ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife
Book One, Part Two, Chapter 130: Aimless
It’s a Saturday. I get up at two-fifteen in the afternoon only because Joshua’s phone call awakens me. He’s on the 405, and the noise of background traffic almost obliterates his voice.
“This connection is bad, Joshua. Maybe you can call me later.”
After we hang up, I feel bad. He hasn’t called in days, and when he finally does, I hang up on him. Perhaps he feels rejected. I can’t get my connection to Joshua right. I keep trying, but something always seems to be amiss.
I go to the bank to get out my usual twenty-dollar allowance. I try not to spend more than three hundred dollars a month on food and incidentals.
At the dollar store, I buy typing paper. Then I head to the cafe, intending to order the three-bean burrito, but I don’t. Or, not yet. Do I even want the burrito? And which side do I want — the chick-pea and kale soup, or the house salad? Am I even hungry?
I take a seat at the table Ernie and I always sat at and look out the window for awhile, then pick up the newspaper someone left on the table and read that Andy Williams, the singer, has died of bladder cancer. Didn’t he see the blood in his piss?
I exit the cafe, but I don’t know where to go. I think about slumping onto the sidewalk, resting my back against the cafe’s purple stucco wall. Jeanette and I settled here one night, after the cafe closed, to talk another hour. But today smokers are about, and I can’t bear to be around cigarette smoke, so I can’t slump here.
I try to compose myself, hold myself together, but I don’t know where to go. Not back to the cafe. I don’t really want beans or chick peas or kale. And not to the library. Before Ernie died, I liked to take out magazines, but I don’t connect to magazines anymore — not to the glossy photos of fancy interiors, not to the recipes, not to the travel articles — and their self-help columns don’t seem to help.
I don’t want to go to the grocery, either. That’s just work. Who wants to fix another batch of soup? I fixed soups for Ernie and me because they were nutritious, cheap, and easy, but now the smell of onions and garlic makes me remember Ernie’s last few months, when he couldn’t bear the smell of onions and garlic. “Food doesn’t taste good to me anymore,” he said. “I can’t even tell hot from cold.”
My mind hurts. I can’t stand up anymore. I have to find a place to sit.