the way it’s told
He meets her in a bar or along the road. It’s raining. Snowing. He has a blue coat. A yearning. A father with the silence and all. A friend of a friend. It happened. He didn’t see her come in. Asked for a dance. Asked for directions. It’s always like this. The distance and the tiny purse. The jazz and the dizzy light. Earlier, the gin fizz. The giggle. He tells a lie. His mother is dead. Or his wife won’t listen. She places a hand on his wrist. Against his cheek. The road is always slick. The snow comes early or it doesn’t. He drives with one hand on the wheel. One hand on the mirror. On her thigh or her throat. She’s distracted. Lives nearby or close enough. When he kisses her. When he leaves her at the gate. When they approach the cemetery, she disappears. She cries. She sets the car on fire. Sets off on her own. Walks right through the gate. It was late and he doesn’t remember. It was dark and her dress was stained. Things like this happen all the time. Her mother is a thin woman with a Polish face. Her mother is dark-eyed and heavy. When he knocks on the door. When he hesitates at the gate. When returns the sweater left in the backseat. He’s shown a lock of yellow hair. A photo. A girl in a white gown, an orchid corsage. She’s smiling or she isn’t. Been gone for years. Just a month. It happened in December. It happened in June. She liked dancing, or smoking, or cussing. She was a flirt. Or fast. Or too shy for her own good. It happened here, or somewhere else downtown. Outside the cemetery or in the parking lot dark. There was a fight and a swerve and the wind knocked out of her. There was a wreck. A tree or a truck. Carelessness. Her name was Anna. Her name was Maria. Her friends called her Mary. No one remembers. She was buried in an unmarked grave. In her ball gown. Or something lavender, tea length. It was all over the papers. I read it myself. Her parents moved away and never spoke of it. Her date swore he went looking for her. Swore he was never on that road. Swore he never saw it coming.