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“I’m leaving you in twelve minutes,” she said, as they brought the bags down the runway and shuttled them conspicuously into the back of the waiting jet.

“I’m leaving you in twelve minutes and if you don’t apologize, I will never speak to you again.”

Pride comes before the fall, and as I looked around for an answer, I realized autumn had taken its hold sweetly and quietly in the fields surrounding the airport. Golden corn stalks, stripped of their summer fruit, rippled in the wind. The trees resembled the skin of a honeycrisp apple, red and green and yellow, waiting for the strong wind of a fall storm to bring leaves to their rooted ankles and begin the cycle of life again. I wasn’t sure what I was apologizing for, as I wasn’t sure she was worth the time it took to wait for this plane to take off.

“I’m sorry,” I said as she huffed and puffed toward the stairway. “I’m sorry, ok?”

She turned and her big, haughty, beautiful eyes flashed underneath her sunglasses. They made her look like a raccoon dicing roadkill frozen in the high-beams. How I wished she might get hit by a car, not to hurt her, but to humble her. To show her that life was harder than she ever imagined, that her life was easy because she was rich and beautiful.

But that was too simple.

Even I could admit that. It was too easy to put someone in a category. I knew where she came from. Her older brother died when she was 9, and her dad, though sweet, never quite forgave God or her mother for lending him a daughter as his sole heir. She went about over-achieving to find love and she got it. Student Council President, Honor Roll, Harvard, Harvard again for a graduate degree, the youngest senior associate in her firm, on her way to partner in another five years. But it was killing her. Not physically. She would undoubtedly last long with her shakes of green goo in the morning, 5 miles on the treadmill and yoga twice a week. But she was racing time, and eventually time would catch up to her.

We met at a bar one night. Back then, she was smooth and soft and real and interesting. She was like baking-soda on a bee sting, the kind of woman that heals your pain with those little flecks of green-gold in her eyes. We made love all night and, when I made pancakes in the morning, she showed up to breakfast naked and we made love again all day. She forgot about going to her bikram class. She’d call me at work and leave me messages about how good my ass looked in the mirror as I walked to her bathroom. She’d tell me about the books in her head, let me write poems on her back in ballpoint pen and have me wash it away later in a bath before bed.

So where did she go? How did we lose those weekends of bliss and how did I end up apologizing for it? Every flash of her eye was a remembrance of things long past and I could see, I could finally see that what was and what is are not the same thing. Memory was a film over my eyes, a playback that disguised who she had become. She was a ghost, a being to be heralded with fear, wonder, and also, sadly, pity. She no longer existed on the earth I was a part of and had not a clue.

She gave me a small kiss on the cheek and got on the plane. “I’ll text you when I get there,” she said, then boarded.

I waited. The door closed, the plane taxied to the end of the runway and began its ascension into the stratosphere. I watched it disappear into blue sky, and stood there for a long time, gazing, silhouetted against a deepening twilight and the fall trees. It grew chilly.

I wrapped my coat around me and walked back to the car. It was an easy drive into the city, but I took the far-out roads on the way home, nestling myself into the heart of the countryside. Winter was on its way, and I needed to make myself a warm place to sleep.


Written by Seth James

January 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized

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