Ding dong the witch is dead — and Malkah cried some, but mostly was in shock. Malkah was sure she'd live forever, in her witchy way, casting evil spells to disable opponents and take your breath clean away. Her magic was formidable.
If you told her about a new girlfriend, finally one you'd thought she'd finally approve, she glared and gave her curse:
You'll only hurt her.
And from her mouth to God's ear, that would become the truth.
If she asked you, well, when she's dead do you promise to live in the house and keep it exactly as is, everything in its place? And you're evasive, and talk about how beautiful the dome of the Great Room would be with the ancient Egyptian goddess Nuit painted across the ceiling along with deep blue sky and gold and silver stars — she'd respond with her signature,
I'll curse you from the grave.
Scary shit. Because when she said it, it sounded really real. Not something you could laugh at. Not something she'd smile about afterwards. More like you better duck right now because the sky is falling. Or it will be soon.
She liked to assert preemptive control from the afterlife a lot in those days.
But then, something strange happened as she lay dying for a few years.
She got nicer. Supportive. Still scary. But scary helpful, instead of scary scary. She insisted on helping. On being there for you. On healing you. On telling you how to heal, like you had no idea how to take care of yourself.
Imperious never went away.
Demanding. Penetrating. Glaring. Regally holding court from her hospital bed. Looking all the queen of heaven and earth. She glowed as she reigned. She captured and she captivated. And she still cursed, of course. You don't give up power like that so easily, right?
But she softened. Or rather, she let her soft side show. Well, maybe not to everyone, but at least to Malkah, who was shocked beyond words. She gave Malkah compliments.
Who knew you could be so competent? she'd say.
I can't believe you're still here taking care of me! She'd say. Expecting her daughter to up and go poof any second now.
In truth, she had cause not to expect Malkah's care for her at all. How many of the hired help had up and fled in tears after her rebuke and wildfire rage? And these were trained professionals, or well, some of them were, with experience of the abuses the elderly can mete out on others.
Ah, that wicked wicked tongue! She was so proud of it. She boasted of it. Repeated to Malkah over and over some nasty thing she'd said to some good friend or other. And Malkah always wondered why those folks they stuck around.
She loved cursing them. In writing, especially. How many people have kept copies of her loquacious and lengthy curses? She was a poet after all. She had a well-oiled facility with words.
Abra-ca-dabra. I create as I speak. Just like God, the poet uses words to bring evil and good into the world. Which is why it's good idea to keep your mouth shut no matter what just in case you can't tell the difference.
I was silent. For months on end, I could not write nor speak a word. I was stunned at her departure. Yes, I put my shovel full of dirt upon her grave, as did we all, still expecting her to rise once more. To direct me. Forbid me. Coerce me. Condemn me. Demand of me. And to critique my posture, when she just couldn't think of anything else to say.
And then suddenly she was nice. Just like that.
It wasn't her seductive nice that she saved for handsome men. No, it was the nice that comes from just plain letting go of forcing the world into her mold, her blueprint and requisite dimensions.
Well, okay, I overspoke. Suddenly she was nice to Malkah at least.
I wonder if this is what Confession is for in religious traditions not my own. Does letting go bring purity or relief? Especially at the end of life? I have no idea. But she let go. She cut the umbilicus that tethered Malkah to her rages.
I'm left here with an emptiness, a dearth of evil. It seems to be entirely gone inside my being. No curses from the grave (not even mild admonitions) press down upon my shoulders. The world feels emptier now. And emptiness became a theme upon her exit from her gilded stage.
I emptied out her house and gave away or sold her things. I took the orphaned plants into my garden and watched them up and bloom. I got a lot of help dismantling her universe. The emptiness feels almost Buddhist in its peaceful glory.
Malkah sold her house to a family of Egyptians.
I'm hoping they'll paint the ancient goddess Nuit upon the dome of that extraordinary Great Room. With deep blue skies and gold and silver stars twinkling from above the vaulted hall. Bringing peace on earth, of course, and good will to absolutely all.