In the dark, Andrew squeezes my hand. He starts to speak, but I put my fingers against his mouth. He takes my hand and kisses it. His hand is much warmer than mine. I ignore the boom and rattle. My heart?

He leans forward.

In the end is my beginning. Someone said that. T. S. Eliot? Shirley Jackson?

I haven’t known Andrew long, so flying off for the weekend always felt a little foolish. Too fast, but I’ve always been a careful sort of person. Maybe that’s always been my problem. I think too much. Lie awake at night. Thinking.

On average, we spend seven years lying awake at night. I don’t know how the statisticians figured that out.


I feel Andrew’s lips against mine, and I cling to him, memorizing the feel of his mouth, his tongue and letting him cocoon around me until I am bathed in soft shimmering heat.

Why was I so afraid? I waited for too long. Foolish me.

We spend five years waiting in lines. In banks, in supermarkets, in airports, we stand, holding our place, waiting our turn, like eternal sheep. Some people jump the lines, push out of place, but most of us wait. People like me.


Andrew is rocking me against him in a gentle rhythm, and I cry out. I don’t want this to end. Life is swirling about us in an eerie cacophony, and I dig my nails into his shoulder as we slide sideways.

We spend somewhere between forty-five and sixty-two minutes every day waiting. We spend thirty-eight hours a year in traffic jams and another twenty weeks stuck on hold. We wait to hear from loved ones and lost ones, for life to occur, and death to arrive.

Andrew’s cheek is wet against mine when the plane gives a mighty shudder, straightens, and the lights blink on. They sputter a little then blaze bright. We separate as white-faced people pull themselves back into the upright position.

Flight attendants begin checking the passengers to make sure nobody has been injured by flying baggage or worse. People speak in jittery voices, laugh and cry. They want to call family and friends, but there is no cellular service, so they wait.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. We apologize for that turbulence.” The pilot has a slight Southern accent, and his voice is smooth and sweet as apple butter. He has a gift for understatement. “It seems we ran into some vicious weather and were struck by lightening. So we will be touching down in Logan International in ten minutes. Our company representatives will be there to redirect you once you reach the gate. Y’all have a pleasant evening, and thank you for flying Jetway.”

Out of the window the lights of Boston glitter diamond-like in the darkness. Below us, the treacherous Atlantic churns. Rain spatters against the window. The right engine coughs and sputters, shooting out tiny flames.

The runway seems to appear from nowhere, its lights welcoming us to Boston. I reach for Andrew’s hand, but he wraps his arm around my shoulders. With the plane only about ten feet off the ground, no one speaks. We can all see the fire trucks.

The plane swoops down towards the runway and thuds down hard. We skid a little as the pilot applies the breaks, but eventually we slow and begin our taxi to the gate.

Andrew squeezes me. “We could skip the whole waiting for another plane thing and spend the weekend in Boston.”

I look at him. Time is a precious and mutable thing. Three seconds can feel like three hours. Forty years can fly past in what seems like ten minutes.

“I’d love to stay in Boston with you.”

His wide smile crinkles the lines around his dark eyes. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

To Disappear

I hear them talking all around me. Busy couples. Young professionals. Students. A girl In a purple scarf. I sit in the cafe and watch. I believe I’m safe, but I’ve believed that before. He’s always found me, but I’ve learned some tricks.

Last time he held a knife to my throat and said, “I own you, bitch.” He always beat me where the bruises wouldn’t show.

That’s why I cooperated for a long time, almost two years. I knew I couldn’t run like a frightened deer this time. I had to plan.

He grew careless. Started giving me money again. Money I saved. The more humble I behaved, the more he gave me.

“You are my beautiful star,” he would say. “Soon we will be together always.”

I cooked for him, and treated him like a prince. Then the night came when I made my special dish, a special lamb glazed with a sauce made from lily-of-the-valley among other things. He ate four helpings.

Even then I didn’t run. I went to the hospital to speak to the doctors, to explain we had eaten the same dinner. I even brought a sample of my sauce. It was, I confess, slightly altered. When his wife appeared, I left out respect.

I sip my ice tea and look over the crowd. It will soon be time to get moving again.

After I left the hospital, I walked to the train station and retrieved my bags, then took a train to Boston. I lived three days in a hostel, then paid a thousand dollars to buy a beat up, green Honda.

Now I figure it’s time to get across the border to Canada. I plan to drive west, and and find some place where I’ll be safe. With any luck, I’ll just disappear.

A Thin Line of Vermillion

She lay in the tub, surrounded by the scent of roses, and tried to rid herself of his heavy, musky scent. It lingered, even when she sank below the water and held her breath for as long as she could. She popped up gasping.

His words echoed in her head. “You belong to me, and I will never let you go. You are my wife, my love, my muse.” His presence surrounded her day and night, even when he wasn’t there. His canvas monsters hanging everywhere, watched her move throughout the house. The servants looked at her with pity, but guarded the doors.

Once she believed that marriage to the great Portafaro would be a dream come true. He would take her to his great house on the mountain, and she would watch the peasants below; she would look out at the hungry sea and live like a queen. now she knew that all such dreams came at a price.

Soon the gold light of afternoon would give way to the purple shadows of evening, and he would return. Once again they would sit at the long table, and he would watch her with his hungry eyes then draw inspiration from her body.

It was never enough. His art demanded more each time. Every day she walked swathed in white, the soft, cool fabric almost too harsh against her purpled flesh. Every day she dream of escape.

On the porcelain sink sat his straight razor, and she stared at it languidly. it winked at her in the sunlight, whispering at her to come closer, and she rose from the tub to pick it up. She ran the edge of it over her thumb and watched the blood quickly bubble up.

A sharp rap at the door. “Senora, are you finished? Do you need help?”

“No, no, Carmelita. Just a few more minutes to soak.”

She stepped carefully into the tub. The underside of her arm was still smooth and white, save for the road map of blue veins that ran just below the skin. The razor barely stung as she drew it up. A thin line of vermillion opened up on first one arm then the other.

Already she felt dizzy, and she watched the white curtains billow out in the afternoon breeze. Wind chimes tinkled. Spirits lingered just beyond her sight, and if she listened, she could hear them calling her to follow.

“I’m coming,” she whispered. “I’m coming. He cannot follow me now.”

She let herself slide down under the welcoming water. The scent of roses covered her now, the song of the wind chimes grew fainter as the wafting breeze faded away. Silence.

I am free.