Hudson. Perhaps a bit in Washington Square.
But then he'd realized how hard it would be for her, spooning him out
little by little, like ground coffee.
"No," he'd finally said, as the end grew nearer and nearer. "Just put me in the river, on
the New York Side. I'll make my way around from there." He winked,
slapping his knee like they'd decided on their evening plans, and he was ready to go. "Yes. That'll do."
He squeezed her hand. "Perfect, eh?"
"Oh honey. You're silly."
"Always will be."
She choked on the looming loneliness and squeezed back.
At the waterfront, she leans against the railing. Tote and purse hang
from her shoulder.
"Still at my side." She mutters, patting the bag with trembling
fingers. She closes her eyes, imagines him. Breezy autumn morning, his
It's silly, she knows. He's already gone. But this last bit of his
physical self, she can't stand to let it go. She reaches in, toys with
the lid of the urn.
With her eyes still closed, she hums, the lullaby of their children.
He'd watch from the doorway, pride welling. For his wife, his babies.
"Voice like an angel," he'd whisper.
She knows her voice was never good, but she sings to him now, eyes closed and emotion welling, this moment a crescendo of the last few years.
And in a moment, the denouement.
The weight of him, in the urn, cuts into her shoulder. But then he's
falling, roughly pulled from her. She opens her eyes.
A young man with a bearded chin and frantic eyes leers. "Give me your bags!"
She's frightened, so frightened, but she grabs hold of the straps
tightly, ready for battle.
"Get away from me!" She growls.
His eyes widen with surprise, but he doesn't relent, pulling, fingers
working at hers, prying.
With everything she's got, she swings, hurling it all into the Hudson.
Wallet, cosmetics, envelopes, loose change rain from her purse.
The tote whirls, somersaulting, the urn slipping from the canvas.
She watches the urn, distantly aware of running. The would-be thief gone.
As if in slow motion, the urn's top plunks into the river. A spray of
white-grey ash arcs into the water like a swan dive, slipping without sound below the surface.