thought of the heat of that one summer and how it was when they
had met and how quickly they had fallen in love.
had wanted her from the very first time he laid eyes on her. He was
impressed with her finely structured face and how it held such delicate,
almost European features. He was also equally impressed by her broad
but non-aquiline nose beset by a pair of dark and brooding eyes that
beheld years of mystery and his eyes shifted slightly downward to the
pair of beautifully swollen lips that would never reveal that mystery.
Encircling her beauty was a solid and healthy head of flowing chestnut
brown hair that reminded him of the kind Raphaelite models had probably
Although slightly older than he, she was his ideal of how a woman should
look. Not impairing himself to appearance alone, he was held by the
grace with which she approached life on that hot, August night. Try
as he might, he could not take his eyes off of her as she sat across
from him. It was only after a brief while that she gracefully stood,
walked over to him and introduced herself. It was a move that put him
ill at ease, as he had not anticipated this approach.
Before he had a chance to recover or say anything much of consequence,
she removed herself from the proximity of his dumbfounded stare with
a sly smile and into the convenience of a second act by disappearing
into the small and crowded air-conditioned bar. The hunt, he knew, had
When he caught up with her, she was sitting at a table by herself, how
she managed this on such a crowded and busy night he knew not, but he
sat down at the table without a word as she explained to him her past.
Without a word of interruption from him, she told him of her life in
the South of France away at school and how at the tender age of sixteen
she had involved herself in a scandalous affair with a rich businessman
and his mistress. She went on to say that she had been married once
but was now divorced and was now living on the other side of the world
now on Central Park West and was also the completely bored wife of a
surgeon who worked and practically lived at Cornell. She then proceeded
to order the first of many bottles of Merlot.
He spoke to her of how he was a writer and how he had managed to scrape
a meager living from it, if not altogether happy existence. He was doing
what he wanted to do, but the pieces had not come together just yet.
Her eyes fired at this moment and she explained to him how she had met
a couple of acquaintances at a party a few weeks ago who ran a small
literary review Uptown. They had asked her if she knew of anyone who
could contribute, but at the time she did not. Now, she smiled, she
He was wary of her offer. He told her how most literary journals of
that type were in the habit of publishing only the friends of the editors
and those of the biggest money contributors. Perhaps those were the
contributors they had been referring to, he said. She told him he was
being far too cynical and he explained that as a writer he had to be
cynical. That was the only way he could keep his edge, he said. He then
wondered out loud what it was that she was doing all the way down in
Greenwich Village of all places and not with her haughty friends on
the Upper West Side. He was getting drunk and she knew it. She said
they should both leave. They did.
Thinking back now, he could not remember where they went that night,
but he did remember that they ended back at her place for the night
and most of the next morning. It was all right, she said, her husband
would not be home. Was practically never home, she said. She was right.
Until he filed for divorce. Then she was never home. She got most of
He thought back on that initial meeting now on this cold and dead winter's
night. The hunt, he knew, had been long over, but he still found himself
with her. What had between them had been lost somewhere along the line
and he had no idea where to find it or even if he wanted to find it
The emptiness was there when he opened his eyes in the morning and it
was there in the night when he could not sleep. It was there when he
saw her during the day, sometimes for lunch Uptown, for dinner at Le
Cirque and those late nights alone. It was there in the white oblivion
of the pages he did not write upon anymore. It was there when he looked
at the faces of the pretty young college girls near NYU.
He hated himself for falling prey to one of the oldest tricks in the
book; loneliness. He hated the way she kept him and showed him off to
friends. It was true that she had gotten him published in her friend's
literary journal and that he went from a literary tyro to someone to
be reckoned with as a result of their partnership. He despised the fact
that he was her plaything and several had joked about him being "a
kept-artist". And those were his friends. Those of whom considered
themselves serious and dedicated artists and writers considered him
something of a laughing stock. He would attend parties and hear the
little chuckles after leaving a conversation. It bothered him that some
were saying his good stories were now behind him. The emptiness now
surged inside of him as he thought back on how it all had been.
He thought of the heat of that one summer and how it was when they had
met and how quickly they had fallen in love. He recalled how in the
beginning she would point out the little things, the beauty of a sunset,
the way the breeze touched his hair, the manner in which the tide caressed
the sands, the way the leaves shimmered in the trees. She no longer
took the time to do these things. With the coming of the seasons, he
alone began to notice how the quickly the sun set each passing day,
the way the wind messed at his recently graying strands and how the
leaves had gradually changed.
He lay in bed thinking about the change. Change was not always good;
especially in a relationship. Whereas he had once enjoyed her cunning
nature, it now seemed desperately aimed at him. She bitched at him for
the little things and blamed him for as many faults as he saw in her.
He was well aware now that the hunt was indeed over and did not much
care for the feeling of the gilded cage.
He listened intently to the snow that was falling against the window
outside. She lay next to him. He listened to the snow crackle against
the window as the wind gusted. It was good to be inside on such a raw
night in bed with a woman, he thought, even if the emptiness was all
that the two shared.
He rose from the bed and went over to the window to look at the falling
snow. He could distinguish the darkness of the room fading, giving way
to an early-lighted brilliance from the reflection of the streetlight
below. He could see as his breath fogged at the window that the entire
Village was covered with the cascading white flurry while they had lain
together. It was not lost to him that scene outside was a perfect metaphor
of his life. In that, his life had once been a series of things of beauty
that had been delicately held together for a brief time only to melt
away. His life and his writing had been tranquil and untouched at one
point but all one had to do was look at where and what he was in the
light of day to find that appearances were deceiving. The purity of
the past had already begun to erode and the surface had now become soiled
and the thin layer of dirt replaced all that had been good and right.
The dirty layer would soon envelop all that was underneath and within
time, it would all fade away, leaving nothing. The thought frightened
the hell out of him.
He wandered back to bed and lay down on the cold sheets next to her,
searching, reaching for something that had been there a long time ago.
He watched her as she slept and noticed the manner in which she slept
and how it was all wrong. Even in repose, her body was tense and not
at all relaxed. He wondered if behind that thin veil she was aware of
the doubts that plagued him. With her body contorted and wracked, he
thought she slept like a Picasso.
He touched her hair and ran the back of his hand down the nape of her
neck. His eyes caught a glimpse of the surgery scar she had behind her
ear. It made him wince. He studied her for reasons that they had never
spoken of in the daylight hours and became morose. Her skin was shiny
and almost gave off a marbled appearance, he thought. He could see the
tiny blue arteries that veined that once exquisite marble. He did not
recognize the woman he had once fallen in love with, but only a thin
disguise. A stranger lay before him. He knew it was then that he did
not love her anymore. The emptiness was all around him now.
He was sensitive to the fact that she still loved him. The past few
weeks of quiet contemplation had been the most difficult of his life.
He did not want to hurt her. He had loved her once. His eyes shot to
the clock and he smiled perversely. It was 4:03 in the morning. Another
night had been wasted trying to get to sleep. Another night trying to
sleep with her.
He rose again and went to the window. He wondered what it was that he
was looking for out there. In the pale of the early morning, the snow
appeared sky-blue and he could see his black footprints from earlier
still legible in the snow.
He turned and looked back over his shoulder at her silhouetted in the
darkness. A lousy feeling came over him as he what it was he must do.
He knew that truth would come to her quickly, more so than it had come
It would be morning soon. Mornings had always been her favorite time
of the day. Now morning would separate them forever. And in time, she
would learn to curse the growing sanguine dawn.
© Joseph Grant May 2003
all rights reserved