Halcyon


We were looking for saucers to go with the crystal my husband gave me for our first anniversary.  This was his idea.  The crystal glasses plugged into plastic orbs of light, so that you could drink and glow in the dark.  The shop girl said there was no such thing, that nobody used saucers with wine glasses; saucers were for coffee or tea.  I went to the back of the shop and watched spinning figurines.  My husband and the girl continued to argue.  I picked up one of the figurines, a ballerina.  She looked a bit like the shop girl, porcelain with dark eyes, and a delicate, defined body.  My body has never been so hard.  I imagine I'd feel less naked without my clothes on if it were.
      "What is your name?" I heard my husband ask and she said, "Peter."
      I thought, that's odd, it's a man's name and it's Peter's name too.  But then, in a beat, I knew of course she was saying his name, Peter.  She said it as if she'd known him for years.
      We live in the same building as this shop we were visiting.  We are on the top floor.  Our walls are all glass, but it is, they tell us, private because we are so high.  He wanted to live in glass and marble, and I did, too.  The building is right smack in the middle of International.  At the end of every day, we hand our car keys away before going through security and walking into our tunnel.  Planes are constantly passing by our rooms, but, we are assured, our privacy will not be compromised.  The planes travel so quickly, we are less than a blink of their passengers' eyes.
      I put the figurine down.  Peter was still talking, his arms in the air, and the shop girl scowled.  I touched his shoulder.  "I'll be at the coffee shop," I said.
      We come here most nights, for drinks and lounge music.  There is a club called Coffee, and a coffee shop called It's A Grind.  I ordered a hazelnut latte and waited by the window.  Peter finally arrived, carrying a pink paper bag.
      "Did you convince her?" I said.
      "I brought you something."
      "I see."
      He went to the counter to get a cup.  He is a little fat now, but he still moves the way he moved when he was a skinny boy, quick and jerky.  I watched him and thought about how it looked as if he were on his way somewhere important, a battle, perhaps, or an emergency room.
      The bag was on the table.  I thought, it's probably as pretty as whatever is inside.  It was pale pink, ruffled on top; when I sniffed, it smelled like rain and flowers.
      "Should I open it?" I asked when he came back.
      "Happy anniversary," he said.  "I saw you looking at her."
      It was a ballerina.  She was different, though, her hair was blonde, in permanent messy tendrils at her neck.
      "It's lovely," I said, "she's lovely."
      He kissed my nose.
      But on the elevator home, when he took my hand, I dropped his.  There had been many disappointments, bloodied leftovers, too many miscarriages to count but we hadn't stopped making them.  There was a clean hospital several floors beneath us, and every bloodied time I had my own room, my own handsome nurse.  I wondered where the organs and tissues were disposed.  This last visit, I'd asked to donate them, thinking about that tissue living somewhere in a dish.  Peter's gift that day was a bag of something almond and sweet, with a name neither of us could pronounce.
      "There are no such things as saucers for wine glasses," I said.  For some reason, I could hear the planes.  Yes, and I had never heard them before, not like this.  The engines roared.
      "We saw them.  Remember?  When we came here from the mountain, that first time.  Our first time seeing the planes.  You couldn't take your eyes off them.  Not the planes, or the saucers.  You showed me the frosted doves flying on the edges, they were too small for me to notice at first.  You said they were better than ice sculptures."
      I did not drink that night.  How many years?
      "Thirteen."
      "Unlucky," I told him.
      "God, Marie," he said.  "Can't you even fuck me, tonight?"
      The planes were far away again, their lights all off, to brighten the stars.  We'd hated the mountain.  The mud in our nails, our teeth, the sign over the register at old Mr.  Bindle's store.  "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?" it said.  Most people didn't know how to read it.  The black flags, everywhere, even over the bridge out.  But no, no, there was snow there.  Fresh snow.  We poured maple syrup into it.  We ate it with salty pickles, plain donuts, and black coffee from Mr.  Bindle's company store.  We were spindly, smart, sneaking around and kissing, everywhere, every hiding place we could find.  There were wildflowers down the mountain, but you had to walk for days to find them.  Here at International, the flowers come from hothouses, from distant planets, but never mountains.  
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