If the days were a calm, unruffled sea, the nights were choppier, with an invisible breeze creating restless waves in the dark.
Annie habitually woke up to pee, and at 3 a.m. Sunday she found herself alone in the vast, unfamiliar bedroom that filled the second floor. Sitting up, she shivered; how had she ever thought she could come here by herself?
Or, with the silence deep and complete, had she?
The flush of the toilet brought no sound, no motion from downstairs. She pulled on shorts and a T-shirt.
A light burned at the other side of the kitchen. Andrew had fallen asleep on the couch there, a book on the floor. Annie took a beach towel from the stack by the stairs, wrapped herself in it and sat on a chair at the table, wishing Andrew would wake up and come back to bed.
He didn’t wake, and she wondered if he would always wear a T-shirt, to hide the jagged scar on his chest as if he had, truly, tried to cut a hole to his heart. She stared at his face, resisting the impulse to stroke the plane of his cheek, which fit her hand, from wrist to fingertip, and thinking about this face, the 42-year-old face, and how it had morphed from the photos he had shown her at home, on her computer: the college student at an antiwar demonstration in blazer and skinny tie, blood streaming down his face, staring fiercely at the camera; the malnourished perp, his nose a hawkish beak, his hands in cuffs behind his back, a cop at each elbow, “drug death” in the headline; and a glimpse of blond hair over the lean profile, caught by a wily photographer as Andrew tried to turn away and not appear in a photo of Cuscutlano guerillas.
After that, he had told her, there are no photos.
The next night she discovered that waking up next to him could be just as frightening as finding him not there. The “guy who was in the wrong place” had visited that evening, and now it was two o’clock Monday morning when Annie sat up.
Andrew took her hand. “What did you dream?” he asked, his voice slowed by sleep.
“A man comes looking for Ed. He has a scar on his forehead.”
She could feel Andrew open his eyes in the dark. “The man says, ‘Ed said he would be here.’”
“What did the man look like?”
“Just a man, with a scar. Not you. Like a man who was in the wrong place.”
She lay down again. “I have nothing but the most obvious dreams.”
He gathered her up and they lay together, every inch touching that possibly could, but she had done that with Ed, too, and never known him. Now she had athletic sex three times a day with a stranger.
No. They had had hours, the equivalent of days, of conversation. And yet . . . she didn’t understand his meds, what he took, at what time. And she remembered the article Kathleen had shown her in one of her science newsletters, about how a person with a brain tumor might appear the same as ever and yet act differently, even strangely, even dangerously.
“I remembered Ed driving past his exit on the Taconic Parkway,” said Kathleen. “Did he seem different in other ways?”
Maybe angrier. But that could be attributed to so many things—an affair, yes, or depression, a brain tumor, or just the fact that they had both turned forty. Ten days after her fortieth birthday, Ed had disappeared.
She had shown Andrew the article. He read it immediately and said yes, that sounded like a possible scenario.
“There’s a ‘but’ in your voice,” she said.
Andrew shrugged. “But we’ll never know. That’s all.”
She had wanted to say, but what do you think, and she hadn’t. Conjecture, he would say. Conjecture is dangerous.
She shifted now, annoyed with herself for this thought train, brought out by the dream. She should trust Andrew by now, and here she was, wondering what he was looking for.
In fact, Andrew went downstairs the first night because a sound had woken him. He sat up in bed in a single, silent move, and listened. Annie didn’t wake; she slept like a child, a sleep without guilt. Then, holding his own shorts and T-shirt, he stood downstairs in the middle of the great room, listening in the silence.
What had he heard? He couldn’t quite remember; probably an animal or a dream, he did that sometimes. Last week he had woken in his studio to the sound of breaking glass and found none, not outside or inside. Warren had said it was perfectly possible to dream sounds, as well as pictures.
Awake now, he drank a glass of water and broke off a piece of chocolate from the bar in the refrigerator, trying not to smoke, and he found their books where they had left them on a table by the couch. He chose Annie’s, The Collected Stories of Grace Paley, because it held some humor, in contrast to his own, Pharaoh’s Army, by Tobias Wolff, what had he been thinking of, rereading Vietnam at the beach, what a pedantic old fart he was becoming. There must be a bookstore in Provincetown; tomorrow he would buy a mystery.
Wednesday night Andrew woke to the sound of rain. You were supposed to enjoy this, but he didn’t, never had. These days he blamed the meds, which he had been taking more or less faithfully all week, and which turned the sound of rain into sharp needles that pierced his scalp. He shifted gently and tried to remember what he had been dreaming.
The parade of women, lovers, the ones he could remember, an old dream, one of his standards, even since Annie, and now he tried to make it a way of seeing that he was moving on. But if he was going back to the familiar, then he was going back to his failures, wasn’t he. Shit.
He was scheduled to call Warren tomorrow, during his usual appointment time. He would run this by Warren, who, of course, would give it back to him. He found he missed Warren, the tossing back and forth of his, Andrew’s, problems, but this would be it, their last contact before Warren’s month off, so he must focus not on lack-of-Warren but on learned-via-Warren, since his, Andrew’s, plan would require going to once a week in September.
Copyright © 2015 Debby Mayer