Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Smith Street Tuesday afternoon. I walked out to do some shopping; house-bound with flu for three days, I needed to stretch my legs.
It's the only time I have left my butcher not smiling. Tony, in his white coat, was on the customers' side of the long counter and he chatted to me for a long time. His back is bad, he is bent double. He's always kind to me. The boots I was wearing made him want to talk about horses, and I left much later with images of his pet horse who would let no one else on her back, of his bombed house, of the animals that 'the soldiers' shot and ate, of the girls and womenfolk molested, of their father and husband who lost his mind, and the town of Monte Cassino that he never wants to see again.
It was 1944, he was 14.
War is terrible, he said. There was not more I could do than listen, he didn't need to be cheered up, and who am I to say something bright like, you're safe, you're here, when I have not seen what he has? He did not want to be cheered up, he was thinking of other things, other people.
Later on Court Street, and then on Atlantic, I bought Honey Crisp apples, parsley, carrots, cashew nuts, and carried them home to the dark apartment, where the warm lamp light revealed walls that were still standing, a sleeping cat, a working stove, and a terrace of quiet, cold plants above which much later several flights of geese passed, still flying south.