"Tweet, tweet," them sweet birds sang. "Tweet, tweet." Hah. Good things happen even to old men. I woke up that morning and thought, life is going to do me one right. I got myself out of bed and went into the breakfast nook to take a look outside. The sun was only just rising but already it was hot and full and that loosened up my old bones. The stiffness melted out of my hands even, and I stood there working them, looking at them, and they moved just as fine as they'd ever. My window overlooks the plaza at 21st and Aztec Road and but for those few lost souls who'd spent the night on the benches there the place was empty. I made the coffee.
I suppose old boys like me usually go around trying to avoid noticing their age. I know this about myself: I keep the full-length mirror on the hallway door turned away at an angle so I won't run into my reflection all the time. But that morning I stood in front of it naked, just to see how the world treats a body. The east-facing window was at my back and the streamers of sunlight were shooting in so the room was filled with a kind of glassy brightness. It warmed me. I thought, look at you, old man. Except for the goddamned skin sore on my leg I didn't look too bad: My chest was still high and I'd kept my waist trim. And my wife used to tell me this: you ain't bad hung, she'd say. She used to laugh. Lord, that sun felt good on my back.
I ate breakfast, half a grapefruit, and read the paper and later on, as I've begun to do, I took a mid-morning nap. Then I wanted to take the bus downtown for a while. There's an old bar I still go to that I first began sitting around in when I was just a young man. Some of the boys I've known for years congregate around there everyday and we'll have lunch together but usually that's about it. That drinking doesn't do a thing for a man at my age except put him to sleep. The bus stop is right adjacent to the plaza, and by that time it was a big full day and people milled around. I was taking in the scene there when I saw a young woman. She sat on one of the benches and read a magazine and she'd taken off her shoes. Why, I found myself staring at her for more than a passing interest worth and I heard my bus pull away behind me. Somebody from somewhere whistled then shouted, but I couldn't make out what he said. The young woman floated around in my head while the sun rested on her like a large, kind hand.
I'm sure she didn't notice me from that far away and that's what kept her so natural and preoccupied. The sudden memory of my own daughter came to me. I could hardly take in how much this girl looked like her, this girl sitting by herself with the brown legs with the sun on her. My own daughter as she was decades ago. I couldn't help myself from staring. I went over and said, may I sit here next to you, and she looked at me, a look that was my daughter's as sure as I stood there, and she said, please do, or so I figured. My hearing isn't great sometimes.
God, I thought, here's Lucy come back to me for a moment and, hell, who am I to argue with it. We had the damnedest times, my wife and kids and I. It's a sad note to think that tragedy and time and distance have taken them all away, but I harbor no grudges. I sat down next to her smiling like a lunatic and I saw she was the slightest bit pulled into herself, but you find a way to loosen kids up. They're so damned self-conscious. I showed her the cancer on my leg.
"Yeah," I says to her, "this has been going on for Lord knows how long. I've seen every damn doctor in the area and they all got different solutions, each one more important sounding than the last. I figure I just put a little sun on it and it'll be all right. What do you think?"
She turned up her nose and then started stammering. She tried to make the old man next to her not feel like a nut. Hell, I thought I was being funny.
Lucy was our only girl. We had two boys, also, and all of them were grand kids, just independent as hell, always cussing and fighting the world. This gal I propped myself next to reminded me of Lucy when she was seventeen or so, around the time after her brothers had gone off to college and she and I got to spend a lot of time around each other. I used to take her all over the place, even sometimes when I'd go out of town on business, just so I could show her off and take her out to eat and such. Most of the time we got along fine because I played like she was sophisticated as all hell, like she'd been all over the world and back. Nothing like a seventeen year old girl to keep you on your toes. But, of course, there were times when we went head to head over something and Lord could she treat me with fine contempt. Cuss her arrogant little shorts for that, too. She always had a dramatic flair and would roll her eyes to the ceiling. When she started smoking cigarettes then she was really an empress.
I haven't thought about the particulars in so long that I've got it a little blurry as to whether she was twenty or twenty-one. But it was somewhere in there. She'd gone to college, Mary Mount is the name, which is in the hills of Virginia and it's a beautiful old place, all full of ivy and old oaks and such like that. She left and everything went along fine until the third or fourth year and then she changed. She began running around with one of the local fellas who was a little wild, but I'm not sure he was the source of anything. Simply put, she came home for one of her school breaks and I couldn't get her attention. I tried calling on the old feelings between us but nothing worked; she'd forgotten about all of that. My wife and I were beside ourselves. Lucy was giving up, Lord knows why. You'd like to think that you can touch a nerve in somebody to see the bright side of things, but Lucy had closed herself in. She died, in the spring of her life. We'd tried hooking her up on intravenous, the whole bit, but the spark had left her eyes. I stood there witnessing it. The doctor told us she had a virus or something or other, but I know what happened. She just couldn't see the point anymore. How do you tell someone it's not so bad?
My daughter of so many eons ago. I looked at this young woman here and tried to coax her on about herself. Oh, she said, she was ready to live with a man she loved. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. And she and he were hoping to one day open their own gallery because they both loved art and they both had a fine business sense. Quite a combination, I thought. Hell, everybody's so well equipped these days. She talked to me a little bit about school and where she grew up, but I didn't listen to the details. I just heard the fine mellifluous strains of my own daughter who is lost to me and who I once had the fullest and sweetest damn times with. I heard myself laughing at things this young gal said, things I'm sure didn't much strike her as funny, because I couldn't help but convince myself that I was back in the presence of my daughter. I wanted to give her a little advice about how to take life, something I might've told Lucy: Just live it, just wake up in the morning and live it. That's about what it comes down to. But I kept it to myself. She wasn't about to heed what this old goat next to her had to say about anything. She started gathering up her stuff and I grabbed her arm. She raised her eyebrows over that. I said to her, Goodbye. Goodbye, which I'd not had a chance to tell Lucy. Goodbye, it's been so goddamn nice having you here. She wouldn't even remember me. I was left in the warm sun, my heart bursting, glad I was still around to feel like this. My daughter was a great gift to me and I thank all the gods and stars I had the presence of mind to enjoy her while she was around. And here she was, gone all these many years, sent back as vivid as a dream you're convinced is real. Hah. I sat there a nice long while, living the good life.