By Maddalena Beltrami
In that brief moment of twilight, where the thoughts are as random and as powerful as can be, I think I have to tell my mother what happened to me.
The thought is so real that when I awaken a few seconds later to the realization that, “you can’t, she’s dead”, the force of the sadness and longing takes my breath away. It’s happened on occasion during the 16year interval of her missing, but I marvel at the magnitude of it this morning. These reckonings between the dusk and dawn of sleep have become stronger not weaker in the years gone by.
I want tell her about my falling. I want to tell her about the very first trip I’ve taken completely alone in my six and half decades of travel. Five days in Dublin. The first post pandemic tiptoeing out of the cocoon we all had to create for ourselves. What if I fall and I can’t get up? That old commercial for the button contraption they want us to buy when old and alone, had spun around my head for several days before my trip, half in jest, half in dread.
My son, upon hearing of the fall, said I put it out in the universe and that is why it happened. He is a firm believer in manifesting one’s fate. I, on the other hand, have always thought the universe was a random thing and it simply manifested it for you, with no real interaction required other than to recognize the sign posts along the way. My son believes you create those sign posts. In my newly created life, where I am totally alone surrounded by too many people, I chose this solitary trip, perhaps, to test my mettle. Another girls’ trip was out of the question this time, both by logistics and desire. O those trips! The bane of the single for their mandate, but O so relished by the coupled women for whom a choice it always is.
Four days were spent in careful walking for more hours than I imagined possible with my poor gait. The last night. The concert is in a beautiful, ornate Victorian building with uneven steps and no modern day accoutrements like an elevator. The tiny toilet is down an even more uneven set of steps, with odd sized landings after each one. I navigate my treads with care upon the first attempt. I am in the mezzanine and my seat is not the usual one on the aisle, as is my preference, to manage what I like to call my trapaphobia. It is two seats in. I eye it with trepidation and remain in the bar for the opening act, delaying the inevitable as long as possible.
I can do it, I think, but first, one last trip down the tiny passage to the tiny toilette. The first elongated step escapes my mind completely this time and I fall in two parts, the second requiring an usher and a medic to attend me. And so they do, by carefully depositing me into one of the beautiful boxes that hang on the side of the stage in tiers and my tears take me to the second level with a glorious view of the show. I share it with two young men; one a fan, one a curious new onlooker, both complete strangers.
I manage the return to my room and my country with the question still unanswered. My sleep renders me with the deep desire to ask my mother. Is this life of created singular, solitude truly what my heart desires or is it simply the result of cowardliness? Do I truly not have the fortitude to enter into a long-term contract, whereby, there will always be someone to take my hand whenever I have “fallen and can’t get up”, or is the price too steep to pay now in my advanced years? Should I, instead, take my chances at falling in foreign lands alone and thus continue my penchant for forging relationships of sumptuous, secretive sensuality devoid of the mundane menu of milk toast and mortgages. I am no closer to the answer and my mother is no longer close enough to ask.
Maddalena is a former wife, Federal manager, PTA President and C-19 contact tracer, current mother, music reviewer at botheringtheband.com and fledgling writer. She has had her work published in The Grit and the Grace Project, Grand Dame Literary, ChangeSeven Literary Magazine, Inside Wink, Harness Magazine, BobDylanPage, EDLIS Café, The Monologue Podcasts, Sad Girls Club Literary and Fauxmoir. She was born in Italy, raised in New York and calls Los Angeles home along with her two sons.