on a clear day you can see tomorrow

by fatladysing


Four 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.

It 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.

The 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 beyond.

I slump in my chair, the weight of the four days dragging me down.

* * * * *

When 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.

"Dana?"  A greeting that comes out a question.  The disbelief of a hopeless wish granted.

"Are you going to drink that?"

I sigh.  "I want to.  But I won't."

A copper eyebrow quirks upward, highlighting stress and exhaustion.  "Is this a test of will?"

"No." I shake my head, "The last five days have been the test of will.  This is just a nightcap."

"Gabe..." The diminutive, a warning.

"No worries.   My self-control is impeccable." I gesture dramatically at the liquor before me.

"Gabe, don't."  She catches my wandering gaze and holds it for the longest second.

I look away, not because it is right, but because it is easier.  "We're alike, you and I.  Even a moment is too much."

"You're 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."

I remember nodding.  I remember her smile.  And I remember her leaving.

* * * * *

I 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.

The 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 tomorrow.

My 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.

But today I not only see it, today I actually consider it.

* * * * *

We 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 vital.

"There's 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."

"Tucson."  She repeats slowly.  I see confusion, then recollection in warm blue eyes.

"She's 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.

She doesn't notice my trembling.  Or it doesn't bother her.  "How long have you been waiting?"

"Four years."  I see her next question even as it forms on her lips. "I've been turning them down until now."

"Why now?"

"This one seems appropriate.  I ruin my liver, she ruins everything but."

"And if it weren't for that, you might still be waiting?"  Her brow furrows in concern.

I 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."

"So they are just giving up on her."  Her voice is soft, fragile.

"It 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."

She 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 other."

* * * * *

She 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 the threats.

My 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.

I 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 guarded.

* * * * *

I 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.

Because 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.

My 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 almost shyly.

"So this is goodbye."  I finally manage, voice hoarse and flat.

"I've come to explain."

"No need."  I turn to walk away but her voice draws me back.

"Gabe, 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."

My voice is wistful, lost.  "And we don't have that time."

She 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."

I look down into brilliant blue eyes.  As clear as day.  And I decide.  "Promises are unrealistic.  But today is for certain."

She 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.

Our 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.

* * * * *

She 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.

My 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.

"Ouroboros."  I murmur, but she is dozing and doesn't hear me.

I 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.

* * * * *

When 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.

I 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.

* * * * *

I 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.

As 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.

Life out of death.  Salvation through sacrifice.

And suddenly I know she is both.

* * * * *


* * * * *



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