It was quite unknown why she had come into town, taken a room at the inn with her attendant. Some kind of business roused her at half past five on a Tuesday morning, as a light in her window and distant sounds of a gramophone announced. The day was dark and rainy, causing the women to rush from the warmth and dryness of the inn to the motorcar idling in the lane. As soon as they were inside, the car sped into town, as though they were running late for something very important. The date was May seventh, my birthday.
I watched them return later in the afternoon as I was reading a book on the windowseat, cozy against the chill of the day. Although she was soaked by the hastening rain, her face was uplifted and she walked lighter than when she had come, as though a burden had been removed from her being. Perhaps that meant is was her birthday as well, I mused as I continued my book.
They stayed at the inn for a week, coming and going on various errands, their arms full of parcels on most afternoons. On Saturday afternoon, I was in the garden when I noticed her leaving. She appeared to be sorry to go, putting reluctant distance between herself and the inn with tiny footsteps, ambling in the warm sun. I crouched down a little lower behind the garden fence, not wanting to make her feel as though I was watching her with critical eyes instead of the genuine interest that drove me to follow her path to another waiting car.
It makes me laugh, this tango we somehow perfect amidst the stumbles. Each move is more complicated than the one before, less so for our feet than our eyes. You push away and I draw near, laughing as we fall. I have to know if you’re up to your old tricks, intriguing me with each breath. The lines have been drawn and we keep to our own sides, the roses still tight between our lips. Oh, lead on, my mystery man, dip me into the water if I bend enough, flexible with a faint smile as I impossibly extend myself over the edge of the dance floor. My hair brushes along the floor and my cheeks color with the inversion, but even more the nearness of your essence. You pull me upright again, gentle and strong, while something inside is satisfied at last.
You recite the facts to yourself as you discreetly shed a torrent of steaming tears.
No one must see them. The person who confided in you will think she’s made you sad. But you’re not sad. You’re angry. On her behalf.
Recite the facts again. Wipe the hot, angry tears from your eyes. No one can know.
The questions roll in. How can anyone be so thoughtless to this person all the time? Recite. You have the answer. It fulfills your mind on occasion, but never the heart. Not once the heart.
You’re not crying for yourself. There is no denying that your own life isn’t perfect. Whose is? But you are treated well, cared for, given beyond what most people could expect.
You’re crying for the one who has none of these things. And the reasons, no matter how often you recite them, never make sense. They never will.
You’re crying because you can’t make the problem go away. You want to do this so badly that stings in every rivulet that slides down your cheeks. You allow this for just a few minutes, arising from unrelated frustrations, it comes. But it must cease. Now. Wipe them away. Be content. If there’s one thing you’re great at, it’s being content. Others envy you. Always have. But would they if they understood how helpless you feel?
You take a deep breath now that the tears of lament for all the injustice are gone. Forcing yourself to relax, you return your voice to a steady dulcet tone, should you be required to speak. You won’t give it away. You cannot. You must be ready to help. It’s the only thing you know how to do. The only way you want to do.
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