"Sick," I said, one hand on the phone.
"I take vitamins," Sarah said. "Let's go."
We disembarked and began our walk, up a road flanked by jungle on either side. The road dipped and rose and every now and then we saw ocean, or caught a breeze. There was vegetation. Sarah really cared about the vegetation. I wished we had brought a pitcher of something.
I thought about the husband the day before, the doctor. At first he was impotent, so we both lay with one hand behind our heads as he explained 401k to me. I had never understood it before, but now I did. I said that it sounded like a very good idea. He agreed.
After the sex, he talked about my body parts, one by one, as if they were the Seven Wonders of the World. The thing about those Seven Wonders, nobody gets to live there. People visit and send postcards from there to the real places in their lives -- Cleveland, Topeka, the two-bedroom house in Pittsburgh that's home, after all, because home is where you spend the useless time in between the exciting events you call your life.
Anyway, he had just done that so I would remember him as a great lover.
We walked around to the safe side of a wood fence and rested our arms on top of it, watching the empty road. Sarah's upper arms creased a little bit. She hiked one foot up on the lower railing.
"Maggie," Sarah said. "Did you bring someone into our room yesterday?"
"What? Why? Yes."
"I had a feeling. There was Brut cologne all over the sheets."
"Do you, um, like Brut?"
"Maggie, what's wrong with you? Where did you meet this guy, in five minutes? Why do you act like that? It's totally disgusting."
"Sarah, you live every situation wondering exactly what Jane Austen would have done." I climbed over the fence and paced on the side of the road.
"How does one become this way, I don't understand." Her fists found her hips and stayed there.
"I'll tell you, Sarah. Things are different for me. I don't know why. I see people with husbands and babies, and it seems so amazing that they managed to pull that off. It seems strange that anyone would have someone to...I don't know. To keep their history for them, I guess."
"I'll keep your history, Maggie."
"Hell, Sarah, you don't even know half of my history."
"You're my sister."
A car approached out of nowhere on the empty road, with ribbons and flags sprouting out of the sides. A loudspeaker was attached to the hood, and garbled words were coming out of it. I was still thinking about the word, "sister." The car veered around the curve, and I froze as it aimed straight for me. Sarah's hand magically clutched my shoulder, reaching over the fence and pulling me close to her. The car sped away down the hill and I stared after it.
"Wow. Good reflexes, Sarah." When I turned to her, Sarah's face was white as salt.
"You idiot. You're part of me, forever," Sarah said. "Just like Patrick is part of me, forever. My husband." She looked away as a drumming sound faded in, almost drowning out her last words: "You don't get it."
Approaching from up the road was a whirl of black bodies, all running toward us in shorts, bare chests and sneakers. It was a race. They were sprinting downhill. It must have been the final stretch. The feet in unison sounded like thunder. There were so many men that they blurred together, until they were just one body, running fast, their sweat gleaming on their skin.
They were beside us. For a second, I couldn't tell who was moving -- them or me. It felt like they were running into me, their bodies washing through me like dark water or wine, leaving me a little different for the duration. And then they were gone, and there I was again, on the sidelines, hand on the fence.
Copyright © 2001 by Erika Krouse
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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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