A Song of the Past: Twenty-nine

Table of Contents

Thrust and Parry

In the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies for the trade
And though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway

-- John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Penny Lane”

Saturday, 8:30 AM
Hours later, Deirdre woke with a start. The sharp pain of returning awareness stabbed through her head like a knife, and her forehead was beaded with sweat. A gray light seeped in through the beat-up, tan shades. Where was she? She looked around and saw Juanita sleeping next to her. Christ, what had she done?
She wanted to just slip away, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She had to wake Juanita up. She gently shook her shoulder.
Juanita stirred. Her eyes, bleary and bloodshot, peered at her from under heavy lids. “Good morning!”
“Juanita, I have to go. I have a lot of work to do today.”
“Hmmm. Give me a proper good-bye.” Juanita stretched out her arms toward Deirdre.
Deirdre, up on one elbow, bent down to Juanita and hugged her lightly. Juanita wrapped her arms behind Deirdre’s neck and pulled her head forward. Juanita kissed her, and her tongue, tasting of alcohol and cigarettes, went into Deirdre’s mouth. Involuntarily, Deirdre recoiled.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m just, just a little confused. I’ve never done this before.”
“And how was it?”
“It was grand, really. But I need some time to think.”
“I understand. Call me—tonight if you can.” Juanita stroked her cheek.
Deirdre gave her hand a squeeze, then got up and hurriedly dressed. She waved to Juanita, still in bed, as she went out the door.
It was only half a mile from Juanita’s apartment to her own, so Deirdre walked. The previous night’s storm had passed on, leaving the crisp air smelling of autumn leaves. Somewhere a leaf fire burned. Wet leaves were plastered to the sidewalk under her feet. Two kids played catch with a football on a lawn. Yale would face Harvard later in the day—the neighborhood was alive with tailgate party preparations.
She reached her house in ten minutes and ran up the stairs to her apartment. She flopped into the armchair in the living room and put her feet up on her footstool. Folding her arms around her torso, she began to cry softly, bitter tears of self-pity and self-loathing. She had thought she was falling in love with Chuck, but she had slept with someone else -- and a woman to boot. Did it make a difference that it was a woman? Well, it sure made a difference that it wasn’t the person whom, just a day before, she claimed to be falling for. Was there anything she to which she could remain true? Was there any line she wouldn’t cross?
Disconsolate, she placed a CD on the stereo. It was a song she had listened to many times before, and it suited her, she told herself, it suited her quite well:
I hear you are singing a song of the past
I see no tears
I know that you know it may be the last
For many years…

I guess only women in cages
Can play down
The things they lose
You think no tomorrow will come
When you lay down
You can't refuse

Will you still have that song to sing
When the razor boy comes and takes your fancy things away?
Will you still be singing it on that cold and windy day?

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