by Tatiana Ryckman
Tetalita isn’t dead. No more dead than you or I. So why’s Joe all alone in their North Chicago two-story house, with the little dog and the old pillows?
I can’t tell the difference when I ride by on the L.
Tetalita says four years ago, at the first wedding, in her smoker’s voice and thick accent, “What happened to that handsome boy?”
I say, “He was dating someone else.”
Tetalita says, “And aren’t you? Tell me about them.” And she laughs. Under all the tar it comes out a growl. It’s catching.
There was a second wedding, but she couldn’t make it, what with all the dirt they’d piled on her. Joe isn’t alive. No more alive than you or I. It’s like he’s only just taken a breath because I thought of him, still in that house on the North Side with the little dog and the old pillows. The youngest son’s vintage Mustang still under a tarp in the garage. Her bathrobe still hanging. The plastic still covering the couch.
I wonder what Joe does in that house all day; maybe he’s talking, but not to anyone else. They wouldn’t understand: “Chybíš mi. Chybíš mi. Chybíš mi.” He misses her, I guess.
This is what I know about what it’s like to be Joe:
I think it was winter when I wrote this, and I think I was in Vermont sharing a dorm room with a loud and unreliable radiator. And I think that's pretty romantic. But that feeling has permeated this story for me, in that it feels like a memory of which I am fond for reasons I struggle to articulate. I am only now realizing that struggle is quite apparent in the ending.
Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the managing editor of The Austin Review, and her work can be found on Tin House’s The Open Bar, Keyhole Press, theNewerYork, Marco Polo, and The Boiler Journal. Tatiana leads creative writing workshops through The University of Texas, and her first chapbook, Twenty-Something, will be released in August of 2014.