ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife
Book One, Part Two, Chapter 131: The Highly Irregular
I must find a place to sit, a place in the shade to compose myself.
I start up a short alley, a stone wall running along its right side. I’ll sit atop the stone wall. But as I approach, two dogs behind the wall rush up, barking at me. I can’t stop here. This is their wall, their yard. Where to go? What to do?
I leave the alley, turn right, sit on shaded steps leading up to the stone wall’s house. The dogs can’t see me here. I put my hands over my face to hide my confusion, my despair.
I can’t face my life. It’s too gruesome without Ernie. It stretches forever without Ernie. I have no clue what to do. How do I stop the pain of not being able to see him or talk to him or help him? Or have him see me, talk to me, help me?
I get up, start walking. A poster on a telephone pole tells me there’s a street fair down the way. I decide to head there. But will my energy give out before I reach the fair? I didn’t eat much of my oatmeal, and I didn’t eat anything at the cafe.
I finally reach my destination. Police cars barricade the start of the street, and balloons blow atop bales of hay. But no one’s here; the fair hasn’t started yet.
I head back. Couples holding hands, talking to each other, pass me. “Be nice to each other,” I whisper to myself as they pass. “Be nice to each other while you can.”
While I walk, I whisper and mumble and talk to myself.
I’m beginning to recognize other irregulars who regularly pass me on my walkabouts, and one of them also talks to himself. No matter the weather, he wears a long olive-green raincoat and plaid scarf over a dirty shirt. Ernie would have nicknamed him by now . . . maybe The Highly Irregular. He looks like a character out of John Kennedy O’Toole’s The Confederacy of Dunces. Maybe he looks like John Kennedy O’Toole.
I’ve never talked to myself before. Correction. I talked to myself as a teen. I talked to my reflection in the mirror. Does that count? But now, I have to talk to myself. Or talk to Ernie. But he may not be listening. And he can’t answer me. I can’t bear this. I really don’t think I can bear this.
Bella says: “You think you’re the only one who’s ever lost people they’ve loved?” No, I don’t think this. But I do know I’m the only one, besides Joshua, who’s lost Ernie, the one and only Ernie, and I can’t find him ever again.
Am I slowly going crazy without him? “Pull yourself together, Ernestina,” Ernie would tell me. “Think straight.”
I don’t know how to think straight. I don’t know what to think. I don’t even know if I’m crazy. Crazy people wouldn’t know, would they?
I am so confused. Who will help me? I need help.