On my way home I stopped for food at the corner grocery near my apartment. As I wandered the aisles I decided to prepare the one relatively elaborate dish I knew how to make, one that Anna had taught me to make in Sicily several summers before. I collected fettuccine, pine nuts, raisins, chard, garlic and Parmesan cheese. I evaluated the lettuce and picked a head of floppy red leaf, getting enough for two, on the off chance.
But the apartment was empty and silent, filled with the dim light of sunset and evening gloom. Anna had made the bed and washed the mugs she had used the previous night. There was a note, folded and slipped into the keyboard of my computer so that it stood upright.
Thanks again for letting me barge in last night. I got in touch with a friend who lives in Red Hook and she said I could stay with her for a while, so don't worry. It was good to see you again, although I guess also kind of awkward. I did a lot of thinking last night. I'm beginning to see that I'm the one responsible. I made a wrong turn and never realized it. I feel that everything is broken somehow. But I'm going to get my act together. Here I am in New York again, and there's no reason I can't start over. I want you to want to see me.
P.S. Please don't tell Carl where I am.
I crumpled the note and pitched it across the room into the wastebasket. I hated the way she made me feel--sick with aloneness and infected with her craziness. That entire night I'd had to restrain myself from bursting into the bedroom to be with her. I knew she would not have refused.
I made dinner, enough for two, and ate alone. I turned on the evening news but I didn't pay attention to it. I almost picked up the phone to let Carl Barrett know I had seen Anna, but I decided I owed him nothing, not even that small favor. Sitting in my messy apartment, awash in the television's purple light, I knew for sure that something was missing--certainly Anna, but also something larger that her presence and renewed absence had simply alerted me to.
When I went to bed the pillow smelled faintly of her hair and the sake.
From Empire of Light by David Czuchlewski. Copyright 2003 by Davind Czuchlewski. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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