Friday, February 24, 2012

He borrowed the seventeen dollars from someone who looked like she had the money to spare, earrings bigger than her thumbs and encrusted with emeralds, or at least something green the way deep water is green when it hasn’t been circulating much. Under the mattress receipts kept accumulating and whenever we attempted to address the issue, someone’s feelings would inevitably get hurt. A great deal of crying and shouting and running around with sharp implements aimed in the general direction of the crier / shouter’s heart would ensue, all of which convinced him finally that silence was the solution to any of his problems that had arisen since the last solstice. Which wasn’t that long ago, really, when you thought about it. Snow still occupied the ground at the higher elevations and the wind hacked at your flesh whenever you ventured outside in search of brandy or some temporary companionship. At that time, I was in the habit of dropping the last letter of almost every word that ended in a consonant so as to impress the woman who claimed to have been born in Romania and who specialized in dishes with lots of cabbage in them. Just so you know -- none of it ever tasted like it was made with cabbage. I suppose because of her liberal use of exotic spices she brought over with her in what they used to call steamer trunks, but which we now refer to, erroneously, as luggage. She refused to let me have a look at these spices, though, refused to let me into the kitchen until after the meal was already three quarters prepared. I suspected this was her attempt to preserve a sense of mystery that was otherwise lacking in our relationship but which was crying out to be remedied the way newly-hatched owls cry out morning and night to be fed. When we listened to the sound of footsteps echoing on the pavement at night outside our windows, or the sound of someone cursing under his breath as he tried to solve a very difficult verbal riddle published in the newspaper, it reminded us that being alone was not the worst thing in the world. It was the second worst thing on a list that runs into the tens of millions. His speech on the subject was one they speak of to this day in the post office where he made it, where he delivered it with all the aplomb of a geyser. Then he didn’t so much storm out of the building as pretend he had never entered it in the first place. Later, at his desk, the Taschen edition of Degas open to one gauzy, skeletal dancer or another, he ran through all the other alternatives in his mind, all the successes and all the failures that might have overtaken him if he hadn’t been much too quick for them. If he hadn’t outdistanced them through the employment of his trademark quick wit and a thorough knowledge of the local terrain he acquired while experiencing particularly vivid dreams about this very neighborhood before he had ever even had a chance to visit it. Before he had ever once heard the conductor call it out as one of the upcoming destinations when he was still travelling about aimlessly on the train.

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