The Couch with Velvety, Gray-Green Flowers

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“I understand you’re always welcome on Park Street,” Grandma T. says and—when I look puzzled—“Phyllis would enjoy seeing you anytime.” Then I remember: Park Street’s where Aunt Phyllis lived in Washington. But that was thirty years ago when Grandma T. was still alive. Now I’m showing her a video of Preston on my iPhone. Telling her how he’s learning to read in two languages. Can add double-digit numbers in his head. Where are we? I look around and we’re in Lansing sitting on her couch, the one with velvety, gray-green flowers I liked to run my fingers over when I was Preston’s age. They still tickle. I’m back in the two-story white apartment building on Dibble, back on that short, dead-end road. I’m embarrassed to be telling you a dream, but this one’s a door sliding open: Grandma T. sits here beside me, thin and stooped in her brown wig, her purple dress (she never wore slacks), her heavy black shoes. She’s so small. She blinks behind her gold-framed glasses. I want to keep breathing the warm air of her apartment, walk over to look at all the snapshots arranged under the glass top of her desk so I can remember them again— the fading square 1970s prints with rounded corners—but I don’t get up. As if I’d scare her off. As if I can just stay here on the couch. I lean closer to hear her better and then I’m awake. She’s gone. I’m left with Park Street? The narrow blue row house with a postage-stamp yard Phyllis mowed with a Weed Wacker. Park Street—but it could be any street. Any name. It’s the echo of her voice— I could hear her again—I’m trying to hold: two words, two syllables like the two halves of her locket snapping shut. I never saw her open it. I never knew what she kept inside.