on a clear day you can see tomorrow
days have passed and I find myself in the same room, the same chair, even
the same clothes as the first time I saw her.
Large men in sharp suits and buzz cuts guard the door I am watching
intently. I hear a woman's
voice: clear, strong, authoritative.
But even as my head turns automatically to locate the source, the
initial elation is gone. And
even before my eyes lock and focus on the gaunt, feminine form striding
toward me, I know it isn't her.
takes a stuttered beat for my heart to recognize what my mind has already
registered and dismissed. Where
there should have been hair bright as sun, flowed hair dark like earth.
Instead of diminutive size heightened by confidence, there stood
commanding height amplified through intimidation.
guards open the door for her and step aside.
She spares one furtive glance around the room. Her eyes slide over me without hesitation, without interest.
And turning, she is gone through the doorway, down the dark hall
slump in my chair, the weight of the four days dragging me down.
* * * *
she finds me the next day I am sitting at the bar, a full bottle of Bombay
Sapphire and an empty shot glass in front of me. I look up into eyes as impossibly blue as the gin I had been
contemplating. She takes the
stool next to me.
A greeting that comes out a question.
The disbelief of a hopeless wish granted.
you going to drink that?"
sigh. "I want to.
But I won't."
copper eyebrow quirks upward, highlighting stress and exhaustion.
"Is this a test of will?"
I shake my head, "The last five days have been the test of will.
This is just a nightcap."
The diminutive, a warning.
self-control is impeccable." I gesture dramatically at the liquor
don't." She catches my
wandering gaze and holds it for the longest second.
look away, not because it is right, but because it is easier.
"We're alike, you and I.
Even a moment is too much."
wrong. A moment is not nearly
enough. But it's all we ever
get." She softens her
eyes and gentles her tone. "Let me take you to dinner tomorrow and I
can explain. We can meet
outside of the hospital at seven."
remember nodding. I remember
her smile. And I remember her
* * * *
stand before my dresser, a pale blue silk shirt in one hand and a gray
cotton shirt in the other, knowing she will neither notice nor appreciate
that this is the first time in four years I have had to make a decision
like this. I put down the
blue and slip bare arms into stiff, starched cotton.
radio is playing in the background, a station I blindly set it to and
forgot about many months ago. It
is a show tune of the giddy, saccharine variety.
I listen for a moment, captivated by the simplicity of it.
And I find myself disagreeing with Barbra.
Because even on the clearest of days, the furthest I've seen is
eyes light upon the sealed envelope, its return address a travel agency in
the city. It has been wedged
into the corner of my mirror since it arrived, unsolicited, a month ago.
Weeks have passed since I noticed it last, the mirror and envelope
occupying a blind spot in my consciousness.
today I not only see it, today I actually consider it.
* * * *
dine in the kind of restaurant where her red wine is served in a carafe
and my water arrives with a slice of lemon in it.
We lean across the small table, heads canting toward each other
over a dim votive light, our bodies screening out the low hum of
conversation surrounding us. The
moment is intimate and familiar. I
feel the bone-deep need to share something with her.
Something personal. Something
a woman in Tucson. A girl
really." I begin softly. "Took four Xanax, did three lines of
coke, and drove her dad's Beamer into a concrete divider."
She repeats slowly. I
see confusion, then recollection in warm blue eyes.
been in a coma for seventy-one days.
About a month ago, they started calling the recipient lists."
I pick up my glass and take a sip, "Fucked up in every other
way, but she has a perfect liver."
The coldness spreads through me.
doesn't notice my trembling. Or
it doesn't bother her. "How
long have you been waiting?"
years." I see her next
question even as it forms on her lips. "I've been turning them down
one seems appropriate. I ruin
my liver, she ruins everything but."
if it weren't for that, you might still be waiting?"
Her brow furrows in concern.
want to tell her that until a few weeks ago, there was no consideration.
That before we met, the emptiness prevented me from wanting another
chance. I couldn't even
acknowledge the tickets my doctor sent. "Perhaps I am still waiting."
they are just giving up on her."
Her voice is soft, fragile.
must be difficult for you, Dana."
I reach across the table and brush a fingertip lightly over the
small gold cross at her neck. "To
understand how anyone, especially a parent, can not have faith.
And lose all hope."
withdraws, pressing her palm flat against her chest, covering the
crucifix. "Faith and
hope are two separate things." Eyes
filled with tears look up and into mine.
"I need to believe that without one, there is still the
* * * *
told me last night that she would be at the hospital today.
So I sit and wait and write. When
she does appear, she's not alone. The
tall dark woman from a few days before is with her.
I cannot tell-- from the crisp and angry tones that drift down the
hallway and the straight, tense set of their figures challenging each
other-- if the small, fiery focus of my attention is issuing or fending
stomach clenches sharply and violently.
It takes me a moment to recognize the feeling for what it is.
Jealousy. I am jealous
of the taller woman, of the words shared between them, of the topic of
their conversation, of whatever it is that has put the spark of passion in
her pale blue eyes and the flush of heat in her porcelain white skin.
And the strength of the emotion unnerves me.
pull my eyes away and force my concentration back to my journal.
And I wonder if the argument, fierce and territorial, has anything
to do with whoever had been behind the door-- now open and no longer
* * * *
write through the evening and through the night, passing the threshold of
morning. At some point in the
last few weeks, the story changed on me.
I no longer needed it to sustain or carry me.
And I stopped thinking of it as my legacy, my Requiem.
of the voices-- fast, loud, and merciless in my head-- I am awake when the
knock comes at my door. And
when I open it, she is there.
first reaction is to send her away. But
a part of me, perversely smug that her presence at my doorstep means she
is not with the tall dark one, dismisses it and invites her in.
Unlike the first time, when her need was hard and consuming, now
she takes the time to inspect the room before turning and regarding me
this is goodbye." I
finally manage, voice hoarse and flat.
come to explain."
need." I turn to walk
away but her voice draws me back.
you were there for me at a time when I was lost and alone.
I needed a constant, a touchstone," She smiles, but deep down
I know it is not for me. "It
was selfish of me to let you fill that void.
Because it isn't the sort of thing that should be given or taken,
but developed over time."
voice is wistful, lost. "And
we don't have that time."
shakes her head sadly but takes my hand and pulls me close.
"I can give you time. I
can give you tonight. But I
can't give you any promises."
look down into brilliant blue eyes. As
clear as day. And I decide.
"Promises are unrealistic.
But today is for certain."
moves slowly, to give me enough time to pull away. And when I don't, she wraps her free hand around my neck and
draws me down into a whisper soft kiss.
lovemaking is gentle and slow, passionate and sweet. As her body arches under mine in pleasure, I have to fight to
breathe, my throat tight with emotion and the loneliness to come.
And when she brings me once again to the brink, I explode as well
in uncontrollable tears.
* * * *
lies on her stomach, one cheek resting on a pillow, her hair a scorching
red fan against white cotton. At
some point, during our lovemaking or in its aftermath, her necklace had
twisted around and the tiny golden cross was now resting against her
spine, between her shoulder blades.
eyes travel downward, drinking in the sleek smoothness of her naked skin,
coming to rest on the unusual image of a snake devouring its own tail.
My finger traces the tattoo on her lower back.
I murmur, but she is dozing and doesn't hear me.
lay my head back onto the pillow contemplating this enigma, this woman who
wears the symbols of mysticism and religion.
And as my body loses its war with consciousness, I wonder which one
she really is.
* * * *
I wake up the next morning, she is gone.
The place in my bed she had occupied is still warm.
And I fight the urge to run after her.
Despite the inevitability of it, I feel her absence acutely and
viscerally. I welcome the
pain because it is real. And
with it, I am no longer empty.
don't know what she does, where she lives, or even what her last name is.
And as the sheet beside me relinquishes her heat into the morning,
I wonder whether I'll ever learn these things.
* * * *
take my seat and ready myself for the first trip I have taken in over four
years. I find myself relaxed
and smiling at the flight attendant as she offers me champagne and juice.
The flight, direct from National to Tucson, will take just over six
hours. I tuck a pillow behind
the small of my back and stretch my legs out under the seat in front of
me. I close my eyes and allow
the hum of the engine to lull me to unconsciousness.
the plane pulls away from the jet way, a vision flashes unbidden in my
mind. Of smooth, pale skin.
Of a ravenous coiled serpent.
And a fragile golden cross.
out of death. Salvation
suddenly I know she is both.
* * * *
* * * *
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