Once when we were sitting out on the glider, Joe told me he wanted to write a song. I told him he should.
“I’m not very smart or good at stuff like that,” he said.
“Yeah, you are. Who told you that?”
“I can’t spell right. Had a hard time in school. Dropped out in eighth grade.”
“So? What’s that got to do with writing a song?”
We watched a pair of goldfinch twittering over a vacant perch on the tube feeder filled with thistle. A half dozen other fluttering bodies voiced their objection in a chirping flurry of wings. Joe’s boot tapped the wood deck, the glider squeaked forward then back. He wasn’t going to give me an answer.
I tilted my head skyward and closed my eyes. Twitters, chirps, taps, squeaks, glides. I ran my fingers over the dark b-b pellet fragment embedded under his skin by his first knuckle; it’s like bumpy Braille lettering that grounded me in his presence. I liked the way my fingers wrapped around his.
Whenever we sat together on the glider, it put us on the same level. I stretched my legs out farther than his so we’d glide on even ground. But if Joe took on his stomach in-chest out stance, it even made him a hair taller. I wanted to see that. “What do you want to write about?” I asked him.
“Yeah, the tenth.” I liked it when he looked at me like I was stupid, and he did, his blue eyes resembling a kettle lake when the sun beats down on its surface. They suggested I should already get it.
“Why the tenth?” I knew if I pushed him, he’d tell me something good. He always did when he answered my questions with something unexpected and odd.
“September eleventh. Ya know? It’d be a song for the women. Lots of husbands died that day and I want it to be to honor them. Maybe even have something in it about other years.”
“On September tenth?”
“Yes, the tenth. That wasn’t the only year where somethin’ happened on the eleventh.”
He always did this to me. He’d say something that didn’t feel like it made any sense whatsoever then leave me to squeak and glide with ideas twittering around in my head like finch at the feeder, him with the whole picture figured out.
I liked the soft bristle on his cheeks and twisting the dark brown locks looping out from under his ball cap around my finger. We watched the feeders clear and night begin to cool. I laid on his lap, my legs dangling over the arm rest. I let him rock and brush away wisps of hair tangled in my eyelashes.
There were people who may have believed Joe wasn’t smart, and I may not have known what he was thinking, but I knew better. “You really ought to write that song,” I told him.
He answered me with a shoulder squeeze and we went inside to bed, me a curled up like a butterfly, my Joe as my cocoon. He tucked his arm underneath mine then curved it up to rest his hand on my chest.
“I’m protecting that heart,” he said with a pat.
“It beats for you,” I replied.
We never said goodnight.
I woke up the following morning alone. Joe had already left for work, but his pillow still held the scent that’s him, a mixture of cotton candy sweet and spiced cider by the fireplace. It wasn’t the same as my arm resting around his waist, or my own breath mirrored back on my face, but I squeezed his pillow anyhow. And the bird feeders were empty when I made myself breakfast. Not a single finch in sight…
He was right. September tenth would be a good song for those women.