In which our hero finds she has been breathing the wrong air

Lydia dreams of being a housewife and carrying Paris in her veins. The way Paris seems to sink into the psyche and fill her heart with black-and-white romance. Grainy photos and uncertain colours line memory boxes stacked against the base of her skull. She believes and so she becomes a knee-length skirt and high-heeled shoes clicking over cobblestones. The whisper of a car three roads over at midnight. The shine on asphalt after rain. The misinterpreted wink from across the bar.

Lydia sighs into a pen and cups her palms around morphology that settles in elusively bold strokes on shards of used paper.

A nearly true story that may not have happened to me. Or anyone else.

We fell in love in the span of a bus ride . Twenty minutes from my stop to the transit center where we parted. We weren’t reading the same book or magazine; we didn’t happen to realize we had the same playlist on our iPods. He simply asked me if I liked public transportation. He had a short grey coat. Green sneakers. I don’t remember his dark eyes or that flicker of a smile around his words. I don’t remember that he squeezed my hand through my mittens in parting. And maybe he does this every day: falls in love with another woman, absorbs her heartbeat into his chaotic solo drumbreak. I don’t know. It never matters in these affairs. I’ll see him tomorrow or the next day or three weeks from Sunday. I’ll find the release on my vocal cords and give him an answer.

Merle’s Photo

Merles Photo He could see the air fading into a new season. Wouldn’t be for a few weeks, but he could see the first glimmer of autumn blurring at the edges of his lens. He sucked in his breath, as if it were the last puff of his last cigarette (no, this time, he had really quit). Good god, what a summer.

Lee fidgeted beside him. Merle knew she didn’t know how to just sit and take in the lake like this. He’d been trying to teach her all summer what mornings were supposed to be. He’d sent her back up the hill more than once for breaking into the silence with plans for the day. He wasn’t sure why he’d brought her here. Aren’t these things supposed to be a measure of something? This place was his family and she didn’t fit in. She was trying, he supposed. He could have been too hard on her. She was beautiful, even dressed down like this and out of her element, but her awkwardness made him, on more than one occasion, contemplate throwing her into the water. He always threw a few rocks instead.

“I’m going to head up and start packing,” she said, finally. “I want to be on the road by 4:00.”

He tossed a rock in the water. “It won’t take that long. You’ll run out of things to do.”

“I’ll wander down to the Logans’ when I’m done. Tammy asked me to stop in before we left. I’ll probably stay for tea.”

That was the one thing Lee had managed to do: make friends with the neighbours. It wasn’t a point in her favour; he didn’t like the summer villagers. “Fine. I’ll see you when you’re back.”

She kissed his forehead as if she could guess the source of his terse responses. Maybe she could. He contemplated reaching up and catching her wrist. Trying one more time to explain why this moment was so much more important than packing up and taking leave. He knew she wanted him to, but he didn’t have enough rocks nearby.

As her footsteps crunched out of earshot, he pulled his camera out of his pocket and flipped through the pictures he hadn’t transferred to his laptop. Lee making faces over fish guts, Lee pouting at the rain, Lee barreling off the end of the dock, Lee trying to pretend she wasn’t scared of the canoe. He began absently deleting the digital recollections. She would sulk when she found out, but he was such a fucking bad photographer. He only got the damn thing because she thought he should have some record of their first summer together. First. She had complicated the one simple place left in his life. It was going to be a long drive home.

To be in the world

My cherished,??? ????? ???????????

I left you 100 days ago today. Walked out over the grass and found myself spectacularly at the bottom of a fountain collecting wishes. But not for long. In the 100 days since then, I have experienced several hundred humans. Quite possibly into the thousands, but you see, I lost count. I began by handing out pennies, and when the pennies ran out, I wandered to the edge of a river to gather pebbles. I smiled at people and said hello, good day, take care. More than they did to me. It was mostly glorious. I could see eyes full of suspicion even though they wanted to trust. They wanted to find me in their family of hello, good day, take care. But the pebbles ran out too. And now, 100 days later, I am coming home to you. I think. If I can find the soles of my feet above the first shake of fallen leaves. They will lead me to you with the rustle of fading heartbeats.