On the Streetcar This Morning


The bombs rained down again last night, and my first thoughts were of you.

I wasn't worried for your safety, although it did briefly cross my mind.  But I knew where the bombs would fall, and I knew you were safe.  I was fairly certain it would be close.  I wasn't surprised when you told me you were thrown out of bed by the force of the blast, and I was sure that you would foolishly run to your balcony to see whatever there was to see.  A normal person with normal instincts would dive for cover, run for the cellar, or at the very least crawl under the bed until the drone of the planes had faded.  You, though—you always have to see.  You always have to know.  That's what I love most about you.

On the streetcar this morning you remarked on my incredible luck—I always seem to be just one step ahead of the bombs.  Wherever I have been that day, the bombs fall that night.  When I bought the pheasant at the market the other day it was, to you, a sure sign that you'd better stock up on food before the sun was gone and the market gone with it.

Others, of course, don't see it as being my good fortune.  To them I'm either a bad-luck charm or I'm the Devil himself.  They're not quite sure which.  The old lady downstairs, the one who is always sitting in her doorway, crosses herself whenever I walk by.  Then she spits.

I've been very pleased with the accuracy of the bombs so far.  There hasn't been any deviation from the pattern at all, which has resulted in minimal loss of life.  I was sorry to hear of the watchman at the zoo, but that sort of thing is an unfortunate variable.  And your favorite giraffe emerged entirely unscathed.

There is a certain unfairness to it all, I'll admit.  On the surface it seems fair enough.  To the casual observer, the pattern seems random.  But you are not a casual observer.  You never have been.  You know all too well what the pattern has been.

This, I think, accounts for the strained note in your voice on the streetcar this morning.

Last night, after the bombing, I dreamt of the time we spent on the lake, of the swans and of the reeds and rushes in the fen on the southern end.  You once spoke of the fen and the reeds as another land, with kingdoms hidden inside, new worlds unexplored.  You spoke of it with a longing that betrayed your thoughts.  You want to escape.  You want to get away from here.  You want to be far, far away when the bombs fall again.  And who could ever blame you?

What did you imagine in this fantastical realm?  Did you think of castles, of forest glades and unicorns, of bright-haired youths who while away the hours with thoughts of soft, careless love?  Did you imagine lush, green fields, or perhaps stately houses, windowed from floor to ceiling?

Or did you perhaps, in a random, uncontrolled moment, imagine me, gazing at you, unable to see through your eyes, unable to follow to where you so deeply wanted to disappear?

When I mentioned this to you on the streetcar this morning, you surprised me.  You remembered the trips, but you claimed not to remember the rushes, or even the swans.  You seemed distant to me today, aloof, maybe even a bit cold.  I find myself analyzing my own actions towards you lately.  Have I been the same way?

Perhaps I have.  I have been consumed by both vocation and avocation lately, and this has left me precious little time for a private life.  I have been negligent in matters of the heart, and I will be the first to admit this.

I wondered, as I walked this afternoon, if this rift would be possible to repair.  Time cannot heal it, as I have so little to spare at the moment.  A romantic gesture?  A moonlight serenade?  A stolen moment at that little place around the corner from the town hall, now that it's been rebuilt?  But these would be expected, typical, perhaps a bit trite.  I could think of nothing that would surprise you, nothing that would delight you, nothing that would remind you of rushes and visions and swans.

It was therefore with a heavy heart that I drew the 'X' on the roof of your building today.  It was easy enough to remain unseen by the passersby, but I know you've been following the pattern closely.  I know you recognized the portrait I've been drawing, the connections I've been making.

You've known where this was leading all along.  You will have seen this coming.  And having followed the pattern, having known where it has led, you will understand.  I know this, if for no other reason than the tone of your voice on the streetcar this morning.

So tonight I will do what I do every night.  When I hear the low buzz of the approaching planes, I will climb up on my own rooftop and watch the spectacle from a safe distance.

But tonight the pattern may be different.  Tonight the pattern may be thrown off.

I say this because the planes for tonight are overdue.  The bombs were supposed to have dropped over an hour ago.  They were supposed to have demolished the University tonight, set fire to the edge of the Old Quarter, thrown rubble into the rivulets along the streets.  And they were supposed to have utterly demolished your home.  But they have failed to appear.

It could simply mean bad weather.  But bad weather is, relatively speaking, a random event.  And nothing about this affair thus far has been random.

I have a feeling that tonight, as I wait for the barrage, I may find something I didn't expect.  Tonight I will climb up on the rooftop as I do every night.  I will stroll across the tarred panels, feeling the heat they've gathered throughout the day rise up and dissipate into the cooling air.  I will listen for the drone of the approaching motors.  I will smoke, and I will think of you.

And it is here that the truly disquieting portion of my nightly ritual may begin.  For as I am thinking of you and feeling the rising heat and reveling in the breeze on my skin, I have a feeling that I may happen to glance down at my feet.  Perhaps the sudden movement of an insect will attract my attention, or perhaps it will be something more subtle, perhaps just an intuition, a sense. 

I will glance at my shoes, the shoes you bought for me in bygone days, in a time when there were no bombs and your memory was perfect and there was no strained note in your voice on the streetcar.  And I believe that, as I glance down at my shoes, beneath them I may see a small portion of a very familiar marking.

If this happens, then I will know why you were so distant on the streetcar this morning.  I will know why the planes are coming at a different hour.  I will know that there is nothing I can do to prevent it—the markings don't wash out, after all.

But I will understand.  I will understand.  I will have seen it coming, because of the tone in your voice on the streetcar this morning.  

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