"Garden View, Hacienda"by Patricia Mae Young
Skye watches the smoke curl up from Tony's cigarette. She should be glad he's back, right? That's what everyone's been saying all week: "Skye, aren't you glad he made it back? You're one of the lucky ones." Tony lies on the black vinyl couch in their darkened living room, his eyes open, staring at the ceiling, smoking and not talking. Not talking at all.
No, he's not back. It's still last July and they are laughing. Tony always makes her laugh. "God, you should've seen the ole lady's face when I said we had'a get married." He traces Skye's hair down the sides of her face, then runs his thumbs along her lips. She kisses them. "Ma had to go with me to the courthouse to sign for the marriage license. Yeah, I'm a man. Old enough to go to war, but still gotta have ma's permission to marry. I can fight but not vote. Shut up kid, shoot that gun and don't ask why..."
"No! Tony, you promised. We aren't going to bring it up again. Maybe if we're married and we say I'm pregnant, you won't have to go. They don't need you like I do." Skye gave him a fierce hug. "I won't mind a baby, not as long as I can keep you."
"Come on Womaaan, we got plans to make! It's party time!" He blows her a kiss. "Hey, let's order a cake. Should we have Ripple or Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill?"
Tony's ashtray slowly fills up. From the doorway into the kitchen, Skye watches the living room fill with smoke and silence. The small living room she decorated so carefully while waiting for him to come home. Square and clean with hardwood floors and cream walls wearing posters of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. An orange paper poppy is twirling from the light bulb in the center of the room, dancing without music. The room is quiet now and Tony only wants to listen to Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" but he won't say why.
Talk to me Tony. Finally she says it out loud. "Talk to me, Tony." No response. "Hey Tone, let's go out. Everyone wants to see you."
Skye gets up from the kitchen table and walks over to him on the couch. "Let's go party! You're home now. It's time to have some fun."
He takes a deep drag from his cigarette, pinches it out to make sure no trace of fire glows, and closes his eyes. "No."
No, he's not home. It's last August. They are newly married and can't stop talking and touching each other. Tony hasn't even left yet. Skye cries because being married isn't keeping him out of the army, and the baby they counted on, never started. He runs his hands through her hair, twists it into a knot and says, "This is the golden lasso of Wonder Woman, and I have to tell the truth, I'm crazy for you. I'll be back safe. Don't ever cry for me, promise?"
"Come on, Tony, people die at home, ya know. I've sat around bored and scared for a year now, I wanna have some fun." She is leaning over him, her long blond hair hanging like a veil between them. He brushes the hair away. The same hair he never wanted her to cut. The hair he used to say gave him visions when he stared into its glow. "People die in Viet Nam too," he says, and closes his eyes.
"Aren't you glad he's home? You are so lucky to have him back." That is all Skye hears. Everyone wants to know what he has to say. "How was the war?" Their friends want them to come out. "We haven't seen either of you for so long. 'What've you been doing all year?"
She has been following the war.
"... The Government released its latest casualty figures today ..." Listening to reports like that. Praying Bobby Kennedy would win, then watching him die. Then wanting to vote for Hubert Humphrey. "Hey Tony, who is everyone in your unit going to vote for?" Finding out that out of 1000 guys, only three are old enough to vote.
"Who gives a shit," he says.
Skye, the name she uses because he said it was the color of her eyes, and he would see her and love her as long as there was a sky. But the jungle was all leaves and stink. Now he won't even leave the house, just stares up at the ceiling.
Skye lights a candle and puts it in the wine bottle on the kitchen table. Like all the other furniture in the tiny apartment, she has antiqued it avocado green. She even antiqued the old black and white TV ,the one on which she watched the live coverage of the war. Daily, in her own living room.
"...The Government has released its latest figures on casualties ..."
In the living room the smoke is rising and forming a pale grey wreath. A wreath of ghostly flowers to lay on the grave of--what? She watches the candle smoke rise and mingle with the cigarette smoke, white and grey.
She gets up and goes to the fridge to get a bottle of Ripple. "Tony, you want some wine? Anything?" She hears friends saying, "Hey man, I bet you're glad he's back. Now you can get on with your lives. You are so lucky." Yeah.
"Tony, talk to me, please!"
Tony smokes with his hand cupped carefully around the coal of his cigarette. He can take a cigarette out of his pack without a sound. He smokes Kool's unfiltered because not so many guys bummed them. He laughed when he said sometimes a guy got wasted for his cigarettes. Wasted?--God!
Skye reaches for the deck of cards on the kitchen table. The edges are worn and the numbers are beginning to fade from a year of near constant use. Automatically she deals out another hand of solitaire. When Tony gets home, we'll go out. I want to go to a movie. Go dancing. Party with friends. Make love.
"Aren't you glad he's home?" they all ask. Skye tilts her head to the right; her long golden hair shrouds her shoulder. She studies her cards, sighs, and takes a sip of wine. As the smoke rings circle her head the tiny hairs on the back of her neck rise, just as though the memory of a gentle kiss had been placed there.
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