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Fifty-Eight Years Later
by Helen Phillips
reading time


           On March 19, 1949, from his Army post at Camp McGill in Japan, my grandfather wrote to my grandmother’s father in Asheville, North Carolina: “Perhaps the fact that she and I have spent so much time together has led us to believe that we are in love, whereas we have merely afforded one another much-needed companionship in a strange country and have mistaken our feelings. I really cannot say that we haven’t made that mistake.”

            A pair of porcelain Japanese dolls sank into my grandparents’ cake. No one traveled halfway around the globe for the wedding. The photographer accidentally destroyed the film and only one picture remains. This picture could be an advertisement for skin cream. They look so young and so flawless. Filled with hope and fear.

            Now, fifty-eight years later, my grandmother’s wedding dress hangs on a rod in the middle of our apartment. It is also my wedding dress. At times, it’s an angel, hovering three feet off the floor. Other times, it’s a ghost and frightens us. Yesterday, we fought. He thought I should put the dress away before the guests arrived; I said there was no room in the closet for such a precious thing, and why would we want to bury my grandmother—you mean your grandmother’s dress—away? Though all along I agreed with him. 

            My grandfather wrote: “Letters to someone who is more or less a stranger always seem to be difficult, especially letters that are particularly important. I’m afraid this will be such a letter.”

            I remember my grandfather telling my grandmother to stop eating ice-cream. I remember him ordering martinis. I remember him avoiding the word "love."

            Soon, I will marry someone who says that life is a series of intersecting lines, that there is an infinite number of possible intersections, that we have arrived at one such intersection and that it is not such a bad intersection. In fact, quite a good intersection.

            That dress, he says, is a phantom point at the place where two lines intersect.

Helen Phillips is the recipient of a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the 2008 Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction, and the 2009 Meridian Editors' Award. Her book And Yet They Were Happy is forthcoming from Leapfrog Press in 2011. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, artist Adam Thompson.
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Comments panel
CM Evans 10.10.2009
I enjoyed this. So much not said, most of what cannot be said, roped to any series of words.
Angelina 10.14.2009
neva betta brotha neva betta,lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol
Angelina Jolie 10.14.2009
hey I really enjoyed this story its very touching
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