Zelda’s Lament: F. Scott and the Priest
Eddie had moved into a downtown condo sublet right out of an eleven month stay at an institute for patients with dual-diagnosed psychiatric problems, because he was making some bucks and the state decided they needed the bed so they could get another commitment for another twelve month dole out from the feds. They accused him of making the place a free hotel for the last two months, forgetting that the treatment plan was for three to four months working in the outside world before being unleashed on them. He tried to get into a cheaper garden apartment style place, but that required references and a credit check. Eddie could get over the first, a few close friends stuck by him through his fuck-ups, but the credit couldn’t be covered by any such like financial institutions.
So Eddie took this sublet from a very enticing Cubana woman, reminding him of calmer days in the tropics years ago, who was about to marry Eddie’s mirror image, if Eddie had walked the straight and narrow and listened to his elders rather than his elder’s teachers, such as James Joyce, Bernard Malmud, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. They also didn’t want to start off their marriage hovering nine stories atop, unknown to Eddie, of the coming two-year relentless pounding of pile-drivers and jackhammers that would accompany the re-building and expansion of the decaying downtown into one of those Disney versions of the ideal mix of old-time charm and modern convenience, all facade and no heart and soul.
As it developed, that didn’t bother Eddie much, a little city noise was welcome after an almost year sojourn amidst deer and birds and fellow travelers of self-induced inactivity. It even provided a bit of serendipitous joy as the city used the empty pit below him for their after Hootie & the Blowfish Memorial Day concert fireworks. The bombs burst in thin air but fifty yards flat across his glass enclosed half hexagon shaped balcony room one story higher and rained on him sights and sounds not seen nor heard since the days of Jimi and a tab.
It being Memorial Day, with a good meal and the intoxicating display over, Eddie decided to make his first visit to F. Scott and Zelda’s grave a few blocks away a midnight one. The grave was in an old, small churchyard, now closed to new dearly or not so dearly departed, for lack of space. It was situated in a vee formed by the angled crossing of the two major six-lane roads in the town that Eddie likened to Stern’s Oakland. It once had been part of one of the generations held gracious estates that since the sixties were slashed up and sold to developers for the mind-numbing sameness of modern utility. The institute Eddie was just released from also rested on one of these plots, the state wisely keeping the fair citizens and the guests of the state safely buffered from each other by woods and a little used city golf course.
No one else was there at such a day and hour, the beers safely in their bellies to compete for elimination the next morning with the hot sausages and burnt steaks. Eddie wanted the gratification of the company of another boat against the current, dead or alive. The graves seemed to be in disrepair, decaying a bit with time, the ships quote that was inscribed still being borne back ceaselessly into the past. The missing sounds of rude traffic and the whooshing of the few tall century old trees’ leaves in a stiff spring breeze further bore Eddie back to when time mattered here.
Upon his return, his neighbor’s head emerged from the next door as he said night to some well-dressed guests. He saw Eddie walking the hall in deep thought, and invited Eddie in for a nightcap. Not really in the mood, he figured he has to live next to the guy and isn’t this what his re-entry into the world of nowhere was all about?
The neighbor was jovial, and recapped his day with gusto. When it was Eddie’s turn he figured he would tell it backward, and wanted to tell someone, anyone, of his last hour of introspection.
The neighbor looked up with surprise when he heard the location. He asked Eddie if it was St. Mary’s.
“Yes it is, just down the street.”
“Oh! I am a priest there, part time for the last two years, in the new church right next to the old one.. F. Scott Fitzgerald is really buried there?”
Eddie later found out that there had been a large flap over the interment of Zelda in the family plot, and after reburials and threatened lawsuits, she was quietly allowed to be laid to rest next to F. Scott, left to disappear with the faded letters of their names on the cold stones, boats slowly disappearing into the void of the horizon.