when lawrence died

elouise braxton sunk herself

into the recliner by the window

elouise an always gracious figure

wore a black pantsuit that hugged her figure

tighter than bergman and bogart’s embrace

during the last seconds of casablanca

which coincidentally is the final memory

i have of thursday night movie fest

a weekly event i had shared with elouise and lawrence

for the past eight years

now i stood at the entrance to the kitchen

watching elouise gaze

past the congregation

storming up her driveway

and through an open door

masquerading their stomach’s acidic distress

as each prepared to recite

eloquently memorized words of condolence

in exchange for food and drinks

without a word

elouise politely pointed them to the kitchen

where i had taken a turkey from the oven

and replaced it with barbecue cornish hens

i watched elouise rise

like a high note from minni rippleton

and pace the floor

smiling every now and then

when handed a sympathy card

i watched lawrence’s two daughters

from his previous marriage

ask elouise what were her plans

for their daddy’s restaurant

now that he was gone

elouise rolling her eyes

while sipping a concoction of vodka

and lemonade and pointing them

in the direction of the kitchen

as the youngest one sighed

and under her breath mumbled

“she probably gon sell it

and give the money to a much younger man” 

 

elouise jerked the young instigator by her arm

and when i heard a neighbor yell for mrs. elouise to calm down

i stepped from the kitchen to the door way

i moved no further than that elouise was known to swim with ease

through her own sticky situations

when i saw the girl’s arm in ela’s hand i was sure

the stitching in the sleeve

of the young woman’s dress

had suffered a slight but unnoticeable tear

it had to

under elouise’s grip

elouise stared at her in the eyes and told her

“baby you ain’t woman enough

to tangle with me

now your daddy dead but i ain’t

so if you keep talkin like you talkin

you gon find yourself with a fist

in between your teeth

ain’t nobody

and i mean nobody

do you hear

gon disrespect me

in my own house

now go feed your face”

elouise adjusted the young woman’s dress

and told her how pretty she looked in fuscia

and the young woman walked away

tottering on her very high heels

the young woman’s older sister whispered

“girl you gotta be careful with crazy people

cause they will snap on you in a second”

elouise grinned walked over to the mantel

and ran her fingers across the curve

of the sterling silver picture frame

holding steady the picture

of her and lawrence on their wedding day

as she called to me to look with her

“lynette remember you took this picture

girl it seems like we just married

like we just moved into this house

it ain’t right i’m ten yrs older

why didn’t i have the heart attack

why’d it have to be lawrence

he was fifty-eight-years old lyn it ain’t right”

i excused myself from elouise

i wiped my hands on my apron

and slipped into elouise’s bedroom to find my purse

to take my last glucatrol tablet

worrying about elouise

made me absent-minded

of my own life threatening illness 

when i returned ela had walked

away from the mantel and back to the window

“you see that freshly mowed lawn lyn”

“yeah i see it “

i gurgled between gulps of cranberry juice

and the after taste of chewed medicine

“we were gon plant tulips out there me and lawrence

we even talked about sectioning off

a spot for a garden with tomatoes cucumbers radishes

lawrence loved the shit out of cucumbers

you know” ela whispered

“we never went on a honeymoon “

“what you say”

 i screamed trying to look surprised

i had heard ela tell this story so many times

but i didn’t mind

so when she said we made plans

to go this summer i smiled

so now she said in her sassy ela tongue

“i got two first class plane tickets to jamaica

and i’m one person short

i wonder what lawrence would do

if it were the other way around”

“i bet he’d go” i had stumbled upon the words

like a drunken fool while lighting a cigarette

retrieved from my apron

elouise laughed making conversation with her self

“he probably would go lyn

say lynette don’t you have some

vacation time coming up”

“yeah” i hesitated wondering if elouise was hysterical

all the while trying to run from her wounds

“well you wanna go to jamaica just us girls”

“ela you sure you up to it”

i retorted as if her timing was impulsively weird

which it was

“lynnette i need some time away from this house

from these people

and i’ve decided to sprinkle lawrence’s ashes

along the beach or in the ocean”

ela giggled “just as soon

as i can get these

hungry ass mutha fucka’s

out my house ima pack”

dragging out the sensation

buying time for my mind

to catch up with my vocal cords

i threw in the reverend wilkins clause

my last loophole

what about rev wilkins counseling session

“if you go you gon miss that”

 “girl please rev wilkins ain’t gon tell me how to grieve”

elouisa laughed cautiously between words 

i’m doing just fine

i asked ela if she wanted a cup of coffee

we sat down

me on the sofa

and she in lawrence’s chair

where we talked for hours

as guests stacked plates up to their chins

looking every bit as sorry for ela’s loss but eager to feast

on home cooking that didn’t leave a sink full of loitering dishes

bleeding over onto their own kitchen counters

through it all ela and i talked

about how much she loved lawrence

and about how she wanted him to experience jamaica

since it was all they had talked about for the longest

she laughed briefly when she wondered

how their adopted son lawrence jr.

the same young man who had

taken it upon his manly shoulders to arrange the funeral

how would the dutiful lawrence jr. take to the news

of her hopping a plane to some exotic resort

the morning after his fathers funeral

but she decided it was best

to leave him a letter in his room

i told her lawrence’s daughters would be furious

she looked at me with her half smile

and said “they is lawrence’s kin

my blood don’t pour through them conceited ass veins”

and for a moment i’d forgotten

about lawrence’s death

i saw my friend’s smile widen

we held hands and sobbed

tears of redemption

and after the last uninvited guest departed the premises

me and ela dranked two pots of coffee

and danced to bob marley’s guava jelly fourteen times

by the next morning we were goddesses

ready and willing to take flight among the heavens

in search of peace and solace