I went to mass on Easter Sunday alone. Claire wanted to go, but at the last minute said she didn’t feel up to it. Somehow that turned into me going on my own.
The two most popular masses at any Catholic church are going to be Easter and Christmas. So even if I was in the back row, I was going to be crowded in. I wore a button down shirt but I didn’t have a tie. It was plenty warm so I didn’t need a jacket. I put my hair in a ponytail. That was as “dressed up” as I could get.
Maybe that’s why outside the church a little girl in a fluffy dress ran up to me and asked if she could put a flower in my hair. Because I looked under-dressed? I of course said yes and she put a daisy under my hair elastic. Her parents watched a bit nervously and then she ran back to them.
She and her family disappeared into the church and I followed. I almost forgot to dip my fingers in the holy water font. I did slip into the back row.
Looking around I could see I wasn’t actually particularly under-dressed. There was a range. But I still felt anxious and nervous about being there until the music started. That took the edge right off. After a couple of big hymns, I felt fine, better than I had in weeks. I still didn’t believe in God or Jesus, but it was nice to feel a little bit of calm, even if it was completely temporary.
I did not try to talk to Claire’s favorite priest or anything. Not on one of his busiest days. When mass was over, I slipped back out to my rental car and drove away without talking to anyone.
Later that week came Claire’s move to long-term care. She was a little short with some of the hospital staff as we got ready to move her, but when we were about fifteen minutes from leaving, she flipped a switch and became super-grateful and teary-eyed to all of them, wishing them well and thanking them for everything.
My rational mind says we were in an ambulance, but my memory is that we were in a car going there. Maybe no ambulance was necessary. Maybe I just can’t remember. What I do remember is her saying, once we were on the road, “Phew. Glad that’s over.”
“Glad what’s over?” I asked.
Her goodbye performance, apparently. “I just didn’t want their last memory of me to be what a bitch I was.” She half-whispered the word “bitch” like someone was going to give us detention for cursing.
“I’d be more concerned about your first impression at the new place,” I said.
“I’m preparing myself for that right now.” She closed her eyes and pursed her lips like she was studying the insides of her eyelids.
I wondered what she was thinking. Practicing her greetings? Doing positive visualization? Or just conserving her energy before she had to deal with strangers again?
That night Remo and I slept at the bungalow. We had to clear the place out a few days after, to move to our new place nearer the care facility.
I went and sat on the rocky outcropping by the lake and listened to the wind blow through the trees. In my head all I could hear was the hymns from Easter.
When I got back inside, Remo said, “Let me borrow your guitar. I want to work on something.” I stared at him, blinking, which prompted him to add, “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t have a guitar here.”
Then he stared at me like I had two heads. “I can’t imagine you not having a guitar.”
“I’ve been injured.” I did not bring up the fact that I’d toured the whole of South America with the injury when it was far worse than it was now, supposedly.
“Of course,” he said, and then seemed embarrassed to have brought it up. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault.” I was looking for a way to change the subject when my pager buzzed. I assumed it was Ziggy. Then I looked at the number. It was a Los Angeles number. I showed it to Remo. “Anyone you know?”
“Doesn’t look familiar,” he said.
“Want to hoof it to the payphone with me?”
“Why don’t you drive? You’re not drinking.”
“I’ll come with you if you want the company, though.”
“All right.” I still had the keys to the rental car in my jacket pocket. I drove us up the road to the gas station with the payphone, and Remo went inside to buy boiled peanuts or something, while I called the number.
I reached the voice mail system of an airport hotel. I typed what I’d thought was the extension number as the room number and it rang again.
“Hey, Barrett. It’s Daron.” The air was warm and crickets were chirping. It was late but I don’t think it was midnight yet. “What’s up? You know I’m in the middle of nowhere, right?”
“I know. But any chance you could meet me at the Nashville airport in the morning?”
“Sorry this is so sudden, but I am getting the hell out of LA. I got on the first flight I could, but I can’t reach any of the rental car companies out there. It’s nuts here.”
“Have you not seen the news?”
“No, I’ve been busy all day. Has there been an earthquake or something?”
Don’t ask me what compelled me to agree to pick him up in Nashville at seven in the morning, but I did. After I hung up I went into the gas station where Remo and the attendant were watching the news on a small TV on the counter next to the cash register.
The Rodney King riots had started.
(Huh. I see Megadeth are playing Madison Square Garden in a couple of weeks. -d)