In December a novel by Mark Larson
In December, just before the middle of the month, a woman named Jane Nyland was walking down a shopping street in the center of a middle size city. She was out looking for a special something for someone close to her. Many of the shop windows were empty, a few covered over in brown paper and For-Lease signs, but there were still a small handful of stores, spread at odd intervals along the avenue, that had displays lit bright in the early evening for everyone to see. These radiant spots were cheerful, unlike walking past the closed stores, which made Jane uneasy. She entered a glowing place called "Thing A Ma Jig" and there she saw a straw colored vase painted with flowers in shades of pink and violet, a display of hair fasteners that were little girls made of a thin plastic, some sort of frame that could hold a picture and also act as a mirror, a light wood table with a small scratch that was marked down from it's original price, one clock in silver and red and another all in white, many Santa Claus figurines, reindeer in all sizes, thick cookbooks that had â€œHome Townâ€? recipes for cookies, pot holders and oven mitts with every first name you could think of, a clear display case filled with imitation pearl earrings and ruby necklaces, a large sign that was painted up to look very old, compact discs by a local artist who played his guitar at the mall, plaid or plain table runners with fringe, and ornaments for hanging on trees or to be placed over door frames from all the nations in the world. None of this had appealed to her, not just yet. It always took a great deal of her time to find a present for someone; she felt it was not her cup of tea to just go out and pick up any old thing. She had to look and look, going from store to store, seeing what she could see, sometimes touching them lightly, never picking them up, going again and again down the aisles or around and around the display islands set up in the centers of the stores. Jane moved on. So far, she had shopped carefully in four stores, skipping the next in line on the street because of its shabby exterior, and making the fifth stop a place that she had not been in all year. In fact, she could not remember going into it at all. The small boutique had an awning made of green with the remnants of a faded name across the front in gold. Jane took the name to be Doyle's. She paused for a
moment thinking whether that name had an important place some-where inside of her. She knew instantly that yes, indeed, the name could be important. The name Doyle brought to her the memory of a summer spent waiting for the autumn to come, an autumn would bring back a certain boy. She was seven or perhaps eight in that special season and in all the years growing up in that small white house outside of town, she had never met anyone like him. Her playmates had been all girls up that point, sometimes a boy would be included in their games if he came with a girlfriend in the role as a baby brother who needed watching over, but never was there a boy her own age, a true equal, until him. His name was not Doyle, in fact she could not for the life of her think what the name was as she stood staring at the faded letters hanging just above her head, but the boy's name may have had a D for the first letter. If not D, then some letter with a hard sound and that is what her memory also brought to her: a craving deep within her for the sound of a certain name. Often, she would have these kinds of cravings for something that she could not touch or see or eat. Some strange sensation akin to smelling the scent of citrus would pour up into her head. It was a special feeling, one that she never shared with anyone. It was powerful, this sensation, and would cause Jane to not see clearly for a moment or two, she might feel a bit hot and need to hurry on and finish whatever it was that she was doing at the time of these attacks. At the moment, this sudden sensation had not gained its full strength, so she took a deep breath and continued to look up at the name upon the awning. It was not Dennis or Dan; she would have to think some more on a later date about what the name precisely was of that boy. Perhaps, if there were still time today, she could call her sister and she might know. Her sister had played at times with this boy as well, though she was a few years older and had spent the time with the boy in the same way as she had spent time with her younger sister - as a means of killing the hours in a not unpleasant way as she waited for someone her own age, or better someone slightly older to come out into the street. The young kids could always be counted on to be pleasant company to share a run around the house and hide under the great pine tree in the corner of the front yard. A purple shadow loomed over her on the sidewalk, coming close to Jane's back, and that brought her to understand that she should move quickly into the store. It was a wonderful idea. All of this standing and wondering had done her some
good and gave her a good feeling about this particular shop and all the things that might be inside for her to see. As she walked in through the door, a small bell tinkled on to the left, announcing her arrival and a woman wearing a white sweater walked around from behind a series of shelves and greeted Jane by saying "Can I help you?" and Jane responded, with a small smile "No, I'm just looking." and Jane turned her head quickly away from the woman and looked with faked curiosity at the back of the window display. There were perhaps four or five items facing her, but most of the gifts in the window held their backs to Jane. The woman in the white sweater said "Oh, sure. My name is Rosalee and just let me know if I can help you with anything." and with that Rosalee stepped away and went back behind the shelving. Jane cocked her head slightly and heard music in the store. It was playing very quietly, not at all like most places that had the volume turned up so high that Jane had a difficult time responding to the merchandise laid before her. This was different and very nice, a soft piano playing a lovely small melody. There would be an occasional bell sound, a spot of silence, and then the piano and bell would come back again with a wash of strings flowing beneath. Not really strings, Jane realized as she listened a bit closer, but a kind of synthesizer sound that resembled the tone of real violins. She was moved by the way the sound came and went. It fit the store perfectly, thought Jane. Rosalee always loved this music, ever since she first heard it on the television one night. She had the melody in her head for what seemed like days after and finally called the station to ask if they knew who might have made that beautiful score. She was in luck, the operator at the station had also been impressed and had asked the program director the name of the song on that particular episode and he taken the time to look it up. When Rosalee found out the name of the
man who made the music she went out right away and found a copy for herself. She knew that it would be wonderful for her store; it was going to be a perfect fit. Placed in any empty spots that existed between the larger items for sale were a series of matchbox covers made of porcelain and painted in washes of what Jane took to be watercolors. They had attracted her attention out of the corner of her eye, they were so bright and vibrant for their size, and so old-fashioned, no one could ever really need these matchboxes anymore, Jane thought to herself, no one smokes or starts fires in this day and age. But they were wonderful and she slowly made her way deeper into the store, finding a new and different matchbox seemingly with every step she took. Jane's journey was not unnoticed by the owner of the store. Rosalee was excited that another person had found the matchboxes so alluring and a glint came over her eyes as she thought of the care she had put into placing the matchboxes in all the special nooks, all the just right places that would capture the customers and lead them farther in to the store. Once away from the door and the easy quick exit back out to the street, the customer would be compelled to see large and more expensive items laid out on heavy wooden tables and lit by special track lighting and be drawn into buying them. The music playing came to a point in it's composition when the composer wanted the score to pause and when it did, Jane and Rosalee both looked up for a moment, surprised by the sudden silence. Nothing moved. When the soft piano and strings came up like a gentle wave once again, flowing effortlessly through the store, the two women exchanged a glance and a smile. Rosalee knew it was time to say something to this woman, so she stepped out from behind the shelves once again and she said "Aren't those the best? I love those little guys." and Jane, who really did not much like talking to people in stores, nodded. The smile that had started when the music stopped stayed on her face. And Rosalee continued "I can't tell you how much everyone loves those matchboxes. The colors are so wonderful and they feel so smooth."
Jane discovered that she had been holding on tight to the first box she had picked up and although she had seen six or seven more, she had not touched any of them, but had held on tighter to the one in her hand. The porcelain was growing hot. There was a charge of anticipation inside the store as Jane began to approach the counter to purchase the porcelain box. Strange electric volts had taken over the women and coursed through their bodies and into every available space within the shop. Rosalee had to steady herself by placing a hand along the top of the cash register and Jane noticed that she was hunching her shoulders and bowing her head under the weight of the moment. Jane looked up and into the eyes of Rosalee for the quickest of seconds before casting her glance over to the smaller items spread out along the counter top. Standing straighter, Jane said "This is lovely. I'll take it." and Rosalee, who had taken the glance of Jane with her customary heartiness and continued to look into Jane's eyes even as they turned completely away said"Oh, you have got a good one." and accepted the matchbox cover from Jane's outstretched hand. Just as the women began to come together, Jane suddenly remembered a dream that woke her some two nights ago. The dream began in the middle of an event in which Jane found herself shopping at a store in a mall, which mall she couldn't say, one that she had never seen before. As she stood at the check-out counter to pay for purchases she knew that were held in her hands, but that she could not see, a tall thin man with close cropped hair and dressed in brown burst in front of her and demanded to pay for his items in a loud theatrical voice. His presence immediately agitated Jane, causing her to cower and turn her eyes away not only from the tall thin man, but from the young girl who was acting as cashier. The man did not speak again, but suddenly slouched against the counter, so much so that his body slid into Jane's shoulder.
It was very simple, nothing dream-like happened, but it so disturbed her that she woke with a start and stared for some minutes into the darkness that hung over her bed, afraid to move. Rosalee barely perceived the change in Jane as she she relived this dream. All that she could spot was a slight distant stare forming in Jane's eyes. The cash register hummed and Rosalee announced the total. Money came out of Jane's bag. No one really spoke again, the pleasantries that existed before the sale was rung up had suddenly evaporated and the tension between the women that had built itself so high was now gone. A simple bag, in fact, an elegant bag of black and silver, was handed to Jane and she nodded instead of speaking a thank you. After a last smile, Rosalee was already thinking of something else, maybe the fact that this woman in front of her had purchased something small instead of large, so she too decided to say nothing. Jane took her bag and left. Rosalee checked the stock of paper bags under the counter, heard the bell ring on the door and then turned away. Jane stepped outside and was surprised to find slivers of light glowing still in the evening sky. She had thought that by this hour it would be pitch dark, but the deep blacks had only invaded around the farthest edges of the sky. Scattered grey clouds remained in an open streak over the mountains on the horizon. A cold wind came out of the light hole in the sky and swept down into the tops of the trees to swiftly cross over Jane's forehead. Peering through her disheveled bangs, Jane could see the plane trees swaying under the orange light haze of the street lamps. The bare branches mingled with the locks of hair in her eyes, and her world became a dancing place of quivering black bars. She did not move from her spot on the sidewalk in front of the shop and she began to feel lighthearted and did not wish to make the feeling vanish by walking away. But walk away she did; the sudden cold air blast kept her moving and now her tranquility was gone and the rattling of the tree branches reminded her of bones shaking in agony. "Enough" - she demanded inside of her head and the outside of her followed suit, down the street, through drifting knots of shoppers, her body following her head back to home.
Jane looked up as she walked home and into the night sky. There was nothing there to see, only blackness; the cloud cover was overwhelming, no starlight could shine, but Jane could feel the residue of silence drift down to cover her face in a delicate mist. She enjoyed this and walked with her head thrown back, drinking in the dark and quiet with a fanciful expression. She was almost home. Just a few blocks farther and she would be at her door. Her door would be there past the great pine tree. The door is red and embossed with shiny squares and a circular bronze knob commands the center, demanding everyone that walks past to touch its roundness. â€œThe door will be waiting for me, thought Jane; â€œit always waits for me at the end of the day. The events of the day are thwarted by this doorâ€? It was amazing that no matter what happened to Jane, for good or for evil, those troubling moments of life were first blocked, then broken apart and finally evaporated by the colossal strength which was built into the door at the time of it's birth. She lowered her head to catch the first glimpse of the door. There was the pine tree and so too was her door. She stood before it and whispered a small thank you to no one in particular, maybe just to the fates or the God that provided so much to her every day. She took her key and unlocked the lock and walked into her home. Inside the house it was dark in most places and darker still in others, but there was a faint glowing angle of white light that came out from the kitchen stove lamp that she always left on when the changing seasons brought the dark down early. She closed the door behind her and stood listening to the silence of her house before turning on the entryway lights. This made her feel good. The silence was special right now; something so rare that she believed that she owned it outright. That it was hers and hers alone, to know and to love and to nurture. She closed her eyes and bent her head. She gathered the richness of this wonderful nothing.
The hum of the refrigerator started and swelled, slowly pushing back the silence. Jane took this as the cue to start the evening in her home by doing the things that needed to be done once she got home. Jane let her left arm stretch out and without looking, found the light switch and flipped it on. She let her fingers linger on the switch plate as she saw the room open up with the light. She could feel the raised contours of sea swirls in her hand and let her arm drop to her side. She reached into her pocket with the same hand and drew out whatever was inside. Her right hand held the key to the house on its chain and the black and silver bag that contained her shopping and she simply dropped both down to the floor. The thick carpet installed in every inch of the house buffeted the fall and kept the keys from being lost and the bag from being bent. There was an envelope peeking out from her coat pocket. It was white and long, and had a soft blue imprint of a store name on the back. She did not recognize the store name and was not sure where she might have picked up this particular envelope. She turned it over in her hands two times, looking for a possible phone number scrawled somewhere or a name scratched in haste, but there was nothing. She let the envelope drop down next to the key and the bag. Jane looked down as she let it go and her mind moved on to other matters that were waiting for her in the rest of the house. Jane took off her coat and tried to hang it on the hook by the door, but there were three small umbrellas hanging there already and the coat slid quickly to the floor when she released it from her hands. The umbrella, colored like a bird, shuddered. Leaving everything the way it was, she walked into the kitchen area by way of the dining room. She was hungry and planned to make a quick tomato soup, on the stove and not in the microwave, but she was in such haste to eat that the soup was simply warm when she tried to eat it and so she needed to to microwave the soup two times in order to get it hot. She ate standing at the counter. There was a loaf of whole wheat tortillas on the counter and Jane took two out of the package and ate them by slowly dipping them into the soup. After putting away all the dishes and pots when she had finished eating, Jane went to the bedroom, took off her clothes of the day and let them fall to the floor in small heaps so that she would be reminded to wash put them in the evening's wash.
She stood naked in front of the mirror and simply glanced at her body for a moment. She saw in that quick glance that her body looked as though it could be given to someone and that it would respond from another's touch. For that special second, the body could be seen as something that could continue to fascinate and demand. She hesitated in looking any longer at her shape; she did not want to catch sight of the imperfections that would be difficult to miss if one took the time to look. Instead, she used the next moment to smile into the mirror with a winning smile, the smile that was always there inside of her. The smile came on and she looked into her own eyes that hovered over her smile. She saw that they were grey. Jane stared into the gray. Inside the gray were flecks of green. The green sparkled in the light. The sparkle surprised Jane. She closed the lids of her eyes over the green and the gray. She stopped breathing. She hovered in the space between breathing and not breathing. She tightened her eyes. She closed her throat down and refused the desire to take in a breath. There was a humming when the central heat began to warm the room. The ducts flooded the house with a stifling blast of hot dry air that parched the plants. The plants cowered against the attack and they began to dry out, the sacred moisture that was inside of them began to disappear and the plants could not understand how such a thing could happen to them. They knew that the heat was uncomfortable to them, would become even painful, but their minds could not fathom the full intensity of the tragedy unfolding within their veins. It was riddle, this slow dying, this loss of fluid that caused the minds of their minds to flutter and scatter, swirling in the shoots like a static storm. What could it be? When would it stop? They wondered and wondered and still there was no hope of comprehending the pain. Jane felt the heat come on with a delight and raised her arms above her head so that it would cascade over all of her body and warm it. The light went on at the neighborâ€™s garage and filled the room with a pure white light. Jane held her breath and slowly unlocked her arms and lowered them down to her sides, where they rested against the softness of her thighs. The heat had stopped long ago and had retreated into the coils of the furnace. Jane stood for some minutes and felt that she could no longer go on like this, in this strange fashion of living, where each day was a held breath.
The shallowness of her mind was making her lose herself. She felt she could not see. No contours, only pulses; a constant throbbing. Most, but not all, of the plants were calling for her to come and help them replenish the sparkling juices that were being lost to the stifling air around them. Jane heard them and turned on the shower, releasing a life giving mist into all the rooms of the house. The mist left the house by exiting through the crack in the bottom of the back kitchen door. In fifty years, no one had bothered ever fixing the door so that it would shut tight; it was always drafty there in winter during the rains, and the mist had behaved as if it always knew that the escape could be launched from this particular breach. It swooped and swirled with leisure in the center of the room and then dove down deep across the floor to the door. The crack felt the mist pour through it with a swift and stately air. For three minutes, the mist continued it's run through the slit and suddenly, there was no more. The air in the room was now empty. The crack felt momentarily swollen from the encounter and tightened slightly against the metal jam along the frame. The mist swooped under, then out the door. On the back stoop, under the stench of magnolia blooms, the night air received the mist into its gaping mouth. Jane could hear a sound, but could never know that what she heard was not the sound of rattling pipes in the walls, as she supposed, but the tearing apart of tiny water drops by the night. Turning off the shower, Jane stepped out onto the cool tile floor and slipped a bit in reaching for the towel that hung on the hook behind the bathroom door. She caught herself from falling and as she ran the towel over her body, she created a fantasy image in her mind of a tragic accident. She would be hurt terribly, broken forever, but in being so destroyed bodily, her mind would be made pure. The desperate gray and red demons that stifled her would become clear blue skies over endless black highways. These roads would take her into cities where the buildings would tower over her and then open up to her touch. People would come to join her as she walked with difficulty. These strangers would claim her as an intimate. Long days would be made from the laughter of this group. The nights would come with a special quickness. Jane would prop
herself up on pillows that were shimmering with fine threads. The softness would be her oasis. A man would join her in this plush solitude. He would give her nothing, the heat from his hands would be all that she called for. The clocks would grow numb as they loved. When their two bodies knew that all was done, that no more pleasure could pierce the flesh, she would smile with a smile that he would take as a sign that she was new, that her ordeal and salvation were knotted in the glistening green hope of her eyes. Jane felt a chill come over her, so she quickly began drying herself off, and with the towel wrapped around her middle, she walked through the rooms of the house, locking doors and turning off lights. She made no sound, her walk was all on the balls of her feet, and in the time it took for her body to become completely dry, the house was dark and secure. She climbed into the bed to feel her skin against the cool sheets and she let out a sigh, and at this sign, the white cotton embraced her body and she let go of the day. The thought that the nights may be growing cooler crossed her mind. Jane pulled up the light wool blanket over her and nestled her nose against the fraying blue satin border. Looking up at the ceiling, spackled as a moonscape, she could see the light from the neighbor's garage flicker and shake. Jane knew that that the woman next door was at home and cleaning late into the night. A shadow would come and go, blurring the bedroom with it's busy darkness or sometimes leaving for minutes at a time. Jane watched all of this with attention. She breathed deeply. The start of sleep began inside of Jane. It came around her shoulders and held her tightly from behind. The ritual drifting enveloped her.
Jane in her deep sleep conjured a world from only colors. Forms by themselves suggested nothing to her. But, a glowing blue, near to being a brown, is where all the visions came from. There was a special thickness to the color that she enjoyed; when she reached out to it, her hand could feel a density of blue. She was able to search through this color with her hands and pull from it an image that would start chains of stories to fill her night. Her fingertips brushed across several rough hewn likeness of what she may have known before, until at last she came to a depiction of an unfamiliar scene, and this excited her. Jane gripped the image with tenderness from within the color and pulled it close towards her chest. What she saw was a piece of the world that moved slowly. The slowness was wonderful, for Jane could then clearly see the inner workings of the image with an astounding clarity. These were mostly of people that she did not know by name, who were walking through a lovely courtyard, perhaps like one found in the center of a municipal building downtown, paved in slate and filled with the clattering sounds of a fountain built in a contemporary style. These people were dressed in clothes that showed that they were ready for storms full of cold rain. A young man, a young woman and a dog stopped and the young man said "Nothing in the world would make us happier than joining you for dinner." and the young woman said "Yes, please tell us that you will join us for something to eat. There is so much food and we have so much to talk about." and Jane answered "I am not sure." and the young woman looked about distractedly and said "I am not sure now if we have the time anymore."
and Jane said quickly "Yes, I will come with you." And so the three people sat down at a table in a dark cafe that was in the lower level of a train station. The dog was gone at first, and then later appeared curled at the feet of the young man. The young woman straightened her blouse and said "There was a place here that I would come to as a child. It was a favorite of my mother's and it was known for it's looks more than it's food. Large slabs of dark wood lined the walls." and the young man said "I know that place." and Jane said "I think I remember." The young woman looked back in surprise. And she said "Yes. That's so great that you can remember that place." and the young man reached out his hand to the young woman and said "What were you saying? Did you have a story about it?" The young woman looked at Jane and said "When we first met you, something about you brought back this place to me. Not in any real way, like you look like someone or anything like that, but there was a special kind of feeling that was almost the same as when I came her with my mother so many years ago. I am not sure if I am making myself clear to you." and Jane said -
"Yes. You are making this all very plain." and the Young Woman said "It was just such a short time ago, that I was here with my mother." and Jane said "Yes." and the Young Man said "Do you feel like telling this to us at all?" and the Young Woman continued "There was just a couple of years separating what we are doing now here, with what my mother and I did when I was a child. That is what is hampering me from getting to the story. My head feels caught by the mood that this woman is giving me - " and with that she made a quick stabbing point to Jane. " - and what I want to tell you about what happened to me. One feels inside the other. If I start by saying that the woman here is my mother, maybe that would help me get into the story." Jane felt her face flush. She raised a napkin to her mouth to hide the redness spilling into her cheeks. As she dabbed at the corners of her mouth, she realized that she had not eaten anything at all, and that the couple knew that quite well, therefore, the couple would know that she was hiding her face with a purpose, most probably fear. Jane said "I am sure." and the Young Woman said "What? Sure about what?"
Jane said "I mean that I am sure I understand." and the Young Man said "Say. That's great. " The Young Woman looked hard at Jane and said "I am still not getting the sure part. I think I can get this put together so that you can understand me better. " Jane said "That will be good." and The Young Man sat looking at Jane in a hard way. and the Young Woman looked down at her plate of food before she started to speak. It took several seconds. The Young Woman said "Looking at you I can understand some things. The way things you say used to be are better now. I am sure of that. Not that much has happened. Just some days are better than others and I can see that being with you is a part of that." Jane said "Being such a part of you is striking me off balance. It's hard." The Young Woman said "Let's not talk just yet about how you feel. I am sure we can meet halfway on this soon." Jane said "Can I ask if you want to know me later?"
The Young Woman said "That can happen." Jane said "I want that to start happening." The Young Woman said "Do you understand that the day is just starting off great? That is maybe all I wanted you to know for right now. The times you always want do not exist for me anymore. There is nothing in there. I tried for the longest time to see the way you wanted. I just could not keep up with how fast you wanted to have me see all of your things. It struck me as odd that I did not even know how to make myself understand faster. I was too this or too that, and it was making me stick out and then I knew I was in the way. So I took the time when I was with him - " and the Young Woman motioned to the Young Man with her chin " - to call you and you seemed to like that. I thought that I called you more than enough and that started to make the days different. I did not have to lie down so much anymore. I was up and Adam. I could see that the days you wanted was putting out a lot of my power. I looked into the mirror and could see that. " Jane raised her napkin to her mouth and held it there. The Young Woman and the Young Man rattled a toy to the dog under the table. Jane grew restless. She said "This is going to come as a surprise, regrettably, to the both of you, but what you are describing to me is not affecting. It will not change my life or my attitude towards you - " Jane looked for a long time at the Young Woman and did not speak. " - or the things that you want from me. I will concede that maybe I was wrong for you - all of you. I could go back like I wanted and start the hurt for you again and then we would be in the new place that you keep saying you need. I sure do not think that you are there yet - " The Young Man interrupted by saying -
"Just hold on a minute." and the Young Woman took the cue to cut in and say in a tight way "This is what we get." and Jane was startled into another kind of silence. She was just feeling that the table was to be the place where all of the anger could come out. Jane thought that the table could be a bruise and that all the bad blood would be there in that one spot. The spot then could be dealt with in a variety of ways. She tried to speak. Nothing was to come out of her. It was not going to work itself out. The bruise blood feelings were spreading out over everyone. the Young Man continued "I want you to really think about what she is saying." The Young Woman and Jane were both confused as to whom he was speaking of - was it the words that Jane said that were of importance or did the Young Woman speak with a special command? The Young Man gave no hint and spoke on "She is going to stop trying." And still, the women could not gather who was who in the eyes of the Young Man. No one spoke for the rest of the night and Jane later woke in the sunlight. Jane looked into the light. The sunlight was not from the sun, it was the light from the neighbor's garage. The light had gathered in intensity while she slept and its new brightness had taken over the entire bedroom. She saw the blue clock on the table near her bed and she could clearly see that the time was 1:30 am. That was not what she had wanted to see. She took a longer look at the blue clock and not a thing had changed, it was still the middle of the night, and there was a long night ahead of her till morning.
Jane twisted round under the sheets and curled up on her side with her right hand under her body at the waist and her left hand tucked in flat under her pillow. Her eyes stayed open and she saw nothing. Inside of her face there was the growing trouble that would plague her from this evening on for the next two years. The word â€œinsomniaâ€? was never to be used, but that is what her doctor would have said to her if she had taken the time to describe symptoms of a restless overreaching mind. She covered over the night problems when she visited her doctor; only bringing up the pains here and there or the unwelcome attacks, and the reactions to drugs, which would send her body into feverish stupor, when even her breath gnawed through any sleep. A thousand trivial scenes played out on the milky white walls of the illuminated room. Within a few minutes there seemed to be a thousand more. One by one they came to play in front of Jane and the scenes would bleed into one another or later, overlap one atop the other. This play was strident and corrosive, depicting a world where dogs fell down holes, children lost their way, someone stuttered, old men rubbed themselves to ecstasies, forests burned to dust, dull orange heads screamed that they knew the truth, flesh was stretched before being torn, lost children were killed outright and god like creatures were sold as scrap, and often there were the moments in which numbers, millions of numbers found in her work, roiled the street where she lived with heavy doubts that threatened to press so hard upon Jane's throat as to make her cry. A word that Jane had used came back to her, hitting her again and again as she lay drawn up under the covers, more words came down and she would pray for some little peace, only to receive further blows from a promise that she betrayed so long ago, a single sentence that left the other holding the pain in their heart, that would leave her muscles filled with tension that her legs would start to shake with a hideous rhythm. With her legs twitching, Jane slid up from her position in the bed. She looked down at her spasms shaking underneath the fabric of the covers. By looking like this at her legs, the shaking was no longer felt, she could sense some movement, but the agony of the twitching had been displaced in the focused concentration she was giving to her limbs. It soothed her, and she slowly got up from the bed and reached out to place her hands against the wall, and once in position, she pushed herself up to the wall and stretched the back of her legs.
So many times in this life, we forget that someone like Jane would be forgetful of the simplest activities that could bring a sense of relief from any turbulent pain. It is easier for us all to watch someone like Jane stammer and fall in what they hope to achieve in their days, than to reach out with the helping hand, or what once was called "a gentle reminder", that someone like Jane so needs to make a bad day into one that could be remembered as good. The light from the garage went out, plunging the bedroom into darkness. Jane froze in her stretches against the wall. She listened, and a vague hope came into her heart that the neighbor, sensing something might be amiss with Jane, what with the dread energy that must be pouring out from Jane's house and spilling over the rose bushes and into the neighbor's yard, and the clouds of steam that had poured out earlier into the night, scaring the animals who lived by their wits in the wildness of the suburbs, that all these things would signal that trouble was being born in Jane's house, and that the neighbor would quickly stop everything that they were doing in the first hours of the new day, and come running to help. There was a sound, a soft burr from just outside the window. Jane knew that the crickets often found a spot just under the short eaves over the bedroom window, and that the burr must be one of them, readying itself for a long night of calling to another cricket for affection and trust. The burr was a special throb, and Jane became entranced by the love call. Stretching against the wall has helping so much, her thoughts began to clear as the horrible ache in her legs evaporated, and her mind began to dwell on the dream she had had before waking up. She knew that a woman had been there, maybe someone she knew well, and there had seemed to be someone else, maybe another woman, somewhat older, who seemed less and less patient than the first strange woman. The dream world was bright in her memory, nothing clouded or obscure. She remembered more under the pale sky, a young woman could bide her time. She could do things to keep herself busy; twist a slip of paper in her hands or fix some loose thread from her jacket, but the best of all was to hold on, not move at all, fold the world inside of herself and wait for the right moment to come. And when it came, all the world that was rotten would melt away, dissolve itself under the rain of love, a pure love, that issues forth from the someone who was
coming, nearer and nearer, underneath this same delicate sky. The wind came up, and the sky drew back, revealing the first clouds. The woman saw someone approaching and stood to greet him. The clouds stood still and then were gone as the sun rose high in the sky. The woman stretched her hand out and the older woman took it, and in taking it, drew the man towards her in a warm embrace. The man who arrived felt that he should not take part in the intimacy that the woman offered. There was a grimace on his face, although it was not serious. Maybe the wind cut through his clothes or the time of day was bothering him. The woman took notice of this kind of face and judged that this might not be serious, but that attention should be paid to this kind of a face later in the day. A table was found and the two sat down to order some lunch. A waiter appeared and took the drink order and returned shortly without the drinks, but with a large basket of bread. The two of them each ate a piece of the bread and when the waiter passed by their table on his way to serve others who had entered the cafe, they reminded him of the missing drinks. He nodded, somewhat curtly, but with a grin that was agreeable enough to supersede the coolness in his nod, and went on his way, helping the new arrivals to a table near the fountain. The woman began a conversation that had started at the time of their embrace, but the man was thirsty, and the drink he ordered weighed heavily upon his mind. He looked from the talking woman to the standing waiter, who was busy laughing with the customers. The man was wondering to himself, almost aloud, whether he should call out in a strong voice to the waiter and demand that the drinks be brought out. He judged, correctly he thought, that the woman he was with would find this to be an unjustified act, a simple display of frustration. The man licked his lips and kept his mouth shut. The young woman laughed and the man's attention was turned abruptly towards her, in fact, his head switched direction so quickly from the waiter to the woman as to call more attention to itself than the woman's loud lingering laugh. Everyone noticed and would now watch him. He could already feel the march of glances coming his way, and there was nowhere he could hide. The man thought that now would be a good time for the rest room, but as he moved to get up from the table, the waiter appeared and stood directly in the path that would allow his escape. Half out of his chair, and dimly aware that every small gesture
was being now commented upon by the restless cliental, the man pivoted his hips, sat back down and turned to face the young woman. By this attempted escape from the public eye, the man began to listen to the woman for the first time that afternoon. What he heard did not surprise him at first, he took it in his usual way, eyes half shut and a thumb resting on the lower lip, but in a few minutes time, he was aware that the conversation was veering into a dangerous place, a hungry culde-sac, where emotions would be enticed and then eaten. With every word, the complicity of the young woman towards this mutual destruction of their psychic states became apparent as well, they were playing a game that existed before the man had entered the scene. His shock was demanding some action, a word or gesture that would stop this awful dance. The young woman said a phrase that sent the man into a glacial state of tension. It was garbled, but the feeling was clear. The man was frozen in his chair. The young woman shrunk her head down into her shoulders and began drawing new strength from a place just in front of her hands. This phrase convinced the man and so he said "Please, just stop for a second." and then the Young Woman raised her head, smiled, and said "This is what I have wanted to hear all day long." The waiter came by with the drinks and slipped them into positions near the hands of everyone at the table. He gave no indication that he sensed the tension at the table, he was a professional and would believe it a sin to have betrayed that he had taken the slightest interest in the affairs of those he spent years of his life learning to serve. Once he was finished, he left them without asking if there was anything that they would care to eat. The Young Woman picked out a rose colored thread that had been caught in the pincers of the napkin ring. The man was still thirsty, the chaos had not let him forget the horrible dryness in his throat, he had taken the young woman's glass by mistake, he had grabbed at the glass he saw first, not the glass that was meant for him, and he took a long
lusty gulp. There were times in this man's life when he could swear by his feelings, count on them to be true, a rock solid foundation on which he could build towers of intricate ideas that, being so supported in every way by great slabs of hope and anger, courage and love, sadness and euphoria, would climb and climb, into the farthest reaches of an undiscovered sky. Time and again, no matter what the state of being that he found himself existing in, his feelings were always there with him, and he felt, unlike most men, that he gave his feelings full vent, that there was nothing hidden about them. He always revealed all. This man saw himself as somewhat unique, able to communicate better with women and children and animals than a man should or would ever be expected to, and that his life had a special glow, all due to this openness deep within his heart. This same power could reveal itself in darker ways, as well, and the man thought back twenty years.
Once, when he was a boy, this man would claim a hold on the water filling the gutters after a long winter rain. He believed that the ocean-world that appeared like magic overnight was his and his alone. Until one day, bright and gleaming, there came a small girl who he found ankle deep in the water, pushing a fat stick over the surface of the nut-brown water with a thin stick. This infuriated this man when he was a boy and the anger exploded from his eyes and into the body of the little girl. The heat from this must have singed the insides of the girl. Then, great waves of disaster were sent radiating from his fingertips and these surely, he thought, had wiped out any last resistance from the small intruder. But nothing happened and the girl continued with her playing and as she heard the sound of the boy standing behind her back and trying to destroy her, she turned and smiled and then squinting a little in the sun said "Grab a stick. Grab that one over there." and the boy who would grow up one day to be this man, turned and looked around him, down to the ground, and said "Which one? That One?" and they began to play quietly until his father called him back into the house. From that day on, the man understood that his emotions were a vital living thing, that when exposed like a great diamond from underground, they would blind the world from any evil, and that goodness would flow from out of the dark places. Once inside the house, the boy's father called for him to help with the lawn work. The girl heard the father's voice, she would recall over a dinner, later in life and at a time when her relationship with the man was hitting a rocky patch, and the sound of that voice was to cast a warmth over her face. The redness blazed for anyone to see, and she told the man sitting across from her at the table all those years later that on that day, her small hands dropped the sticks she had been playing with and went rushing up to cover over her burning cheeks.
The man said he had no idea, that when he was a boy, all of this confusion was going on around him. Every day seemed so placid, without being creased by other's passions. One thing after another just happened. His turmoil was all that he knew. The young woman, when she was a girl, was aware that love ate as much as her stomach. The world of houses and lawns, schools and churches, people of all ages, and the animals and the plants that lived around all of these were tingling with a love that the five senses devoured, needed to devour, in order for the body to attain a completeness. She could stand near to people, the adults who ruled over her and the other children, as they stood at a lunchroom or walking on the sidewalk, and see that they drew love from one another and, in a short time, she could feel herself learning how to come closer and closer to someone and by concentrating, with so much inner strength that her heart felt ready to burst, she could remove the love out of the others secretly, and pulling it inside herself to ignite and inner light. The man said at this moment that he thought that maybe all of this talk of love was for the world of women only. He said it like this "I cannot believe I am built to understand any of this." and the young woman said "I was sure you were different." A tightness bundled up her face into a frown and she wore it as well as possible. The man felt that there was truth to what the woman had said. But he chose to hide his feelings, these great deep emotions that were in his heart. The man felt that this woman, even though she had known him since childhood, could not comprehend these rivers that flowed through him, she was too close, and that a silence was best to keep her away from even the slightest glimpse of them. The young woman sat there at the table and watched the man disappear. She wanted to sip from a drink and let him continue on his way. She motioned to the waiter to bring waters. The woman used this space of time to think of what to say next. She almost was thinking of what to do next, some action that would
help the man move things along in life, but quickly understood that there was a word or phrase somewhere, floating around in their lives together, that could help bring about a sure direction, a solid rhythm, a necessary tightness, to what they were experiencing at this point in their lives, and if she had this time and used it well, she could grab hold of these magical words and put them to good use in the conversation. The man was falling through his inner space with the gentle loop and sway of a bird feather, light and beautiful, calm and undemanding. The space was growing between himself and the woman, himself and the world around him, in such a pleasurable way that he was sure at one point in his thinking, that perhaps he had brought this whole discussion on, simply for the excuse to vanish, and feel this wonderful warmth in vanishing. The young woman said, opening her eyes wide "I want to leave this alone for awhile." and the man said, from inside his warm hole "I want to talk more." and the young woman said, looking suddenly away "Let's not talk about this subject anymore, at all." and the man said, summoning up his truest voice "I am ready to talk to you." The family sitting at the next table paid their bill and left the cafe. The Young Woman said, looking at the treetops "Are you?" and the man said, with some warmth"Absolutely sure."
and when he finished, the sun refused to come out from behind the clouds. The young woman singled out a word that the man had said, and, without moving her eyes in any direction, nor shifting her weight in her chair in any fashion that would betray a thought, held it up against the light of the overcast sky. The word was "absolutely". There was almost nothing there to be seen, but she had some measure of hope singe the corners of her eyes when she heard him say it. The young woman said to him "I am going to leave here soon. Let's not start the conversation right yet." and she surprised herself that these words came out of her mouth at the very last minute. She assumed that she was boring a hole into the man, getting inch by inch closer to the heart, and that the last few inches were to be gained by launching into a deliberate straightforward tale of woe. But she had changed her mind. Why? The clouds broke up and left one cloud hanging in the middle of the sky, black and grey, against a shifting plane of paler light. A small bird flew quickly past the cloud and soon another followed. Putting her head down, the young woman understood that she had made a good quick choice. The day was almost over and the chances of her gaining any ground inside this man were dwindling, not for lack of love, but because she was hoping for a perfect time to make this all work, a special place as well, that could hold the both of them together, alone for each other. An image came to her mind at that moment of a room that was empty save for a small bed. Her face unleashed the frown and she took a deep breath. The man said, looking up at the cloud drifting above them "Do you think it will rain from that one cloud?" and the young woman softly said -
"Not on us." The man felt the hole deepen in his chest. He had hoped that the hole he had made for himself would protect him, but it was clear that his hiding was no longer working. As the man and the woman were talking, an older woman had appeared from behind a palm tree and watched the pair for some several minutes. Her name was Rosiland Meadows, age 57, with chestnut colored hair, dark brown eyes, and a black tailored suit with shoes and bag that matched the soft colored nature of her hair. This older woman knew the young couple very well. Rosiland had brought the young man into this world and had seen him marry the young woman, his closest childhood friend and a long standing intimate to the entire Meadows family, almost twelve years ago. In those twelve years, Rosiland had not had as many opportunities to spy on her children as much as she had when they were growing up together in the community known as Los Pueblos. The houses that had sheltered the children then were adjacent to each other, with only a small border of shrubs to separate them. The children called that border area "Our Home" and would play for hours on end, no matter what the weather, even in the broiling sun of summer, which turned their fresh skin old before it's time. From an upstairs bedroom window, Rosiland would watch this lovely boy and beautiful girl play out the roles of mother and father, using tiny twigs as children. She watched them all day long, rarely moving from her position in the window, often bringing some food and drink from the kitchen and eating it right there, so as not to miss a moment of the workings in this special universe. The children would take their twelve twig children and lay them in soft beds made of flower petals torn from the blooming rose bushes in a nearby neighbor's yard. These flowerbeds would envelop the pretend children in brilliant colors; pinks like the color of the dawn laced with lines of red as rich as blood. The small parents would hover over the pretend children as they slept, tucking back the soft covers of a twig child that had been scattered by the wind or simply by a brusque gesture of a childlike hand. Just before dinnertime, the children would be called in by the fathers, who would
use their deep voices to echo their child's name across the green and adobe colored landscapes that encircled them. Rosiland would never call their names, lest it reveal her position in the window. She retained a silence until the both children were well inside their homes. When she heard her boy scamper through the rooms on the first floor of the house, Rosiland would walk from the bedroom to the staircase, lean over the white wooden banister and call down to him "Are you home?" and the boy would not answer right away, as he was busy turning on the television in the family room. And his mother would call down again "Can you hear me?" and the boy, who by now had had weeks of this questioning from high above would say somewhat softly "I'm home." and Rosiland would not quite hear what he had said, but she understood the tone of bored surrender in his mumbled voice. There was a wonderful security produced in his half-heard reply, the woman could always feel it in her bones. No matter what may happen, whether at home or in the course of the events of the world, the sounds the boy made from the adjacent room always would prove to the woman that everything was to be alright, only as long as the boy was speaking, simply talking to himself, not to really anyone, especially when filling the idle space of a summer evening with conversations made for the ears of the toys around him; long debates with the race cars and the tracks that carried them to victory and defeat, endless tales woven for the rapt attention of a bear given to him years before, extravagant lies whispered to a pile of pillows decorated with lines of marching soldiers. For Rosiland, all of these rumbling hums coming from his small body were the promise of a peace fulfilled. When dinner was ready, Rosilandâ€™s husband would call her to join them at the table.
She would come down and sit with them, taking the hands of her husband and her son. The boy lead them in a prayer to God, thanking the Almighty for all the gifts that his family had received and Rosiland would then close her eyes to feel the weight of the man and the boy's hands in her hands. When the Amen was said; the boy would always withdraw his hand first and the husband's hand would tighten around her fingers, and then let itself go.
The waiter brought two waters to the table. Rosiland was surprised that neither of the children were drinking wine with their lunch. When had that changed? Almost always, there was wine at the table and her son and daughter-in-law would drink freely, without a care in the world. The aroma of the opened bottles would scorch the air; the rich flavors would stir the mouths to easy recollections. Perhaps they had made a discussion before to stop. Rosiland had heard nothing about that and was disconcerted that a major change in life had come and gone without her being one of the first to know. A first sip was taken by the young woman, she did it with a thoughtful slowness, savoring the coolness of the water and the coldness of the ice cube that popped away from the hardened block in the center of the glass and quickly touched her upper lip. After the heated intensity of the conversation, this was a true oasis, and her appreciation would show itself in lingering over this refreshment. Water was not a favorite with the man; he was hunting for any distraction to keep the glass away from his lips and he gratefully found it. He had been looking at the potted palms in the corner of the patio, sensing that there was a commotion about to occur amongst them, and he scanned the trunks and fronds for activity. A dark shape was floating there and he seemed to know it. It called to him, this warm darkness, and he waved his hand at the shadow. The shadow stepped away from the palms, into the light, and the man recognized his mother. There were lines in her face that were not there the last time they spent time together, but all in all, she was the same mother; hard lines of bones inside the somewhat softer lines of cloth, a welcoming face beneath a halo of chestnut hair. He was pleased to see her, but no at all surprised. She came into his life at odd times, many years could even pass by without a word from her, and then, there she would be, walking towards him, smiling shyly, and opening her arms to hold him. Just as he was standing from the table to go to his mother, the young woman loomed into view and rushed into those waiting arms of Rosiland, the person the young woman had known her whole life as "My Real Mom". This caught the man off guard. He stopped getting up from the table just as the two women swirled round and past him in their embrace. He suddenly found that he was
stuck in a backward position from the two women in his life, half hunched over the table, his tie close to dipping into the water glass. He held on tight to the metal arms of the chair as the women spoke tenderly to each other, so as not fall headlong into the tabletop. He stayed in that position until they had exhausted their greetings and both of them, simultaneously, called him by name. He stood up straight and turned around to face them. The man thought that the two women were resplendent standing together there on the patio. The beauty of the women was fine. The tensions of his afternoon were almost gone in a second, and he felt that was good. Too much tension can harm someone, make them into a monster, rob them of reason. And then kill them. Little pieces of a person can flake away to reveal a fragile layer that once exposed can be destroyed by a look from a lover or a silence from a friend. Organs that depend on the smoothness of a life can burst from anger the man had seen that on more than one occasion, great giant men with a world clamoring for their smile, suddenly clutching their chests, reeling down a flight of stairs, bashing into the floor, never standing straight again. Colossal deeds, one could call them cures for the ills that plague us all, denied existence purely from not understanding that below the surface is tenderness and it must not be violated, it has to be kept as pure as possible. The fury of the world must be banished forever or else death will come. His mother spoke again, but while he was thinking all of these thoughts, he had not heard her. She spoke again "Are you doing OK?" and the man said Oh, sure I am." and his mother spoke again to another part of him that was not visible to most "Maybe in a couple of weeks. After all this is done." and the man said "Come. Sit down. Here." and the young woman said -
"Sit next to me." and the man's face opened wide in disappointment. He knew that the peace was going to fall away from the couple at any moment, the woman having staked her claim against his wishes, the wishes that she should know so well. What was worse, all of this was done for his mother's sake; this perfect performance. The mother and the daughter-in-law were standing close together and were not able to see the face of the young man. They assumed that all was well; with him, the table, the patio, the palms and the world. The coming together of this form of family, small as it was, exploded any whispered myths about internal tensions tearing it apart, and the two women were so genuinely happy to see one another, that the man and his presence, were simply superfluous in their minds. It was good to have him there, no question about it, but his involvement with the afternoon was deemed vague, in the best way possible. The man provided a pastel shading to desires of the other two family members and these women were planning at a later point in the lunch to mention to the man their feelings of gratitude. The young woman, this wonderful second child of Rosiland's, was itching at a doubt born when she sat down at the table. Was it the words that were said at the initial greeting? She was not sure; there was something off in all of what just occurred. There was a distinct sensation of having missed her line, and because of that, the roles would no longer play out as expected. The mother said "Who picked this spot?" and the man said "This is a favorite of Bill's and Bill told us." The mother said "Bill? Not that man that works in his house?" and the young woman said "Bill is the best."
and the mother frowned and looked at the man and he frowned as well. The young woman said "We have a lot of history with Bill, we trust him so much because of that, and when he said that this was good, we just jumped on it. I think that we can all not treat Bill like some pet anymore and we can enjoy what we have in front of us." The young woman was losing track of where she was and what she should say. As an example, Bill was no concern to anyone, and here she had made him into something that everyone had to talk about all afternoon. This Bill was a suffocating darkness and Bill would eclipse the gentle light that had been shining down on them. The woman had to change her role, from a confusing charlatan (in the eyes of the man) and a welcoming hostess (in the eyes of her mother-inlaw) and into someone who could easily perform as a new powerful force and so she said "That food over there is reminding me of each place we went on our honeymoon, all the small little cafes that lined themselves up in the streets of that mountain town. Each one had it's own special character, a flavor that would drift out from the doors in clouds and conquer the air and seem to call you by name. We ate at every one, and everything was delightful. All of it, the place, the people and the food a fuel for our love." She paused and Rosiland said "Jane, you have such a wonderful memory." and the woman turned pale to her, quickly, and said "There was one place in particular that I remember better than all the rest. It was on a warm Sunday evening and most of the town had gone to bed. But with all of our traveling, somehow, our internal clocks were off and we were so hungry." The man said to her "I remember what you are going to say." The mother said, more to the air around her head than to anyone -
"Just let Jane go on and tell it." The woman said to her husband, with a brighter smile "We energized everything that night. I felt that we were the new electricity that lit up room after room, square after square, of that tired dark old town. You could not talk above a whisper as you walked down the streets, someone could always be listening and in a matter of seconds, faces would come out from the holes in the walls that served as windows, faces that were filled with questions." The young woman lifted the glass to her lips and was surprised to discover a taste of water. Her memory-speech had enticed her tongue to expect the wincing joy of a fine red wine. She took another sip and said "But we were so bright that night, that the faces in the windows were charmed. They simply must have been. I am so sure that everyone was smiling." All of this chatter still was not right, thought the young woman. She began to go over some new lines in her head. She looked to the man and saw him staring off into the corner of the patio. She had hoped that this story, one in which they both appeared as a loving couple, would provoke him out of lethargy. It may have worked; she noticed a small smile forming on his lips. Looking at it's curl, she could sense the celestial sense of wonder that overtook her when she first met him, all those years ago. She would use this distant emotion, which she felt had a greater value for everyone at the table, as the next conversation piece and so she began "Do you remember the other town? The place where we first met?" and the man said "Yes." and the mother-in-law looked down and opened her menu and said "I can really remember when I was there." and the woman continued "That's good. I got a wonderful letter the other day from the owner of the hotel that we stayed at, it must be a ten year anniversary that inspired it. I have not
written to them in ages and I was surprised that they remembered." The woman, feeling, not so much stronger, but more of being in the right place in this particular time, sat up straight in her chair and said "They wanted to thank you again, John, for what you did for them that weekend. It sure must have meant something special to that whole family. And I loved that you took the time away from what you were doing, and gave them so much. I think that when I saw you that week, in that place, with all of those people who needed you so much, it set something off in me, and I just had to talk to you." "You were wearing all blue, which gave you the look of a sports team player. I assumed, like everyone else on that tour, that you played some kind of sport, your clothing told us that much, but a sport that was unknown to all of us. I asked the bus driver that day what team you played for, thinking that a bus driver would know those things, and he said to me that I should go ask the young man himself, as he had not a clue what it was that you do. I was put off, the feeling of being even vaguely attracted to a man like you so quickly, and then making a glaring mistake in perceiving as to how he portrayed himself in public, again so quickly, made my cheeks flush. I saw them go flaming red in the reflection of the windows." The mother-in-law judged that she had heard this story, in some fashion, perhaps a dozen times, on average perhaps once a year, often during the time of the children's birthdays. She remained quiet and looking at the pictures in the menu, decided on a salmon salad. The Young Woman continued "With a brave smile, I walked up to you and introduced myself. I was very formal. If you were famous for something, I wanted to make sure that I was cordial. You smiled back, sweetly it seemed to me, and I knew that I had to somehow get away from the tour and go with you. I was planning my escape as I asked you your name." The waiter came by the table and took out an order pad from the pocket of his scarlet apron. The man ordered a sandwich, the waiter asked what kind, and the man apologized and said turkey. Rosiland ordered the salmon salad. The Young Woman waved her hands to ward off the inquiring look of the waiter and shook
her head "No" and went on with her story "When I say "I wanted to go with you", I don't mean to say that I wanted to follow you. I knew immediately that I could never follow you anywhere, but that you and I would move together, easily, and find each other always in the same place. That was confusing to the tour group when I tried to explain it all to them. The reason for my leaving was so deep in my heart, so fast, and all the answers were so simple to me, that looking back I am sure that I did a poor job explaining the intensities I was immersing myself in that afternoon, so they assumed I was just a follower of a man, doing such a common trick as going off behind a man. Nothing I could say was said correctly and I paid for it." The man said "Let me see something straight. I was just in that town for a day, out of blue, there was nothing else that I had to do, and your bus stopped and there you are in my lap." and the Young Woman and Rosiland put back their heads and laughed. The man sat in silence for a second or two and then he began to laugh with them. Any person coming in and seeing this happy trio would have been hard pressed to imagine that at one point in the relationships of this family, some three years before, there existed not humor or joy, but an angry silence that ate through the months, spewing a coldness all around their lives, leaving all of them exhausted. Why was that? The Young Woman would have said to anyone asking that it was about a present not given to the mother-in-law at Christmas time, and the son would have agreed partially with that, but would have added that his mother went to certain lengths to diffuse that holiday situation and that his wife, the Young Woman named Jane, would have to take some of the responsibility for the bad times by her own actions, in particular, when she wrote the letter to her motherin-law demanding that the holiday dinner be spent at a restaurant, not in one of the family's homes as they had always done. The man was wrong, thought the Young Woman, to side with his mother in this battle, she had done enough harm to him over the years and the Young Woman deserved his backing, his support, his love, in all tense situations. This came to
her mind in the middle of her storytelling at the cafe that afternoon and, after the laughter had died, she said "This is so like you to oppose what I was saying." The man was startled. He had assumed that the bomb he had expected to go off amongst them had been defused. The Young Woman noticed that he was out of his hole and thrown off by the sudden spoken truth. She said with a hollow sound "All the time." The waiter served the sandwich, but neglected to bring the salad to the table.The only one who noticed this was the man. He assumed that another storm would break all about him, this time over food. But the mother-in-law barely glanced at the arrival of the sandwich. At most times, Rosiland would have raised the roof over the unexplained absence of her meal, but the sudden turn in events within the table talk, culminating in the awful sound in her daughter-in-law's voice, clouded over all other events. That voice sound, filled with a rasping boredom, had pierced her heart. Jane clutched her breast, and bending slowly to her left, she said with a new gentleness "My heart." and slowly collapsed to the floor. There was nothing more to be said. The cafĂŠ-crowd all stood or pushed aside by the floor staff. The young woman cried out. The man stood helpless over his mother and watched it's sly transformation as the spirit left her; her body's definite form collapsing into a shapeless heap in the seconds it took for her soul to leave her and ascended into heaven. Later, he stood guard over her and waited until the right people came to claim the body. Once the cafe was cleared and cleaned, a quiet came down over all the tables and chairs and what people that were left working. No one looked up when the man and the young woman walked slowly into that quiet. The two of them had left with the body, but had returned to retrieve a purse that was left at the base of the table. When she picked up her purse, the young woman realized in an instant that the moments leading up to her mother-in-law's health giving way had
possibly been spent worrying over the conversation at the table; or, more specifically, may have been focused too intensely on the story that the young woman was telling. She shuddered. The man noticed her face shaking and held out his hand. She took it. He looked down at the spot where his mother had lain and then he brought his gaze upwards to the chair she was sitting at when she was still alive. The young woman looked up and saw the first hint of the descending night taking shape above the treetops. She gripped her husband's hand tighter. All he could do was simply hold on. They stood quietly as the last of the workers began to close up the cafe and make their way home. The man felt hungry and the young woman felt old.
Jane opened her eyes and the memory of her dream escaped her. It left without giving her a hope of recalling it someday soon; it's faces and colors and sounds and words evaporated, leaving her mind buzzing with frustration. She arched her back and leaned once more into the wall. It felt refreshing and her mind cleared. The coolness of the wall pressed into her chest and this swept away the last particles of the lost world. She pushed herself back upright to a standing position and looked back down at the clock by the bedside. There was still plenty of time before dawn. She felt as though she should get some water, but instead chose to climb back inside the sheets and try again for sleep. She believed that this time the sleep would be more powerful than her brain. She was right. In a matter of minutes she was no longer aware of anything and her body as it rested, curled slowly into a tight round ball. The ball grew tighter and tighter. There was no outside pressure conforming the flesh, but a profound gravity in the inner organs at work, pulling the body of the sleeping woman inward. This gravity was the absence of any thought, even dream; there were no images bawling out or murmuring voices reeling her in, no strange streets or tomb-like rooms, only a silence that blossomed in density. Sleep spun through her spiral shape. In a few minutes, the night began to wear itself out. Pale grey light took its place. A dog silenced by its master was quiet and calm and a pair of small birds sang. The humming river of traffic grew louder from the other side of the cypress trees. Another somewhat larger bird began to sing and the dog master spoke into his phone. A collision of garbage cans crackled the air. Someone yelled to the house down the block, but the voice came into her room instead. There was a smell of butter. There was a smell of butter burning. A child screamed or laughed faintly as it fell. The sun announced the day. Jane opened her eyes and shut them. She opened them once more and saw the vista of mountains made by her limbs pushing up the sheets and blankets. This mighty range stretched out as far as her eye could see - undulating slabs of softness, rising and falling with the motion of her breath. On the line of the horizon, a thin blue shimmering captured her eye. She reached out for it, and these mountains swayed and rippled as her hand came out from under the cloth. She grabbed this mirage and held on to it for more than a minute. Her fingers
caressed the smoothness and her mind opened up to the change of light in her room. The corners of the ceiling were growing brighter and the sound of a voice; possibly the neighbor standing in his garage, talking with his wife and children before getting into the car and heading off to work, entered into the blankness of her waking mind. She stretched and said "Two more days." and stretched once more, collapsing the mountains into the valleys below. In one valley, there was a wrong weave of very fine purple to be found in the cloth of the blue blanket and Jane had at first thought to take this blanket back to the store to get some kind of refund. Time went by, of course, and events more important than blankets took over her life and soon it was too late to return the item. It had been over her body for a month or more, she had become accustomed to the sudden off color in the fabric, a mistake that exploded in the corner of her eye each time she put herself down to sleep. Jane looked up from the vibrant stain and up to the light fixture above her head. There, in the exact center of the bedroom ceiling, hung a lamp with a glass shade that was colored by a chaotic mix of brown and yellow specks. Except in one large spot, where a shard of the shade had broken off to reveal the bulb and some of the bare wires of the light. How it happened she would never know, and she looked away from the broken thing and saw the time on the clock. She hurriedly raised herself up and out of the bed. The day at work was a busy one. There were countless jobs to be done and Jane and her two coworkers did the best that they could to fill all the orders, answer questions posed by the boss and find time for an unobserved break or two in the hallway. A new storm front moved into the area close to quitting time. Jane saw the black clouds from the tiny window in the workroom wall. She wondered with her coworkers whether any of them had brought the right clothes to wear to fight off the torrents of rain that were sure to come. One woman, named Cynthia, said that she took only a small umbrella, the large one that she had at home was left for the child and the grandmother. The other coworker, named Addison, expressed no doubts at all, for she believed that her gigantic raincoat, the one that other workers had dubbed "The Orange Blossom", was tough enough to withstand any storm, no matter how dark or violent. Jane nodded her head,
agreeing to all that she heard, but letting on to the other women that perhaps this weather was something worse than predicted; a storm of such a particular intensity that all of them would be caught off guard, and that all of their protections would fail. The others laughed. The women had heard all of this before, in one version or another, and thought that Jane was being too serious once again. Jane laughed with them, so that she would not be seen a strange one to the group, but also to allay the fears that were steadily burning inside of her head. The wait for the bus ride back home was uneventful and the ride itself was long and filled with windows looking out onto the lawns of lovely houses. Halfway on her journey, an attractive man tried to speak to her, but Jane could not understand anything that he said. She smiled and she nodded and this brought a smile to the man's face and he left her alone. There was no sign yet of the predicted deluge. Jane kept her hopes in place and prayed that the storm would come and clean the world in one long night of rain. When the bus dropped her off at her stop, Jane walked past a grey house. A young blond woman, wearing a black sweater and black pants with white running shoes, walked quickly onto the front lawn and looked at Jane and then turned and went around and into the house. Jane was astonished to see her. That house always belonged to an older couple, frail and spirited in their ways, would greet Jane with a story each time she walked past the house. The older man's name was Sam and he had bought the house many years earlier for barely any money at all. His wife was named Josie and she had come into Sam's life much later; they happened to meet outside a friend's house up in the city. Sam had told his friend on that fateful night night that he was tired of living all by himself and that he would marry that first woman he saw walking down the avenue. Josie then appeared, coming fast, flustered and late for work, not in the mood to talk to anyone. Sam saw her, stepped in front of her and said "Will you marry me?" and Josie, not stopping her stride, had looked up and said -
"Yes." and went on her way. Three months later the two were married and fifty three years had gone by since that wedding day. Now they were gone. Something had happened to them and Jane did not know what it was. Jane said to herself "A tragedy took place and then a blonde lady moved in." Jane kept her eyes to herself and walked on. When she came to her street, she swore that mystery was hers to solve. But the mystery would never be solved. Days and weeks would float by her life and there would never be another time to delve into what might have happened to the older couple that lived once in that grey house. Jane would sometimes punish herself for not looking harder into the lives of those neighbors, her heart would scold her mind, but that would only last for a minute. House after house, rows stretching onto the horizon, were basking in the last rays of the ending afternoon light; a singular whitish glow, made all the more striking by it's great contrast with the bulging purple and black clods of storm clouds that covered the edge of the western sky, and the houses grabbed hold of the heat from this light and brought it all the way inside of their walls. There were few people at home in these rows of houses; most worked jobs all day and many worked in cities far away and they would not be back until long after dark. Jane's house was a corner unit. It was number 4 and around it lay several concrete slabs, forming a patio. On the patio, Jane had placed three large plastic containers, two green and one white, which held large red geraniums. As she continued on her way home, Jane saw her neighbor Nilly working hard in her front yard. This neighbor was a wonderful woman and she approached Jane as Jane walked towards her. Nilly had black hair piled high on her head and Jane noticed it was the same coloring and shape as the storm cloud circling slowly in the sky above the city. Nilly wore check patterned pants and an ivory blouse over which was a gardening smock made of denim. On the smock was a button that had a picture of smiling woman. Nilly noticed that Jane was regarding the button with interest and Nilly said -
"Oh, I just love her." and Jane lied and said "Yes, I think she's great." and the two began a conversation.
As they talked, the two women walked through the small landscaped yard owned by Nilly. She cared for it with a passion some reserve only for a lover. Nilly had taken the plot of bare land inherited from her first husband thirty years before and had transformed the dull clay-plagued earth into a rich loam teeming with the sweet nutrients that the plants of the area, both the common and the rare, needed to thrive in the famous rain soaked climate. The work of regeneration took many years, but the time had gone by quickly as Nilly earned success after success with each sweat soaked day. Nilly said to Jane "Make sure to start looking over there first and then swing over to the tree tops at the very last." Jane needed no other prompting, for when Nilly gave her instructions in what to see that day in the yard, Jane knew that specialness was on the way. The vision offered was sumptuous and in later years, Jane would refer to " a special day in the garden" when she spoke to her family, but none of them were aware that she had meant the garden so close to her home. But before they could view this special place, Nilly quickly decided that they had to drag the enormous water hose from it's housing beside the garden entrance to the very last, and very dry, recess within the Morning Glory covered back wall. That place held a special flower that Nilly had to water each day. The flower was called an Orange Honeysuckle, and it did not need a great deal of water, but just a few drops every afternoon. Jane grabbed a length of the hose and together the two women began to haul the green rubber across the entire length of the yard. Nilly easily yanked along a great section of the hose and Jane was impressed by the ease with which Nilly could maneuver such an ungainly beast. The long green lengths hung loosely from Nilly's hands, flowing behind her like a bridal train made of soft satin and lace. When they were finished with the job, Nilly expressed her thanks to Jane and then said "This is good. Starting at the back of the garden instead of the front." and Jane replied -
"This is a great way to start." and Nilly began to walk back to the hose housing. She had forgotten to turn on the hose. She walked back slowly through the garden. Her eyes were downcast and there was a slight frown upon her face. The frown did not vanish when Nilly looked up into Jane's eyes. Nilly did not say a word and Jane did not make a sound. And so the tour began. In the yard, sprays of vibrant growth assailed Jane's senses with chaos; scarlet wands throbbed, cream colored suns dangled, fleshy horns of sickly pink bellowed, and great organs of pale orange spread swollen flaps before her eyes, first beckoning the looker with heat from an infernal blaze, then with a sudden glimpse of stamen, woven tight and erect, which called the gaze ever deeper, into the profound folds of the slick velvet petals, bursting of a frivolity, a gladness, with an antique fragrance that hoisted a sense of optimism in Jane's heart. She longed to reach in, all the way inside of the flowers, probing glorious innards that would relish such a touch from a calm loving hand. Imagining herself as a bee, Jane held her breath tight in her chest and expanded her torso until it became a rounded ball of black and yellow, her neck was lost and her face grew giant eyes that could perceive the unseen mystery codes painted in the pure color fields by gods unknown, her arms and legs sprouted black and long with brittle hooks that were to be covered by a yellow cake of pollen, her shoulder blades became elongated and transparent and multiple, spreading themselves as a black lace to catch a breath of the sweet summer air. It came in an instant, this gentle wind, and with it came a freedom that she had never felt before; high she rose, up into a cascading space pierced with tunnels and holes of living things. She entered. Corridors of membrane, slicked by the spit of miniscule animals, endlessly opened and echoed with her buzzing. Spreading through out her vision, multiplied by new eyes into a thousand mirrors, came long fibrous stains of green and red, blue and gold which became a liquid, became a mist, and at last a breath. The breath burst. In these stalks of space, the specific tick of human history was devoured by the enormous mute void of nature and time was no longer a promise, time was no longer a chain, time was no longer a name, but time was inside of her, pulsating as an eternal need, a fruition of ancient hopes. The air exploded and the blue sun burned a ring in the golden sky. Nilly knew that she needed to revive the dreaming Jane with a strong shock and so she brought up a subject she felt was sensitive and possibly hurtful to Jane. Jane was indeed lifted back to the world of human concerns, but she displayed
none of the anxiety that Nilly had felt that the question would produce. There was simply her usual calm. Jane did not address the topic of the question, it had to do with her living alone for so many years, but she nodded and smiled. The two women continued on with the garden tour. There were fruits that Jane had never seen before, strange in the way they hung from the trees and stranger in the shapes and coloring. Nilly said it was a hard to remember all that she had planted over the years. One fruit led into another and they blurred in her mind. The flowers were easier for her to remember. One flower stood out to Jane more than all the others, its peculiar form was raw and seductive. She turned to Nilly and asked "What is the name of this one?" and Nilly said "I think that is a rose called "Souvenir de la Malmaison." and Jane said "My God." and Nilly said, with some distraction in her voice "Yes. Yes." and Jane said "I want to stop right here all day and look at this." and Nilly did not reply. There was something happening at the other side of the garden wall that needed her immediate attention. Through the wide cracks in the fence, the ones made last summer by a strong wind from the winter storms, Nilly could see the familiar grey and brown shapes of workers shuffling back and forth. Back and forth, over and over, the workers moved with loads of wood panels, parts of obsolete machines, tools and tool kits, broken slabs of concrete, hunks of carpet, ballasts for light fixtures and then the light fixtures themselves, One came
out of a truck holding a box of spikes, and another walked out with a massive amount of paint, so much paint, that Nilly was sure he would drop some of it, but he was good at his job and handled the excessive load with the ease of a dancer, others soon followed him with more or less the same dexterity, but this particular worker was the best at this job, he carried himself just as beautifully as the load of paint in his hands. This man's name was unknown to Nilly. She took notice of his physical features; he was of small stature, a round face with a handsome mustache, hands thick with the memory of his labors, a slight limp in his left leg, which in no way hindered his movements, but instead gave his already graceful gifts a further lilt, a musicality which made the paint in his hands swing in a delightful arc through the air. Each time a can of paint rocked in the worker's hands, it plunged to a point near the level of the neatly cut grass and then climbed to it's zenith at a place almost at the level of the tallest branches of the tallest bush. The man did not smile. His frown was convulsive. Corrosive. Nilly wanted to smile at the man, make him see that she appreciated what he could do, that she took interest in his skills, respected his work, but he did not look her way, he continued on with his work. Nilly looked to Jane and saw that she was lost once again in her deep fascination with the whirlpool of petal that made up the bloomed body of the rose. She hesitated to break the spell that Jane was under; she looked so peaceful. Nilly made the choice to simply watch her. This took all her attention away from the worker. When she had turned her back on the worker she admired, Nilly had no inkling that he would use the opportunity to pause in his labor to watch her. And that is exactly what happened; Jane was watched by Nilly, who in turn was watched by a worker. The worker had a name, but few knew it and fewer used it. He rarely gave it away, not to men that he met on a job or to those others waiting for a job outside of the gas station. This was not out of a sense of shame, but from a deep vein of pride that other's in this day and age might be quick to ridicule. This man felt that his name was something sacred, something that he carried close to his heart and that connected him to other sacred names in another part of the world. Those others in that distant land, whose faces shimmered before him here in the darkest part of the night, rarely revealed their own names as well, but for reasons related to desperate self - preservation. Everyone in the house held their tongues - his whole experience of family was based on a peculiar silence, a furious quiet, that held one's throat in a vice grip and that if broken would bring
terrible consequences to the family if ever one of them ever had spoken a single name out loud. That is what he and his brothers and sisters were all told time and again, with every attempted joyful yelp, by the adults in their hoarse bitter pleading. He never knew the reason why. He never tried to guess. It was natural to him and to everyone to be silent in the home. The house that knew his family had been a temple devoted to whispers, made of rough-hewn planks and brick that to the young boy looked like veined marble. Inside could be found indefinite spaces filled by darkened corridors leading to shadowed rooms, which could be illuminated only by the shifting glare of a flashlight beam. Looking back, the man understood, with a sense of amazement, that the time had gone by quickly in that house and that he had even been happy, for there was a great love that lived there, a love that even thrived in the heavy shadow life; it had come from his mother and father and all the aunts and the uncles, in a quiet and forceful way, like a secret river flowing through the cracks in the wood and brick walls, and with that love the man's childhood seemed to run away from him, far away, over mountains and over oceans, until it came to this new place, this other world, where he found himself no longer living as a child, but as a man, working the days away with these other men, all moving as best as they could with a heavy load in their hands. His hands were starting to ache. The other men around him had said nothing to him, but he was sure, just by looking at them, that their hands ached as well. A soft light came down on the shrubs and trees surrounding the workers. Twilight had begun to grow at this time of the afternoon, taking its first steps at becoming the night and the workers began to squint in order to see clearly the beauty all around them. There were dusky greens in the low lying succulents which reminded some of the men of a particular place in their homeland, others were fascinated by the purple iris, with leaves supple in their exacting knife blades shapes and the swollen look of the flower itself, all purple and pouting and holding tiger stripes in the heart of the blossom, and one man marveled at the round pebbled spheres of tangerines; ready to burst from the aromatic juice. One of the workers was not moved by the foliage, but by the plush grass that was called by the owners "My Lawn". He longed to bury his face into its sweet smelling thickness. The workers were almost done with their day, just a few more clean up duties to perform and then a last minute check-in with the owner of the house to see if anyone of them could continue to work the next morning.
Nilly wanted to ask the distracted Jane if she would like to continue on with the tour of the garden or go home, but she hesitated to speak to her once again. Jane's trance like state was so monumental that she feared violence. Nothing physical: nothing verbal, but a sudden uncomfortable boil to the emotions. She watched Jane for another minute and then walked out of the garden. When she reached the front door of her house, Nilly was thinking that walking away was wrong. She went back and rejoined Jane. The two women stood silently side by side, one endlessly counting the half visible contours of the rose petals and the other watching the long shadows of the workers dance over the garden greenery as they packed up the truck that had brought them far from their home. The worker with the silent name walked to the fence that separated the large houses. He was intrigued by the open regard he had received from the woman. The man was determined to go to the fence, peer over the side and say something to the woman. The man was not sure at all what to say, perhaps a question regarding the watering of her plants would be enough to start a full conversation. When he placed himself before the fence, he was shocked to discover that he had forgotten the words for "Hello" and "Excuse me". Where on earth did they go? Somewhere in his head those words were hiding from him, obscured by an idea or buried beneath a memory. This was on purpose. The soul of the man was petrified of his taking on such a glaring example of what the other worker's would call "The Big Mistake" - that act of speaking before being spoken to. The soul had arranged with the mind to cloud any knowledge that would have enabled the man to create such a folly. He felt his cheeks flush and his palms grow wet. The man was frozen in his spot. Nothing cold be found in the new language to bring himself so much as an inch closer in life to this woman. A voice broke the silence of the dusk. It was Jane. She had spun out of her enchanted state and regained her place as a visitor in the garden. Her voice surprised both Nilly and the worker. Nilly had been bewitched by Jane's deep silence and was in a comparable state of reflection. The sudden shout made Nilly take a quick step back causing her to lose her balance briefly when she brushed up against the hose lying in the grass. She caught herself with a shudder. The worker was the one who was most astonished by Jane's outburst, for she was looking him in the eye and calling him by his first name. Jane also said -
"I had no idea you were over there." and the worker said "I am glad to meet you." and Jane replied in a higher voice "We have met before." and the worker repeated what she said under his breath. Jane had begun to walk over to the fence. Nilly was still too surprised to fathom what was happening between the two people in front of her to even be upset by Jane's quick usurpation of her desire. Only one thing came out of Nilly's mouth and she would regret it in the days that followed "You two look like you would know each other." and Jane stood next to the fence and put a hand on it's top ridges. The worker did not quite understand what Nilly had said, but he felt the tone of her voice furthered his insecurity. Jane looked at the man and said "Do you think so?" and the worker guessed what to say next and was quite correct "I am not sure." and Nilly realized that she had no where else to go but forward with what she had started and so took a step towards the couple and said "Yes. I think so." and Jane introduced herself and said -
"That is your name?" and the worker replied "You are right." and then he looked down. The name that Jane had used was in fact not right. He thought for a moment as to why he had responded to that name. Perhaps Jane's face, open with friendliness, was too much for him to handle. He thought a moment more and then looked back up. The worker said "How have you been?" and Nilly and Jane both responded with a "Fine. Thank you." The other men were waiting in the pick up truck. They had watched the scene unfold and were commenting on the action in subdued tones. Some of them were of the opinion that one of them should speak to this man and find out what he and the two women had spoken about. The rest felt it was none of their business. The driver honked the horn. Without looking back, he made a wave of his hand and the worker said to Jane "Is this your house?" and Nilly said "Are you asking who lives here?" and Jane said "No." and Nilly said "This is my place." and the worker smiled and said -
"Can anyone help?" and Jane said to Nilly in a voice meant for the man "I think you may need someone." and Nilly said "No. That's O.K." The worker smiled at Jane and the truck horn honked again. Nilly was immediately glad that she had said no. It would have been easy to say "yes". A "yes" would have started something in the wrong direction. Nilly was sure that this was the right direction. She turned to Jane to catch her eye and signal somehow that this was the right direction to go, but Jane was about to speak to the worker one more time. Jane said "It's been good to see you again." and she called him by the wrong name one more time. He smiled, acknowledging the name and accepting it as his own. The worker said "Bye." and he turned and walked back to the waiting truck full of men. He squeezed into the front seat and the truck drove off. He had not looked back. The women both spun around quickly to face the sumptuous garden glowing in the half-light of what was left of a long day. A mockingbird dived down through an open space between the hanging branches of a Bottle Brush tree. The bird sat nervously for a second on the cob webbed limb of yew tree and then flew higher to the top of the telephone pole. From this beautiful spot, the mockingbird began its music. Cries and moans, of jubilation and regret, filled the air. Jane believed that the sounds of a thousand birds poured out from that single beak. The two then spoke of the work involved in keeping such a garden so wonderful all year round. Jane expressed amazement when she heard that Nilly rarely ate the fruits that were grown in the garden. How could she not indulge herself in
these exotic tastes? These true fruits of Nilly's labors were the expressions of surprise and gratitude in the faces of all those who were invited to stroll through the wonder-yard. Jane's face was a special face for Nilly, for it had beamed like a small sun, rays of delight shooting down on the petals and stalks and leaves. As they talked, a man living in the old house directly across the street was looking at the two women with a pair of astonishingly bright blue eyes. He had a kind thin face, and his hair was white and combed back in an elegant fashion. The man was sitting in the large oval window of his house, using the light from the window to better see the documents that were piled in front of him on the dining room table. The paper in his hand was a clipping from a newspaper which told a funny sports story, or it was a receipt for the recently purchased television; the man did not know which. He was trying to understand the meaning of the paper in his hand when he had noticed the women standing along the sidewalk on the other side of the street. The man believed he knew them both very well. When he had looked long enough, the man turned back to the paper in his hand and began to go over the contents with his fiery orbs. Jane asked Nilly about the plant in the wood chips near the back garden gate. Nilly said "That was here when I took over the property, although much smaller of course, and not at all healthy. I cared for it and then ignored it, almost hoping it would just die, but it never did. The years would turn it brown and I thought for sure I could dig it out and then lo and behold, I would find a fat green shoot tucked away in all the crunchy dead leaves. That convinced me to nurse it back, that it was my job to nurse it back, and now look at it after all these years." Nilly cocked her head back to take in all of the plant. Jane did the same. The leaves, thick as a man's hand and as wide as a silver serving plate, colored in vertical running lines of gold and green, edged by inch long needle points that could easily damage the most careful of gardeners with a gouge, sprouted from an invisible center energy point and gushed upwards to a height of ten or twelve feet. Coils upon coils of these leaves arched through the air with bold majesty, forming shapes that resembled bodies writhing under the intense heat of love and the effect they had upon the women was immediate.
It was time for Jane to go. The women wound down the conversation with delicacy. Neither one wanted the other to walk away with any trace of distrust. Jane remembered not to hug Nilly and Nilly made sure to take off her sunglasses so that Jane could see her eyes. The two women said their goodbyes and went on with the last of the day.
The door was always locked when she arrived home. No one else was using the house and she always made sure that the bolt was thrown when she left for work in the morning. This evening, however, she found that the door swung open easily when she placed a small bit of pressure against it. The open door revealed a dark entryway leading into a pitch-black living room. Jane had no idea what to do. Should she walk in? Should she call the police? She was positive she had locked it, but she very well could be wrong. There was a strong smell of cooked onions coming from the house and she knew at once that everything was just as it should be. There was only one person in her life that cooked onions in that way and he must have come by and let himself into the house. She marched in with a smile opening on her face. But there was no one there and when she called his name there was no answer. The blackness that she had seen from outside was even darker and she hurried to turn on a light. She stumbled her way into the kitchen and turned on the little light above the stove. Here the smell of the onions was overpowering and she looked along the countertop for signs of a meal, but there was nothing. The place was spotless. Not a dish or a towel was out of place. Jane could feel the soft pull of regret in her chest. The rest of the house lights were turned on quickly, in fact, all of the house lights were turned on by Jane for she wanted the house filled with the strongest amount of light, even the closets were thrown open so that their weak yellow bulbs could destroy as much of the darkness as possible. She paused for a moment and realized that the radio should be turned on. Jane needed the sound of music to fill the rooms. There was a small radio in the bedroom. She found the switch with some difficulty. Music flooded through the bedroom and into the house; soft strings caressed the sound of a woman's illusive voice. Jane's eye caught sight of herself in the mirror embedded in the bedroom wall. She saw that she was still wearing her jacket and had not taken the time to put down her heavy purse. The face that she wore at that moment did not surprise
her; it was a face worn down thin by a grinding hope, the same hope that cursed her in these last years and had caused her to miss days at work and to not sleep and that kept coming back to live inside of her, burrowing deeper every time and finding new ways to make her look different, to change her skin and her eyes, her whole face. Jane hated this face. She wanted to tear it off and leave it lying on the floor. The smell of onions was gone. It was replaced by silence and within moments, the sound of the furnace switching on and blasting hot air throughout the house. Jane dropped her purse where she stood and then took off her coat, all the while staring at the face in the mirror. She continued taking off her clothes and did not stop until she reached her panties. The panties were old. She told herself she needed new ones. The heat currents covered her body. She relaxed long enough to start breathing once more. The breath was stale with the events of the work day. She licked her lips and ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth. She took off her panties and took another breath, but deeper this time. The sight of her body in the mirror did not please her, but her flesh comforted her, brought her to understand that this was not going to be the day. She would not see him. She said in a whisper to herself "I was wrong. I was excited. Its one more day now." She said it again louder, as though for someone's benefit. The song that had been playing on the radio finished with a fading, repeating pattern of minor notes played against a major key. There was a moment of silence and then a new song began with a rambunctious flourish of trumpets and drums. There was no singer, but a lone trumpet lifted itself out of the bouncing sound mass with a keening melody that Jane could remember humming in her hometown as a child. This brought a smile to her face, but no other memory of that town. She bent down, picked up her clothes off the floor, taking the time to make sure that her panties were as old as she first thought them to be, and headed into the bathroom for a shower before the evening meal. Six quick minutes was what the box said it would take to cook the food correctly, but it always took seven instead. Jane was sure of this and it gave her that extra time to prepare something green to go with seasoned rice dish. The food was good. The radio played music that went well with the food. Jane
would nod her head in rhythm with a song as she ate or sang a sliver of a tune. The voice on the radio would talk for awhile and when that happened Jane would use the break between music pieces to think clearly about what more needed to be done; at work, mostly, this was the busy time of year for everyone on her floor and there was some potential for a back-up in the materials that would cause even further delays; and also with her house; the drain in the sink needed clearing, if not with a plunger than maybe with a snake. When the voice died down and the music started Jane promptly forgot everything that she had been thinking of and was lost somewhere special within the harmonies of the song. Still singing lightly or simply humming, she finished her last bite of food, washed the dishes and readied for bed. Pillows in general were hard on her back so she chose to read a few pages of her favorite book in the big living room chair before going to sleep. The big chair that she had received two years ago on her birthday was a godsend. It saved her from the aches of sitting like a snail amongst the down and the foam. This chair was golden and had a thick cover which kept her warm on these colder winter nights. Jane had her book and opened to the passage that needed to be discussed next Wednesday. It was a brief, but to Jane, somewhat complicated series of words, not so much in the meaning, but in the manner with which it switched points of view, back and forth from one person to another. First, what appeared to be a man spoke at some length about all that was beautiful under the heavens and then suddenly a woman's voice could be heard very clearly. This woman would also speak of beauty, but Jane could hear a tinge of regret in the voice. Jane thought - the woman must have blonde hair with a voice like that and the man must think of that hair as he walks. The woman must be somewhere, maybe a room, all by herself and the man must be in the country looking at all of the countryside. Jane reread a passage. The two would have met somewhere before, at a party or at someone's house and the man may have been drunk and the woman saw all of that and understood that being alone can split open a man, but a woman could be there and the woman may have given herself to the man, but now time has torn them apart. The man was someone tall and who worked and the woman was in the house. Jane believed - a crisis, a terrible thing. Harmony between them had vanished. The man spoke as he walked on the hilltop perhaps not of things as they are but of a memory. The nature was calling back the past; hoop earrings, beeswax candles, pearls on the wrist, all things made dumb by time. Jane reasoned - but perhaps the nature was
somehow seen from the room that held the woman; a window might be open and the woman is sitting at the window. The woman could see a tree, a tree with many branches and perhaps three of the branches looked changed - branches were blooming with red flowers. The man might also be able to see this tree from where he is standing, he could be on a hilltop, and from the top of the hill he could see the same blossoms as the woman. The speech that the man started and the woman finished could be a continuation of what they both were seeing, the gaze of the one became the gaze of the other. Jane understood - the woman's voice spoke in soft accents and the man's would speak more boldly, but for a short time. A word would come that would be a silky sounding word and Jane was sure that this would belong in the mouth of the woman, but it was obvious that the man was the one person speaking. One voice and then another, strands of voices strung through the early morning air. But it could be the evening; it might even be dark. Jane concluded - the man would be out in the night and the woman would be in the house, with a fire, but she might wander out because she couldn't take the strain of the house. It must collapse on her at every minute and she would run away, to look for the man or simply to get out, to simply be somewhere else in the world, away from her family and friends, away from the man and his house. Jane spoke each word in a clear voice. The man's voice came first only to fade away and the woman's voice would come slowly, shading a vowel, blackening a consonant, and the words darkened the room, brought the lights which still blazed throughout the house down to the flicker of a candle flame. Once again, Jane spoke each word in a clear voice. The only voice in the room was hers. She gripped the book tighter and when she had finished speaking she closed the book with a pretty thump that ricocheted out of the room and into the alleyway. Once there, it startled the neighbor so that she woke with a fright. What were these words doing? They marched and then they ran, they slept and then they died. Springing back to life, they marched on and then died one more time. Jane would rub her eyes and stretch and start afresh in her quest for understanding, but the words were not behaving at all well. Not like in the other books that she knew by heart, this book had blacker words on a paper that was fragile enough to be crushed with every turn. How on earth could she describe them to someone else? She put her head back to let the chair cushion envelop her nape and ears. The book closed softly in her lap. Closing her eyes against the gloom of the living
room, she felt heavy with confusion. Jane thought - What am I to do with these words? They mean too much. These words should stop. They are worth a heavy price. When she thought of the word "worth" she instinctively licked her lips. Her lips were always dry after reading, they took a terrible beating from her fingers when she was lost in the book, the lips were sometimes torn to ribbons and, in fact, there might even be the beginnings of a sore starting on the lower lip. She touched that spot and dropped her hand and raised it to touch the spot again. It was a sore. She should have known. All of this hard reading in the middle of the workweek always brings on a sore somewhere on her body. When everyone meets to talk about the passage in the book she would probably still have this sore, plain as day. The book now weighed a thousand pounds in her hands. Jane raised her head and said the words "under me" out loud in a whisper. She stood up, letting the book down carefully to the floor as she raised herself from the chair. She was only wearing a light wool blanket around her shoulders and she wrapped the blanket tight about her. Standing tall in the room, she bent her body forward and down at the waist, arching her back slightly and then suddenly, deeply, swooping low to the floor and letting her hair fall down across the carpet. This movement brought her back full to standing and then she went down again, releasing the tightness in her back so that her hair may go down lower and lower, rubbing the carpet with her black locks. The hair crackled with static sparks that propelled Jane into the bed and to sleep. The next morning brought more sun and more traveling and more work. Jane experienced them as a nothing. She saw all in front of her as a bilious cloud and when she listened to someone speak, she heard a droning buzz like an airplane flying off in the distance. At lunch and at dinner she put food into her mouth and it tasted like old bread. Her hands and legs moved like twigs and her face was always some few feet behind her. She went home to bed and fell asleep without reading.
Three hours later, she woke up from the bottom of a black pit. Jane desperately wanted to stay in the pit, she had a home there would do anything to live in the pit-home, but the gigantic ropes pulling her to the daylight were too strong for her to fight alone. She called for her friend to help, but there was no friend. Jane opened her eyes to see the land outside the pit and was amazed not to find any new land or daylight at all, just the white light from her neighbor's garage beaming into the bedroom and lighting up the ceiling as though it were the sun of dawn. She closed her eyes and then she opened them wider. Jane reached for the clock by the bed and saw the number three. The number three meant something to her. Her head shot up. She remembered that at this time and on this day her favorite radio program could be heard, and that she could listen for the solutions that might resolve the turmoil in her heart. With her headphones on, she quickly found the station and could hear instantly the familiar theme music for her show. There were strings and horns and a beautiful woman's voice that swirled around in the space within Jane's sleepy head. Sudden sounds like these always caused her to stretch and wake more; the pit-home and the ropes were gone, she was now fully awake. She then heard the voice, the voice of the radioman that had solved so many of her problems in the past. His name was Brother Anthony and his show had been on in the air for over thirteen years. Sporting a face covered over by a white beard and shoulders forever hunched down over his chest, all from his years of deep mediation and speaking endless hours into a microphone; this seeker of truth, having learned many wisdoms from many masters, chose to share all that he knew of the spirit mysteries with the lucky few he sometimes called "His Super Listeners". Jane was thrilled that after a dead day, when every muscle in her body had been reduced to nothing, she could be offered the chance at rejuvenation by this man's marvelous words, words that pierced her heart with such happy grace. The music paused, returned quietly with a familiar voice and then spoke Well, hello, hello, hello and Good Morning to you. It's the Brother Anthony Show.
And I am here from my heart to yours to bring enlightenment, understanding and clarity to the soul, mind and spirit. To make the intellect - spiritual. To bring the mind, soul and body together as a unit; not to be scattered, confused or out to lunch More than half the time. So to bring unity, harmony, peace; whatever that all means, to our awareness, for love's sake, for caring, for sharing, giving and forgiving. focusing on and bringing about insight, awareness, focusing on the most important parts, of what is to be a wonderful, dynamic, brilliant and magnificent life. The lecture tonight is - SPACE. Here the music of voices and strings swelled with anticipation. Space - Outer Space? Inner Space? What Space? Spaced out. What planet did you get off Brother Anthony? Where did you get your information? Well, wherever I got it - I got it. Sometimes we have to go beyond believing and learn to know. Sometimes we just not hear, but we listen. And some of us listen, but we're not hearing. So I hope to focus on and bring about - both. As I said, if you're a first time listener, welcome aboard. It's for the betterment of you, the earth and all mankind, nature and how we fit in this magnificent, dynamic dynamite, universe in all it's space. SPACE. The music of voices and strings swells once more, this time, in a release of grandeur. The far and beyond, the ever ending. Eternity, eternity. The music soared up with the sound of a panpipe joining the strings and voices.
What is eternity? What is life - for? I've heard people say, you know, what is it all about? What are we doing? We live the life we learn, we get educated, we families and children, relationships at all levels of existence, but what's it for? So I'm going to break the ice and bring about - what's it for? What's it all about, Alfie? Space - in all it's beauty and magnificence. Food for thought - the Spoken Word - SPACE. The strings and the voices and the newly introduced panpipes rose even higher on a giant wave of melody. Have you ever wondered why we're here? Why we have so many philosophies and religions? Politics? Why we have sorrow, pain, loneliness, despair? Half of the world is always looking for a Mr. or Mrs. Right to complete their better half of their Life? Why is there rain? Why is there pain? Why are there tears? So, I'm going to bring about some awareness about SPACE and the beauty of what God did. What God does. Again to bring about our lives in a body.
With a mind, a heart, soul and spirit. Physical consciousness, emotions, highs and lows, goods and bad, happiness, love, sharing the heart to understand... That's what I'm here for - it's God's Ambassador - in SPACE. One last music burst overwhelms the voice with an ecstatic pan pipe.
And there was a long pause.
SPACE. (I had to set some equipment up) Well, you know, there is all kinds of space. And if you looked at Webster's Dictionary they say its space from one point to another. Or the space in time. Or the space in between. Well, it's Brother Anthony's space: adding space to your space, the beauty of the horizon, spaced out, the area in difference to the beneath the high the low the compass the direction the distance the room the square the circle expansion extension extending field gap headway infinity in-eternity location point from where the marble the plain the range to reach the slot SPACiousness the sphere the spot spread stretch travel contacttacturn the volume even in sound resounding in space a division of the mind for wherever we're at whether you are in school - are you spaced out? - are you out to lunch? are
you bizarre? crazy? these are all dimensional words descripting SPACE depicting SPACE far-out freaky kooky nutty odd oddball off-beat off-center off-the-wall out-in-left-field out-to-lunch as Brother Anthony would say spread-out strange way-out weird beyond what-space? boundless endless forever forgettable unforgettable endless enduring persevering securing the fact that we could be going on forever as I said extended great-huge-imagination-large as the universal mind as all the room capable of withstanding vision insight widespread imagination creation creativity so keep with those last few words for awhile as I get into the lecture and it is on SPACE. so for a moment I want you to imagine I'm going to start off with a big one because I am God's Ambassador and I'm
here to speak on behalf of the source and light Because we are programmed to believe certain things - devils, fear, anti-christ. Confusion, delusion Hate Anger tension stress ragging nagging and bitching all day and stressed out time moving faster "Gee, I just barely did this and I don't have enough time for that." It's like money - I have to steal from Peter to Paul to pay this and that. For to meet the ends of the bills for the month, the week, the day. So here I am tonight, from my heart to yours, let's connect, let's awaken the awareness of some facts because I said - I speak for God. Not - not for Brother Anthony. This show isn't about Brother Anthony, it's about knowledge, insight and it's universal, at all levels. So if you go way out to understand what is out there even in space travel it's here all already but if you're listening to me and you're staying on this station and you want to hear the truth - what is out there is here and what is here is out there that's a real hard one to understand but once you awaken the mind to it's fullest potential not sixteen percent or thirtythree but you're starting to open to a universal mind you're starting to reach and unlock the doors of distance in value percent location insurance scientific data connecting So let's connect I'm here tonight to bring you the value of why creation has space and to tell you before we start as I said there is no such thing there is no space let me give you a pure example of that You may have a wall separating you from the inside to the outside ah look around your room see a table a chair see that there is a space between them they're not all chairs and all table there is a space to logic and reason but the space
I'm referring to is Is your mind spaced out? Is it empty? Does it have enough substance and and pure value? And pure grace? Of understanding? And if it doesn't than it is Spaceless it's the size of a peanut and an an anorexic brain So here I am tonight I'm talking about SPACE. We want space travel to see what is going on or what we can do to start a colony on Mars per se we want to see what's going on maybe we can see if there's no planets available for our existence maybe we could find one around another sun if we could get there Well, are we going to go there and pollute? and bring war and domination and destruction So, if you want to travel and to the outer reaches of space we must realize that there is no space because as long as we think that there's space we're never going to travel to get there and this is why advanced civilizations have created in the highest level of physical technology huge capsules that house the mothership and it just beams on from one location to another galaxy there is no travel there is no seconds lost not minutes not a second is lost it beams off and it beams on where ever it wants and it sends out it's little scouts and it searches that planet that system that solar system in the galaxies these are high advanced yes - Star Trek "Get out your sylestium crystals" ah I've given crystal lectures too I wonder how many of you have heard those So here I am from my heart to yours it's about the beauty and the wonder of SPACE. And once you realize as I speak a word there is a space between the words if you're reading words and sentences and phrases or you're hearing them there is a space
between them really there isn't because what's in between each word is the most magical power in the universe what is called to you and to us is SPACE I'm going to break it down for you right now in the beginning was the vibration called words somebody depicted that God is light and in the beginning was the words and from the word came all things in true essence that is an absolute truth but let's get to the idea of what God is God is love excuse me and hear me out first of all God is love this is why we have a master high powered light-spirit coming in and being gifted enough to reach to touch to feel to elevate our consciousness out of darkness into light called Jesus the Christ I wonder if it did any good? we're not getting any better individually or collectively but I would like to think that somewhere along the way we're going to get it he came to this planet on behalf of God Love thy neighbor as thyself love each other as I have loved you do onto others as they would do onto you and we're not doing that not at all only when somebody's looking excuse me yes it's true we're all like little children when it comes to that but besides the point let's put Christ on the side I'm going to bring him back a little bit later God is love and out of love comes responsibility respect honor joy and creativity and that's the essence of God's purest mind of light Light and in Light you're a light source all that is in light if it wasn't about spirit light matter would not exist The pearl of his voice entered her ear; a throbbing luster, pure and opaque, layered with the wisdom of the ages, it felt cool and it soothed her. Her body stretched with the words and felt rested.
Outside, the night was changing. By human eyes, the sun had yet to crease the morning with it's glory, but a bird in a tree close to the top of the roof of Jane's house felt a sliver of new warmth course through its body. The bird, thrilled by this shiver, sang a song that gently cut through the still black morning air. Jane could not hear it. She was now fast asleep.
A slab of light as big as a car and the color of butter found itself in the bedroom. It felt uncomfortable being there, the outdoors had been delightfully filled with the wonders of the natural world, and the light wanted so much to leave, to get back to that early morning of bush leaves and grass blades and squirrel eyes, but try as it might, the light could only move in one direction, down and deeper into the place where Jane had slept and across all the things to be found in Jane's room First, a poster pinned to the wall purchased in an international airport: the scene of a crumbling city in autumn, streets and buildings darkened brown by a picturesque afternoon, exploded when lit by the first touch of the moving sunbeam. Next, the shade of a claw footed lamp given to Jane from a friend from her first job. The shade was probably originally white or off-white but years of herfriends family's cigarette smoke had made it a dusty yellow. Beneath this lamp was a chair in which Jane often sat in the morning before getting dressed. Now - a table of wood. Sunday afternoons were often spent by Jane at small thrift stores that lined one of the busy streets in her area and this table had been an exciting discovery. Rich heavy oak; light in color with small scratches made by the buttons of a jacket rubbing the wood surface endlessly while writing, was supported by thick legs. The legs needed to be unscrewed and removed when the table was brought back to Jane's house in the back trunk of a borrowed car. On the table, a blue plastic comb: an object that had survived all her travels. Next to it: documents and correspondence: which when one looked upon at first, appeared to be evidence of a lengthy intimate exchange between distant friends, but looking closer, the bills and notices from corporations became more prominent. Looking closer still and beneath a bank statement, a greeting card could be seen. The picture of a horse and a wild landscape graced the front of the card. This was painted roughly in oils. The card read "A Very Happy Birthday". The envelope that brought it to Jane carried a stamp of a man holding a candle. Moving over the table, the yellow light focused on a bag of black pens and two
pencils: these were all purchased recently from a store which specialized in selling items for a dollar or less. Jane found that she shopped there at least twice a month. Sometimes more. And just behind, a tiny picture of a family on vacation in a tiny brushed metal frame. The sunbeam found the photograph to be beautiful and lit it with a golden haze. The family in the photograph shined, in pastel colored ski jackets, smiling and letting the wind from unseen mountains blow through the blond hair of the children and the grey hair of the two adults. The children were nearly full grown, between the ages of sixteen and twenty, but to the parents, who can be seen in the photograph looking with one eye on the camera lens and the other eye on the children's antics, these people were still very much too young to be called adults. Their habits and customs were still based on an endless succession of frivolous joys and even the tears in their lives were drawn from the shallows of life, the cold depths that were waiting for them had yet to be found. One child, the youngest, was fair and thin, his face like a soft feather. The eldest; strong and rebellious, justly proud of her crooked smirk, and the middle child wore an expression of peaceful blankness; eyes wide and clear, a reassuring nothing. The parents were posed in a parental stance, assured and mature, as though they not only had given birth to the children, but had made this mountain as well, a great grin on the father's open face, wearing sunglasses which hid nothing, they were so essential to the overall look that he required of the open face, and the mother, always awkward, her hips thrown off-balance, far to the left of everyone, one arm stretched out to hold tight to the hand of the husband with just her fingertips, and looking round to watch them all. The children had all been anxious to leave the stifling boredom of their city home, a small apartment ruled over by torn magazines, stale candy and a flickering television, and this day, so beautifully captured by the photographer, was the hour of the children's supreme glory, when they could touch their lips and feel them as new, when their voices called with a full throated yell, echoing and rebounding here and there between the peaks, when their words were veils, undulating and captivating, to be treasured and then torn apart. The youngest child had said on that day "Look this way." and the middle child responded -
"I am looking." and the oldest child took in a deep breath and held it as she stared straight ahead. The parents had shown reluctance when the idea of a mountain trip was first proposed at the dinner table some nights ago. They thought of the time away from work and the expense, but the children had slowly destroyed any argument against the idea and by the end of dinner, when the father and mother left the dining room to step outside for a ritual cigarette, the voyage to the mountains was set and the route drawn in red pen on a map the children had placed in the center of the table. From the red line, hesitancy could be read in the hand of the one who held the pen. It was the middle child, and as always, since she was born, this child quaked at the mention of any activity that would bring her away from her room. There, she was assured of the peace she needed in order to live. The shelves were lined with toys in perfect arrangements, hot colored bears on the left side and cold colored dolls on the right, an impossibly tall stack of books gracefully teetering on the tabletop, the floor concealed by plastic and wooden race tracks combined in convoluted patterns. When asked to leave this world of harmony, even in the most beguiling tones, the middle child would wail. In a perpetual state of ignorance, not from spite, but from a simple sort of selfinvolvement, the elder child was barely aware of the presence of her younger siblings, let alone any problems that might arise from out of their newly born personalities. It was not narcissism that drove her to this blindness, but more an elevated state of grace, a painfully acquired desire to always desire. This attitude first made its presence known when she turned thirteen. It would be with her until the end of her days. And the youngest laughed at all of them and his laughter was what drove the entire family forward, out of the easy gloom of work and school and home, ever onward, out of the basin which held their city, across the countryside filled with blank fields and roadside shrines. On the third day, from the cramped car windows, they could see the flat horizon end abruptly into snow-capped pinnacles atop black solid rock. They had arrived. The mother and father, wrapped in lambs wool jackets, the children dressed in down, had jumped straight from the car and into a position on the plateau for this photograph, having first asked a stranger, whom the
youngest called "Mr. Loud Man", to take charge of the camera. He did. The group pulled together and then pulled apart before the picture was taken. The stranger asked them to take a position and hold it. They did. The father, a short time later, when they were all back home, exhausted and wind burned, had stood tall in the middle of the living room and with a booming voice had announced that this was the best photo ever taken of the family, and he went on to tell this to everyone he met, wherever he went, and at Christmas time insisted that this be sent to all of their friends all over the world. The children clapped and bellowed in approval. The mother had said nothing. But many months later, if any of the family had paused to look, they would have seen her sitting in an armchair near the front window, holding the photograph in her hands. When the sunlight in Jane's bedroom felt this emotion emanating from the mother in the photograph, a sensation very close in a way to the sun's own state of existence, it blazed brighter than ever before and a white glare burst from the glass within the frame, lighting up the opposite side of the bedroom with a serpentine glow. This glow enveloped a wardrobe holding all of Jane's intimate apparel. Most of these were made of lace, the rest from soft cotton and she had purchased all of them for herself. Decorating the top of the wardrobe was a large sprig of curlicue willow in a clear oval vase. The glow of light stretched the grey shadow lines thrown by the branch into the farthest part of the room and in that corner there was nothing at all to be seen. To the left of the wardrobe was the bed. A thin shard of bent light lit it without mercy. The sheets were pulled apart and the blanket lay on the carpet bunched on the floor. There was no one in the bed. Jane had woken right on time, even with the weight of the sleepless night on her eyes, and had long ago left for work. The sun was climbing higher to the center of the outside sky and its narrowing beam was creeping deeper into Jane's room. Just as it was about to probe a selection of magazines stacked in a neat pile under the table, the slab of light vanished. A truck filled with men had pulled up in front of the bedroom window. Their job was to wash the neighbor's garage floor and, if they had time that afternoon, to
work on fixing the rusted sprinkler system. With a whine, the sound of cleaning tools sliced the fragrant morning air, loud enough to be heard by Jane as she sat in the bus taking her to work almost five blocks away. The irritation this noise induced inside of Jane stripped away the last remains of her sleep. She looked at the yellow sun ball floating above the housetops. Jane raised her hand to block the rays of the sun, but no matter how she moved her hand, first this way and then that, the burning light found a path through her fingers to scorch her eyes. The woman seated directly behind Jane, massive as a rock, spoke in a voice loud enough so that all the passengers could clearly hear"Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go." and the bus swerved deeply as it took the next corner, rocking everyone on board over to the left, before straightening back up to continue on its way downtown.