by Jenny Boully
My husband bought his mourning suit on a Wednesday. It was foggy. It was February. He would have to fly back to New York the next day. My husband has always liked suits; he has always loved an occasion to wear a suit. There were nights when he would say let’s get dressed and go out and we would get dressed and go out and he would put on a suit. He always looked so nice in a suit, and he loved to wear a suit. A graduate student and adjunct instructor, he did not very often get to wear a suit. When he put on his suit, he would spend money as if he had a job that demanded that he wear a suit and so our nights in his suit would be quite costly but it was okay because we were young and in love and in Brooklyn, where it was okay to be young and in love and in Brooklyn and spend too much money.
Springtime in Brooklyn, and it’s a flourish of petals of pink. The cherry trees on 1st Street are all in bloom and my husband who is not yet my husband is in love with me and we are celebrating the spring with a bottle of champagne and our neighbors ask us what’s the occasion and why celebrate and we just say because it’s spring and because we have a stoop.
My husband bought his mourning suit on a Wednesday. It was winter. It was Chicago, and we did not have a stoop. We did not have a stoop; we had a deck, and our deck was covered with a two-foot snowdrift from the blizzard. The blizzard was the third worst blizzard in Chicago history.
Springtime in Brooklyn, and it’s a honeydew green in the trees and a burst of chartreuse. We have a stoop and it’s spring and later my husband who is not yet my husband will say let’s get dressed up and go out.
We did not have a stoop; we had a deck and there are no stoops and no cherry trees and no chartreuse and no champagne and no just because. There are snows and snows and snows and a blizzard and our little daughter’s hands at night get so cold, so cold.
My husband bought his mourning suit on a Wednesday. He would have to fly back to New York the next day. The man who loved to get dressed up and spend money just because had a daughter named Penny, who was only five weeks old.
My husband bought his mourning suit on Wednesday, February 16, because he thought it was only right to go back to his job as an adjunct instructor despite the fact that his father had died. And that is why he was buying a mourning suit. He was buying a mourning suit because his father had died and he didn’t have a mourning suit. He had suits, but he wanted a new suit that would befit the occasion of delivering his father’s eulogy. My husband, on a cold day in Chicago, bought an $800 mourning suit for less than $100.
Fog was forming. Fog was forming due to warm, moist air creeping and covering the snow. Fog was creeping toward the city. That is the verb the weather alert used: the fog would creep into the city. It would cause impacts; it would reduce visibility; it would make for dangerous driving; it would make for perilous conditions. My husband bought his mourning suit on the night the fog was forming. My husband planned his father’s eulogy as the fog crept into the city and caused impacts of reduced visibility. It was a “gray dreary Wednesday night,” according to one weather report. My husband bought his mourning suit on that gray dreary Wednesday night when there was a dense fog advisory.
My father-in-law had a job that demanded that he wear a suit. My father-in-law, in his suit, would work with money. My father-in-law, who was a banker, worked with money and wore a suit. When he died, his son did not have a mourning suit and would need to buy a mourning suit. My husband bought his mourning suit with a combination of gift cards that his father never used and a coupon that his father had and in-store sales. The banker, whose job demanded that he wear a suit, had somehow made it possible, after his passing, for his son to buy a mourning suit.
On his way to O’Hare, my husband had the taxi driver make a stop so that he could pick up his mourning suit. The alterations had been hastened because of the occasion of his needing a mourning suit. My husband flew back to Penny and me with his mourning suit.
Penny is five weeks old and is going through a growth spurt and needs to feed and feed and feed; she hardly sleeps; she hardly sleeps. Besides my father-in-law’s care taker, who had not yet been let go, there isn’t anyone home: everyone is busy getting their mourning clothes, their hair done, their faces composed. I have a daughter who needs to feed and feed and feed; I could not leave; I packed my black maternity dress; I packed my black shoes, my black maternity coat, my black maternity clothes.
My father-in-law’s head has fallen off, and my husband is trying to fix it. He says he can screw it back on. I say can’t it wait until morning? He gets angry, says that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Penny is sleeping finally, and I’m afraid that his fidgeting with the bedside lamp will wake her. He has taken the lampshade off, the light bulb out, and I am afraid that he will wake her.
When Hamlet encounters his father’s ghost, it is during the night, in a fog. I am thy father’s spirit, the ghost says. And although he would love for his son to avenge this murder, he wants, more than that, to be remembered. Before leaving, his last words: Remember me.
My husband’s father, who also loved to get dressed up and go out and order champagne just because, was not buried in a suit. He was cremated, and his cremains were not placed in an urn, but rather, they were placed in an empty box that once held champagne.
While my husband was gone, gone into the city of snow, I held my daughter and thought how old and young are a newborn’s hands and feet. How they wrinkle, how they flake, how they hardly know how or what to hold.
My husband was gone, gone into the city of snow.
His father had a pressure that made him cry. His father had a pressure that creaked; it crept into that part that makes a man think. His father often fell asleep. His father fell asleep at the wheel during a drive. His father felt a pressure behind his eye that made him cry.
I’m afraid that he will wake her; I’m afraid that he will suffer a shock.
The doorbell rang at four in the morning, and that is how I knew to call to see if he had died and he had died and I said I know and he asked how I knew and I said that the doorbell rang and I knew that he was coming home.
Hamlet’s father’s ghost: doomed for a certain term to walk the night.
My husband’s father was walking toward the rising waters.
My husband bought his mourning suit on a Wednesday. My husband’s mourning suit was beautiful, pristine. My husband’s mourning suit, as my father-in-law would say, “traveled well”; there was not a wrinkle in it when it arrived in the city of rising water.
My father-in-law’s head has fallen off, and he believes that the doctors will fix it. It’s a speckled and splotchy type of cancer, stippled, my husband says. The GBM is grade four. The GBM is the worst kind of brain cancer. My father-in-law’s head has fallen off. In the dark, my husband, dismantling a lamp, holds the bulb, believes that he can fix it.
Don’t answer it; whatever you do don’t answer the door.
My nursling is asleep. She hardly sleeps. More than anything, my husband says, more than anything, Dad, I miss the sound of your voice. I can hear you. I miss you so much. More than anything. I can hear you. I miss you so much. And so it goes and goes, my husband, talking in his sorrowful sleep.
In his mourning suit, bought in Chicago on a Wednesday, my husband delivers his father’s eulogy. He has never said anything more important. He will never again say anything more important.
Sweet Penny somehow sleeps despite the bagpipes filling the cathedral with a screeching kind of mourning.
My husband, who loved to wear suits and who loved to spend money in a suit, wore an $800 suit when he told everyone how terrible death was and how his father was but a flicker in a sea of deaths.
Back in the city of snow, my husband sleeps, and in that foggy sleep, he flails his arms as if he were rowing a boat, as if he were close to flying, as if he were suffering and in need of help and signaling, as if he were drowning and trying to reach the surface of some sea.
In the middle of the night, our baby sleeps, and he thinks he can fix it. I am afraid that he will suffer a shock.
Back in the city of snow, I take my husband’s mourning suit to the cleaners. This is not something that we ever do: to take a suit that has been worn immediately to the cleaners. He keeps saying that he wants to go back. He doesn’t like it here one bit: all this cold and all this snow and all this fog. In the city of snow, he keeps saying that he wants to go back. He wants to go back to the city of blossoms.
Jenny Boully is the author of The Body: An Essay (Essay Press), “[one love affair]*”(Tarpaulin Sky Press), The Book of Beginnings and Endings (Sarabande Books), not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them (Tarpaulin Sky Press), and of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon (Coconut Books). Born in Thailand and reared in Texas, she has studied at Hollins University, the University of Notre Dame, and has a PhD in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Columbia College Chicago.