She looked in the mirror. Past her prime, definitely by time. Not so definitely by looks. The forty plus was kind to her. She never told her real age, not even to herself, certainly not to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was nobody’s business but her parents’. She tried to push upwards her breasts, imagining them a bit smaller and a bit firmer, then decided that she preferred them the way they were. She was lucky to have them. The tiny almost invisible scars acting as mute witnesses to the scare she went through several years ago. Not malignant... she died tens of times before hearing that clement verdict. Then followed the tears, the rage, the joy, the joy of life reborn. For a short time following the operation she acted crazy, trying to go everywhere, taste everything, make love as many times as her husband could live up to. The fervor faded. Not so the memory. Now she was a forty plus’er, content, flowing carelessly through life, nothing else could happen to her, she’s seen it all, it was time to feel good. She felt good. Her legs shiny and smooth, after having them shaved two days ago, her buttocks firm, her belly... instinctively she pulled it in watching herself in the body length mirror - not bad for a mother of three, not bad at all.
She pulled a thin cotton nightie over her head, closed the bathroom light and returned to the bedroom. Her husband was sleeping already. The rare occasional sex they had was satisfying to both of them. Tonight was... well, it was ok, she didn’t complain. As long as he was satisfied she was satisfied too. For a second she wondered where did all the groaning and yelling and trashing of their young days go. Then she decided it was a meaningless thought and pushed it easily out of her mind. It was gone there where their thick black hair had gone, where their smooth forehead had gone, where their dancing days were gone. Now hubby was snoring his way through the night, and she hesitated if to join in for one of her “normal” white nights, or turn on the computer and burn some time surfing the world round. Decision taken. Tonight was daydreaming night. She entered the bed, drew the covers over her head and started pulling rainbows into her life. There was quite some place for rainbows, and only rarely did she stop to wonder why. Probably because she knew the reasons.
The shop’s door bell beeped for the twelfth time this morning. It was already eleven thirty, and she sold only two videos till now. Both porn, and both to respectable looking citizens, one of them a she citizen. She smiled to herself. Being a second hand videos shop she had to view all her movies in order to make sure they were not damaged. Therefore she had viewed all the two hundred plus X rated videos as well. Lord... at first she watched with one eye only, then - she had to admit - it did make something to her insides and one night she even made love to her husband with one video’s images in her mind. But after the twentieth, more or less, she got so bored with it and with the artificial stupid scenarios (c’mon, let’s be serious, a man that keeps on doing it for 65 continuous minutes? which star does he come from?) that she let them run in the background while she was surfing the net for cake recipes. She got quite a number of recipes that period and did succeed to catch three flawed tapes. Business, however, was getting worse by the day, even for X rates, and the net competition was felt heavily. Actually she was losing money on the rent. Not that she needed the money but her pride was at stake, she had to make it a success. And she was ready to move it all to the virtual net world as well. Like everybody else.
“Good morning.” The words startled her. It was not her compatriots’ nominal ‘Hi’ and neither was the accent. She looked up from the pile of sheets on which she was trying (for several years already) to write a small novel, and smiled.
“Good morning?” She didn’t mean to have the question mark in her voice but she wasn’t always in control, as she well knew. The man, fiftyish, and certainly not an American, looked around, a bit embarrassed (‘...bet he is looking for the X rated section...’) and asked.
“Do you have any Disney’s?” Oops. Losing your touch Josephine.
“Have very few, people hate parting with them, you know. Some particular title?”
“Yes, I have a collection of The Wonderful World of Disney and I am missing one of the series - The Ranger of Brownstone. Actually I do have it but it is a damaged tape. I was trying via Ebay, but now that I am here I thought to look around in the shops.”
“Your kids like Disney?” For some reason that amused him and he smiled. She found herself liking the smile and the glint it seemed to bring to his brown eyes... now why the hell did she pay attention to the fact that the eyes were brown?
“My kids are one 25, and the other 30 year old. And it is I who likes Disney.” It was her turn to be embarrassed, though years of brazen American conditioning took over immediately.
“Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to get personal. I don’t have any of the oldies, but I may get, who knows? I am getting new merchandise every day. Can I contact you anywhere in case I get the one you are looking for?”
“Thanks, but tomorrow I am flying back home, I live in The Netherlands. Holland...” he added, answering her puzzled look. Bingo, what was it somebody said about Josephine losing her touch?... “Maybe I can leave you my e-mail address?” He scribbled hastily on a piece of paper. “That’s my private mail address, email@example.com, so if you get it you can contact me. I will pay the shipping, no problem.”
“Katu? Is it Indian or something?” This time he really laughed. God, the guy really laughed and didn’t even hint at pretending being amused. He really was.
“Oh, no, east European, but I live in Holland for several years already, I work there for an international company, I am an engineer.” But of course, Josephine, that explains the accent and that explains the Disney... where did she read that it was mainly kids and engineers that liked cartoons? She was surprised at her hand shooting forward in a sudden truce offering gesture.
“Hi Katu, I am Joe.” He raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“Joe? Is it Indian or something?” That kind of laughter... when was it she laughed so hard last time? Twenty years ago when she watched for the first time Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’? Never before and never since. Now this stranger and suddenly she laughs for real for the second time in her life. “Oh my God... sorry...” she wiped the tears from her eyes and felt like smiling at him. She just hoped she did not make a show of herself. “It is short for Josephine, of course, and I prefer the shortcut. And I am no engineer, the highest I made it in school was as cheerleader candidate, till my flying stick proved to everyone that it will always miss my hand and never miss somebody’s head...” He laughed again. She thought she liked him. “Okay, Katu, if this tape comes in, it is yours and the shipping’s on me. No back talking permitted, house rules.” She felt too light headed, an event as banal as this morning’s sunrise was turning into a hint of a rainbow... she suddenly shuddered, why should the word rainbow suddenly pop into her mind?...
“Thanks... ahmmm... Joe...” His voice was soft but his gaze was solid. “May I have your permission for one politically incorrect remark?...” She smiled, and knew it showed in her eyes too.
“You may, and I promise to wait a full five minutes before calling my lawyer. I hope, for your sake, that Holland has no extradition agreement with the states. By the way, are you a very rich man?” It was clear to her that he liked her answer. Who was this guy anyway? Probably asking himself the same question about me.
“Joe, you are a very nice woman, Joe. I am glad to have met you.”
It was approximately five minutes after he left the shop, five minutes as promised, for heaven’s sake, that she remembered to pull her hanging jaw back up into ‘close’ position. She did forget to call her inexistent lawyer.
Business was so slow that she decided to close early. Nobody would miss her and tough luck for those that did. She hung a note sorry, gone to the dentist under the CLOSED sign, picked up her 4x4 truck (her pride, “hey mister - I’m not your sister and this is no sissy’s car” was her formulated answer to appreciative wolf calling semi-trailer drivers) and went for some grocery shopping. She got home about one hour earlier than usual and started preparing dinner for MD. Why in the hell did he insist from the very beginning to be called MD? Was he ashamed with his French sounding name Dupuis? It was like living with a governmental department - FBI, CIA, MD... she snickered, this crazy world, all of it acronyms, PT for Pregnancy Test, PM for Post Menopausal... no, sorry, taboo, this word does not exist, forget it, not in her world. She enjoyed playing these mind games with herself, her fingers dexterously cutting, chopping, mixing the ingredients. MD? Why not ET, ET for European...? CUT! The show director in her head took forced control of the scenario and yelled with a thin voice - cut, cut, cut! She knew she had to obey the call. What was happening to her? She felt warm, an unexplained kind of desire was bubbling inside her. She was impatient for MD’s return. She needed a man, right there, right then, and to hell with proprieties. It was just when he opened the door and started complaining at once (not even ‘Hi honey...’) about his boss, the traffic jam, and those idiots who were certainly driving under drugs and he would personally bribe their judge for ensuring that justice be done on the roads (not even feeling the contradiction in terms) that she knew she had to postpone her personal “project”. The mood was gone. He rushed through the meal since there was a John Wayne movie on the Oldie’s Channel and he was eager to watch it. Then he went to the bedroom and she could feel the minor earthquake as the TV’s surround sound installation decided to leave nothing to imagination.
There were not too many dishes. On such occasions she preferred doing them by hand rather then turning on the dish washer. DW - dish washer. Stop it, she laughed at herself, cleaning the few plates, then drying them and returning each to its place in the cupboard. The warmth was still there, the mood may have been shattered but the warmth pressing in her belly was still present. She lay in the bed next to her husband, and pressed against him. He accepted it but did not encourage it further. John Wayne was just administering a correction to a band of roughnecks and he needed all the help he could get. In a few seconds she fell asleep.
She woke up with a start. It was dark. She immediately knew she continued her lovemaking in her sleep. Unintentionally. Now it was about to be concluded. She was on fire. She was not able to control it anymore, she did not want to control it anymore. She just held her breath, softly groaning, waiting for it to finish. It was the first time. It never happened to her before. MD was breathing regularly, asleep. The TV was off. For a moment she wandered if John beat the hell out of the main baddie. Then she slowly descended from the bed, closed the bathroom door behind her, and entrusted her body to a long, hot, cleansing shower.
It was one month later that she got the tape. Her shop was most of the time closed now as she shifted most of the business to the internet. She opened several shop fronts with different providers and suddenly she was making ten times more than in the shop. It was harder work since there was no time frame attached to it, if you wanted to succeed then 24 hours was the minimum. But she liked it, it was suddenly dynamic, she communicated daily with tens of people, some pure ass holes, some half geniuses. And all the in betweens. The shop was just a good frame for tax evasion... every time she thought about it she smiled mischievously - Joe, you are going to go to jail for a lousy one hundred bucks... but it thrilled her life. She was almost in a league with Bonnie (her husband refused categorically to be her Clyde, well... tough luck for him, he didn’t know what he was missing...) and the thought gave her childish satisfaction. Well, of course, I don’t kill people, do I?... was her daily remark to herself and it justified everything. And it was in the shop that a dirty, greasy haired teenager punk brought the tape for sale.
At first she thought it was a hold-up and her Bonnie second nature changed in splits of a second to Piss-In-Your-Panties-Joe... Then the punk asked for twenty dollars (the cheeky bastard...) and she gave him twenty two, then hastily bolted the door behind him. Only then she saw the title, partially - The Wonderful World of Disney. She shifted it hastily to see the rest of it... The Ranger of Brownstone. She sat down, smiling. Her heart rushing madly after the encounter with the would be robber, now rushing... a bit more. You silly woman, she thought to herself, at your age clouds are forbidden territory, get out, off, and down. MD will skin you alive. She took the tape, rummaged in the drawer until she found the scribbled note, put everything in her bag and locked the door behind her.
“Dear Katu. This is the Indian woman, Joe, here...” the smirk on her face was undeniable... “I got your tape, actually ripped it off an unexpecting innocent teenage unwashed punk that at first wanted to sell it to me at the ungodly price of twenty dollars. I succeeded to get it off him at... twenty two bucks. Great business woman, ain’t I? Hey, did I see a smile on that alien face of yours? Bet I saw... Listen, this one is on the house, don’t try to send me any money because I will not accept (of course, if you decide it is worth one thousand bucks to you... c’mon, just kidding). No, it is not my habit to give presents to strangers, especially those of unidentified origin... lol... consider it an investment for the sake of our future relations, it is always good to have an adult client deep into Disney, that’s a healthy source of income for me... lol...” ...you dirty lying fat cow... fat? who is fat? how do I dare insult myself?... “...so I hope it gets to you in one piece and that you have the right kind of equipment to read American standard. BTW, I just opened an internet shop and I sell there polished stones of all kinds of sizes... just the right kind for paving a high class neighborhood street, feel like a stone? My husband contributed his personal kidney stone... my God, disgusting, isn’t it? So if you still feel like doing business with me see you on my site. Hope you leave me some nice feedback. Joe the Indian.” She felt lightheaded, adventurous. This very night she slept like a truck’s tire.
“Dear Joe. Thank you so much for the nice present. I must admit I was kind of prejudiced about you Americans, till I encountered this nice breath of freshness coming from you. I promise to visit your net store and give you highest marks. It may sound a bit odd, but you know that English is not my mother tongue therefore please excuse my unavoidable mistakes, I hope you do not take offence. And therefore may I ask you what you mean when you use those expressions like ‘lol’ and ‘btw’, you kind of lost me there and I may misinterpret your message. I will refer some of my colleagues to your site as well. If you need anything from around here I promise to send you. Please keep in touch. Katu. India.”
Till that last word she felt really disappointed, it was a polite thank you, come and visit... letter and her personal unexplained original reaction to this guy seemed suddenly miles out of place. But there, in this last word, there was an undeniable hint of mirth and for a short moment her heart fluttered. Careful Josephine, you have a habit of blowing things out of proportion, and you know it. Probably it IS a polite thank you, come and visit... letter.
“Dear Katu. LOL is net slang for ‘laugh out loud’, meaning ‘this is a joke’, and BTW is simply the acronym of ‘by the way.’ Do you feel like you need private lessons on the matter? I know a good teacher...” She pushed the ‘send’ button on her computer and almost immediately regretted it. The much revealing ending three points... my God, but I really AM a cow. I saw this guy once, I don’t even know his full name or family situation, for all I know he might be a re-incarnation of Jack the Ripper, and I, the married settled woman, am throwing flirting hints at him as if I was a virgin looking for a ‘solution’ on proms night. Hey Joe, wake up, what is it all of a sudden the matter with you? She looked for several seconds at her computer screen, a sudden wild idea fleeting through her mind... why didn’t I think of it earlier? In a flurry of movement her fingers typed www.katuish.com and it was a long second before one exaggerated resounding punch on the ENTER key sent the combination searching for a home inside the unending entrails of the network monster. She hoped nothing would come out. She hoped everything would come out. She hoped.
Something came out. She was at the door of a strange man’s home, looking for answers to undefined questions, maybe even looking for mysteries to be unraveled, for colors to start flowing into the empty shells of her hungrily gaping rainbows... She found a simple site. The guy presenting himself in a few sentences, then some linked pages about his workplace, hobbies, friends. She found hints about a wife and two kids... kids? she remembered him smiling at the word. She tried several of his proposed links - some were to math pages, some to literature agencies (this one puzzled her), some to records and tapes shops. Disappointing. Here I am, snooping inside the guy’s home and inside the guy’s head through a key hole as big as the Winchester Cathedral, and there is nothing to snoop about. Plain, simple, even... boring. Disappointed? Well, maybe... Well, a little bit... she was honest enough to admit to herself and kept pushing the back button through his pages peeking fleetingly at the pages’ titles... Hobbies2, Hobbies1, Hobbies, Links, Katu1, Home1, Home... For a moment her dull brain seemed to perceive something in the background that her foreground thinking processes did not seem to lock on. She was going to push the OFF key, and then decided in a mindless kind of fashion to go through the cycle again... Hobbies1, Hobbies, Links, Katu1, Home1... I wonder, could something be missing here she thought to herself, and on a sudden nervous impulse typed the ‘Open Sesame’ sequence... www.katuish.com/Katu.htm.
...She didn’t see me,
She could not, I was not there,
I floated around her,
Inhaled inside her lungs in long, slow, gentle motions,
Exhaled through her small trembling nostrils in a flow of perfumed mist,
Moving along the sharp thigh line,
Imagining what lies at the end of the perilous journey,
Diffusing myself through the shirt’s stretched thread mesh,
Through the lace intricacies,
Reaching the soft skin, listening to the low sound of left side thunder,
Crawling unfelt round the smooth, proud, dormant femininity...
She was transfixed, moving back and forth between the hidden pages, between the poems, between the stories, some comic, some romantic, some erotic to such point that her insides were slowly starting to boil... Funny, didn’t know someone could write in several languages, wish I could read all of them... She looked at words she couldn’t understand, trying to follow the shape, guess at their sense, play with the alien rhyme... Then back to the words that she understood, talked to her, sang in her head, danced... Something was happening to her, a transformation she neither wished for nor could control. Why did I open this Pandora box?... she kept softly cursing her luck while at the same time reading the lines again, and again, a strange trance-like mist surrounding her thoughts, trying to guess the hidden meanings, the obvious meanings. My God, is all this passion, all this pain, just a writer’s imagination or is it the realities of life mirrored in the art form of words, and rhymes, and subtle intimations? Is this pain, radiating its sharp arrows into my being, some kind of witchcraft or does it simply echo the forgotten passions of my own soul and body? Forgotten passions? What about never known passions?
With a slight tremor in her finger she pushed the OFF button. I must calm down, I must calm down. God, oh God, have mercy on me.
MD was home earlier than usual, and more cheerful than usual. He took her by the hand and forced her to sit down by his side on the sofa.
“Great news. I got the promotion.” He was waiting for this promotion for several months, complaining, bitching, wearing her nerves thin with his continuous rumbling and grumbling. She didn’t really mind. It took several years to get used to his ‘style’, and actually it was many years back that she stopped bothering about it. Guess that is what married life is all about. Nice bank account, nice home, carnal pleasure from time to time, preparing food, cleaning the house, getting presents, Christmas with the family. She was satisfied. She was persuaded she was happy. Didn’t look for anything else, didn’t want anything else... Now he was waiting like a schoolboy for a word of praise from mommy. They decided to go out to an elegant restaurant for the occasion. She put on an elegant dress and for a short crazy moment felt like wearing tennis shoes with it. Then decided against it, c’mon Joe, control your childish impulses, you’re a married woman now... she let out a short choked sound that could have been a bark but was actually a repressed bubbling laughter.
“What’s the matter?” Her husband was tying his tie while she was trying the ninth pair of shoes. She hated dresses, she hated fancy restaurants... give me a Big Mac and a pair of jeans anytime...
“Nothing darling, just thinking... tell me, is it true that teenagers are too young for their age?”
MD gave her one of those looks, then laughed loudly.
“Joe, about time you grow up, don’t you think? Next thing I know you will be wearing tennis shoes with this dress...”
I hate it when he out-thinks me like that, she thought, stuck out her tongue at him while he wasn’t looking and ended choosing a blue pair of shoes to un-go with her red dress. Just to spite him, and she hoped he would pay attention. Knowing he would not. Maybe he is right she thought, maybe it is time I grow up and take my place as a decent grandmother together with the rest of them fat double-chinned blue-dyed rosy-cheeked rest of the grannies. Oh, no, not on your sweet life my dear hubby... not this kid, not on your life.
They took her car and she drove it. She hated being driven, she was as tense as a frightened cat whenever someone else was holding the steering wheel, and after several frightening screams and scratches (“...that will teach them a lesson...”) nobody ever again insisted of driving her around. My car - my kingdom. She loved it. The power at the tip of her fingers, the sense of freedom, the window down and the wind breaking havoc with her hair arrangement (“...the hell with the curls, what about some nice untidy knots?...”) while her thoughts were wildly wandering out of control.... Three months since that Disney tape crossed her path and broke her stride. They kept mailing each other about once every ten days. At the beginning it was once every ten days. Now it was more like once a week. “Hi Katu... Just walked in the door and here is a piece of welcome mail from you... Your letters and chosen words of wisdom never put me to sleep... Isn’t it amazing what you can learn about a person without looking at a face... It’s almost like tapping into another dimension...” “Dearest Joe... Time to take to the pen (or should I say to the keyboard?) again, and with the same joy as always when answering your mails... Tell me dear friend, what about exchanging some pieces of ‘I know you’ ‘you know me’ between us? Like sitting at a table and learning to know a bit more about each other...” She sent him meantime some more video tapes and the money was paid instantly. Was it the commercial side that kept this link going? She guessed it was not, not on her side. What was it on his side? Donald?
“What is it again?” MD looked at her questioningly. Seems she chuckled involuntarily. Her mails kept the tone on the easy side, telling at length about her internet shop, her clients, the good ones, the bad ones... she mentioned she didn’t know the ugly ones because she could not see them, and he answered with his first ‘lol’... Funny this Katu guy, on the face of it such a regular, ordinary person, yet down below, home, where I visited him there in the backwoods of the secret internet hiding he had so unwisely chosen... wow, was this erupting volcano the same reserved person that was mailing her with stories about his videos collection, his kids’ college, even his wife’s pass-times?
The restaurant was crammed, but they had a table reserved for them close to the orchestra. MD was kind of overdoing himself this time. She eyed him with question marks covering every inch of his six foot two body and every second of their twenty five years marriage. Twenty five years of marriage, my God, when did they fly by? And where to? The early years, the young kids’ fun, the young kids’ careless passing through life, the young kids’ pains at discovering realities unknown. Their children, three. Two married second times already, one not even started to think of it. Three grandchildren. And I am still so young, and again she refused telling her age to herself. MD sitting across from her, reading the menu like it was the declaration of independence, good, reliable, infuriatingly mister-always-right, MD. Dose she really love him? Did she ever love him at all? God, what questions I ask myself all of a sudden, now, after two and a half decades of common life... what kind of game is my heart all of a sudden playing with me? And all of it because of discovering someone’s secret garden, hey, Josephine, are you really crazy, are you really willing to go a path that may take away all your past life, all your present pleasures, all your future comfort, all the routinely ‘Hi honey’, ‘Bye honey’...? She suddenly felt she was shivering, uncontrollably so, with fright, with sudden apprehension.
“MD.” He looked up at her, clearly annoyed at the out of place tone of her voice.
“Yes, honey.” The ‘yes’ was there, the ‘honey’ much less present...
“Let’s take a vacation. You said you plan to take one the moment you get the promotion. Let’s take it now.” He eyed her, surprised, even... annoyed.
“Joe, I tried to take a vacation one month ago, two months ago, three months ago... you refused flat each time. What happened all of a sudden?” It was her turn to be annoyed, unjustly so and she knew it.
“Now I feel I need it. Take it or leave it.” She pouted, knowing he hated it, but this time it was not directed at him. She was mixed up, she felt frustrated, and any target for her bubbling frustration was legal. Even if she was wrong she still wanted to blame others. Blame others for what?
“Sorry, what did you say?”
“I said okay. You want a vacation, we are going on vacation.” Did he sense something strange, unusual? MD was not the imaginative type, one plus one was always two in his world. Was it so transparent that something was wrong with her that he decided to avoid the reality of an unclear confrontation and chose the easy, safe way out? The mood improved on a full stomach, a little wine added its wonder as well. They did not dance. She watched the gliding couples on the dance floor, some flying almost like Fred and Ginger, some as heavy as Colonel Hathi’s elephants troop. MD did not like dancing. She loved. So they lived a kind of truce that she could dance with their friends and he would not mind. It did not really suit her. It was just that, kind of a truce.
They went for three weeks. Fresh mountain air. Fishing. Short hikes into the forest. Once they saw a bear and ran like hell. Later on they found out it belonged to a local hillbilly and it... ran like hell as well to its master’s cabin. The bear hated humans. Wise bear. She felt at home in the wilderness, freedom... MD liked it as well. He could show off his boy scout talents, navigating with maps, tying knots, trying to make fire rubbing two sticks till drops of sweat kept extinguishing whatever small smoke signs timidly tried to say hi (she had pity on him, after half an exhausting hour and on a churning stomach he did not object when she finally put an end to his misery with one blessed sulphur smelling psssssssssst of a ‘city’ match...). That night they made love. It was long since the previous time they did it, and actually it was she that hinted she would like it. Was it to spite herself, to test herself? Why the hell do I keep asking myself stupid questions lately? Including this question. I am married, I love my husband, that’s my life. Full stop. It was a major resolve. She fell asleep with it on her mind and dreamt about Baloo. Of all things...
The computer’s entrails whirred to life. It had a nice three week’s vacation, now it was time to pay the rent and the electricity it was consuming. She was impatient, c’mon machine, wake up before I sell you on the flea market and go buy myself a faster one. The chair squeaked under her weight, and her fingers played the music of the keyboard. The mail was opening. Wonder how many are there? I bet more than five and less than twenty. Her resolve having fallen prey to Baloo’s immoral insinuations, she was aching for confirmation of her expectations, fears. There was one single mail. A scalding fury started bubbling inside her chest... what the f...? She hit the Read Mail button. Once. The mail opened instantly.
It had a title. “Dear Joe”. It had content. Two connected words. “missyou”. And they covered pages, upon pages, upon pages, repeating in monotonous heartbreaking cacophony... “missyoumissyoumissyoumissyou...”. Bubbling tears replaced bubbling fury. Scalding tears replaced scalding fury. It was at that very moment that she knew she was lost. And there is no way back, Josephine. No way back.
It was suddenly a flow.
“Hey guy! Did you miss me? Just a little???...”
“Did you hear it? I mean the ...whooooosh... of letting go of my breath after at last receiving your mail, it scared all pigeon flocks for miles around... Lady, I didn’t miss you one little bit - I missed you whole lotta giant bits...”
She did not tell him she found out his secret, not wishing to embarrass him, and to a certain extent betting with herself that in a short time he will tell her about it. Their exchanges were getting warmer by the mail, rather than by the day, and words of the “dear” family started drifting in almost naturally. Their density in “dear units” per written word growing constantly. A few more mails and he started mentioning trying to publish a manuscript. She felt he was getting close to telling her that something she was waiting, hoping for. Impatient she was, but there was no guessing reading her mails. So factual, yet... so many hints hiding behind every second word... Actually, on the first suitable occasion she told him she was writing children poems. Which she did long ago. And she sent him one, hoping the temptation would be too much for him to bear. It was, in an “almost” kind of way.
“Dear Joe, are you sure you don’t want to publish it? I really liked it, and I don’t say it just to be nice. I believe you really enjoy writing these things, don’t you? Now take your hands away from your eyes and let me tell you a similar secret from my past - would you believe it if I told you that I actually wrote... hundreds of poems somewhere between the ages of 16 and 21, and even in my later days I still ‘sin’ from time to time and place a few words on paper? Actually, while being a ‘bloody bastard nuisance’ at school, I was all jelly at heart, and I probably still am, somewhere inside, an incorrigible romantic. God knows I still miss that feeling...”
The prey was ready for the kill. She didn’t like thinking in these terms, but it was the most suitable expression she could think of. The world stopped turning. She was living a private split life, a nightmare mixed with a kind of expectation that had to be exploded or else her insides would explode. She had to know.
“Dearest Katu. You are sweet. These are just very simple children’s’ poems. Yes, I write them because I enjoy it. I love kids. Last night was Halloween. We had a full Harvest moon! I waited for some gorgeous hunk of a howling vampire to come and whisk me away, alas, the only blood sucker I saw was on late night TV. Dear friend of mine, do you mind me asking you an impertinent question, and if you do, could you forgive me for asking it AFTER not having answered it? Lol, ain’t I awful, did I lose the direction?... Katu, could I please read one of your poems?”
It took her three days of self deliberation before daring to push the ‘send’ button. Knowing that she was on the verge of making it or breaking it. Making or breaking what? She knew exactly what, and the storm raging in her chest was of a magnitude she never believed could exist. The day passed. Usually he would answer in an hour, at most - a day. The mail ‘in’ box stayed empty except for a few ads that infuriated her in a demeasurable way. Seven days. On the eighth day a mail came in. It was from him. She waited a full day, fearful of opening it. Then she did.
“You incorrigible romantic, you... hi there, girl. Dearest Josephine, dear sunshine. Yes, you are awful, and delightfully so. No wonder you are looking for Ivanhoe on his black horse to whisk you away, all I can unfortunately offer is an old stinking coughing diesel car. But I have something to offer...” ...my God, here it comes... “a secret garden, my secret garden, many weeds and a few flowers. Dear Joe, it is yours, please come in...”
Josephine... when was the last time someone called her by her full name? The address, the key to the famous net address she knew for so many weeks was now offered to her, a present, why would he offer me a present, who offers presents in this world, and to whom? It was a question she knew the answer to, but the next step, the answer without asking the question, had to come unasked for. Else, the magic, the fabric of the dream, would be lost. She took the key, she opened the door again, and now she knew she was invited there. A welcome guest. More than a guest? Maybe. Probably. Maybe. She started reading it all again, with renewed vision, with different attention to detail, looking for hints of the past, hints of the dreams, wishes, hints of the secrets hiding in between the words and lines. And then she found her answer. So unexpected that for a moment she thought something was wrong somewhere. It was a poem. A love poem. Dedicated to her.
“Dear Katu, I am a married woman. I have kids. I have grandchildren as well. I am happy, settled, my life is quiet. Dear Katu, am I in love with you?”
“My God, Joe, are you for real? I read your lines, mixing drama, comics, romance, pussycat gentleness and tigress fierceness, and my head is wobbling and my heart is thumping and my fingers are shaking while desperately pushing these keys, trying to compose a coherent response under the control of an incoherent blurred line of thought.
You ask if YOU can tell me anything, if YOU are getting too bold? Lady, you can curse me and cut me and hang me, and I’d still be kissing your hands with bleeding lips. Providing me with this immense expectancy fever of ‘before opening this one mail’, then the other one, then the other one, and these getting deeper, and more personal, and bolder... why, you disrupt my day in ways I wouldn’t want changed for all the million other passions burning themselves to death this very moment all over the world. Can I be as bold? probably I can... Can I be as direct? hopefully I can... Dear lady, I believe we’re having here the first ever email affair. And it being confined to this cool impersonal unromantic cyber media doesn’t make it any the less fiercely burning, on the contrary - there’s nothing more consuming than the unconsumed fire... Please, lady, never, never cut away this link. I don’t get much occasion these days to let go of some inspired sentences, life is tough, life is rough, life has its own needs, and I have to obey by most of its rules. You provide me with the small crack, the tiny opening that allows me get the flicker erupting from time to time into this enormous flame, please keep it there, please allow me to live. Dear lady... are you in love with me? Dearest of ladies... I am madly in love with you.”
“Oh my goodness, so the volcano is finally erupting, shall I look for the safety of the hiding or just wait patiently until your lava will cover me and burn me to a slow death with passions unknown... Dear Katu, my friend, my poet, I love you...”
It exploded into life like a super nova. An over the counter short meeting turned into a gripping over the ocean love affair, with only the weakest of links that could be imagined holding it together - words. Weakest of links, to some. Ten inch thick steel, to others. The mail pace tripled, quadrupled. Suddenly there was no limit, no shame, no hesitation. They exchanged wishes, dreams, fantasies, now and then stopping for a moment to catch their breath only to speed up the pace later. Life seemed to pass them by in the real world, while their imaginary world was what impacted their sensations, their needs.
“Was it you? Was it you who excited me so, in my dream last night? Or was it even a dream... as your touch felt so real. When I placed your hand to my breast, it was warm and wanting. You could feel the rhythm of my heartbeat so out of control. Everything was so perfect, I think you even made the rain happen. Warm showers that drenched my white silk blouse as it clung to my hardened nipples for you in anticipation. Eager for you to taste them. You brushed my wet hair from my shoulder and lovingly kissed my neck. I wanted to devour you, right then... you wanted to make the moment last, teasing me, taunting... driving me mad... touching me. Then I put my mouth upon yours and we kissed. At first it was romantic light kissing. Then you pulled me tight against your tense body, squashing me hard against you. I kissed you again, leaving no doubt about what I wanted. And you liked it, I pushed my hips into yours and your breathing quickened, I felt your knees go weak and we fell into the tall soft grass waiting for us like a blanket of desire. I bit your lip, tasted your blood... you ripped the silk out of the way...”
“Was it me? Was it me closing my eyes, reaching over the endless empty miles to finally feel the touch of my fingertips against the corner of your partly open mouth, slowly, barely touching, letting them fall down along your neck, hesitatingly baring one white shoulder. The top button of the wet clinging blouse giving way and leaving one bare white breast in quivering anticipation to my slowly advancing hand, moving yet not there, slowly descending the soft smooth curve while my mouth was closing in towards yours, lips meeting lips with sudden uncontrolled spasms, teeth clattering against teeth, tongues snaking their way around each other... body clashing into body, hard against soft, demanding against yielding, hills and valleys against valleys and hills. The soft tall grass like a blanket of desire engulfing our bodies wishing to steal away some of this single moment, so unique, so one timely, so ours... ours only. You whispered softly your desire as my hand, crushed between your breast and the wet ground, tore away with desperation at the yielding fabric of your blouse...”
“Was it you? Was it you who caressed my flesh and invaded the depth of my soul with your gentle way and kind eyes that pierced my heart until I tasted blood? I waited so long and patiently for you to come to me. Even before you said, missyoumissyoumissyou... You didn’t know. But I knew. We were dancing then, and I was shamelessly leading. Waiting for the right moment. We shared our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. Content at the time, but I soon realized it would never be enough. I wanted intimacy. Not with just any man. It had to be you... and here we are now, touching, exploring, trembling, flirting and getting ready to take our liaison into unfamiliar territory... The rain shower had turned to a gentle misting...”
She had to stop. The room was suddenly small, stifling, she was smothering under the weight of her own words, she wanted to get out, to run away, to think...
“I think I can almost read your thoughts. I had to get out of the house, trying to calm down... I went for a long drive and let the wind tangle my long locks. I listened to the oldies station on the radio. I wanted to have time alone to think about what has happened in the last few days. I feel a little confused, yet light hearted, maybe even light headed, and happy. Silly though it may seem, even to us, I think we have awakened feelings in each other that bring back all the passion of our youth, all the innocence in that passion. And if I were to share my most treasured fantasies with someone, I’m glad it’s you. If it lasts a month, a year or ten, I will never forget how you have made me feel at this very moment in my life. I feel no guilt or shame. Just light, airy, happy...”
“To the dearest and sweetest of all fantasies... There is one point where you are terribly, incredibly wrong. You mention that you can almost read my thoughts. Wrong!!! You read my thoughts - full point. And with such perfect clarity that is frightening. Wonderfully frightening. Your mail is so true, so soft and beautiful, that I won’t do it injustice by answering with a similar one. Let it be singular. I feel wonderfully free, I can talk to you without reserve, I can be intimate without fear or shame, I can ask the most shameless questions and I’ll be answered, I’ve never been this way. I never thought it possible. Now I know...”
“In my daydreams, it’s as if world and time are standing still, and we are the only two people breathing, alive. I see no one but you. The quiet is deafening . The fire all consuming. The pain too real. The craving, agonizing yet magically wonderful, immeasurable. Your eyes intense with unspoken love melting me into madness... Often, I cannot finish the dream, without closing my eyes and letting you touch me... No man has, or ever will, touch me as you do. May I have this dance... for the rest of my life?...
I’m offering the gift of love, it’s all I have to give,
please take my heart as it is yours as long as you shall live,
I know this is a simple poem, not beautiful in prose,
but I am just a simple girl, and you the perfect rose...
I can smile now. I really do love you... I’ve never been so afraid in my life, afraid if it ever ends... I will want to die...”
“To the wildest, hottest and most wonderful lady that stormed my life. So late, so unexpected, with such a bang. Your beautiful, incredible, honest and haunting letter. Your short, sincere, enchanting and heart warming rhyme. The only and first love poem I ever got. Do you understand the meaning, the feeling of it? Tears? I’ve spilled millions. But long ago, at a time I burned with an internal fire nothing could quench. But not in many years now. Thirty years, and you are the first one. Your letter, so enchanting, do you want to hear if you brought tears to my eyes? Yes you did. To my eyes, and to my heart."
The flow of mails turned into a torrent. Funny, short, long, intimate... they exchanged words and remote kisses in the limited and cozy intimacy of their computers, protected by passwords, protected by each other’s discreetness, ferociously protective of their small hidden world. Like kids playing at a grown ups game, like grown ups playing at a forbidden game. The poems garden kept growing, he kept planting there new flowers, new plants, new planets. She felt at home in this secret place they shared, each word carrying a meaning, each line carrying a flame that she was the only one to understand. Returning there so often, snapping flowers from the garden, cutting gushing slices from her heart and planting the flowers in the sweetly bleeding wounds, nurturing them, breathing through them, living through them. It was their special world, two people alone in the heart of the billions of non existing others... how could they explain it? They didn’t need to, they didn’t want to. They simply lived. Loved. Lived.
“I am crying... you wrote me another smile... I had this wall up, and no one got in too close, not even my partner in the other life. It took years of fears to build this wall. Brick by untrusting brick... and with one stab to the heart, I am totally vulnerable again. I may lose you someday my sweet, precious... but I already know, that if I do, you take a piece of me with you, and I will never be whole again.”
“No, you may lose me No day. But saying what you say, be it right or wrong - is music to my ears.”
The first quarrel. Not even a quarrel, more like an innocent misunderstanding, yet so powerful in its explosion that it almost shattered their world. Unimaginable, they knew it, yet... frightening. It was triggered by her. Or was it by him? When he made this remote suggestion that they may meet, somewhere in the future, somewhere in the mists of time. She panicked. Aching for this very wish, yet, when it was expressed, she panicked. Frames rushing through her mind... marriage, kids, kids’ marriages, grandchildren, birthdays... was she ready, will she ever be ready?... she needed it, she wanted it... was she ready, will she ever be ready?... It was late at night when she wrote her mail, hesitating over every word, every punctuation mark. She was not going to lose this crazy love, not after having waited for it her whole life. But... was she ready? She was not. In more ways than one. She said it. My sweet Katu...
“My sweet Katu. Don’t you think I’ve thought about it a thousand times? Being with you if for only a day, a night in your arms... a stolen hour... oh yes, I have. Even pictured it. Felt it. But then, reality sets in. I am not a one night stand, sweet sweet lover. Once I have shared your night, there would be no going back for me. I would leave my family, my home, I don’t think I could let you walk away from me. And that would hurt my loved ones, it will break their hearts, you know it, I know it, I cannot let it happen. With tears in my eyes, I can only say that at this time, in this life, I fear it is impossible. It would ruin everything we share. You have brought such joy and love to me, I love you in ways I can’t even begin to love anyone else, I want to be with you so much it hurts me every waking hour. It cannot be. Please, please forgive me. I would write my love for you in blood if it would help. Now, all I can do is wait for your answer, wondering... is he angry? disappointed? will he still love me? have I hurt him so he will not forgive me? can he feel my heart breaking?... Dear Katu, I fear I have failed the test... please write me, tell me the truth. As we promised.”
“Dear Josephine... angry with you? Not in a million years. Disappointed with you? Not in a million millions. Laugh at you, yell at you, when I burn with love and desire? You do know better that that. Surprised? Yes. Shocked? Yes. Having to gather my thoughts? Yes. You know what was the most charming, heart warming, passionate aspect of this relationship? It’s spontaneity. Every day a breath of fresh air, immense passion with no worries about how to say things, what to say, from the simplest and dirtiest to the most complex and most beautiful. No commitment yet all the commitment in the world. A relationship running a course of its own, making allowances of its own, accepting all conditions at no condition. I believe I’ve lost it. This spontaneity.
I’ve never in my life yearned, ached so much for a woman, one I’ve known only through words, through dreams. I love you with the consuming passion that draws the moth to the flame, I dream of us taking off in splendid fireworks nights, sealing this love with the fires of carnal desire, not as an end but as a seal for eternity. You cannot blame yourself for my passion, a passion you cannot, though I hoped you do, understand. And I can blame only myself for, probably, interpreting my wishes as yours. Dearest of all dear to me, this is not a game, this is not a one night stand. I hurt terribly, you did not hurt me, I did. I will love you forever, and I doubt that even you, though I opened my soul to you, will understand what this forever means. Tears won’t help when there are none left. Time neither though there is so much left. Living with it is what will have to happen. For as long as it takes. Forever. Good bye my sweet Joe, I loved you.”
It was slipping away, she screamed silently, with impotent rage, she wanted to reach out all these miles away and strike, and strike...
“...please don’t go. I don’t think you understood. I will never leave you unless this is your wish. I just thought you were serious about meeting, I don’t think I could do that right now. I’ve hurt you... forgive me please... Katu.... don’t leave me...”
“...yes, my sweet and dear, you understood correctly... I was serious. I love you, never forget that, though right now it may sound kind of... corny? It does not to me. And, please, my dearest Josephine, talk to your conscience, if actually all this was kind of a game to you then please, do the one and only decent thing - let me go. If it was not, please let me know. Funny, it reminds me of an Elvis song words... life catching up with art... unfortunately, it seems it is my life catching up with art here...”
He was offering her an opening, it was touch and go, she had to say it right... to touch it right... or it was... go...
“...I don’t have a way with words the way you do, and you misunderstood so much of what I was saying... Dear lover, one night with you would not be enough for me, I need all your nights, I need you for a lifetime, my lifetime... How could I love you and then walk away? so easily? wish you well? I am not going anywhere!! like it or not Katu, Katu@Katuish. You are stuck with me with all my immature ways, with all my crazy ways, because... I love you. Please, talk to me... softly... please... :( “
“...how do you succeed to make me smile even in my most hurting moments, I wouldn’t know. You ARE one of a kind. Your :( is like a small girl’s painful wink, god, I love you... sorry, love, I am mixed up, my head is turning, I think I am really incoherent at this stage... love me? or leave me?”
She was winning, it was scary but she was winning.
“...till the sun will rise in the west... till the moon will turn its other face to us... till you will tell me... go...”
“...my dear Joe, to my grave, and enjoying the pain every step along the way... citizen Kane said ‘Rosebud’, I will say - ‘Josephine’...”
“...my dear Katu, it hurt, my God did that ever hurt... bam... a shot to the heart... I died... thank you for kissing life back into me again... I love you.”
It took twelve hours of incredible pain. But they were victorious. Their first quarrel, as deadly, as fierce as their passion. And they survived it. Now they knew for sure. There is no life after death. There is no life after love. There is nothing after. Nothing.
They breathed in several lungfuls of air. It was about time, twelve hours without breathing? Could kill a whale... lol...
“...you know, Katu, I bet you a hundred bucks that if one of us will ever leave the other, it will be you.”
“...you know what, Joe, why don’t we make it one thousand dollars?”
He could almost hear her happy laughter in her answer mail.
“...deal!... one thousand uncle Sam beautiful green dollars... may none of us ever win it!... lol...”
He returned early that evening, luckily the session planned for this late afternoon was cancelled and suddenly he found himself with time on his hands. So he decided to break his late hours habit and go home. The dog leaped happily at the unexpected ‘visitor’ and his wife set to preparing his dinner. He stopped counting by now the number of months they did not make love. His body was still demanding but it was constantly refused its rights, he wondered if her body was demanding too. He preferred not to think. There had been pleasure in their sexual rare encounters of ‘before’, not passion, but something pleasant, born of routine, of living together, of... he smiled... at times having nothing better to do. He loved his wife, loved her presence, yet during the last months their relationship became kind of remote, automatic. She accepted it, didn’t ask questions, he was not the talkative type and she learned to adapt. Reading, her greatest passion, took up most of her time, and the pattern settled into a few word exchanges in the evening upon his return from the office, and then she was retreating to her reading corner and he to his internet surfing. His passion, not the surfing, but the woman on the other side of the net who conquered him with her freshness (which of the two meanings applies?... smile... probably both...), her energy, her passion, her insatiable desire for his company. Would it have been the same if we lived together, I wonder... He finished his dinner with his dog as sole and happy company, then went to the computer room and took the small paper bag from his pocket. He placed it in a padded envelope, wrote the address, stuck an Air Mail label on it, glued the flap and added an adhesive band just for safety. Then he put the envelope in his case and turned on the computer.
The torrent has turned into a flood. He had to keep saving the mails in a separate folder since his five megabytes kept filling up almost overnight. There were no words they hadn’t already used, there were no phrases they didn’t yet compose, yet it seemed that this fire raging between them created new words, new dictionaries. Here she was, zapping him with words about her shopping, about her kids, about her customers, about the frustration at her husband’s insistent reminders of her marital duties, bed duties included. He kept telling himself he was not jealous, knowing he was lying to himself, knowing she could not always prevent the encounter, knowing that the green demon would kill this relationship if he let it run wild. He knew that he loved her to such a degree that even this pain would be acceptable, and if this was the price to pay - he would pay it. Katu, is it you?... he kept asking himself, remembering the savage jealousy he felt for his wife in his younger days. Yes, it is me, I didn’t change, but this love is bigger than me... he kept answering himself. And today, he was proving it. He opened her first mail, a smiley followed by a ...biiiiig smoooootch... she was teaching him a new love style, a wild style, a kid’s style...
The lady delivering the post ran to the door, her long hair dripping with rain. She rang impatiently, delivered the envelope and ran back to her van. Joe liked her, she always brought the mail to the door even though she could have left it in the mail box at the gate. Usually it was for the benefit of a few gossipy words and a cup of hot coffee, however this time she was late and in a hurry.
“Bye...” her yelling was lost in the noise of the rain drumming madly on the roof.
Joe looked at the unfamiliar envelope, a warm glow waking up in the questioning eyes. Envelope unknown, but not so the country it was sent from. She rushed to her bedroom, no one was at home but she locked the door, first time she locked this door since they bought the house (...if they ask I will say I heard a strange noise... lol...) and tore open the envelope, knowing already that it contained a personal poem, one so hot that it had to be delivered personally to her hands... she took out the internal wrapping and she screamed. She really screamed, neighbors or no neighbors (luckily no one at home) she really screamed. When she finished crying and shaking, she picked up the thin golden band, kissed it, and slid it on her finger.
“I, Josephine, before my God and my lover, under the stars and the moon, take you, Katu, for my partner in ways that no one could ever understand, and in forbidden love, unconditionally, forever and a day. This I promise you.”
“I, Katu, before my God and my lover, take this woman to love and care for, unconditionally, forever and a day. If only she would have me.”
“Dear Katu, please always remember, I have never ever loved a man the way I love you and I have never known this kind of love... not ever... This band of gold will always stand for the never ending passion and forbidden love that we will always share. Please, please write me a smile... for this our wedding day...”
“Dear Joe, now I know that eternity is measurable. It is measurable in minutes, it is measurable in hours, it is measurable in days. Eternity is all the small and big parcels of time that I am away from you, that I do not hear from you. Eternity is the distance between two mails, eternity is the time that you sleep, eternity is the time that I don’t touch you. Eternity is measurable, and it is so long... I love you my sweet bride, I am with you, in the white bridal bed, by your side. Forever. Thank you for loving me.”
They kissed in words. They made love in words. Next morning there was a mail from her.
“...I think I have a problem... MD and I... well you know... it was only sex and all I did was close my eyes and make love to you... is it ok if I tell you?...”
Darkness. Horrible pain. Their honeymoon night. He was the spectator. She was consummating it with someone else. He knew it was inevitable... yet for this one night he refused to accept it. Surprising himself as well. Suddenly, unexpectedly, he reached a decision point and never before in this relationship did he feel so close to smashing close the link. She was waiting at the other end of the invisible line, he knew it. Partly drowning in her innocent happiness and certainty of his love, partly horrified at what she had just told him. He closed his eyes, seeing her reclining against the computer screen, the minutes passing and the spark in her eyes changing color, knowing that something was terribly wrong, her heartbeat pacing faster, the hesitating smile draining from her face into a frightened question. And he was frozen, could not move. And she was frozen, waiting for the verdict. How much do I love her, how much am I true to my promise of forever and a day? A one day old promise.
“Dear Joe. It is ok to tell me. It is ok for me to die under the pain. It is ok for me to tell you that I now know I did not lie to you. I loved you through joy. Now I know that I love you through hell. I lied when I said I do not care. I did not lie when I said forever. I love you.”
He dared breathe. She dared breathe.
Days. Weeks. The garden was growing. Pain, joy, music, embedded in the contortions of words, sounds. He knew, that night was the last time she was intimate with her husband, it was not going to happen again. She didn’t have to say it and he didn’t have to ask it. He knew. She was living another life now. She was visiting her private Eden, reading again the same lines, playing games with the rhyme, times crying when no one was around, times laughing loud and hoping nobody hears. The mood was back into the adventure of life, imagination. The two kids playing hide and seek as if nobody else was around, and nobody could guess either at their joy or at their change of ways. Did they feel like a married couple? No, they felt like newly weds every day, and every following day. Kids. Grown ups. Kids.
It was warm. She was dressed in tight short jeans and her t-shirt showed sweat stains. The radio oldies station acted as her favorite background to the work of arranging the mail files, calling them letters, imagining them written with a feather dipped in blue ink and carrying the smudges of his fingers. Smiling, she smiled so much lately. MD was busy in the garden, oblivious to her occupation, sure that it was a “woman” passing thing. It suited her. “Passing” has an indefinite length. The phone rang. She preferred the kitchen connection, in case it was one of her gossip friends it provided a limited kind of privacy. Not that it mattered, nothing mattered these days except this terrible infatuation of hers. It was Clara, her German newly acquired friend, the one with the funny accent. MD always mimicked her, and she was at times rolling with laughter. Yes, MD could be fun at times. She picked the phone and waited impatiently for the “discussion” to finish, contributing very little. She was not quite in this kind of mood. After a hurried “good bye” she returned to the computer.
He sat on her chair. His back turned towards her, his fingers touching the mouse from time to time. He heard her but did not turn around. She froze. Opened a drawer, picked up a pack of cigarettes and lighted one. She did not smoke in five years. Then she sat down, the trembling ends of the fingers holding the cigarette the only witnesses to the shiver hidden inside her body. She chain lighted a second one. Then a third. He still did not turn around.
“Did you sleep with him?”
She felt sudden rage at the question. Men! All they cared was “did you sleep with him?”. Not do you love him, is it serious, will you leave the house? Not even the thunder she would have preferred to this... indifferent? tone. Then he stood up and turned around. And it did thunder in her face. She saw the hurt, the disbelief, the terrified and terrifying question in his eyes. And the decision. She cringed, not in fear, but in pain at his pain. God, burn me alive right now and don’t let me see these glittering eyes...
“Joe, I give you twenty four hours to decide. I will not make the decision for you. You know and feel everything you need to know and feel for making a decision. I do love you. I trust you know what decision is right. You know where to find me.”
It would have been so much easier to get into a fight, recriminations, picking up forgotten skeletons from cobwebbed cabinets, smashing things, anger, even violence... He did not slam the door. He shut it gently behind his back, leaving her alone with the cold unforgiving eye of the monitor screen. Suddenly she felt very cold, why was she shivering?
“Dear Katu. I went to my garden. I read all the beautiful flowers you painted there for me. The merry ones, the sad ones, the passionate ones. Some I read three times, burning them in my memory for all the years to come. Some closing my eyes and changing the magic of your words with the majesty of my dreams. Our dreams. Yes, I know you feel it, I know you don’t like these lines you are reading now, I know you sense something is wrong. I know. And I did not want to write these lines. No.
Dear Katu. I love you. I said forever and I will forever. Please don’t judge me till the end of this letter, then please let your verdict be as clement as your love for me allows. Dear Katu, I am leaving you.
I was always afraid of the moment of decision, I wanted to postpone it as far as possible, it has nothing to do with my love for you, it is as strong as always. It has to do with this world, the real one - with its laws, its borders, its judges, its taxes, its medical insurance, its money for groceries, its people, children, grandchildren, Christmas get togethers, responsibilities to others. The moment of decision was forced upon me, I was found out in the mot stupid way, now is the time for me to cut with the reality or join back with the stream. I was left no choice. I had to make a decision. I made it. I am bleeding Katu, and I know you love me enough to understand. I will always bleed for you, I love you, I must go.
Thank you for heaven on earth. Never believed, until you showed me how wrong I was. You were my angel, you showed me the ways of love. Others are going to feel its warmth. You were my perfect teacher, now is my time to unwillingly leave your world. Don’t judge me too harshly my love, see it through my eyes, I believe you can. Please let me go away gently, please. I love you.”
“Dear Josephine. I said I love you. I did not define it but I said it. I meant it. I meant I love you. I said forever. I did not define it but I said it. I meant it. I meant forever. Be happy child, I cherish the thought and hope you can. I pray you can. I go, gently as you asked me to. I love you.
Btw, you owe me one thousand uncle Sam beautiful green dollars... I won it!... lol...”
She read the last line one hundred times. She counted the number of times she read it. The bastard. Was it rage she read there, or was the rage in her heart that he wrote it. Was it all a stupid bet, Katu? Do you use btw and lol that I taught you to use to infuriate me, to mock me, or is there a message I misunderstand? The answer so short, so almost indifferent, was he trying to make it easy on her or was it the cruel reality, a dream she lived but it wasn’t more than a soap bubble and thank God it blew up before it blew out of proportion? Good bye Katu, thank you for not hurting me, though God knows I wanted to be hurt. I really loved you. You were my man, the only man, my baby boy, my lover. You taught me love, now I know it exists. I really loved you, Katu. And you will never know how really much.
She went to the bank, drew one thousand dollars in ten crisp new bills of one hundred dollars each, closed the envelope, addressed it, placed the correct stamps value... funny, they were Disney characters... and let it slid into the gaping mail box. The mail box’s metallic lid clicked in place with one short dim thud.
Nine months, twelve days. She counted the days, knowing she would count them till the day she would blissfully close her eyes for the last time. Three months ago it was Christmas. As usual, everybody gathered at her place, she prepared food for double the number of expected guests, she liked Christmas. Sparkling lights, sparkling snow, sparkling kids eyes. This Christmas not different than others. Except that at other times every spark had diamond magic to it. This time it was glass. No one knew. Even MD seemed to have removed it from his mind, life was back to normal for him, and nothing ever changed for the others. They did not have sex since that event. He was not pressing her, he knew that finally she would fully return. She knew differently. The only symbolic memory to that damned day was the dust cover on her computer, on which she placed a pot with some long named plant with red flowers. She never opened her computer again following that day. “Hey, mom, did you give up internet shopping?” asked Tom, her youngest, and everybody joined in the gay laughter that followed. Does a cat ever give up mouse hunting? Some do, she thought, while everybody all over the floor was ripping the boxes’ wrappings to discover the pleasures of giving and taking. One month ago it was Valentine’s day. She got from him only one Valentine present... was it really such a short relationship. She looked at the thin golden band on her finger, feeling the blood suddenly beating fiercely and a thin pulsating vein on her forehead trying to show to the world the inner workings of her heart. MD bought her a diamond studded wedding ring. He said he wanted to marry her again. She smiled a no, I am married already, and he thought he understood. She bought him a set of ten DVDs of John Wayne. She knew he was an unconditional fan of big John. He kissed her on the cheek. It was more than a year now that they touched lips. It was ok with him. If it was ok with him then it was ok with her. Now, in two weeks, Easter. Family gathering again, if the weather allows they may even try a barbeque for the occasion. She finished cleaning the kitchen from the dinner she prepared, and heard the post lady coming up the path to the house. The coffee was ready, she invited her in, and for five minutes they chatted about the newly vacated house next to them. Maybe one of the boys could buy it? Then they parted and she looked at the envelope that was left on the living room desk. It was bigger than usual, with an Air Mail sticker on the front and stamps of a foreign origin. The address was written by hand, a small round feminine handwriting, carrying her name and address. She closed her mind. Picked up a cigarette (when was the last time I smoked?...), lighted it and sat down across from the envelope regarding it. The smoke stung her eyes but she didn’t move the cigarette out of the way. It finished, slightly burning her insensitive fingers. She dumped it to a sizzling death in the leftover coffee, got up, removed the flower pot, the dust cover, and turned on the computer. The familiar soft sounds of awakening electronics clicked their alien music on her eardrums. Her garden was empty. She tried several combinations, each ending with the familiar ‘Page Not Found’. She opened her mail box, wrote one word - ‘Hi’, and sent it. In a few minutes the error message returned claiming its right to failure. She closed the machine, returned to the table, and carefully opened the envelope. A page covered with neatly spaced letters, the same as on the envelope, managed to combine the letters into words and the words into phrases conveying their dim meaning to her unfocussed eyes.
“Dear Josephine. My name is Ana, Katu used to call me Annie. I was his wife.
I don’t know you. I neither like you nor hate you, and you probably had no real control on the events as they happened. But you are probably tightly linked to them and therefore I am writing this letter.
You may know that I loved my husband. He was a good, caring, decent person. We were a good couple for thirty marriage years. The last two years he started changing, slightly yet continuously, and I thought I knew the reason why. I found out, by pure chance, just a couple of weeks ago, that I was wrong. My husband was in love with another woman, and this woman was you.
Dear Josephine, in the first week of September, last year, my husband committed suicide. There was no indication of foul play and the police investigation was concluded fast. There was no letter left and the reason invoked was depression due to pressure at work and some bad investments my husband did lately. I thought so as well. The instruction judge ordered them to give me back everything, the gun he used, the improvised silencer, his laptop, his diskettes. I am in good financial shape and I will survive. I miss him terribly. Even now when I believe I found the truth.
My husband cleaned all his computer accounts and personal folders from any personal information. The police didn’t find anything, neither did I try. Two weeks ago I cleaned his drawers and I found a note. The note said ‘I love you’ on a small letterhead with your name and address. It would not have mattered, but it was the same violet ink and the same writing as the address on the item you will find in this envelope.
If I am mistaken, then please feel free to dispose of it as you see fit. I bear you no grudge. We probably share the same pain,
She picked it up from the bottom of the envelope. Curiously enough, it was still closed, smeared with brown and black stains. Two of the Disney stamps clearly visible under the postal red mark, showing a smiling Donald and a singing Mickey. Where Pluto’s head was supposed to be, a round, slightly charred edges hole passed the thick envelope from side to side like a black tunnel in an amusement park’s cardboard mountain.