Car Parked on Quentin, Being Washed
On the morning of the funeral the Castanzo family woke up at nine, and took their turns in the show- er. Mr. Costanzo went first, because he had woken up earliest. Wake up the boys, Mrs. Costanzo whis- pered, while she took off her faded t-shirt and bra. Mr. Costanzo didn’t look at her bare back, although some mornings he did. She went into the shower. Mr. Costanzo went into the boys’ old room and put a hand on each of their heads.
Lorris had come home from college, an hour before Jamison got off work in the city. Mr. Costanzo had waited there on 34th Street, off Seventh Avenue, watching for the MegaBus to come in. Then he and Lorris had left the car parked and walked into the corner coffee shop. Lorris bought his father a cup and a croissant, with a five from his wallet. Lorris drank a cup of tea himself, something Mr. Costanzo had never seen him do before. When Jamison arrived he called and Mr. Costanzo told him to meet them in the coffee shop. It was a dark little room, empty except for people using the bathroom before getting on a bus, or passengers carrying heavy bags looking for a bottle of water or directions afterwards. The three of them sat at a window table and watched the charter buses slowly empty and leave. Then they went outside to drive back to Brooklyn.
The room, facing the avenue, was quiet in the morning. Jamison woke first, although Lorris had been up before. He wasn’t used to sleeping at home again. He always took some days to get accustomed to new beds, the new sounds of people breathing, of the walls and creaking pipes. It had taken him a long time to fall asleep with his brother’s breathing. Sleep ok, said Mr. Costanzo. The pullout bed was close enough to the real bed that he could lean in between both of them. Lorris nodded, and Jamison groaned. He rolled over and reached to the nightstand for his glasses.
Mrs. Costanzo was the last one to get dressed. She had spent a long time picking between the dark navies and black blouses that she had in the closet. Mr. Costanzo was already downstairs, in a suit, looking at his watch and sipping coffee with the boys. Each of them took a mug. We should leave, Mr. Costanzo yelled up. You wait a minute, Mrs. Costanzo answered. She was talking to herself in the mirror. She wasn’t trying on blouses anymore, just looking.
The whole avenue was blocked off. There hadn’t been any notices, nothing hung on trees or bus stop poles, but everyone had known to park their cars on the sidestreets. Mr. Costanzo led them off to where the car was on Kimball, reached around and opened the passenger’s-side door. Lorris and Jamison squeezed their legs into the back. Jamison fingered the broken handhold above his head. We need gas, said Mr. Costanzo. We’re fine, Mrs. Costanzo said. There were other people getting into their cars on the side streets. Mr. Costanzo stopped at the stop sign. The house next door to them was still empty and quiet. There were flowers on the sidewalk.
It was very difficult to find a parking spot. Mr. Costanzo circled the church lot twice. Lorris remem- bered having youth baseball awards nights here, all the kids from the different teams in their different colors. Lorris’s favorite had been yellow, the one year when they let him pitch. He’d been on the son’s team that year, they’d both played outfield together. They’d been in the same school until ninth grade. As they passed the entrance hopelessly for a third time, Lorris was struck suddenly by the memory of one of those awards ceremonies, early in the summer, a lazy blue tinge to the night. Four ice cream trucks had been double-parked on the street fighting for customers. Someone finally came out of the gates to tell them to turn the jingles off. You couldn’t hear the league commissioner. Lorris had gotten the Most Im- proved award, he remembered. For God’s sake, Mrs. Costanzo said. I’ll try Avenue V., said Mr. Costanzo. As they passed Avenue R and the front of the church they saw the long line of firemen walking slowly in through the front doors. They all had their dress uniforms on. They walked down the double yellow line, in the middle of the closed street.
Good Shepherd was not a big church, though it wasn’t a small one. It wasn’t particularly well decorat- ed. There was a large skylight stained-glass window up over the altar, that was supposed to be the crowning work of art, but looked strangely geometrical and out of place. Mrs. Costanzo had once felt strongly that the boys go to church. Her mother had been like that. But it began to feel less and less important. Just the year before one of the deacons was accused of improper sexual conduct. I knew it, Lorris had crowed, over the phone. He had already been at college. The bastard always used to look at me funny. Mr. Costanzo had put an end to such jokes quickly. It’s not seemly, he said. The small bronze font for holy water at the front of the church was almost empty, and the ground was squeaky and damp around it, when the Costanzo’s crossed themselves. They sat in the back row, because it had been so difficult parking. Lorris had only seen a coffin once before. The new priest, from some foreign country, stood up.
Later, at the house, everyone said what a nice service it had been. The wife was nodding too quickly, her chin jutting out too far. People had said such nice things, Lorris heard someone say. He heard someone say, almost excitedly, I didn’t know he went to Brooklyn Tech! The Calder family was all there, showing the new family the ropes. No one played whiffleball on the corner of 35th and R, where the green sign was, the Fire Captain Jonathon K. Calder memorial corner. I didn’t know his firehouse had been so close to the World Trade Center, a woman near Lorris gasped. Make it through that and then. Eventually the wife went with Mrs. Costanzo next door, where they put the food that wouldn’t fit in their fridge into the Costanzo’s. Then she sat on the couch next to Mrs. Costanzo. They talked about when their children used to play in the living room right there. Remember Legos, Mrs. Costanzo said. Oh, she said. Mr. Costanzo came in the door with his hands in his pockets looking for them. He stood in front of the couch. He suddenly didn’t know what to do.
That night, after they’d changed out of their good clothes, the ones they’d had in closets in plastic bags, they sat down to watch television. Mr. Costanzo had been on the couch there since dinner. He hadn’t done the dishes. There wasn’t enough room for all of them on the couch, so Jamison lay on his stomach on the floor. He was laughing at the sitcoms. After the news, Lorris got up and put his shoes on. Just a walk, he said.
It was still light out, and warm. It would almost be summer. Lorris walked up Avenue R, towards Flat- bush. He didn’t even have a sweatshirt on. There were no spaces between the houses here. They grew into each other on both sides. Most of them were painted red. Lorris wondered if someone had planned them out beforehand, or if they shot up in perfect rows. On Quentin Avenue, in front of the supermarket, a man was washing his car. It was white and perfectly polished. He probably hadn’t had it for long. He was scrubbing with a thick sponge. Lorris watched him twist the material in his hand. There was a bucket of water on the ground next to him, the water sloshing against the edges. The hose next to the sidewalk was leaking and getting Lorris’s shoes wet. The man worked over the same point on the car for a long time, and then he leaned his forehead on the hood and kept pressing, not looking. He stayed there for a long time with his head pressed and his arms stopped and the muscles in his legs relaxed behind him.