Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones |
Claudine Jones



February 2015

I almost threw up tonight in a restaurant

a panic attack or the beginnings of one


we've known each other since 7th grade

lived a mile apart & walked to school together


It started out simple enough

usual invite to check out a new film

the theater over in your neck of the woods

including a bite sometimes

or a cup of tea before or after 

you're alone now, so there's just the three of us

we head for our car while you walk home


when he died you were with my dad

a week or so at home after release from hospital

in your bedroom

I remember how still & shrunken he looked

'you're at peace now, sweet', you murmured


We don't talk during films

always agree on where to sit in the audience

not too far away

preferably the side section

there's tacit approval


We met with my brothers

about helping out financially

when it started to become too much for you

you wanted to punt-kick dad's fucking wheelchair

out the window


'Wow', you said, after the film credits

'I second that wow'

slapped your knee

R. sat silent on the aisle next to me 

still digesting the experience


I was with you

when I met the guy I first married 

had kids with

you were my maid-of-honor


'Food!' said R.

we agreed 


my dad left my mom

moved in with you

later the same year my husband died

two occurrences only coincidentally related


You went to the restroom

he went to the car for the left-overs bag

I waited 

then said to myself:

'never miss a chance to pee' 

entered the restroom

you were checking your emails

eerily quiet


you apologized

for 'breaking up' my family

began a healing process with my mom—

correspondence, phone calls

lunches at the hospital cafeteria when you were off duty

she was seeing her cardiologist


You came out of the stall

big smile

‘I started taking singing lessons!

can't learn my church choir stuff fast enough

so I searched online

found a really nice teacher—she’s helping me a lot

makes tapes for me.'

I thought Wait, what is this? You didn't ask me?

your singing buddy

'Michael Row the Boat Ashore' talent show in 1961

you played the ukelele

you know I have a god damn degree in voice, right?

we already did this, what, last spring, wasn’t it?

I got a little queasy in the small space

we went out onto the sidewalk

R. motioned to us from across the street

our Indian restaurant destination half a block away. 

my heart beginning to thump


I have only two real women friends close by

you & J., my college roommate

C. lives in Colorado

that doesn't quite work

though we could Skype

it ain't the same.

I sometimes complain that I'm surrounded by males

female friends are elusive.


We walked in silence

we never do that

we chatter

Or do I chatter? Is that what happens? What is going on?

racing through thought-chains like a puppet on meth

I can't feel my body

something's going to start coming out my orifices


my dad was on 'mood elevators' he said.

He called me from work & was eating his lunch—

prepared by my mom for his diabetes—

carrot sticks 'scrunch-scrunch'

abruptly he said 'I'm leaving your mother'

I hung up.

I realize now that I couldn't feel my body.

Same sensation.


This wasn't working

I had at least to try to express myself

I heard myself say 'Ah. Cafe Raj. That's the place.'

inside my head I heard

'did I do something wrong?'

R. set his jacket over a chair 'I gotta go pee.'

We sat next to each other

I waited a beat & then another beat & another

stared across the table at R.'s empty chair

a stab of danger

'I...feel like I did something wrong...last year

you asked me to help you with some of your choir music...

it felt...really good...I, uh. Um. I. Did I do something wrong?' 

You shook your head like ridding it of a pest.

'Don't remember. We just schlepped through some music, I think.'



we had a memorial for my dead husband

mom wouldn't attend if you were there, so dad missed it

so did you for that matter, who had been there from the beginning

I think I was less able to assess the damage in those first days

I let it slide


R. sat down & opened a menu: 'so whatcha think? Some biryani?

We need some naan & chutney, too.' 

at this point I was busy listening hard:

words in my head

'I am not going to make it.

I am going to throw up.

I can't do this.

How am I going to make it through this?

I'm down to one friend.'

below me floated the printed menu

aloo gobi, saag paneer

I realize if I look at R. I'm going to bolt

whatever this is I have to be very careful

study the menu

riding the crest of this wave


Our high school reunions are out anymore. Not since the 25th year the 4 of us organized & decided that we wouldn't have beef at the hotel buffet. Jon's content maybe to walk over to the high school for a few minutes from his house two blocks away if they gather there, & I won't go if Geoffrey's not there & Jody's dead now & maybe you just don't want to be Claudine's dead dad's girlfriend.


R. orders the food

sighs 'What I want to know...I mean this is Mike Leigh, so he's not going to do it...but, I really wanted some sign posts in Turner's know? It starts in 1820 & then Queen Victoria is obviously early in her reign, so how much time has passed? I miss getting that information.' 


And just like that it's over. Chatter resumes.

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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles,
Check the Archives:

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©2015 Claudine Jones
©2015 Publication Scene4 Magazine




February 2015


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