By Scott Garson
My husband of nearly 40 years has retained his outer charms. Wide shoulders. Clean jawline. Expressive lips. Keenly dreaming eyes. Being about as tall as he is, I look in over his shoulder as he fools with his short white hair in the mirror.
"Who is she?" I ask.
He blinks—once, twice. He looks at my face in reflection.
"Which of your Saturday birdwatching girls has a crush we must carefully nurture?"
"Come along, why don't you. See for yourself."
"I imagine I'd be an embarrassment."
I scratch a drop of water from the skin just in front of his ear.
The future is more sensitive than most of us know. It can respond to the freest imaginings. Later that day, my husband returns with a young woman. Kiara, I learn. Like me, she is tall. Unlike me, she is wide through the hips. In lieu of a purse she carries a formless straw bag with leather shoulder straps. This she lets slide down her arm to the floor as she looks around, saying, "Oh!"
Is it my age that has her imagining I will be thankful for the interest she shows in the black-and-white photos arranged on the wall leading back to the library and the screened porch?
"Is that you?" she asks, looking at the one where I lean on a parapet in an evening dress whose true colors I remember. Red and deep brown.
"This one too?"
"All me, I'm afraid."
I can see the girl realizing there is no way to remark upon my evident beauty.
We turn and she looks at two studio portraits in a hinged frame that stands on an end table. "And who's this?"
"Our friends' grandchild. Two years old."
"You don't have grandkids yet?"
I smile and meet her eyes. I say, "We don't have kids."
Later I second-guess myself. I wonder if I could have been nicer, more sympathetic, in answering her question. I wonder if I am a factor in what I'm now seeing. She's falling apart.
She says that she's sorry, that she doesn't know what's wrong with her, that she hadn't realized she cared so much about the young man who recently left her, that she never realizes, that that is her problem, she thinks: she's alone, and she knows she has to be strong, and she is, but the feelings are still there. "This is so embarrassing," she says. "I'm sorry."
My husband has lowered his eyes. It's up to me to complete what he's started.
I sit. I take the girl's head in my hands. I put my dry lips to her forehead. I believe that I know what's coming when her shoulders give, when she abandons resistance. And yet I'm surprised by the purity, the helplessness of what then enters my body. I think of a word, the same word, being shaped and released. I hear it. Kiara, I hear.
Scott Garson's work has appeared in the New Orleans Review, Hobart, Fourteen Hills, Juked, Quick Fiction, Puerto del Sol, Storyglossia, and others
Photo "Lovebird 4" courtesy of Frank Hermers, Mill, Netherlands.
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