The Burial of Mrs. Charles D. Jackson
by Barbara Diggs
You sit alone on the sofa in the smart black suit and flared skirt you picked out months ago, when you saw the writing on the wall. Children and grandchildren surge and recede, leaving objects before you like sacred offerings: A sweating glass of iced tea. Crayon drawings of you and Granddaddy Charles. A plate of ham hock-seasoned collard greens, your presumed favorite. You like collards fine, but they were Charles’s favorite, never yours. Still, you’d made them every Sunday with three dashes of habanero sauce and a spoonful of brown sugar, right up until the day he clamped his lips and turned away.
Black-clad women gather like a plague of grackles near the kitchen doorway. A daughter, a daughter-in-law, two nieces. One glances over her shoulder at you as they whisper. They are waiting for you to fall apart. A biblical show of grief; a little hair-tearing, some breast-beating would befit sixty-one years of marriage. Yesterday, you overheard your son saying he wouldn’t be surprised if you went soon after, and you wondered if there was no end to the world’s expectations of a woman.
At the graveyard, you’d dabbed your eyes. A commitment fulfilled is as worthy as devotion. But now, you’re thinking of the ripe cantaloupe someone had placed on the kitchen counter. Charles couldn’t bear the smell; you hadn’t bought one in decades. You rise from the sofa with crepitating knees. A storm of concern erupts, but you decline offers of assistance. You prefer the gossamer swing of your skirt, the honeyed scent of melon to usher you forward.