By Kim Dallesandro
Photo © Max Reeves
“She liked to trace the varicose veins on her legs with her fingers while she stared out the window in the late afternoon. They were like mazes, or intricate spider webs; she tried to find a beginning point and an end making it a game but never succeeding in finding a clear path to the end and it always surprised her that one more had appeared overnight while she slept – same as those deep lines near her mouth they call ‘laugh lines,’ though she didn’t do much of that anymore. She didn’t do much of anything anymore truth be told but that was something she didn’t talk about since there wasn’t anyone to talk to anymore just her there staring out the window tracing some lines on her leg growing older.”
“The light this afternoon was honey colored almost matching what was left in that jar sitting on the kitchen table and the blue sky reminded her of a time when she walked next to the sea in some exotic country next to some new stranger that would be dismissed after a few seductive moments and the exchange of money that could never buy back what she was selling. So she learned to pretend she was intact, whole, all there. That pieces of her were not strewn all along whatever coast she was walking next to and the money she put into a bank account that grew larger as she diminished was merely a gift an offering a tribute. It seemed like a fair trade at the time.”
“And the years passed each very much like the one before. The only difference was the accumulation of age that she carried reluctantly and a growing emptiness she discovered quite by accident one afternoon very much like this one when she realized she laughed too loud, talked too much, and listened hardly at all. That umbilical cord that joins us to others was gone, severed – and like a boat cast out to sea she drifted through her days absorbing very little and feeling exiled in the presence of others. But the bank account grew.”
“It was in Nerja, Spain where she lost it all and found her redemption. ‘Why did you go there? What possesed you to wake that morning and drive the 40km from Malaga to Nerja? What in God’s name were you thinking?’ being the one sided conversation she’d had with herself since it all happened and she began to punish herself for choices she had made and she extended blame to no one but herself being so self contained and isolated as she was, though………..”
His day helper shoved his chair away from the front facing window rolling it further into the small living area, the story he was forming in his mind all day while he watched the woman across the courtyard floating away like the dust motes he noticed in the ray of light shooting into the room. And that was always that. He had no control of anything anymore, just his thoughts and those were intruded on during routine procedures he had to endure throughout the day by underpaid pissed off health workers sent by the State Heath Agency like they were doing him a favor. They weren’t. They really weren’t.
He smelled the overcooked potatoes coming from his small kitchen area, sighed and strained to watch the woman in the window across from him. She’d been standing near her own front window for over two hours, stretching her arms, and kicking up her legs, things he could never do again, and he watched like she was a stripper in a high end brothel, the saliva forming at the corners of his mouth sweat on his forehead he’d strain his neck to push closer to her while she did the elementary movements she took for granted he prayed to do again, his hands shaking with delight if she twisted some perverted way or happened to actually do a modified cartwheel he’d scream with delight much to the dismay of the day helper who usually was eating a fistful of something watching the Judges on daytime television admonish willing participants who just wanted.to.be.on.television make fools of us please.
He thought about his story, almost four paragraphs long now, memorizing it the hardest part of this exercise not being able to write or type, no form of communication anymore, blinking I suppose, but everyone does that and without the ability of telling the day workers what the blinks meant they were dismissed as just another unfortunate tick, a new problem, or “something in your eye” so he remained trapped in this body with no way of doing anything other than forming sentences together and memorizing them so one day perhaps he could build another person he could communicate with, one that belonged to him only, with all the imperfections and shortcomings normal people have, all the arguments and hysterical dramas he heard about on the television all day and night long, a perfect imperfect human that is what he was designing and he closed his eyes to imagine what she might be wearing to eat her overcooked starchy potatoes.
It had been seven years since the accident that had left him in this chair silent, seven long miserable years, his brain recording, his eyes seeing, his inability to do anything about any of it. And his misery grew until he prayed to be released, held his breath until he passed out only to awaken a short time later with only moments missing from the nightmarish repetition that had now become his life. The years had stolen his career, his money, his peace of mind, his friends, his family, his sanity and slowly he retreated behind the carcass that God had left him to exist in with little hope of any redemption.
Until he saw her.
And there it was. A ray of hope so bright he thought he felt himself squint though that would be impossible, but his center filled with joy bursting him almost in half, he watched her move slowly through the exercises, never once glancing his way and were she to do so he could not look away for he was stationary and glued permanently fixed in this position unless the lazy day worker decided to move him somewhere else. And that is when the memorizing began with one sentence then the next, the story of this woman he watched flying from his imagination and searing itself like a brand on a cow into his brain to remain until the next day when the next sentence would come, it was like that, how this story was evolving, and she was not perfect, had a questionable background and seemed to carry many of the same fears of aging he did. His heart opened and he felt love. He felt safe. He felt acceptance.
So now she was in Nerja and explaining why she went there or trying to and he was here in this chair a prisoner and suddenly he realized that in his mind he could be anywhere, with anyone, doing anything. And so he left the chair that day and joined her.
“…..she had met the most wonderful man, tall and tanned, a smile that lit up the room and a laugh that was contagious. And after the months of self punishment for who she had been up to that moment, she began to believe he could somehow save her, redeem her, bring the dead pieces back to life, she believed it deeply and with such a conviction she had never felt before. And she considered picking up the phone and dialing the number he had left next to her arm as they both sat at the hotel bar last evening. And the need grew as she stared at the phone moving closer to it with her right hand and finally picking up the receiver.”