Simon pushed back his flannel sheets, sat upright and gingerly tested the cold pinewood floor. His wife Mary would never have forgotten to return the rugs after a wash, particularly in these frigid months. But Mary was gone now, and Simon forgot all kinds of things.
Try as he did to grasp every lingering memory, the fruit of forty-one years, it disturbed him how easily these pieces of himself slipped away. The scent of orange, cardamom and cinnamon in the kitchen each December. The way Mary would kiss his chest in the wee hours of the night. And Simon’s truest vision – Mary in her studio, grooving to Marvin Gaye and the Commodores while she coaxed canvas to life. How Simon loved to watch her working the tunes and working the oils and brushes.
When Simon built Mary’s studio in the grove behind their two story craftsman, he designed the double french windows in the precise spot allowing him to see her from his own nook in the corner of the house where he wrote. He explained to Mary how the windows needed to go just there to catch the afternoon light, and he never confessed his ulterior motive for the architectural feature. Simon was as true a man as ever there was, but he also believed every romance needed a few fiery secrets. So for decades he watched her and he loved her.
Their marriage was indeed a romance, born of toil and tears and common love: a steamy courtship, a grey decade, children that tested their mettle, years where they feared the entire dream would crumble, and then, catching them both by surprise, a second courtship steamier than the first. The entire story was grit and passion and, to be sure, harsh days they planned to one day forget. But they were wrong. There wasn’t a single day of their life, not one – not even the darkest, to which Simon did not cling.
But now Simon was cold. And now, five days after Christmas, the house was barren again as the children and the grandchildren had returned to New Hampshire and Seattle.
Simon dressed, his standard denim shirt and Mountain Khakis. He set the coffee to brew and stoked the kindling in the fireplace. He fried two eggs and toasted an English muffin. He read a bit of Merton and a few chapters from A Place on Earth. Then Simon stood up and dampened the embers.
Steaming mug in hand, Simon walked across his backyard. The bright sun warmed his face, and the snow crunched beneath his boots. He unlocked the studio, turned up Marvin Gaye. For the next hour, Simon studied canvas after canvas. Content, Simon settled into Mary’s leather chair and peered out the french windows. It was only a moment before he began to chuckle, shaking his head. Simon had a straight line across their yard to the desk where he made his living wrangling words, a full view of his swivel chair and his shelves of books, his framed map of Yellowstone National Park. “Well, I’ll be,” Simon whispered. “I’ll be…”