Monday, November 26, 2007

The 23rd Floor

He would often say, “I love you,” with just that hint of something lingering at the end of the sentence so that his statement became a question. Did she love him too?

In the beginning and for many years, sometimes still he would ask her to say it, “tell me you love me,” he would say, and she would say it to make him happy, a little like giving in to sex if she was tired because then he would be happy for a little while and she could rest her efforts.

The other night in bed he told her how he loved her, something she can’t remember now, but it shocked her, “You love me like that?” she said, astonished, not realizing that he felt that way. She wasn’t concerned, but felt silenced, unsure of what to do or say and so she put her hand on his chest and moved her body into the spoon of his and into the crook of his arm.

They were lying in her parent’s old bed, the bed her parents had abandoned for the new one a few years earlier. They knew this bed as they knew the house; the hot tub, the bathrooms, which mirrors were best for sex. They knew how to live together, knew how to pack a suitcase for a trip, how to make a driving plan. They could manage the children and get to places on time. They were friends with her whole family. Everyone liked them, and they liked each other, but his statement startled her.

Now she remembered, yes, they had been at her aunt and uncle’s house the night before and he was standing on the balcony of their 23rd floor penthouse looking out onto the lights of Los Angeles. She was drinking a gin and tonic inside with her uncle, who was on his second or third.

Her husband was on the balcony, and what he was thinking, he said, “was how easy it would be to leap off, and if I did, I’d want to grab your hand and take you with me.” And then he’d connected it to love, that she was the great love of his life, and this combination of the leaping and the love, the romantics of that, it was so perfect for him, just like him to pull pain and love together like that, which is when she put her hand on his chest, maybe to soothe him or rest him into sleep or back into himself, to take the focus away from her, the object, the loved one, the person he would reach for as he fell.

She wasn’t concerned, mostly shocked. “You love me like that?” she asked as she put her hand on his chest. It was all she could do.

And a little while later when he asked if she would like to make love, she heard the voice inside of herself say no, and the no stood there like a child in a great hall, a great big echo of no

Until she broke it weakly with a yes
Because she could
Because he was standing all alone on the balcony of the 23rd floor of a penthouse in a Los Angeles high rise looking down on Wilshire blvd and the city of angels and a million cars racing back and forth and nightlights and swimming pools and money exchanging hands a million times a second right below him.

And because he came from farmland where the only thing you could count on was the smell of manure or the shake of someone’s hand and the way they looked you in the eye. And it’s not that she pitied him and it’s not that she worried, but he was alone, alone in a way she would never allow herself to be.

“Yes,” she said weakly, and her hand on his chest came alive and it began to travel. This was what was called for.

1 comment:

Dale said...

psst! time to write something here!