Mary had always been a good neighbour. The kind of lady who never said anything about my walking naked by the window on my way to the shower each morning. When she saw me sitting out back on warm pre-autumn nights, she would wobble over with a beer in her hand and sit down unasked in the matching chair beside mine. A favourite topic of hers was Dusty Springfield’s life. She must have read a biography.
I was surprised one night when a woman in her thirties came sauntering over from Mary’s porch. She shared her mother’s gait and freeness about sitting in other people’s chairs. She never did say where Mary was that night or how she came to be there instead, and I initially feared the worst. But the story she told was not her mother’s, but her sister, Linda’s.
Linda was a pharmacist and fond of the names of the drugs she dispensed. Albuterol, methocarbamol, irbesartan HTZ – they were musical words, magical words, words that stopped the pain. One day a customer came in for some klonopin. He had a girl with him whose Japanese features did not match his own sunburned face. The girl’s name was Lucy, and she was a budding equestrienne, adopted through great beaurocratic struggle, and the man’s pride and joy.
But Lucy’s horse had died.
Nothing the man could do would ease her grieving heart. It was as if her soul had been pinned beneath the horse when it fell, and try as he might, he was not strong enough to pull it free.
What the man did not know was that Lucy was suffering greatly from schoolyard cruelty. The loss of her horse was only a catalyst for her pain and helplessness. In a way, she was glad for it. It gave a focus to her aching and was something she could share with her father when he asked about her moods. For Lucy, no magic words could fill the gap. Linda felt powerless, just as the girl must have felt.
Months went by, and Linda stopped noticing the names of the drugs she counted out. Each was a dead horse in her fingers. Each seemed to gang up on the others. Eventually, she left her job. When her sister had seen me sitting there, she had recognized the sadness in my eyes as similar to Linda’s. That was all she had come to say. That I was not alone.
And then she left me, waddling back to her mother’s porch. I never saw her again.