Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sorceror (Fiction)

I was tired.

I was living on the watch.

I had slept three or four hours a night for the last run of days. I had lived in hotels and airports and airplanes. When I slept it was not the deep restful sleep of dreaming but rather the fitful sleep of exhaustion.

I was floating. I floated out of the airport. I floated down the highway in the rental car. I was closer to home than I had been in a long time. I pulled into the parking lot of St. Louise's hospital just after midnight.

The nurse at the desk patiently explained the whole concept of visiting hours to me. I used my Sorcerers tricks to persuade her to pretend the rules didn't exist for me. She would not make the decision alone and had to call her supervisor.

I pretended I was human long enough for them to decide I was human and I moved past the artificial barriers of bureaucracy and took the elevator to the third floor where she was in a recovery room.

We were lovers once and we ended badly in a tangle of betrayal, blame and anger. We found a fragile truce in the years that followed. I do not think we ever truly fall out of love. We change and they change and the world changes. Loves loses its significance in the scheme of things.

She was frail and nearly invisible in the sterile room. She was never a big woman - small, slender, and compact were all accurate descriptions of her. She was substantial. She was always "there". She had presence. In that white room she was only a shadow of what I remembered. Her hair was still lustrously dark, a thick braided rope of night. Her skin was still translucently porcelain. But it was porcelain laid carefully across a gaunt memory.

I picked up a chair and carried it across the room and set it near the bed. I kept my coat on, even though the room was warm. I had a gun on my belt and explanations in my wallet, but I preferred not to deal with the questions that always follow, so I kept the jacket on. The weight of the gun was the weight of the world and I think that it was that weight that bore down on us and pulled us apart.

Her right hand lay on the sheets. It was frail and bore the bruises from repeated I.V. lines, though there are none then. There were other lines and tubes that ran into her and through them moved fluids. I carefully picked her hand up and cradled it in mine. She was flesh and bone, but aren't we all?

Her eyes flickered open and I saw that bright robin's egg blue that stole my heart and tangled my soul. She is in her eyes and within her eyes she is still electric. A smile flickered on the corners of her mouth. I remembered the softness of her kisses, impossibly soft. I remembered the harshness of her words, where, in anger, she cut quick and deep. We are all of those parts of us, good and bad. They are the sum of us.

Her hand curled slightly in mine and she squeezed it a time or two and then let her hand lay still there. She could not talk. Tubes ran down her throat. She simply watched me and I remembered all the other times she watched me. I remembered when those eyes sparkled and I remembered when they flared.

She lifted her hand from mine and found the center of my chest. She tugged at the buttons of my shirt. I stood up near the bed and unzipped my jacket all the way and unbuttoned my shirt. She rested her hand on my abdomen and pulled at my t-shirt. She reached across her stomach and touched the bandage on her side - thick, heavy, taped in place, covering a tube from which drained…death perhaps.

I knew what she wanted. I pulled my t-shirt up. Her slender fingers flickered across my skin, cold and impossibly light. She traced the set of scars there.

I remembered the conversation from years ago.

We were sitting at the pool in the Monterey Marriott. She was under the umbrella, sheltered from the sun, sprawled in a black one piece bathing suit. I was fresh from the pool, sitting on the chaise next to her, toweling myself dry. She was watching me with those eyes. She sat up and reached out and laid her hand on my side, her fingers tracing that same set of scars.

"Did you ever notice that the smallest of the scars nearly killed you and the largest of the scars saved your life?" She paused. Her eyes peered into mine. "I wonder, when we are done, if we will be small scars or large scars."

She kissed me and stood up and took a few quick steps and dove into the pool before I could answer.

Years later, in a hospital in Morgan Hill, I put my hand over hers and trapped her hand between the warmth of my skin and the warmth of my hand. I leaned down close to the fragile shell of her ear and I answered the question she never asked all those years ago.

"You ripped my heart out and left the largest scar of all."

She smiled and closed her eyes and fell back asleep.

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