Use additional paper as required.
“Better be good,” says the officer, a new recruit in a new Akubra hat.
Good? This is what I do! I’ve been writing stories since I was five years old. Twenty-nine years of le mot juste. But this is precision work, and I’m not accustomed to the distracting shadows of a halogen lamp. Nor can this plastic ink-straw replace the heirloom Waterman pen your lieutenant confiscated from my home this morning.
And besides, this story is different. This story is a love story.
“You’ve written lots of love stories — ”
Yes (and please, young man, kindly desist from reading over my shoulder), but never — never! – have I written a love story about me. My head is throbbing. It still hurts to write. Whatever palsy infects my script comes less from my bandaged hand than a condition (inherited, I believe) known as Acute Blepharitis, which includes blurred vision, extreme sensitivity to light, the twitching of —
Philistinus uniformus – I see you glancing at your watch.
* * *
It begins like this:
“I’m leaving you,” she said to him one day as they kissed in the gardens, a doddering old sun sitting gingerly on cushions of orange-tinted hills.
“It’s over. I’m sorry.”
He struggled for breath. She turned, walked beneath the leafless jacaranda, over its fallen petals like lavender ice-chips, and down the grassy bank of a small lake, on which two braids of coppery water trailed a single black swan.
When her lover came to her – and she knew he would, he always came back – she whirled around quickly and kissed his lips. He could feel the heat of her cheeks. She could feel his racing heart. Their mouths felt drier, sweeter, more tender than they had just minutes before. Their fingers felt new, refreshed, sensitive, stunned, the way fingers feel when we first wake up in the morning.
* * *
The lovers returned to the gardens regularly. They would start on the eastern lawns, beside an agitated stream, and end up – some three, four, a dozen separations later – amongst the pink and yellow camellias to the west.
They’d take turns. He might say, “Well, this is it then. I’ll miss you. You won’t forget me, I hope.”
She’d frown, swallow hard, acknowledge the inevitability of their break-up. Her exquisite blue eyes would fill with tears. He’d turn and cross the flat narrow bridge – more like a wooden pathway with guardrails – that stretched across the water lilies. He’d slow down where the water formed a latex veil over the rocks, and the smell of moss and rotten wood, and the roaring in his ears and the frothy water filled him with despair.
She’d catch up to him, find him crying. They’d clutch and kiss beneath the pine trees. A long, hard kiss; a passionate embrace.
Then it was her turn.
* * *
Sometimes one of the lovers would vanish down a pathway. Disappear in shadows. They might lose each other for an hour or more. He’d find her sitting in the replica Shinto temple beside the Japanese rock garden. She’d find him on a granite slab bench watching children flying rainbow colored kites.
And then one day – this must have been the summer of 1989 (Be as specific as possible with dates and times) – after a particularly well-acted parting, she left the gardens without telling her lover and walked home by herself.
They met again the next day at the glass factory where she worked as an apprentice. She was the only daughter of scholarly parents (father a professor in Literature; mother a ditto in Archeology), with whom she still lived; but she lacked her parents’ academic interests. She liked swimming and painting and working with clay; and she enjoyed her glass-blowing apprenticeship. She relished the roaring heat of the furnaces, the urgency of blowing and shaping the amber-gold liquid before it solidified or exploded.
Her lover, on the other hand, cared nothing about glass; but he admired the vitreous beads of sweat studding the nape of her neck when she was working. He considered her beauty classical. That is, Hollywood classical — like a 1950s movie star, only she was thinner, with a dancer’s body, her chestnut hair funneled into a ponytail, her left-eye losing focus now and then, drifting outward.
Speaking of 1950s starlets, this morning I noticed you ogling my gallery of Barbara Payton pin-ups, Mr. New Recruit; and I will seek damages for the mess your drooling dogs made of my movie collection.
A dreamy tinseled blue, those eyes.