Roxanne hated black. She hated black licorice. She hated black pepper. She hated her coffee black. Black didn’t suit her. Roxanne was a colorful woman and therefore she always dressed vibrantly. So instead of wearing black to Henry’s viewing, she wore green. A green Badgley Mischka Mikado satin bow midi-dress that she was supposed to wear to a gala she was attending in Montreal with Henry in two weeks. But now, she’d be going to the gala solo. Now, Henry was dead.
Henry had always told her green brought out her green eyes. “Green like the Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird,” he’d told her the first time he’d met her on a plane to New York City.
“Where are you off to?” he’d asked her on the flight as he took a sip of his espresso, his wedding ring shining in the dim light. Roxanne could spot a wedding ring like a vulture could spot a dead carcass on the side of the road.
“New York, LA, DC, you name it,” she’d told him before ordering a mimosa from the flight attendant.
“For fun or work?” he’d asked, his soft brown eyes and thick lashes making him look boyish even though his crow’s feet and salted hair hinted he was probably in his late forties.
“Work, work, always work,” she’d complained as she’d taken out her laptop and started it up. She’d had to prep for her presentation to Chesapeake Financial Group at noon and didn’t have much time to chat with the married man sitting next to her.
“Has anyone ever told you your eyes are as green as a Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird’s?” he’d asked as he stared intently into her eyes, a fresh-faced grin emerging onto his face. She’d laughed, having no idea what he was talking about, her face turning a matching shade of ruby like the bird’s name.
“Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird. The most beautiful green feathers you’d ever seen. Well, you see that color every day, don’t you?” he chuckled, “Every time you look in the mirror you see that color. Ruby Hummingbirds can fly thousands of miles every year. Sounds a little like you.” He’d stared off as if he were watching the birds in action, fluttering their wings rapidly at a flower’s carpal. Roxanne followed his eye’s path towards the tray table in front of her, searching for the imaginary green birds herself.
Roxanne had been hit on by many men in her life. She’d had many compliments. Many boyfriends. Many suitors. But never had she ever been compared to a hummingbird before. And as much as she had relucted in talking to the married man sitting next to her and as much as she had to prep for her presentation, she’d been sucked in, just like a hummingbird gets sucked into a red cardinal flower.
Now, Roxanne loomed over Henry’s coffin, her ruby red clutch gripped tightly in her hands as she stared down at his pasty dead face. Why do morticians think that loads and loads of cakey makeup look good on the deceased? she wondered as she knelt down and held her hands in prayer. Henry’s once tanned and freckled face was unrecognizable. His strong hands that once held her at night in the hotel room king beds looked like they were rubbed with the Crisco her mother used to use to bake her apple pies. So doughy and malleable.
“Please be seated for a short service to honor the life of Henry Cobb,” a man wearing a black robe announced to the group.
Roxanne looked up from Henry’s ashen lips to the minister, startled by the announcement. She was hoping to pay her respects and slide out quietly. She didn’t intend to stay for the service. That was for Henry’s family. But now, as men and women filed in from side rooms and into the chairs behind her, she slowly rose and shuffled to the back, sitting in the farthest chair she could find.
She watched as a weeping woman wearing a red dress, ambled into the room, elbows clutched by two teenage boys, presumably Henry’s sons. Roxanne had never asked about Henry’s children or wife. She hadn’t wanted to know.
When almost all the seats were filled, the minister began, “It is a privilege and honor for me to share a few words with you today. Funerals are difficult. They usually come at a time when we least expect it, taking someone too young, or perhaps wishing we had more time with that person. I am often reminded of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 where it says, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.’ And it goes on and one thing is for certain, we will all have to come to this crossroad one day. We hope we are ready. Today, we are commemorating the life of Henry Cobb. A man who lived almost forty-eight years… not long enough. In order to honor Henry, his wife of over twenty years, Daphne, would like to share some words.”
All heads turned as the woman wearing the red dress, slowly stood up and marched to the head of the room next to her husband’s casket, tissue clutched in her hand.
“Henry was a wonderful husband and father to our two boys, Jake and Tommy,” she sniffled before honking her nose into the tissue. “He was a world-renowned ornithologist, bird lover extraordinaire, which was what I loved about him so much. He was taken away from us suddenly and we are all still in so much shock. Many of you may be wondering why I’m wearing red to my husband’s funeral. Some of you may know, my husband’s nickname for me was Scarlet. Scarlet Macaws are one of the largest parrots and the most romantic as they mate for life, raising one or two chicks together each year. When they’re not raising their chicks, they spend their time bonding and preening one another. When Henry first met me, he called me his Scarlet Macaw. His mate for life. Henry, you will be missed and loved forever. Your Scarlet Macaw misses you dearly.”
Daphne began sobbing as she slowly walked back to her seat.
Stunned, Roxanne looked down at her green dress in shame. She felt silly. Silly in her green dress. And she felt envy. Green with envy. Yes, she was Henry’s hummingbird. But Daphne was Henry’s Scarlet Macaw. His mate for life.
Around 90% of birds mate for life or at the very least stay monogamous. Hummingbirds on the other hand, do not. Hummingbirds are polygamous in nature; therefore, they tend to mate with a variety of different suitors throughout their lives. Had Henry chosen that bird on purpose or was it purely coincidental that her eyes had resembled the birds? she wondered as she slipped out the back of the parlor, tossing the funeral card into the trash can on her way out.
She stepped into her SUV and started it up, taking a deep breath as she drove hastily towards her condo. She needed to organize her closet. She was going to throw out every green item of clothing she owned. She was no one’s hummingbird. She was a damned eagle. And unlike Henry, she still had a lot of life to live.