- The Church at Yavi
Nan phoned late one evening, a month after the funeral. Like Frank, she was devastated, unable to sleep. Unlike him, she thought something could be done about it.
"I need to go there," she said. "To find out what happened."
They spoke infrequently, and when they did it was never like this-Nan earnest but whispering so as not to wake Richard. Frank thought there was something at once thrilling and soothing about her voice. Listening to it was like finding a way to cheat with the person you were married to. But they were no longer married, and he knew nothing about cheating, and anyway there were so many things wrong.
"I know what you mean," Frank said, but he was reacting to the sound of her words, not their meaning. He felt dizzy, not realizing he was agreeing to join her.
"We can hammer out the details later," she said, brisk and businesslike again. "It's good to know you feel the same." When he placed the phone back in the cradle, it dawned on him that he was going to South America. He didn't want to [End Page 106]
Click for larger view
View full resolution
[End Page 107]
go, didn't see how it could help, but he did not feel manipulated either. She would have gone even without him, yet she'd asked him to come along.
In the morning, while he waited for the alarm, Frank thought about the only other time he'd left the country. It was for a music festival in Montreal two decades before-a birthday present from Nan, who had misjudged his fondness for jazz to a degree he found embarrassing. It had happened because of a radio program he liked to turn on in the evenings: a disc jockey rasping stories about men with names like Bix Beiderbecke and Wild Bill Davidson over quiet and unobtrusive swing. It was one of the pleasures he associated with home: Nan passing him the dripping dishes, their daughter scribbling on butcher's paper at the Formica-top table. The brassy trumpets and brushed snares at the Parc Jeanne-Mance in Montreal hadn't worked the same way. He'd only been agitated by the confusion of French and having to concentrate on the performances and thinking about Sally at the sitter's.
Thinking back on it, though, it occurred to Frank that their daughter must have come with them. He had a recollection of Nan sipping wine from plastic stemware while Sally ran in circles in the grass. In this memory a stout woman in a silk scarf stood high above them on a stage, singing a blues standard incongruous to the scene. It must have been in Montreal. Where else? But when he tried moving beyond the blurred boundaries of the moment, he came up frustratingly short. That would be the trouble now, the remembering and the misremembering, the inability to separate conjecture from truth.
On his lunch break that day Frank had photos taken for an expedited passport, and by the evening he was browsing travel websites, trying to identify the airplane rows with the amplest legroom. Clicking through airbus seating charts in his darkened bedroom, bifocals perched on the tip of his nose, he found it difficult to shake a sense of self-loathing. He got up to pour a scotch and resolved to select an uncomfortable seat out of penance. But by the time he sat down again, this decision seemed foolish.
The matter of what to tell people was a problem, too. He worked for a telecommunications company, and though his department was constantly turning over-thirty somethings moving in and out while he clung to his cube in the corner-his long-standing resistance to taking time off was universally known. His coworkers had fussed so much already about the funeral, and he didn't want anything like that to happen again. So he ended [End Page 108] up lying-something about a week at home to prepare taxes and clean the storm gutters-, the least likely...