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Verdant

March 3rd, 2007 · Written by · No Comments

It’s May again. The new leaves fill the branches of the trees in front of my window and make it hard to see what is happening outside—their green brilliance does this each spring. Sometimes I still hear bits and scattered pieces of conversation (voices) through my window, sometimes if…

***

There’s grace in October…

I prefer October. It is brisk and bare—people aren’t as anxious to walk slowly and laugh and talk. They have places to go, warmth to seek out. In October, I can watch the trees shed their jewel colored leaves, marveling at the beauty as they dance down to the ground, swirling in the wind, making intricate patterns in the air.

There’s grace in October…

But not in May.

***

Nathan is what I call him. He has shiny brown hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He is tall and handsome and he wears a black ski parka when the weather is cold, a Yankees cap when the weather is warm. He walks toward the building at the same time almost every day—I know, I’ve seen.

Nathan never laughs or talks loudly beneath my window. He walks deliberately, silently, always alone. He takes large strides that gulp up the sidewalk, never stepping on the cracks. I love that he is superstitious. I love Nathan.

***

He hasn’t been to see me in a long time—I think he might have another girlfriend, but I don’t know for sure. I know that I miss watching him walk toward the building and I miss waiting for the nighttime. Waiting for Nathan.

The seasons change and Nathan brings the outside to me in the darkness. At least he used to. Before that night.

***

I don’t speak. Nathan knows this and it doesn’t bother him.

He slips into my room as nimble as a cat—he never runs into anything and his shoes don’t even squeak. I was sleeping the first time he came to me. It was only later that he told me how he sat in the brown leather chair next to my bed and watched me dream.

Now he always lets his eyes adjust to the darkness and he watches me until I sense his presence. When he knows for certain I am awake, he moves toward me and stretches out next to me on my bed.

It is only when his body covers mine that he talks.

He speaks in murmurs, talking softly, incessantly. He runs his fingers through my hair and strokes my breasts and he kisses me. He calls me “Princess” and “Sweetness” and touches me with hands as warm as biscuits just out of the oven. He is gentle and protective and his body feels heavy and comforting.

***

It’s hard for me to remember what it was like outside. Like the fractured conversations that float up through my window, I find I possess only broken pieces of memories.

I know I had a hamster named George and a purple bike with tall handlebars and a banana seat.

I remember watching I Dream of Jeannie in front of a large console television.

One year for my birthday there was angel food cake with strawberries.

I wore a pair of red Chuck Taylor sneakers and was heartbroken when they became too small for my feet.

These memories are permanent. They stay.

I have a family. I know I have a family because there is a picture of them on the wall next to my bed. The family in the picture doesn’t seem to mind that I can’t really remember them.

I have a family. I know I have a family because there is a picture of them on the wall next to my bed. The family in the picture doesn’t seem to mind that I can’t really remember them. They are always smiling when I turn toward them—almost as if they are happy to see me. I don’t know what they look like when I turn away. I imagine that’s when the truth comes out—when nobody’s looking.

I wish I had Nathan’s picture. He would look as if he were happy to see me and maybe then I wouldn’t miss him so much.

***

I’ve been thinking about that night. About the last time I saw Nathan.

I can still smell him, I swear I can—he smelled woodsy, like moss and dampness and the scent made my nose tingle. When I held my breath I could hear his heart beating beneath the rough cotton of his shirt. He was next to me in my bed, talking softly as he always did, but I really wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying. I was concentrating on the feeling of his hand on the back of my neck. I was listening to the sounds (voices) that were coming in my window from outside, listening to the leaves rustling in the breeze.

It was in that moment everything changed. The light came on and I could see Dr. Abrams. Nathan put his arm over his eyes to block out the brightness. He jumped up from the bed and I saw his expression quite clearly. He looked ghostly, shameful, fearful, but strangely defiant…

It was in that moment everything changed.

Dr. Abrams is a big woman—not as tall as Nathan, but heavier, more filled out. She visits me once a week, usually on Wednesdays after All My Children. She is always quiet—she never fills up my room with sounds, like Nathan or the nurses sometimes do. She shines a light in my eyes, looks in my ears and down my throat, takes my pulse and then she just sits quietly with me.

Dr. Abrams makes me feel comfortable. She is my friend.

***

She is my friend in the daytime. At night she is different.

That night she came over to my bed and cupped my chin in her left hand—her fingers cool against my skin.

Her hand dropped down to my shoulder and she let it stay there for a moment. She blinked hard a few times and I could tell she was angry. She turned away from me and walked to the far corner of my room, where Nathan was standing with his hands in the pockets of his white lab coat.

She spoke to him sternly, her voice harsh and unwavering. I couldn’t make out her words, but I could see him nodding his head.

Then Nathan left my room. He didn’t look back at me—I was watching, so I would have seen.

Dr. Abrams turned off the light. She walked back over to my bed and smoothed my hair back from my forehead. She tucked the sheets in tightly around my legs. I saw her pause for a moment in front of the window and then, like an apparition, she was gone.

The door sounded heavy when it closed behind her.

***

I waited for the door to open again that night, waited for Nathan to come back.

I stayed in bed and watched the patterns the tree branches made on the walls in the moonlight. The wind picked up and the branches began to rap on my window, like someone throwing pebbles against the glass. I strained to look out, but I knew, somehow, that Nathan wasn’t there. There was nothing to see.

***

Because it was dark. Because it was May.

Tags: Fiction · ·

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