Sid spoke English eloquently,
wasn’t bad at Russian,
spoke French like a native,
and dabbled in Italian, Spanish,
Mike the tailor, who had a little shop
at the end of a dead end street in
Center City, used to get a kick out of Sid.
If anyone else was in the store, he’d say,
“Listen to him – Jewish boy, speaks Italian!”
Then there was the owner of the Greek
restaurant at 5th & South.
Sid always greeted him with
“Patriota!” and they’d exchange
a few Greek words.
A year after Sid’s death, I find myself
on South Street and want to have
dinner in Patriota’s. I walk by first,
hesitant, wondering if I can take it,
eat in one of our favorite restaurants again,
near the place where we met, in the
neighborhood that held so many memories
for Sid, being his birthplace and his
lifelong stomping ground.
Souvlaki and the scent of Sid’s favorite coffee
lure me in.
Patriota doesn’t recognize me and I hardly
recognize him. He is thinner, older, maybe even
older than Sid was. I smile wanly at him, wanting to say,
“Remember the man who called you `Patriota'”?
But I remain silent.
“Table for one?” he asks, and I nod yes.
After dinner, on the way out, I am determined
I will speak with Patriota as Sid used to.
I will say, “Remember Sid?
Jewish boy, spoke Greek? You knew each other
a long, long time? Well, he died last year.”
But I can’t inflict that cruelty on him.
I decide to let Patriota wonder, as he must sometime,
whatever happened to Sid. Let him think that
maybe Sid moved to Florida,
or even California. Let him ask himself,
could Sid have died? And answer to himself,
Nah! He’s too healthy, too full of life.
MY NEW LIFE
Nine and a half months of
I could have a two week old
self by now,
but the gestation
of a new me
seems to be taking
longer than usual.
Maybe it will take two and a half
years, the gestation period of
the elephant, who never forgets.
When I was with Sid and had to leave to
go out, we would kiss goodbye and I’d
walk out the door and then I’d run
back in again and kiss him again.
This would amuse him. Sometimes
I went back more than once for one
more hug, one more kiss,
and I’d say “I miss you.” “But
we’re still together,” he’d protest.
“But I miss you in advance.”
How silly we were. Sometimes he
used that old Groucho Marx joke.
When I’d say, “Come closer,” he’d
say, “If I came any closer, I’d
be on the other side.”
We both had our quirks – he loved to
quote what he called juvenilia and I
couldn’t get enough of goodbye kisses,
except on the day he died, I didn’t
run back for a second kiss, a third.
On the day he died,
I had no feeling of foreboding.
EASIER IN THE BEGINNING
It’s easier in the beginning.
You won’t think so,
because you won’t be able to eat or sleep,
you’ll lose weight, and when you look
in the mirror, you’ll see someone with
a gaunt and grief-stricken face, for
you’ll look the same way you feel.
Still, it’s easier in the beginning because
people send you flowers and cards and they
hug you a lot. They often say all the
wrong things but it doesn’t matter
because at least they’re saying something.
What makes it easier in the beginning
is all those hugs and a strange thing that
happens to your memory—it gets dim.
As the months pass, time, which is supposed to
heal, slowly returns the sharpness of
remembrance, and everything reminds you
such as the dishes he bought you
because they were special—
his paintings hanging on the wall—
his sculpture, blocking the way to the window—
the furniture he made for you—
the smell of garlic—
the recipe for borscht.
At breakfast, you hear echoes of his
voice saying, how he loved to sit
across the table from you.
Now, you squeeze your own juice and
stew your own prunes, things he, who
pampered you, used to do.
Sometimes you’ll walk around your apartment
Sometimes you feel as if you have the
pain he felt as his heart gave way
in that last moment.
It’s so much easier
in the beginning
because your survival instinct keeps you going,
as you drive alone through the hills of Manayunk
and keep up the car payments.
It gets harder because you don’t want to be
alone anymore, but you don’t want to be with
just anyone; you want him back. That’s when
you remember exactly where he is now
and you know that is impossible.
Rosemary Cappello is an artist and poet. She is the editor of Philadelphia Poets.