Letter to Stephen

by Ruth Z Deming


Postscript. New development, Stephen. The "coronavirus" is racing like a wild racehorse through our land. If you have any influence, wher'ere you might be, please use it!

It seems like forever since you left us, though it was only in 2014, when your various cancers returned. Unlike me, you had so much to live for, though officially you were a retiree. All those Letters to the Editor you wrote to the Inquirer, always hoping to make this a better world.

The minor debacle happened here on November 5, 2019. It's not over yet. A fleet of white Verizon trucks that look like World War Two submarines line our street. I've taken countless photos of them and their men for my blog.

Would you believe, Stephen, that I was out cold when the outage happened. Was watching Doctor Daniel Amen instruct us on how to keep our memory losses to a minimum and failed to hear the sizzle of the transformer that for days was the talk of the town.

When I awoke and looked out the front window, tree branches and twigs littered the street. The back yard, though, was worse. It looked like those tornados you see in Mississippi and Florida where people's houses are smashed to the ground like pumpkins.

I went out on the back yard deck and stared at the destruction. The epicenter was right next door at the Bill Adams house. I learned that his dead tree had knocked down four other trees, which knocked down his white fence and nearly everything landed in his pool, covered over for the winter.

Stephen, I am desperately trying to make this interesting, so you can see it, wherever you are. My belief is that you reside in my head. I still have your B & W photo in my upstairs office, a handsome man with a slight beard, John Lennon glasses, and a button-down striped shirt.

Do you like coffee? I have made some Starbucks "Christmas" Coffee in my Chemex pot, which is shapely as a woman. And I must confess, I have become clumsy. My sister Donna confirmed this happens to her, too.

Older people. Sheeet!

Every facet of my being was trying to get through the outage until the electricity went back on. Our water was on, but it was freezing.

Can you believe: NO ELECTRICITY as if we lived in caveman days.

Fortunately, my gas tank was full. I drove over to the library, along with 50 other people, and we spent time warming up. Warming our hands as if we'd climbed Mount Everest. My black beret was jammed on my head.

Then from the library I drove over to the Barnes and Noble shopping center. Best Nails was there.

Should I?

I hadn't had a manicure in over five years. You know how it is. The polish chips off and you've got to get it redone.

This polish is, to use my new favorite word, spectacular.

Good Lord, how do you describe a color?

May, my handmaiden, said I chose a beautiful color.

Wine-colored perhaps and shiny as a mirror. No, not the mirror of Snow-White's wicked stepmother.

It wasn't terribly expensive and I gave May a nice tip.

The world, after the outage - which I'm tempted to call "outrage" - was as beautiful as ever. When Scott had three trees removed, I asked Willow Tree Service to bring two stumps from his tall fir tree over to my bird bath. Oh, I wish you could see them, Stephano. "Courage" en francais, for me to ask them.

More coffee please. It must be hot or it ain't no good.

I am lonely, Stephen. My work here on earth is finished. At night, when I close my eyes, often listening to WRTI-FM, the jazz station, I ask myself, "What on earth shall I do to be of value to people?"

Of course I love beauty and often stand outside on the front porch at night staring at the naked sky. What goes on up there? Often an airplane will wing its way through the darkness as stars - those are unmoving - plugged in at the beginning of time - and constellations, all once viewed by Magellan, Henry Hudson, The Lakota Indians, Susan B Anthony and Suffragettes, and aesthetes like myself and boyfriend Scott.

The blue hair? My friend Rem drove the two of us to a Reading Philly's game. I still have the program - oops! - I almost said "pogrom" - on my kitchen wall, the Barnes Museum of Cowbell Road.

These baseball games are mini-versions of the Philadelphia Phillies and offer spectacular views from your seats. All sorts of fun shenanigans occur on the field between innings. And there again is that vast sky that holds all of us, until death wraps us up in its soft arms.

A woman with blue hair sat with her family on an aisle seat. Who knows? She may have been a cancer survivor or simply an adventuress.

The very next day I visited the supermarket and the "hair" aisle. Sure enough, there it was! An entire kit, including gloves, a bottle of dye, which you pour into another bottle, smooth onto your hair in the downstairs shower, look down at the drain - and never think about Janet Leigh in Psycho! - that scene only took 30 seconds - and watch the blue dye disappearing down the drain.

Let me peek again at your photo, Stephen.

This is the first letter I've ever written you.

Your wife Arleen is doing well. We met on a bus trip to view Manhattan's brownstones. My legs were killing me at the end of the day.

But, you know what, Stephen?

That is far far better than being dead, ya know what I mean?

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