Anger. It's the red behind her eyes. The pulse in her hands. The gnawing wish to circle her fingers on his throat. It would be so easy. He looks so peaceful. So innocent. Or maybe it's better with a pillow? No. Hands. The rhythm in the ears, the pounding, overwhelming. Perhaps it will go away. Just close your eyes and it will go away. But it's worse, oh, it's nagging. The heat in the bones, the scorching in the gut, the need to close them, close them, close them. Whatever happens after is not important. There is only this moment, and him, and this cutting knife of anger that slices lazily across her stomach. Perhaps it's drawing something, perhaps it's mocking her. It dares her to try, to cinch, to end his life. The words he said, the words. They were only words. Maybe it's too high a price to pay? He should've thought better. There was a string inside her, a musical string, and he broke it with his clumsy fingers. Now she's mute. Now she can no longer sing, the instrument that was so keen on seeking sounds.
Anger. He doesn't sleep. He pretends. The knife is under the pillow. Now? Or let her hair fall closer. Why should he wait? Why should he forgive? The calm, the cold, like under the water. Still. Mind sits in his darkness like a missile, poised to deliver the demise, the demise she brought upon herself. It wasn’t him, oh no. She did it. She must die. If only she would make another step, and lean, and open up her chest to his closed eyes. He can smell her, that offensive pungent whiff of some cheap perfume. Of course she'd pick something like that to mask her sour stink of anger. Yes, she is angry, he can feel it. It marches all over his skin like hot pincers taken out of a livid fire. But he will wait. The waiting is part of the pleasure. The keeping, the holding of the gushing blood under the cover of cool, under the pretense of sleep. What could be more delicious?
Anger. They're poised to kill each other. They don't know that we're here. The fire, the fury, it consumes us. Shall we let them? Shall we watch? Shall we come out when one of them is dead? Or shall we surprise them, my little helper? Quiet. Quiet. It does not become us to rush into this, it will ruin the sweet taste. We're hidden very well here, in the shadows. We shall wait. Per chance the girl will go first, per chance the boy. Per chance we won't have to do naught except to wash our hands. What do you think, my little helper? Show me your teeth. That's good, very good. Keep your voice down. We'll only have to wait a couple minutes longer...
A letter. A boat. He thought he could reach her that way. A paper boat. A page torn out of his memory and folded and sent across time. Could it possibly find her? He didn't know, didn't think, but did it anyway. He wrote a book, a letter to her, too long to hold what he yearned to say, too heavy to float between them. It sunk. What they have built, what they have breathed to life, the tissue flowers and the wings of hopes, it all got poisoned. Not once but many times. There was nothing left but shreds of touch, gestures of extended hands, to caress, to hide in the nook of an elbow. Was it foolish? He thought so. Still, he dared. What could words describe? How could they paint what was too many colors?
It's been years. He wrote it. He forgot about it. He moved on. His stories floated and drifted who knows where. He learned to ignore the nagging pain, the pulling at bottom of his sorrow. And then a call. A call from a distant friend.
"She read it." His friend said.
He had to hear it. He had to believe. He pressed the phone into his ear. "When?" There was no other word. When?
"About three days ago. I think. Why?"
"I didn't," he faltered. "I didn't know. Are you sure?"
"What did she think?" The questions were too many, and he had to swallow them down. Did she like it? How did she find out? Did she read his other books? Did she understand? Will she ever...was it conceivable to hope for...if only once. Only once to hear her voice?
"I don't know, mate. You'll have to ask her yourself."
"Yes. Yes, of course. How do you know?" He asked and didn't hear the answer. It didn't matter how. It mattered that she did. It happened.
Could there be a bridge? Could paper hold their past, would it crumble? If he stepped on it, would it collapse?
He wasn't aware of this footing for the rest of day. His hands didn't feel like his. His ears heard music, music in the wind. It bloomed in his face, it made him weightless. "Sonia." That one word, he hasn't said it for years. "Sonia." Oh, how beautiful it rang, how it rolled off his tongue. "Sonia, Sonia." He couldn't stop.
Their park, that bench where they met. She read a book. What was it? He couldn't remember. His feet carried him there, or maybe they didn't. He didn't know how he stood in front of it. Green peeling paint. One board missing. The iron handles still intact. And footsteps. Her footsteps. Dare he look?
It took years. Year for him to lift his head. Years to turn. Years to see.
A simple white dress. Hands clasped, holding his book. THE BENCH stamped on the cover in green letters, that same shade. THE BENCH by David Brooks. Her smile, the sunlight of her face.
They stood without words. There was a bridge to cross. Neither dared. She shifted, perhaps from standing too long, and the book escaped her hands. It dropped. The sound startled them, they rushed to recover it, reached for it, brushing hands. Just like that first time. Over a book. The gaze that was impossible to wrench away.
"I didn't know." She said.
He shook his head, wanting to say, "No, it's okay, it's fine. It's not your fault." But the words wouldn't come, stuck in his throat.
"I..." She began.
He pressed a finger to her lips. He was afraid for it to crumble. So fragile, so new.
"It was for you." He said. "A letter for you."
He watched her fingers, the nails cut so short it looked painful, the cuticles in disarray, the fleshy soft parts, the wrinkles on them, the blemishes. So warm. Dare he hold it?