And that’s when the door opened—David by the window, a soldier with snow on his shoulders, his hand frozen holding the strap of his rifle—the door opened and a woman came out, the mother.  She was the mother in how she closed the door, quietly, still peeking in on her children by their tree—David could still see them through the window—and it was that sense that he got, an impression of a mother on Christmas Eve night, bundled up in any warm clothes she could find, distracting her children for a moment so she could hide from them, hide from them for a moment in order to bring them gifts, like she were sneaking out to go to where they were hidden, maybe a wood pile, or a garden shed.  That was the impression he got, but that’s not why she came out.  She had seen him, watching, as she listened to Berlin radio, her husband bed-ridden, one of the wounded in the house (for it was her whole family there now, and others) her husband’s head hurt from one the earlier bombardments, when part of the ceiling fell, this in the house she was born in, for she was born in Bastogne—but she had seen David, she had seen him watching her children through the window, and that’s why she came out.

            “Can you help me?”

            And she doesn’t stop as she asks David this.  She is still walking, walking by him, expecting him to follow.  She doesn’t stop, but as she passes he can see her face, clearly delineated in the shawl wrapped around her head, in the scarf about her neck tight beneath her chin.  The eye contact is only for a moment, the face what he remembers, like the eyes make it in focus—the face and not the problem the eyes pose.  And it becomes something else, something else better told in his mind—David’s mind.  Like the response to a dream:

            She had me follow her to a grave.  To a funeral that happened that day.  You don’t think about funerals too much during a war, but they happen.  It’s just that they’re really not observed the way you imagine.  I guess there’s just too many of them.  Too many for any one to be unique.  And it was almost like she wanted to tell me something like I was her husband.  Like she wanted her husband to go with her on this journey, but he couldn’t, and she needed a man, any man—to be her friend…  It was a boy she remembered.  The first boy she kissed—she told me the story as I walked with her…

Advertisements