It just started where it started, an ending. That’s how things usually spark: the motion of getting up from the table, lowered head so you only see the eyelid, the silencing of gesture and voice and argument. There’s nothing left to say. You remember that painted eyelid.
You remember the back of someone; black slicker, lined in polyester, practical, utilitarian, good for rain and snow and gray, cold days and you remember it because it represents the deepest part of them; their practicality and planning. Pragmatic even in display, they were fact-based, ruled by thought and precise in many ways. Always wearing sneakers. Always wearing layers. You remember the interminable door slamming shut as your hand flies off the knob and you leave her sitting there, not stunned or surprised but gently mourning in the capsize.
“Would you say I’m frank?” she asked me.
That uneven smile and eyebrow and posture. Her constant vacillation between sainthood and possession that she spit at me in fragments, expected me to consume it, volley back, hold it, remember, care.
.I’ll remember her inquisitiveness and quiet generosity where no one saw and with no explanation, I saw, a life she tried to save. She will remember me by my one-word answers and the canyon they tried to fill. But I didn’t expect to see her like that.
“Do you believe everything I say?”
The room was full when I walked in, quiet. Because I was late, she ushered me in and told me to keep my voice down. I had expected to be turned away but this was my second visit and I meant well, didn’t I? I had just started this treatment to help me with my insomnia, help me wind down in the evening, help me sleep. Life was ok. I had dreams and hidden feelings and pictures. Still had a pocket of violets and a row of soothsayers following me.
They were all women there and oddly, all had the same short hair, the same fall comfort clothes, just hoodies and jeans and sneakers but I saw her first. There was no need to scan. She wasn’t wearing a hat or anything to cover her hair and I realized it was the first time I really saw her; head twisted only slightly away from me but mostly straight and supported by the chair, needles sticking out of her jawline. Eucalyptus filled the room, hints of lavender, low light and is this what it always meant, the next time we are forced to face it there will be no defense between us. I read there will be light. I read the word befallen. Sometimes I practiced dictation too: moved by a carelessness but hoarding when the nymph is gone, still enraptured by the sight. She was long, lean, her collarbone jutted out from underneath a very thin striped sweater that favored her. It was kind of how I remembered: unembellished and ordinary but shining in its plainness. She wore no jewelry. She was taller than I expected, thinner too, and simple, not like a beige wallpaper or some other muted adornment but something bigger even in the background. Her cheekbones were high. Her clavicle jutted and she was paling but olive, not milk white, not quite tan, Her neck long as I imagined. Her breathing slow and she looked content to be there. It felt like I was suddenly invading.
Not plain, no, and not ordinary just a spectacle in its honesty. Maybe it’s brave that shows, triumph, skill survives like a Renaissance portrait that lasts decades in the museum for its representation of the time; the light the artist was able to paint into the picture peeking from the corner, dull blues and grays and a very fine wine-burgundy. It’s a dark painting but it lights up the room; no sun just that one light in the corner. You pass it and you pause every time. Analytics and video tapes demand it stays in that museum. Mostly black with a few people looking up, following the cloud. You’re admiring what they were– the vividness of the devil’s outline, black against black. It’s all you can see.
A smile began in the corner of her mouth and she stretched her fingers. I saw nothing in her hands. Her nails were long and red and her jeans had holes in them. She held nothing in her hands eyes shut, the mouth falling slightly open, relaxing. I didn’t look at her feet as I turned away. What an incredible yearning for loss we face. If only to stay there that day of passing her without a word, head down only to turn around to watch her turning around too and later demanding explanation. Leaving, if only to stay enveloped in the sight of her resting with needles poking out all over her face, her neck, her jaw, her wrists. To stay in winter, in our coats, watching the Earth break into a rift and separate cliffs so all you hear are echoes. A heavy yes falling to the bottom. The portrait of the townspeople hurried to the shadow, gawked at by millions a year, never removed for its classic parable. Not a glittering, but a dimness yet the center of the room. Beware of what you seek for it is seeking you.
Just say yes and step into the consequence.