Tell Me a Warsaw Story I Don’t Know

Because I’ve heard all the others before.

My husband leans back in his chair, puts his hand over his eyes, trying to remember. Chase is here, for the afternoon, on leave from the VA, and we are sitting outside in the shade drinking pink wine.

“Did I ever tell you about the time the cousins came to cut the hay?” my husband says. “One side was straw and the other side was hay. We mixed it all together and wrecked it.”

Chase nods.

“You were so mad,” Francis says.

He tells me about his grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. “She had a picture book,” Francis says. “And she would cut the heads off anybody she couldn’t remember. Or didn’t like,” Francis says, pointing a thumb at Chase. “Like you.”

Chase sips his wine, smiles.

“When she’d open the book, a flutter of heads would fly out of it.” Flp-flp-flp-flp, Francis says.

I like that story, but I’ve heard it before.

“I was looking at pictures of D Day last night,” Chase says, apropos of nothing. He does that all the time. The king of non sequiturs.

In 1944, he was in the Pacific.

“I was 19,” he says. “I joined at 17.” He takes a sip of wine and stares at me. Then he launches into his story. “I was dressed just like this,” he points to his clothes, his khakis and white t-shirt. “I went for a walk and saw this boy. He was the same age I was. He was holding a rifle. And I wondered, Where did he get those khakis? Because of the color.”

He looks at me, waiting for a response, but I don’t know what he’s saying.

“He was a Jap!” Chase exclaims.

“What did you do?”

“I dove for the bushes,” Chase says, laughing. “So did he.”

It is good to hear a new story, one that I’ve never heard before.

“I could have died,” Chase says.

The last time Francis’ mother was visiting, we were sitting at dinner and Francis was telling one story or another. Something about Warsaw and the snow. Or Warsaw in the summer. His parents and their parties down by the pond.

But I didn’t want to hear it. I pushed back from the table, went into another room and shut the door. Swearing that I wouldn’t listen to one more Warsaw story, that I couldn’t sit at that table for one more minute if they were just going to tell the same old stories that I’d heard a thousand times before. Especially now that I wasn’t going to have any part of it. Now that they had decided to sell it.

This was my marriage, is what I’m saying: listening to Warsaw stories.

“Come on, Colleen,” Francis called. “Come back. Sit with us.”

But I couldn’t. I was shaking with rage.

That was a month or two ago.

And now I’m asking for more Warsaw stories. Stories I haven’t heard before. We sit outside with a bottle of wine. Chase sits in the shade with his spindly arms. He is elsewhere, often, but when we talk about Warsaw, he comes back to us.

“It makes me sad,” Francis says, later. “To talk about it.”

But I thought we were having a nice time. Sitting in the shade, drinking wine and telling stories. Because, if nothing else, these are my stories now.

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