The Skeletons and their Music 3
The Connolly family home is only located a couple of miles from the beach. The women lived comfortably during childhood with regard to material provisions. On the other hand, they lacked the contentment that only children have under a dedicated marriage. This problem is too common; the couple succumbs to their own desires and egos. James and Anna lived like this, forgetting their identity as a couple for the care of children and their independent interests. In their final year of marriage they separated on account of James’s drinking. The relationship became more than the habitual background. It was unbearable. Anna refused to admit this change in her social status. In her eyes a divorce or separation signified an epic failure. Without a doubt the people entering marriage together are not the same with the passage of years. Alcohol only made the situation worse.
The sisters arrive to a house scattered with James’s clothing and trinkets. Combing through someone’s things they have left behind is strange work. In death, we shed our possessions like a skin. The tactile stimulation in running one’s hands over these things is both a foreign and familiar. We remember the clothing someone wore, sometimes mixed with unfamiliar mementos. The combination of it all the artifacts put the former life on exhibition. James never put much value on material things, and therefore the task is not as tedious as it potentially can be. Nevertheless, it is overwhelming as each piece is a reminder that this is the tangible and inanimate part that remains. As they sort through Jame’s items, Erika, Jen, and Anna are discovering what items are sacred souveneirs, capturing the essence of James and which can be discarded. They are also learning this experience is subjective.
Jen fixed her attention on the floor plan and decor in the house. She confesses to herself how she avoided this place since her matriculation to university. Her time here consisted in holidays, or days of some significance, or short visits. “Contrary to what Erika believes, my life is not perfect. I am das in this house; sad and remorseful.
She regrets lacking the psychological and emotional strength to spend more time with her father. She confesses to herself that when she left home, she thought it a triumph. To see the abandoned domestic life, she feels cowardly.
“Before the alcohol, he was a dedicated father. He learned to make French braids, and sew hems in ballet costumes.”
But Jen could not adapt to the tumult of the recent years and she left.
“Jen, come with me to the garage. I have some furniture there you might make use of.”
Jen has forgotten the fact that James lived alone and had some basic furnishings in the apartment. When he evacuated for a nursing home, Anna employed a moving company and contained the furniture in her garage.
She follows Anna downstairs
Alone, Erika passes by a blouse of her fathers.
Trying to establish a fishing charter from his boat, he designed shirts with the name Fishtales, embroidered in the chest. Fishtales was the name of his last boat, and naturally the shirts were employed for advertising. She grabs the garment, too large for her to wear in earnest and gives a smile as she raises it upward.
Talking with out loud at the encounter “I have to keep this.”
Some minutes after, while she prepares the oven and cuts vegetables, she hears Jen’s voice and steps approaching the kitchen.
“There is no organization accepting such donations nearby? What I mean is a second hand store. Dad had good taste and I imagine that he spared to expense with his furniture.”
“Exactly, he never skimped on anything and for this reason I prefer that you make use of such items and not a stranger Anna replies.
Considering their conversation on the beach, Jen thinks about revealing her sister’s desire for independent living. Indeed, Erika without furniture of her own could capitalize on such an offer. Just as Jen becomes aware of the solution, Anna observes Erika in her culinary tasks and decides to keep that sofa, bed, and mattress for her. Erika in ignorance of her inheritance cannot even gaze upon the collection in the garage. She has the image of her father, scratching himself, dirty with sweat, hugging a bottle of vodka imprinted in her mind. The same mattress and bed were in the apartment with twisted sheets and the distinct smell of a person lacking the ability to bathe.
Jen and Anna make the table while Erika finalizes the meal. The women sit and Jen changes the subject of conversation. She mentions a party at the Odyssian yacht club. Patrick’s parents have a membership and boat there. The culture and atmosphere here are entirely distinct from the experience at Orient Heights whose clubhouse consisted of a trailer.
“We will celebrate the launch of their boat and other boats of the members with music and food. I checked the forecast and it will be a spectacular day for a ride in Marblehead harbor.”
The Crane family represents the typical demographics in The Odyssian. To gain membership here it is not only enough to have money, buy one also needs to descend from the Anglo-Saxon dynasty in the area. Anna asks if Jen would consider Erika’s company for the festivities.
“Yes” Jen responds with detectible reticence.
“I am unable to go. I will be sleeping”
The answer is rehearsed. Erika is opportunistic with her employment as it provides her evasion of social engagements. A hospital never closes its doors and the work schedule leaves employees separated from loved ones as they gather for celebrations. In a family grappling with frequent chaos in the home, missing holidays and birthdays for work reasons is not seen as a sacrifice, but rather a relief. For it was days soliciting celebration that made the burden of alcoholism heaviest to the Connolly family. With the overnight shift, Erika has to schedule her sleep during day hours. Anna, James and Jen neither understand, nor understood this alternative lifestyle they liken to Dracula. Anna tries to portray her admiration of Erika’s vocation, but this schedule frustrates her. She frets that her daughter’s deviation from normal professional life prohibits a secure life with a husband and children. Jen feels alleviated that Erika, with her frankness would not be in harmony with the Cranes and in this instance, her refusal is appreciated.
Anna is content with the visit with her two daughters. Managing household tasks without a companion is not the life that Anna imagined. In her mourning and solitude she becomes anxious. She asks Jen to chauffeur her to familiar places. She asks Erika to stand on watch while should she need to go into the basement or attic, giving the reason that in the event of an emergency in either location, someone would need to call an ambulance. Both daughters feel the weight of the irrational requests in conflict with the obligatory guilt. Jen manages asserting her independence with obligation. Erika typically accepts whatever task or assistance is requested of her. She knows that in exchange for a free room, one needs to contribute. She volunteers her time and money to the food shopping, meal planning, and cooking, as well as landscaping. In reality, this began gradually as she matured and James grew more debilitated. As the relapses returned with more frequency and strength, she assumed more and more responsibility in the home and in caring for him. At thirteen years old, Erika was easy to manipulate and gullible. She became the perfect enabler in addition to a sympathetic and well behaved teenager. James celebrated her driver’s license by having her drive him to the liquor store. He celebrated her turning twenty one by having her buy him alcohol.
When the kitchen was in order, Jen collected her cell phone, purse, and rain coat.
“When will you come back?”
Jen dwells on the threshold trying to escape.
“Soon, I promise.”
With her departure, Anna and Erika return to their routines. Anna sits in front of the television. Erika sits at the piano. Melt with You, by Modern English rests on the music stand. With a sigh, she starts to play, moving her hands upon the keys. The truth is that Erika is hardly a musician. Music theory is a mystery to her, and consequently she plays without accuracy of the timing. Music, especially live music enchanted James. He begged Erika to play. Like James, she appreciates music and enjoys playing it despite her lack of talent. Distracted with the events of the past week, she strikes the keys not without error. She reads the sheet music, frustrated, pauses and focuses her attention again. Reading the notes with the words and feeling the emotion behind the sing she shakes off her dissatisfaction. Moving forward using all my breath…..she continues from the beginning.