“But you don’t,” I said.
“Nope,” he said. He looked over my car at the hole, studying it for a second. I was watching him, not even aware of it until he glanced at me. “Anyway,” he said, as I focused back on my steering wheel, “I’ll see you around.”
“Thanks again,” I said, shifting into first.
“No problem. Just remember: left.”
“Way left,” I told him, and he nodded, then knocked the side of my bumper, rap-rap, and started back to the truck. As he climbed in, I turned my wheel and eased around the hole, then drove the fifty feet or so to Delia’s driveway, where she was waiting for me. Right as I reached to open my door, Wes’s truck blurred past in my rearview mirror: I could see him in silhouette, his face illuminated by the dashboard lights. Then he disappeared behind a row of trees, gravel crunching, and was gone.
“The thing about Wes,” Delia said to me, unwrapping another package of turkey, “is that he thinks he can fix anything. And if he can’t fix it, he can at least do something with the pieces of what’s broken.”
“That’s bad?” I asked, dipping my spreader back into the huge, industrial-size jar of mayonnaise on the table in front of me.
“Not bad,” she said. “Just—different.”
We were in Delia’s garage, which served as Wish Catering central. It was outfitted with two industrial-size ovens, a large fridge, and several stainless-steel tables, all of which were piled with cutting boards and various utensils. We were sitting on opposite sides of one of the tables, assembling sandwiches. The garage door was open, and outside I could hear crickets chirping.
“The way I see it,” she continued, “is that some things are just meant to be the way they are.”
“Like the hole,” I said, remembering how he’d glanced at her, saying this.
She put down the turkey she was holding and looked at me. “I know what he told you,” she said. “He said that I was the reason the hole was still there, and that if I’d just let him fill it we wouldn’t have the postman pissed off to the point of sabotaging our mail, and I wouldn’t be facing yet another bill from Lakeview Tire for some poor client who busted their Goodyear out there.”
“No,” I said slowly, spreading the mayonnaise in a thin layer on the bread in front of me, “he said that some people believe everything happens for a reason. And some people, well, don’t.”
She thought for a second. “It’s not that I believe everything happens for a reason,” she said. “It’s just that . . . I just think that some things are meant to be broken. Imperfect. Chaotic. It’s the universe’s way of providing contrast, you know? There have to be a few holes in the road. It’s how life is.”
We were quiet for a second. Outside, the very last of the sunset, fading pink, was disappearing behind the trees.
“Still,” I said, putting another slice of bread on the one in front of me, “it is a big hole.”
“It’s a huge hole,” she conceded, reaching for the mayonnaise. “But that’s kind of the point. I mean, I don’t want to fix it because to me, it’s not broken. It’s just here, and I work around it. It’s the same reason I refuse to trade in my car, even though, for some reason, the A/C won’t work when I have the radio on. I just choose: music, or cold air. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“The A/C won’t work when the radio is on?” I asked. “That’s so weird.”
“I know.” She pulled out three more slices of bread, putting mayonnaise, then lettuce, on them assembly-line style. “On a bigger scale, it’s the reason that I won’t hire a partner to help me with the catering, even though it’s been chaos on wheels with Wish gone. Yes, things are sort of disorganized. And sure, it would be nice to not feel like we’re close to disaster every second.”
I started another sandwich, listening.
“But if everything was always smooth and perfect,” she continued, “you’d get too used to that, you know? You have to have a little bit of disorganization now and then. Otherwise, you’ll never really enjoy it when things go right. I know you think I’m a flake. Everyone does.”
“I don’t,” I assured her, but she shook her head, not believing me.
“It’s okay. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught Wes out there with someone from the gravel place, secretly trying to fill that hole.” She put another row of bread down. “And Pete, my husband, he’s tried twice to lure me to the car dealership to trade in my old thing for a new car. And as far as the business, well . . . I don’t know. They leave me alone on that. Because of Wish. Which is so funny, because if she was here, and saw how things are . . . she’d flip out. She was the most organized person in the world.”
“Wish,” I said, reaching for the mayonnaise. “That’s such a cool name.”
She looked up at me, smiling. “It is, isn’t it? Her real name was Melissa. But when I was little, I mispronounced it all the time, you know, Ma-wish-a. Eventually, it just got shortened to Wish, and everyone started calling her that. She never minded. I mean, it fit her.” She picked up the knife at her elbow, then carefully sliced the sandwiches into halves, then fourths, before stacking them onto the tray beside us. “This was her baby, this business. After she and the boys’ dad divorced, and he moved up North, it was like her new start, and she ran it like a well-oiled machine. But then she got sick. . . .breast cancer. She was only thirty-nine when she died.”
It felt so weird, to be on the other side, where you were the one expected to offer condolences, not receive them. I wanted my “sorry” to sound genuine, because it was. That was the hard thing about grief, and the grieving. They spoke another language, and the words we knew always fell short of what we wanted them to say.
“I’m so sorry, Delia,” I told her. “Really.”
She looked up at me, a piece of bread in one hand. “Thank you,” she said, then placed it on the table in front of her. “I am, too.” Then she smiled at me sadly, and started to assemble another sandwich. I did the same, and neither of us said anything for a few minutes. The silence wasn’t like the ones I’d known lately, though: it wasn’t empty as much as chosen. There’s a entirely different feel to quiet when you’re with someone else, and at any moment it could be broken. Like the difference between a pause and an ending.