I walk past the store many times before I muster up the courage to go in. I even try to look casual like a woman strolling on an Autumn street, window shopping, relishing that last kiss of token sunshine on my skin. The bag is heavy in my hand, the plastic handle chafes my fingers. It did not appear heavy that night hanging in the wardrobe, in fact, I was surprised to discover how small it actually was.
I told my father that I would be over at six o' clock. I rang the doorbell and as it is with elderly people who live alone, I knew that I would have to be patient before he came to the door to let me in. He was having his tea, beans on toast, nutritious, easy to prepare. He sat back down at the table and only at my insistence, continued to eat. He had lost so much weight that it was necessary for him to buy a whole new set of clothes. Yet, he kept going, did his best to disguise the bottomless pit of grief that engulfed him, the house. I sat down and made small talk. ''Beans good Dad?'' I asked. He nodded and proceeded to eat as if he were at a cocktail party, fork poised delicately, with an air of aloof sophistication. ''Is the suit in the wardrobe, Dad?'', I said. ''Yes, but sit a while longer,'' he said, though I felt this was more out of courtesy than it was for him. Really, how accustomed we come to rely on our own aloneness. He did this every evening, same ticking of clock, same cup and saucer, same drone of news on radio. Same hollowness. When he was done eating I went into my mother's room. Her clothes were stacked on the bed, neat piles of skirts and sweaters and stockings and scarves. I picked up a sweater and saw the grey hairs that clung onto the navy wool, the dust spores scattering like a cascade of stars. I saw how they glowed and sparkled in the diluted light of evening time. The suit was there, still in its long black zippered bag. I unzipped the bag and took it out. Well cut, expensive. I remembered. She wanted to wear something special. After all she hadn't been to Dublin in years and well, St. Luke's was a famous hospital. Full of well to do consultants. She wanted to make a good impression.
It was a June day when we went looking for the suit. The flowers in the market abundant that year. I bought two bunches of cornflowers, tall, midnight blue. We walked to the boutique and sifted through the rails until she saw it, the blue, the suit. Perfect. It fit like a glove. ''I think I'll take it,'' she said, looking at me for approval. ''It's lovely, Mum,'' I said. She smiled then, a beautiful smile, even in its illness, it ws beautiful. It was to be the last time I shopped with my Mother. We took the suit home and hung it carefully in the wardrobe. We put the flowers in a jar on the windowsill in the kitchen.
And now today the suit is heavy in my hands. It is so heavy that I put it down at the cash register in the boutique. The sales assistant somehow remembers me. ''How's your mother?'', she says. I tell her. She sympathises but explains the suit cannot be returned. Store policy, no receipt, no returns. I blunder my way out to the street, peppered with people, walking and shopping and moving, for all the world like a sea of flowers swaying in a billowing breeze. A sea of blue flowers. Upright and sweetly scented.