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[personal profile] abigailnicole
Ruth chose to answer this letter one night while she was in bed with a man named Dowdey, whom she had met the previous week. She wrestled the pillow away from him and put it behind her back in order to sit up more comfortably, and with an airmail pad on her knees she began:

“The weather in New York has been lovely, but otherwise there isn’t very much news. I can’t stand my boss because he’s an absolute tyrant, but everybody else is nice, and we’re trying a new format that I like better. A man who works in the next office”—and she dropped one hand to give Dowdey a pinch on the buttocks—“has been awfully sweet although I don’t know him very well yet. I haven’t been going out much lately. I usually come home after work and get to bed early. It was marvelous seeing everybody in Kansas City.” Here she paused and tapped the pen against her teeth, and finally added that she hoped to visit Kansas City again before long.

Dowdey, having rolled over and raised himself to one elbow, was reading the letter with his chin propped on Ruth’s shoulder.

“Jus’ like I aim to get back to San Antone,” he said, and began kissing her throat.

“Hush,” she said. “And stop. You’re bothering me!”

“Come on down here and le’s bother you all over,” said Dowdey, “on account of you can write yo’ little mama in the mornin’.”

“Cut that out,” said Ruth. “Now cut that out!”

“Yo’ mama look like you?” he asked, sliding one arm around her waist.

“She’s my sister’s mother!”

And as if by hearing these words she realized what she had said, Ruth touched her lover gently and looked down into his unblinking hazel eyes. She caressed the wind wrinkles of his leathery face; he became solemn and expectant.

“I’ll only be a little while,” she said. For a few minutes she sat with her knees drawn up to her chin and gazed across the river and the buildings on the western shore, and she was able to see her home, not as it was now, but ten years before, at a time in her life when she would never have thought to say her mother was not her own: when she had been as tall as the new evergreen trees in the yard, when her brother was a baby. Now this was gone, and it was gone forever. She wondered why she was in New York, why she would soon give herself to this man for whom she had no feeling.

“I don’t think it’s her fault,” Ruth whispered, with her head on her knees, and when Dowdey asked what she had said she did not answer. Presently she sighed and continued with the letter, thanking her mother for sending a box of oatmeal cookies Harriet had baked, and said they were wonderful, though in truth they had arrived broken and crushed, and she had sprinkled them on the window sill for the pigeons. Having signed the letter with love, as she always did, she ordered Dowdey to open his mouth and hold out his tongue to lick the envelope.

“That all?” he asked, grinning, as she leaned across him to place the letter on the night table.

“It depends on what you mean,” Ruth said. She turned out the light. When he covered her she was looking across the dark river, gravely thinking of her home.

— Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge


I think I'm writing my next essay about this excerpt.

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Nicole

March 2013

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