She said, “Did you read what you took out of Lewis’s pocket?”
— 150 — He shook his head, not looking at her. She knew he was lying. He was lying, he was shaken, how far into her life did he mean to go? What if she broke down and told him about the astonishment she had felt—why not say it, the chill around her heart—when she saw what Lewis had written? When she saw that that was all that he had written. “Never mind,” she said. “It was just some verses.” They were a pair of people with no middle ground, nothing between polite formalities and an engulfing intimacy. What had been between them, all these years, had been kept in balance because of their two marriages. Their marriages were the real content of their lives—her marriage to Lewis, the sometimes harsh and bewildering, indispensable content of her life. This other thing depended on those marriages, for its sweetness, its consoling promise. It was not likely to be something that could hold up on its own, even if they were both free. Yet it was not nothing. The danger was in trying it, and seeing it fall apart and then thinking that it had been nothing. She had the burner on, she had the teapot ready to warm. She said, “You’ve been very kind and I haven’t even thanked you. You must have some tea.” “That would be nice,” he said. And when they were settled at the table, the cups filled, milk and sugar offered—at the moment when there could have been panic—she had a very odd inspiration. She said, “What is it really that you do?” “That I do?” “I mean—what did you do to him, last night? Or don’t you usually get asked that?” “Not in so many words.” “Do you mind? Don’t answer me if you mind.” “I’m just surprised. I don’t mind.” “I’m surprised I asked.” “Well, okay,” he said, replacing his cup in its saucer. “Basically what you have to do is drain the blood vessels and the
— 151 — body cavity, and there you can run into problems depending on clots and so on, so you do what you should to get around that. In most cases you can use the jugular vein, but sometimes you have to do a heart tap. And you drain out the body cavity with a thing called a trocar, it’s more or less a long thin needle on a flexible tube. But of course it’s different if there’s been an autopsy and the organs taken out. You have to get some padding in, to restore the natural outline. . . .” He kept an eye on her all the time he was telling her this, and proceeded cautiously. It was all right—what she felt awaken in herself was just a cool and spacious curiosity. “Is this what you meant you wanted to know?” “Yes,” she said steadily. He saw that it was all right. He was relieved. Relieved and perhaps grateful. He must be used to people shying away completely from what he did, or else making jokes about it.
- Spring '15
- You Got It, Vivian Solon, Take It Easy, Cat Power, Mr. McCauley, Johanna Parry