I forgot to tell you about the postcards. I got three of them. Only the last of which contains words: Mercy. I want so badly to buy you a cup of coffee. The other two are blank, save for my address and captions.
It's evidence. I know this as the hand that left kindly notes on my breakfast table, wrote disjointed poetry on coasters at the bar. I still have a couple of those coasters. She would start at the outside and work her way in, a maddening, curling snail shell. It was either a Psalm of Heaven or a dirty limerick from the bathroom wall. The medium is the message, if you will; it drove me to drink.
I have spent so long absorbed in Charlotte's deafening silence. Do you remember when she used to say, I'll never join a member that would accept me as a club. Probably not. Do you remember when she used to sit next to you on the park bench and play Let's make up stories about everybody who walks by. She was much, much better at it than you. When you went out to eat, she could guess the names of waiters who weren't wearing tags. She knew among the passersby who had been abused and who was in love and who worked at what demoralizing job. Do you remember when she woke up at night and asked you to get her things, kittens, pearl earrings, and recited poems from memory? I doubted that, too.
She was good at talking, in fact. But she was excellent at silence. Long silences on the couch or in the car, between cities. She told me she had wanted to be a monk; she had wanted an excuse not to talk. It would have become her. She looked most relaxed with her face to the window of a train, drinking in the landscape, looking and listening hard. It seemed her perfect state.
The other thing I forgot to say about the postcards is, One is a picture of a starfish. An informative, printed paragraph on the otherwise-blank back says they are actually called Sea Stars. They are also echinoderms. There is more I should have, but forgot to, learn in high school biology, when our classroom stank of starfish and embalming fluid.
The next is a a photo of two cowboys with cell phones in their holsters. The last, the mercy card, is a photo of Mother Cabrini's corpse. The explanatory paragraph is her holy biography.
My otherwise-iron stomach convulses when I think of these things. I have to tell myself out loud that this is what Charlotte does. There are more metaphors: She isn't music after all, she is a series of soft breaths against a chorus of white, white noise. She would paint blank canvases, write blank pages, and do it in a way that does not smack of black turtlenecks and jaunty berets. It's who she is. Her doing is undoing. She is still undoing me.