Yossi Faybish - hobbies - prose
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    I picked up the phone three times. Then laid it back on its cradle. Once I even composed the full number, but before the first ring could cross the ocean I crashed it back on its forked home. Three times, and I failed to finish it. I knew I had to hear your voice, to tell you “it’s me... I love you...” and cut the line before anyone understood what was happening. And they would have asked you “who was that?..” and you would say “mistake...” and keep smiling through your day, maybe even more so?

    But I didn’t finish the call, three times in a row. First at five in the afternoon, then fifteen minutes later, then one hour later. I hesitated. Did I? Actually I was afraid of embarrassing you. Or was I afraid to surprise you and force you into an unpleasant denial corner? Probably a mix of everything, hesitation, fright. I was in love.

    Thousands of miles away there was a woman I was in love with. And thousands of miles the other way around there was a woman that loved me. I smiled to myself, remembering the first time I met her. Met her is kind of overstating it. Actually contacted her is more of a description. I asked her a question, by mail. She answered. Then I asked her a longer question, and she answered a longer answer. Before I knew it we were exchanging pleasantries and tearing patches of our lives to have what to tell the other. And before we both knew it, we were in love.

    I reached out to the phone for a fourth time and pulled my hand back again. Once, a long time ago, I told her that I missed her. Once, a long time ago, she told me that she had to try and understand what was happening. Once, a long time ago, we exchanged vows. She was my woman, my love. I was her man, her love, her lover. Would I ever really be her lover? I didn’t know, I didn’t really care. What I needed right then, what I would ever need, was to hear her voice. And to hold her hand. And to drown in her eyes.

    I looked at the phone, I knew she was watching it too, waiting, hoping, hoping probably that... oh, goodness, probably hoping that I didn’t call. Not then, at least. I started laughing, the more I thought of it the more I laughed. I knew she must have heard me, I knew she must have started laughing too since she knew the way I was thinking, since she knew I loved her laughter so much, since she remembered our promises, our vows, our unbreakable bond. Forever. Yes, many said it before us, many before us said forever and a day. But we knew one simple truth - our ‘forever’ was true. Forever.

    I stopped laughing and sent her an imaginary kiss. I knew she licked her lips in response. That was always the way between us. Because we had the forever, and what was another day in infinity. I could wait another day. And I could say it, since I knew she was listening to me. I love you. Forever.



    She was a witch. She definitely thought so.

    Crazy, she was. That I knew for a fact.

    We met three years ago, three minus a bit. She worked as volunteer in an organization dealing both with army veterans and with old people care homes, busy with setting up events resulting in hefty donations to “her cause”. I must concede - she had talent. Twice a year she would rent a huge tent, set it up in another town, coerce a few local doubtful talents (well, at times a bit better than doubtful) to appear against zero dollars but lots of potential fame, then get on the local radio station and all but define as traitors to the nation whoever didn’t show up to the event with a wallet spilling green juice. As I learned later, it wasn’t as smooth in the beginning. Actually the very first “event” was horrendous. She rented a cheap old huge tent out of season, meaning somewhere between autumn and winter, and had it set up for a Saturday show on a cheap terrain at the outskirts of her native town, promising cheap booze and cheap entertainment against donations for a good cause. Well, she did approach the mayor’s office, some big companies in town, and all the schools, with both mailings and personal visits, and she did get most of the biggie’s to promise their participation. She wasn’t rich but had enough money to get the event started and easily estimated covering the costs and making enough profit for the several national organizations that gave their name on loan to the event. She just forgot to mail her mother, I mean mother nature.

    We rolled on the floor in hysterical laughter, both of us, later on when she told me about the way the event developed - she called it deveflopped - from a promising and benign start towards a total debacle at a much earlier than planned finale. It all linked into inexperience and, of course, limited resources. But mother nature and a few human mothers around the event found it neither excusable nor funny. The first signs of trouble were actually intermittent hysterical shrieks as old matrons as well as young girls suddenly jumped up a chair whenever an inquisitive mustachioed mouse muzzle tried to identify if their legs were of a comestible nature. She later learned that the area was mouse infested for years. Interspersed with the soprano shrieks were deep bass, i.e. manly, howls every time some mucho character tried to prove his worth by attacking the different proof-your-power tools rented for the occasion. The interminable drizzle penetrated as ongoing subtle trickles inside the electrical mechanisms, turning most machines into portable electric chairs, luckily much under the fatal threshold preferred by humans. And the climax of it all, with five single minutes inside the so called show, a terrible gust of wind tore open one of the tent’s flaps turning it into a menacing whip and turning the whole tent into a crushing wet, howling, flapping menace, followed by the thunderous fall upon the stage of one main supporting pillar. Crushing two guitars and a combo drum in the process. The stampede resulted only in three fractured fingers, and the only lawsuits were those aimed at recuperating the money spent on damp mushy popcorn. The fire brigade volunteers who rushed to help, spent most of the time rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter, as they watched the bobbing heads rushing blindly under the limp tent skin and banging into each other. They were reprimanded later on by the mayor who couldn’t hide his grin while caressing the blue spot on his forehead.

    Giving up? Not this lady. She had to buy the destroyed tent which was luckily insured with no escape clauses, and she found a company that cut it, sewed it, and then she sold it as... small tents at a profit. It was the beginning. The present event quality evolved quite some way since that early gauche tentative, and it developed into an almost national institution. No wonder these days everyone who was someone wanted to be in, and the old tent adventure never repeated itself. Actually it did lend its name to the present event - The Flying Tent Show. Every month a show, every show a profit of around one hundred grand and not even one cent of profit went to her pocket. Now, I know. Because I know her.

    I was a reporter with the small and insignificant local six paged (most of it obituaries...) Herald newspaper, a job that suited me well. I was actually a graduated engineer, but I never liked my profession and after several fruitless years in designing electronic toys for a Japanese company, I moved to writing. Never published anything, though there were a few boxes at home crammed with stories, poems. The newspaper allowed me to live a life without immediate risk of starvation, and “in recognition” of the fact, I covered all regional events, inside a radius of about 100 miles. You’d be surprised how many events fit inside phi times one hundred miles square of urban landscape. I know I was. When the by now famous donations show reached our forgotten yet green walleted small town, I was of course my editor’s chosen, and only, choice to cover the event. So I went over, found the lady of the house after a short simplistic detective’s work - well, after all she was not hiding, and I went over to where she was discussing show matters with some of the local talents. My ears cringed to hamster size when I recognized some of these... oh my God, were people really paying for this punishment? One of them was actually my editor’s neighborhood nemesis, a big jovial double chinned character exercising on pulling cat’s tails, though he called it playing the violin. I felt smug, and wearing my most condescending posture and side-loped smile I approached her from what I took to be an unexpected angle...

    “Hi there, angel of the needy...”

    She... well, did she careen? or did she gyrate? couldn’t find actually any suitable word neither in English nor in Gibberish to describe that fluid rotating hingeless movement of that slim small shapely body, and for one long interminable moment I phased out completely. When I returned to the living, and don’t know how long it took, I was looking into a pair of... a pair?... rather an impair?... for simplicity’s sake lets say the biggest pair of... well, one blue and one green sparkling laughing eyes that I ever saw. And that I ever dreamt of seeing. I must have been pathetically transfixed, since she meaningfully looked behind her shoulder, shaking her head in wonder.

    “Seen a ghost?” Then she picked out a small mirror from the bag she carried hung across her chest and looked into it. “Yeap, you’ve definitely seen one.”

    “Can I take you out for dinner?” Are all comatose people coming back from way yonder shooting questions mindlessly as if by a force completely out of their control? I was surprised as hell, from which deep internal hidden corner did this question mark jump? Are there any other surprises brewing for me over there, wherever it was I skipped to for these few fateful moments in my life? And for a frightening few seconds I thought that one of those eyes, the green one, was going to burn a hole right through my skull. Just for a few frightening seconds.

    “Listen young boy...” (I was forty five at the time...) “...in all my long life, and it is long, never ever was I asked for a date in the first five seconds of the conversation with a complete, and on top of it completely impertinent bad looking stranger. I must warn you that burning witches is completely outlawed in today’s United States of America, and believe me - I have read all the amendments, even those numbered with small roman illegible letters. And I am perfectly up to date with the IRS latest colored forms, way back for at last three years. So, you see, you have nothing official on me.” She pressed her right hand’s index finger against my nose. “Tell me the truth or your nose will grow so fast that your head will shoot backward to be separated from your body. Are you joking or something?”

    I was in love or something.


    “I am a witch. And I never have sex on a first date”. Bang. As if I asked. As if I cared. I couldn’t care less if she was a scaly alien underneath a plastic skin made in China and neither if she had peeled bananas stuffed inside her bra. We met at the door of the restaurant, she was wearing a pink dotted white dress, a pink silk scarf around her neck, low heeled pink shoes... since when was I paying attention to whatever it was women wore? And I found myself loving pink. The way she behaved you might have thought that we knew each other since years back. She smiled that wide mouthed smile that only few people possess the secret of, allowed me to open the door, pull the chair for her, and order the alcohol-less aperitifs before she opened her mouth for the first time. “I am a witch. And I never have sex on a first date”. I don’t think I expected anything less. I was divorced for five years, my relations with the opposite sex were mostly on a transcendental layer, and neither was I looking for anything earthly since several months back. The few occasional pure hormonal encounters left me even hungrier than before trying them out, so little by little my interest shifted to... musical boxes. No laughs, please. I found them as some of the most romantic and charming inventions ever designed by the human genie. I told her so, somewhere around half way through our vegetarian (she insisted) meal. She laughed, not at me and my scary hobby, but rather with a delighted pleasure.

    “I like you.” Bang. Again. This lady knew no long sinewy longwinded roads, when she wanted to say something she said it. And she always said it as if she meant what she was saying. I think that inside less than a first half of an hour I understood the secret of her success, and she got herself one hell of an additional devoted follower. Maybe more? It was not clear to me at this stage where more, and what more there might have been, but it was clear that this dinner was not going to be the end of this encounter. We talked, sometimes I took the lead, sometimes she did. I learned only basic things about her, never married, a few short lived irrelevant relationships, and when I lifted my right eyebrow in incredulous disbelief, she drowned me in this inebriating laughter of hers and added. “True, I was never married, but it does not mean I did not lose my virginity several times along the way.”

    Somehow it did not sound strange. Neither never married, nor this virginity tale on our very first dinner, and not even the witch thing. So what, wasn’t my mother in law a witch? They exist as every married man knows, yet, as my ex wisely kept saying - you know, there are male witches as well, but somehow calling them wizards provides them with an aura of good intentions. Language was clearly a manly invention. To which I dared answer that it clearly proves manly superiority. Linguistics being her strong part nevertheless, especially when it came to close family members expletives, she gave me a lasting lesson in the superiority of the sexes... I smiled to myself. Imagine that I once loved her.

    “You smile to yourself, did I say something funny?” She wasn’t bitchy, simply interested. I could not imagine this woman in a bitchy mood.

    “Yes, I was thinking to myself how much different a woman could appear to be after three glasses of double yoghurt...” She practically exploded. It was a laughter so free, contagious, and with so much heart set into it, that it drew embarrassed looks even from the two Labradors lying quietly under a neighboring table. It was not my first joke of the evening. I worked my way around carefully at first, not really knowing where the mines are laid. Then, when I found out that, surprise surprise, there are no mines at all around, I suddenly let go of me as never in my life before. Except maybe on that one past occasion when my ex surprisingly came home with a brand new nose, and I loved the old one. On that occasion - it was pure wounded sarcasm at work, now - it was pure joy of life. And it looked like I found a partner for it. “Tell me young girl,” clearly paying her back for ‘young boy’ing me earlier in the day, “why do you think you are a witch?”

    She started counting on her fingers.

    “Rule number one - I always tell the truth on my first date. Rule number two - I never have sex on my first date. Rule number three...” she looked up at me” - There is never a second date unless if there is a chance that I fall in love.” What the hell had all this to do with witchcraft and related bullshit? I was clearly meant not to ask and I didn’t. Maybe it was meant as a hint of some kind? “Now I would like a small glass of cherry liquor and to return to the hotel.” I was surprised.

    “Hey, I thought you never drink any kind of alcohol.”

    “Correct, I don’t.”

    I left her in front of the small hotel, not wondering anymore why she didn’t go to a big one. Before disappearing behind the revolving door she caught my eyes again in the glare of that green and blue twin fires and leaned close to my cheek, not touching, not kissing, but whispering.

    “You will not find me, I will find you.”


    It was two months later. I followed her through the news columns, a few TV interviews. She kept a high public eye visibility joined to a private life discretion that was unbeatable. It was some kind of respect that she commanded from the media, and being myself partner to the paparazzi nation I knew how difficult, actually impossible it was to command this respect. Yet, this lady did it. I tried libraries, old newspaper reports, tried even to trace her origins. Absolutely nothing extraordinary anywhere - childhood, school, university, found it a bit peculiar that I could not identify anywhere a trace of a male companion, even a high school sweetheart. But I had to admit that she was to a certain extent... peculiar in herself so maybe this peculiarity was not peculiar at all. After disentangling my tongue from all this peculiarititis, I decided to try a long shot attempt and visit her mother. She was still alive, about two hundred miles from where I lived, so I took a day off and drove down there. What did I expect to find? Why was I looking at all, I kept asking myself. I gave her a rain check, or wasn’t it vice-versa actually? okay, so long, good bye, sorry that we met. No, it wasn’t that simple. I felt a stupid ephemeral moth, and this fire was pulling me towards it as if somebody pinned a metallic needle through my middle and the fire itself was a magnetic flame. I was dying to... hmmm... die?

    The old lady received me with a jovial good natured smile, accepted my credentials as a journalist writing a story about her daughter easily, and pulled out a few old childhood albums. There were not many pictures there, and try as hard as I did, I didn’t find anything extraordinary. I was surprised at myself that I even tried to find something extraordinary. Truth was, and I never admitted it to myself, I was hooked. Nothing else mattered except this memory of an eye-bi-colored-new-woman-species, and with every passing day I felt more and more entangled in it rather than getting away from it. The old lady told me about the difficult birth she had, both the baby and herself almost died, and afterwards she couldn’t have anymore children that’s why she and her husband, God bless his soul, poured all their love on this one child. A happy childhood, high university grades - she showed me a carefully preserved record of diplomas, praising remarks, all of it mixed with kid toys - puppets, some plastic beads on triple wire, a few lost teeth - she giggled “these are not mine, I keep mine in a bowl...” I left about one hour later, promising to come back. I liked the old girl. But I was still madly in love with her daughter. Oops, I said it. Finally I said it to myself.

    Three days later she called. The daughter, not the mother. For a moment I thought she was going to blast my head off for sneaking uninvited into her private life, but she surprised me. She was happy, laughing, and she asked me to ask her for a date. I believe I blushed, not to mention my imitation of a fish trying to decide if it was going to finally utter that sound or not. I succeeded in the end to croak a few word imitations, feeling like a boy caught pissing on his teacher’s chair, and finally made it to proposing a place and a time. She was there. This time I did not pay any attention to the dress, but focused my eyes and the rest of my senses on what this dress revealed - the round face, the nice wide mouth, the thin neck and pale neckline, the fingers, the ankles. And back, inescapable, to those big incredible eyes. Try as I may I could not prevent my imagination from running wild also around what this dress was hiding, and if I blushed in the process she let me believe that she didn’t see it. I knew she was lying. And... if I knew my math’s right - this was our second date.

    You might have thought that our first meeting took place yesterday. She picked up the conversation where we left it hanging and strolled at leisure through it, all the time fixing my eyes like she was seeking in them something she lost a long time ago. Or maybe something she never had.

    “Why do I think I am a witch? I do not think so, I know I am.” Someone else saying it and I would have run for my life even at the risk of running into an incoming truck. She said it and I accepted it. Not that I accepted her statement, I accepted not to run away.

    “Okay, so you are a witch, you mean something like Uri Geller, you go around fixing people’s watches or bending their keys.” She kept smiling, really smiling I mean. “Or like Ginny, you wiggle your nose and you make things disappear in one place and then reappear in another town?” I didn’t sound too intelligent to myself but I wanted to take some control over this discussion. “So what can you do, throw a spell on someone, win the big lottery, drill holes with your asymmetrical laser eyes?”

    I thought I forgot that incredible laughter, the one I shared the memory of with the two Labradors not present this time. No, I did not forget it, if there was something I was certain at that moment I would never forget, it was that bright carefree laughter.

    “Oh, no, you silly boy...” (here she goes, ‘boy’ing me again, not that I did not enjoy it) “...this is the stupid yet charming wild imagination of scenario writers. Witches are not at all that powerful. Actually witches have no powers at all. They simply are... witches.” It was clear from the look of miscomprehension on my face that I did not get it, so she decided to descend to my low, human race, level and make it clearer. “Look, Uri Geller is a fake, and this is a fact, you know it don’t you?” I said I didn’t, and asked her if she could bend keys. She said she couldn’t because she was not a fraud. She continued. “Of course he is a fraud, look, he has brown eyes.” That got me. I erupted in such a hysterical laughter that I thought I was going to waste the full table cloth size by wiping with it my flooded eyes. I stopped for a moment, watched her bemused look and exploded into laughter again. I knew I blew it. I was madly in love with this alien... oh God, mercy, let me stop laughing... with this alien woman, but I could not refrain from this laughter attack; and I saw her getting up to leave but I could do absolutely nothing to stop her. She got up, went around the table and placed a soft kiss on my lips. The laughter was gone as by magic. I moved from pure hysteria to thunderstruck, and while I was trying to regain my wits, she went back to her chair and continued talking, happily (still? thank goodness) smiling on. “The only way to recognize a pure witch, is by finding a person with the eyes each of a different color. And even then it is not sure. But a person that has both eyes the same color is definitely not a witch. And of course, witches can only be women.”

    Of course. I was sitting there, a stupid lost look on my face, the unbeatable logic of the argument still trying to find its way into the grey forests underneath my skull, and the only valid sensation in my body was that liquid fire pain that for a short moment touched my lips. If she was a witch, then this was probably the way witches taste. And if she was not, then this was the way they should. She was still looking at me, sipping at her drink, the twinkle in her eyes almost leaping out, and I knew that very moment that it was completely irrelevant if witch or dragon, this creature was a one time wonder that I had no second chance to ever meet again in my life. And whatever the price, I would pay it, if it would get her to fall in love with me, as she mentioned two months earlier. Be it to pay with my very soul. Suddenly I felt myself getting into a chatting mode, trying to understand her fixation with this idea, so simple and meaningless yet so enchanting actually.

    “OK, let’s say for a moment that you are really a witch...”

    “That’s a beginning...” She leaned her chin on small fists and fixed me with that flowing fire pouring from her eyes. I had trouble concentrating and finding the words, and one couldn’t easily say that about this gentleman. I continued my narrative slowly, careful not to push my head through any unnecessary potential noose...

    “Since you say you are, and since you believe you are, then you probably are...”

    “You’re still at the beginning, your gear is neutral, and you are afraid to insult me. So please... could you stop doodling and start drawing?” There was no impatience, no mockery in that voice, just genuine urgency, c’mon, let’s get it off our chest...

    “Fine, tell me then - you do not lay a curse, you do not bless,...” she kept nodding at every statement... “you cannot make things disappear, you cannot change me into a frog (I hope so), for heaven’s sake - you cannot even bend a key. So what then makes you a witch?” She kept that gaze fixed upon my face and I knew very well at that moment how a microbe feels under the powerful eye of an electronic microscope. I continued. “Tell me, and I will be completely frank with you - did you, you know... ever visit a shrink?”

    She smiled. I mean, she smiled several times before as well, but this time she SMILED, I felt the word writing itself in my mind in bold, italics, underline, and 200 picas height.

    “Thank you”. What for I wouldn’t know, but I was surely glad the unfinished onions soup did not write off its destiny on my face. We parted, this time she gently pecked my cheek, and I knew that at that rate of advance I would be around ninety seven before she would allow me to hold her hand. But I didn’t give a damn. My God, was I in love...

    We kept meeting, not very often, the initiative on time and place exclusively hers, and every time I tried to protest she would simply disregard it as if never said. I stopped asking myself questions, I stopped “researching”, I was a “youngster” in love with an impossible dream, and as long as the word impossible was tailed by a question mark I was happy. I stopped complaining about my journalistic assignments, stopped being picky at restaurants, my few friends thought I must have been dying of a secretly kept disease, and therefore I was trying to get on talking terms with the rest of the human race. Heaven’s sake, taxi drivers were thanking me for a tip...


    I knew something different was coming when she asked me one day to meet her at the neighboring town’s national library, took me by the hand (half a year into the relationship, and I felt like exploding with pride) and pulled me inside. She walked full of purpose to one of the cabinets stocking historical books from the middle ages to modern times, pulled one specific volume out, and dragged me noisily to a sound proof room where we could talk. Yes, I knew something was coming, I didn’t know if I was going to like it or not, I didn’t know if I wanted the “something” to happen or not, but it was happening and I could not stop it. We sat down, she leafed through the pages and opened it wide at one certain page, one picture on that page, and turned the book around towards me so I could see it. I looked carefully, trying to find the catch in the situation. The picture was actually an enlarged photograph of a wooden engraving, and it showed the usual middle ages scenery of witches being burned on the stake and people picnicking around. I felt my stomach starting to rumble dangerously and she squeezed my hand shining on me with one of those smiles I still didn’t get used to.

    “The middle one. It is me.” Bang. Again. For several months we didn’t mention the issue again, we were just two lovers in search for a common destiny and feeling something approaching in big strides. I didn’t expect... this... to be whatever was approaching. “Look” she said, opening for the first time since we met, the second to top button of her shirt, and what I saw there was a string of beads, a three colored wire running through them, of the kind you can find at any street corner in the thousands. I had a sudden recollection.

    “Just a sec, isn’t this the one I saw when I visited your mom’s place?”

    “Nope, it is not but is looks exactly the same. The one with my mom is a copy, this is the original. Look again at the picture”. I looked at the picture again, more carefully now, trying to identify in the rough artist’s lines the item she was trying to show me. Well, with some imagination, a magnifying glass, and lots and lots of good will I could identify on the middle shape a beads’ necklace which seemed to count the same number of beads as she was showing me. If I needed any additional proof to the fact that she was crazy then this definitely was the proof I was looking for. I told her so.

    “And in addition, only the one supposed to be you wears those beads, what about the other two?” Of course she was not upset, she was happy and about to tell me the whole story. If this was called in medical circles a relapse something, or a schizophrenic something, or certainly something else around my mixed notions, of that I was not certain. But by now I knew that I had absolutely no chance to prevent her from telling me her story, and if this was what was going to help me finally get her over this fixation... then let it be. I settled in the comfortable deep chair in the small room, she sat across from me not bothering to close back the shirt button, and again, for the first time since I knew her, conscientiously allowing me a limited glimpse to the beginning of the small roundness of her breast, and started talking. I never knew fascination till that moment in time. And hope.

    “The other two were not witches.” I expected an answer along these lines, but I did not interrupt. “Do you believe in reincarnation?” I shook my head from side to side, perhaps too emphatically, since I did not like this first question. “Good, because you are right, there is no such thing as reincarnation. The only thing out there remindful of that is immortality.” I am not sure I liked this direction either, but at least here I expected to be able to refute any of her arguments quite easily. It still looked to me like kind of a game, an adult playing make believe with a crazy child... funny that I called her a child, how old was she, thirty five, forty five? “I cannot tell you when or how it started, I have no recollection of any kind of beginning, only of changes. There are probably no more than a few tens of my kind in the world. How do I know? I know. Actually, I never met one myself throughout the full stretch of my memory, and believe me it is long.” A short pause, just checking if I showed signs of falling asleep... “We call ourselves witches, because of a lack of a better word. At different periods there were different names used for us. Funny that primitive people had it much easier to identify us (and hurt us, mind you) than modern people. At present we are actually quite, well, invisible. No power, no tricks, funny kind of witches, aren’t we? Except for one thing. We cannot die.” I made a move as if to speak and she let me.

    “Tell me, I saw pictures of you as a kid, you grow, you grow old, you showed me this picture that you were burned on the stake, let’s say for arguments sake that I believe you, then you should have disappeared from the earth several times already, what kind of immortality is that?”

    She wasn’t cross, actually I had a feeling she thought she was starting to get through to me, and was happy to provide an explanation. And I told myself that I will start chasing the internet that very evening, to find what sci-fi site she was drawing her not very original ideas from. She was happy to go on with her explanations.

    “You see, we do not reincarnate, yet we, lets call it, regenerate.” I made a face and she burst in a short laughter. “Not degenerate, you fool, REgenerate.” And she smacked me over the head with the heavy volume. It hurt but not enough to make it less enjoyable. “Actually we live a normal life like anybody else, getting born... wait, I’ll explain, getting born, growing, trying to find a partner, even having kids sometimes, then getting old and dying. Only that we do not die, we (and I cannot explain it actually) hang around until a certain opportunity arises and then get born again, like a normal baby. And the cycle starts again. If you ask yourself, then - no, we do not steal anybody’s life, we are a highly ethical bunch. It is only when a child is to be born dead that we regenerate in its body. And it only works with girls.” She stopped, looked at me quizzically, and for a first time I sensed a certain hesitation, worry. “You don’t believe me, do you?” I didn’t know what to say. Was she testing me in some way, was I supposed to accept, to question? I felt certain uneasiness myself. The air in the room got a bit stuffy.

    “If you lived so many lives as you say, then you should remember all kinds of events, all throughout the history. Can you tell me some local details, of the kind that is not written in the history books?” I decided to play along, though I knew she knew.

    “And if I ask you to tell me details about your childhood will you remember many?” She had me there. “And you expect me to remember details that happened so many years ago... it is not really fair, you know.” She sounded hurt, and after accepting joyfully to be called crazy I wondered why all of a sudden she acted hurt. I didn’t dare ask the question, rather risking a depressing sudden quiet over a question that may have proven to be fatal in ways unknown. I think that all of a sudden I was inexplicably frightened. I sat upright in the chair, tense and uncertain. She pushed me back deep into the chair, and... my God, sat in my lap, one hand behind my neck, and whispered in my ear so quietly, that I wasn’t sure I heard all she was saying. I closed my eyes, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear. “You know, there is one single act of magic that I can do, but nobody will ever be aware of it because nobody will ever know it happened. I can bargain my immortality for one single wish. This is the only proof I have, and since I am still alive it means I never used it. And if I do, the proof will die meaninglessly together with the question asked. So you see, you either believe me, or you don’t.” She placed her lips on my left closed eyelid, and let them rest there. I was burning, I could not lie to her. I picked her up gently and sat her on the other chair.

    “I think you need help.” I said it and expected anything. From a crashed door to a resounding slap. I did not expect the -

    “Okay,” in that particular cheerful voice that not only was it genuinely happy, but it kind of closed the shutter on this short chapter in our relationship and allowed us to move on. I wasn’t exactly sure what this ‘Okay’ meant, but it was clearly not a ‘Good Bye’. I silently voiced a prayer to a God I did not believe in and left the room by her side. And I was not worried seeing she decided not to hold my hand on the way out.

    I started getting letters. She was calling on the phone, calling me names that never had any kind of malice in them yet neither were they in any way complimentary, and telling me of a certain letter, or document I was going to get. And I was getting, by registered mail. Blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, psychological tests, encephalograms, IQ tests, filled in crosswords... the lady was clearly having fun proving me wrong in every aspect that I knew was right, or that I believed hides the right conclusion except nobody yet found it. Then she followed with fortune cookies notes, Nostradamus predictions, cutouts from women’s magazines, sexological profiles... laughing her head off every time I picked up the phone. We started meeting more often, every two, three weeks, sometimes going to a dance hall, sometimes battling over fast food, sometimes cinema, opera... She was so real, really crying at a stupid melodrama, really laughing at Laurel and Hardy, really licking ice cream and enjoying as it was dripping between her fingers. Almost as if she was a newly born and discovering life. And while she was discovering life I was discovering her. Couldn’t take my eyes off her, had difficulty keeping my eyes on the road even while driving.

    She refused to accept any kind of gift, except for the occasional flower. But never one paid for with money. Always stolen from some well kept garden, and then we were running away like crazy kids laughing our heads to the sky. She kept saying that when the time arrives I would know what present to buy her. But not now, it was too early. Neither did we kiss. Would you believe it? Kissing of the fingers, I to her and she to me, kissing a cheek, occasionally the neck. But never on the mouth. I was dying to and she didn’t mind. Or actually she did, actually I think she did more than I did. Everything was acceptable to her, every encounter an event. It was perfect. Even not having sex was perfect. It is so difficult to explain, everything was so damn perfect that even imperfections had their place in keeping it perfect. And complete abstinence was one of these, kind of testing us both (yeah, I sensed the ‘both’) to the limit, I felt without any doubt that I was on a winning streak. And this time I was not going to lose the game, witch or no witch, who the hell cared at all. I gave up on “repairing” her head a long time ago, the way she was - she was perfect, so why change perfection.

    It was two years to the day, after our first encounter, that we made love for the first time. And calling it ‘made love’ is such an insult that I use it only on paper but not in the way I wrote it my mind. It was the first time she brought me to her apartment. Nice, tidy, a distinctive feminine touch which I found so discreet that I felt at ease from moment one. I was nervous... God, was I nervous, back to forgotten teenage days? She was a bit too, though she hid it very carefully, but the slight pink color in her cheeks was unmistakable. Paling in comparison to the plain deep red one in mine. How to describe the indescribable? Was it because I didn’t have a woman for several years... wow... now? Was it because of her... ahmmm... ‘long’ experience (I chuckled in embarrassment to myself then erased it quickly from my mind... c’mon, that story was out of the way, forget it...)? Was it because I found out she was ready both to give and to take so fully, so freely, passionately, soft and wild? Or was it the fact that it was not sex but real love, not an act but a sacred ritual, not a man and a woman but two bewitched lovers? I remembered only the smoothness, the grip, the softness, the short sharp cry... oh God almighty...

    She lay cuddled against me, her bare curved back pressed tightly against my chest and abdomen, her breathing regular. I was frightened she may crush under that fierce grip that my hands held her with. But I could not release my hold. Paralyzed was the right word, godly was the right state of mind. My eyes rested again, for the hundredth time probably, on the tiny red blood spot painted in the middle of that white immaculate bed sheet desert, marking the end of one life and the beginning of another.



    “Marry me.”

    It was the shortest, most daring, most meaningful dialogue we ever had in our two years relationship. Saying it all, trust, love, happiness. I got out of bed, went to my jacket and brought it out of my pocket. I returned to the bed, she was sitting on its edge. The first two humans in their primeval unblemished Eden. I kneeled in front of her, took her hand and slid it on her finger. She accepted it. The first ever present she accepted from me.

    I was ready to swear that for a moment I could see a blue sun exploding in her green eye and a green sun exploding in the blue.


    I was ready to leave for this special assignment in Europe. All of a sudden (well, for several months already) I got this lust for work, well - I needed the money, that my editor started experimenting with my talents all over his newspaper. I ran the editorial under my own name, the financial news under the respectable name of Prof. Hon. Hans Schlezwig (someone told me it sounded Swiss enough to suit the local taste), the Do It Yourself corner as John Doeit (I liked this one), and the “Dear Esmeralda” column as... Esmeralda, what else. And from time to time I got one of these overseas sweets, i.e. assignments, and we used it each time as an excuse for a repeat of an interminable honey moon. Yes, no mistakes here, you can always repeat something interminable, I knew it for a fact and logic was not a welcome guest to this statement. I left house late, as usual, and this time however also in a hurry. It was the first time I was flying on my own and I somehow felt that if I hurried to the plane then I will also, somehow, get back faster. I kissed her wildly and touched her round belly...

    “Two hundred and eleven days old already...” She smiled back and softly bit my lip.

    “Two hundred and eleven days and one minute... c’mon... go.” I rushed to my car, shouted one wild yahoooo and shot away...

    She closed the door, leaned against it, eyes closed, the smile never leaving her face. Seven months of smiling, and not a sign of ever stopping. She went to the kitchen to clean up the mess I always left behind. I reached the airport panting, ran through the check in, kissed the stewardess on the cheek and sat down. Then I suddenly unbuckled the belt, rushed to the pilots cabin shouting a howdy and rushed back to my place before they had time to call in the airport police. She wiped the last of the plates and placed it back in the cabinet. The house was so quiet, peaceful. She turned on the TV, lowered the volume, and sat down to read a sci-fi book. Asimov, she read this one seven times already. The plane rushed on the runway, I hated take offs, I squeezed the arm of the chair tight, feeling it squirm in an abnormal way under my grip. Only when I heard the grunt next to me I saw it was my neighbor’s arm. It didn’t matter, I was frozen. She was still at page thirty six, laughing loudly not at the book but at imagining my reactions at take off. Each time a different show but each time for her the best comedy in town. The plane reached its cruising level. I relaxed. Took out my Barbara Cartland and started reading. My neighbor whispered something to the stewardess and she shook her head in sorrow and arranged for him another seat. She finally reached page forty one, the robots names getting fuzzy in her mind. She decided to close her eyes for a second. I reached page one hundred seventy, kisses all throughout the page. I saw a steward rushing by. She dropped the book. The soft thud did not wake her. I heard a strange rumbling noise. She sighed softly in her dream. I felt the slight inclination. She slid lower. I rolled. She smiled. Noise. Sigh. Nothing.

    She woke with a shiver. The sun was low on the horizon and cool air was flowing through the open balcony window. She got up and closed it. Then she picked up the book, yawned hungrily and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. The TV was painting colors on the wall through the kitchen’s decorative doors, rushing shapes mixing with the colors in a surrealistic living picture. She cut a thick loaf of bread, spread a rich layer of butter on it - the hell with the healthy diet, and took both the bread and the book on a tray to the bedroom. She paused a second in front of the TV to close it. The colored mess on the screen kept its ridiculous game of red, and smoke, and screams. Someone was saying something in a strange language... was it English?

    “... searches continue... flight number...” The tray crashed to the floor like a million thunders. She followed it into nothingness.

    When she woke up, it was dark already. The only light in the room poured through the cold impersonal TV glaring eye, dressing her in that twilight glow so close to death, to end. She kicked it shut with a vicious punch of her fist, and kept punching at the indifferent glass screen with the only fury she was capable of - the fury of madness, of memories, of fires slowly licking through her body and cutting her links to life with sharp endless knife cuts... her eyes up at the skies, her tears streaming freely, green at left, blue at right, her neck stretched to the limit and a thick blue vein pulsating through it resonating with the wild animal howl that her bleeding mouth released through the roof, through the sky, through the faceless Gods... She lay huddled on the floor for three days. Not eating, not drinking. Not moving. Bodily refuse soaking into her garments, oblivious to day, to bird, to life. On the third day she got up. She went to the bathroom, undressed, showered. She hand washed her garments, cleaned the floor. She rested naked, her beautiful round belly showing from time to time the unmistakable sign of life in the form of a tiny punching fist pushing against it. She crouched on the floor, undoing the beads from around her neck. Pulling the three strings free. The beads rolled away. She took the copper string, knotted one knot through it and laid it on the floor. Then she took the silver string, passed it through the copper knot and knotted it around it. Then the golden string, passed it through the other two knots and knotted it around them. She picked the three strings ends in both hands and pulled all knots tight. Then she closed here eyes and touched each end to one eye, a soft humming rising from her throat, reaching her mouth, and transforming itself into a smile.


    I ran all the way from the gate to the porch, I missed her like I haven’t seen her for... seven days. Well, correct, I didn’t see her for seven days. I got to the door, didn’t have the patience neither to find my key, nor ring the bell, I started pounding on the door like it was the end of the world. She opened it, more like tore it open. I didn’t even see her, I took hold of her, and squashed her into my body, kneading every square inch, kissing every square inch, slobbering all over her like a demented puppy. She squealed with... what was it? abandon, infinite joy, a demented puppy herself? I laughed, I shouted, she screamed, she cried. When I finally remembered the taxi driver (I forgot where I parked my car, what else...) I almost had to throw the money after him... wonder why was he was in such hurry... I returned to her, the smile... oh, that smile that could never be equaled, waiting for me... I took her gently in my arms, careful this time not to crush the budding life inside her.

    “Two hundred and eighteen days already.” I kissed her softly. She kissed me wildly.

    “Two hundred and eighteen days and one minute.”

    I looked into her eyes, wishing myself to drown in the infinite depths of these twin sparkling pools of pure blue sky.

    “I love your eyes.” I said.

    She touched her finger to my lips, waiting for me to kiss it. She leaned close to my ear, whispering inaudibly, infinite happiness painted in her voice.

    “I love you. With my life.”



    I was almost a “has been”. The other car was parked on the safety lane running alongside the highway, and for a reason unknown the driver started driving in reverse. What he misjudged was the fact that the small trailer attached to it at a single towing point was actually not part of the car, and when moving backwards it would follow a logic of its own. In this special case the “logic” told it to start rolling to the left, getting on the highway and straight into my lane. I was rushing towards it at a speed of about 80mph, slower than my usual suicidal speeds, but sufficient to send me on my way to check on the veracity of the Valhalla stories. With about 40 yards to go, there was no time even for cursing. I pushed the mushroom to the floor, swerved the steering wheel sharply left, then sharply right back into lane so I wouldn’t hit the onrushing lamp post, and just waited to see how the car would react. Not even praying. I did my part to perfection, will the mechanics follow? Well, they followed perfectly as well. Thanking in my heart the Gods of luck that kept the lane to my left free, and the designers of BMW that put that obedient beast underneath me, I reached home in high spirits fifteen minutes later. I didn’t forget to promise the faithful car that next time I won’t wait three whole months before taking it to the carwash. It was the least I owed the sleek, silvery monster.

    I rushed upstairs dropping my stuff on my way to the computer room, kicked the ON switch and picked up a few nuts from the kitchen on my way back to the screen. I was dying to tell her about my hair rising adventure. I hoped and wished myself the extra piece of luck that would ensure she was online. “Dear Keeta...” I skipped her awaiting mails and went on bragging about my skilled driving, my incredible luck, and my guardian angel. She knew I meant her by that. She had no choice but to know, since I mentioned it so many times in the past; yet she kept pestering me constantly about “proof” she requested to this “fact”. We were in love. No proof was needed for anything, but we played so many word games with each other, that this was just one additional type of love declaration. We exchanged many of these and we had problems finding new ones. So sometimes we repeated old ones. We didn’t really care. The small blower in the machine was humming as her answer started rolling in. She was online.

    We met about three years ago. ‘Met’ is a big word, considering the fact that we actually have never seen each other. Both of us net freaks, surfing sites and chat rooms that were more or less in line with our personal inclinations. In one of these, a chat room for aspiring poets (we both were, of sorts...) we got into an intense game of complementing each other’s verses. She wrote one line, then I, then she again... It went on like that for about half an hour, at the end of which we were both physically and mentally exhausted. We exchanged some pleasantries, some witty sentences, and then lost track of each other. Maybe on purpose? It was only about two months later that I traced her again. She had adopted a new pseudonym, and at the time I wondered why, but the style was unmistakably hers. She was debating with some a--hole (trying to keep my expressions friendly) about patriotism. She was a great patriot. This was not what gave her away. What gave her away was the delicate and measurable balance between scorn, wit, and joke, so unique to her personality. She was just answering a question about the Vietnam war. There was fire in her answer, a scalding hot river meant to wipe away in blisters anybody who may have been reading the lines and disagree with her point of view. I waited for the tirade to end, and her last words were... “the pain is there...” I rushed to answer in soft rhyme... “who, why, where?...” It was as if all the chat room dissolved into non existence. Words and sentences continued battling each other mindlessly, but inside all the mess there were two pseudonyms that had words only for each other, oblivious to remarks, questions, answers.



    “How did you trace me?”

    “I miss you.”

    It was never a trickle. It was a flood from the very start. She did not disappear again. We started sending mails to each other, size irrelevant, content irrelevant, time of the day irrelevant. Some were political confrontations, some hot sexual encounters, some childhood memories. We sparred swords of wit, we laughed at each other and insulted each other, never thinking of tomorrow, never worrying about tomorrow. Never a boring moment. Five months and going strong. And then, I wrote her a poem. A love poem.

    She disappeared for two weeks. I froze into stasis. Biting my fingernails, tense, expecting. She promised not to disappear again. Did she? I knew she did not. Actually what I knew was that I hoped she did not. Did I break the magic with one out of place keyboard strike? I waited. Two weeks later she was back. A short, sharp, clear mail. And I read it slowly, trying to understand the articulate sentences that refused to register on the retina of my brain. Because I refused to accept the facts. Reality.

    “Dear Jim. I am a married woman. I live a simple life that is satisfying to me. My husband loves me. I love him too. I am not in love with him, there is no passion between us since many years now. But we appreciate each other’s presence in the house and we enjoy it. I do not intend to hurt him in any way, and I do not want to hurt you in any way either. But... WE can never be. Dear Jim, I am in love with you. In another place, in another world, on another star, I am yours. In this place, in this world, on this star, it can never be. I never intended it to get as far as it got, for me now it is too late to say good bye. I love you desperately. But if you think you cannot accept the facts as they are, you are free to go. I will never hate you. I will understand. I will love you forever. Keeta.”

    It took her two weeks to gather the courage to write this letter. It took me a month to do the same. I was divorced, I was free, why did I think everybody was as free as I was? I felt uncertainty playing hide and seek with my brains, preventing me from answering the simple clear answer. Jealousy? Probably. Pain? Certainly. She never sent me a second mail. It was clearly my game now, and my decision, and she would accept the verdict. Any verdict. I answered her. “I love you.”

    Two years and more of bliss. Living in our closed world, exchanging poems, written kisses, exchanging vows. In our own isolated world, we were family. In our own isolated world we were husband and wife. We made love. The fire between us never got any weaker. The flood of burning words ever finding renewed ways of compensating for the lack of burning bodily touch. We were ready for hell or heaven, whatever form the future may have decided to take. I loved her as never did I love before. She loved me as out of this world. We were one.


    Her message was rolling in. I started reading it. First with my eyes, then I started reading it out loud.

    “Dear Jim. I love you. Please do not hate me, but I must tell you something I should have told you a few weeks back. I was just uncertain, till this morning when the test results came back. Dear Jim, I am sick. I know how painful and unexpected this message will be for you, like some stupid TV soap opera, but unfortunately this is real life. I must tell you the truth. I have one of those rare sicknesses that happen only to others. It is happening to me. I am losing control of my muscles. I do not know the scientific name of this scourge but it decided to make its home in my body. I am going into an irreversible muscles atrophy stage, which with time will take over all my body. I will lose my independence, I will lose my life, I will lose you. Dear Jim, we dreamt of an impossible future, the impossible future is now a fact. I do not want to hurt you, I do not want to bind you, please consider yourself free. I love you too much to feel you suffer by my side. Please have pity on me. I know you love me. If you loved me enough to wait for me, now please love me enough to leave me. Keeta.”

    “Dear Keeta. If you love me as I know you do, then please allow me to forget your request. I love you unconditionally. It is a fact. Please accept. Smile at me Keeta, tell me that you let me stay by your side whatever the future looks like. Whatever its shape, it is our future. I love you. Jim.”

    “Dear Jim. I smile.”


    I entered the low roofed house, after knocking on the door and getting in answer only some wailing miaows. I wasn’t very tall, but even I had to stoop not to hit my head against the low hanging roof beams. Some cats rubbed against my legs then, disinterested, left for cushions spread all over the floor. In one corner a fat dog lay on its back snoring loudly, a cat sleeping on its belly. It was a surrealistic picture.

    “Hello, hello... anybody here?” I advanced through the weakly lit corridor, trying to find the owner of the place, a lady called Marina something. “Hello, Miss Marina?...” I reached a larger room, probably the living room, surprisingly modern furnished, a stereo system with huge loudspeakers decorating one wall, some reproductions decorating other walls. I felt uncomfortable, it was not in line with what I expected to find, and I started feeling stupid. I was about to get the hell out of there when I heard the door open and close, and swift steps approaching me. So now I was trespassing...

    “Hi, there.” A small, age undefined, woman, came into the room, accepted my presence there as the most natural of things, and asked me to help her with placing the shopping goods in the kitchen cupboards. I followed her and she handed me the stuff while I was ranging it on the shelves. “You’ll have to wait until I finish feeding my children, then you can start talking.” I looked puzzled enough for her to laugh... “My cats, and my lazy dog...” I saw her opening some cans with an electric opener, pour the contents in a few deep bowls, and then going to the entrance where she was lost in a cacophony of miaulings and a deep resounding bass bark. Two minutes later she was back and dragged me by the hand back to the living room. “Do you like Elvis? I am crazy for him.” She turned on the hi-fi, chose an LP... “hate these small plastic digital discs, give me real music anytime...” and let the needle hit the record with a satisfied sigh. I felt like in the wrong scenario of a Hitchcock movie. Something here was completely wrong and I wasn’t sure what I was really doing here. I got up to apologize, but she pushed my chest with a surprisingly strong small hand, getting me back seated on the sofa, and sat on a chair across from me. “What did you expect? Candles, cauldrons? Trust me, it is much more comfortable with electricity.” She smiled. “So, young man, what is a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?”

    I relaxed, suddenly I felt I liked the... ageless?... lady and there was no place for panic of any sort.

    “Tell me Miss Marina, people say you are... ahmmm... some kind of a...”

    “Witch? What do you think?” She looked straight into my eyes, the look drilling deep into my brain, I started feeling uncomfortable again.

    “Actually, I think I should leave, I should not have come here to start with.” I stood up, and again she pushed me back on the sofa. My God, she was strong...

    “What would you like to drink - coffee, apple juice, whisky, fresh blood?...” satisfied at her own joke she started laughing. I found it funny that no cat entered the room actually. “I will take me a small glass of cherry liquor, join me?” I accepted. She got up, poured two small glasses with the dark liquid and offered me one. “Cheers.” She sipped at her glass, watching me sipping at mine, thoughtfully. “You know, one of my cats is called Keeta.” I froze. For a moment those deep eyes seemed to engulf me in an invisible net, the next one she was smiling again. “Tell me.”

    I looked at her, my first moments of amused curiosity webbing swiftly away, those indescribable eyes penetrating so deep that she probably knew it all already. Why do I have to tell her? I remembered what One Eyed Jack, my old black neighbor told me when he sent me to her - “she is the real thing, Jim, I know it.” I told her. The encounter. The love. The hope. The pain. The pain. The pain. Did she listen? Her eyes were closed, her fingers drumming to the changing Elvis tunes, she even got up to turn the LP around. I did not care, nothing of this world could help, if I had to go to the devil...

    “Healer.” She startled me. “Healer, you know?” Was she really reading minds or was it my stress that made me think this way? Jack had told me his story, before sending me. He lost sight of both eyes in a street gang fight. Someone threw in his face a bottle of acid, and both his eyes were damaged beyond repair. He was blind. He didn’t tell me how he got to Marina. But, he said, she managed to restore his eyesight on one eye. The price was high, so high that he could not return for the second eye as well. Well, he could live again, if you could call that living, as he put it. I didn’t ask him what was the price, nor why did I feel he was not really satisfied, but I checked my bank accounts and knew I could get as high as one hundred grand. I just hoped that we would reach the stage to talk money. “I am not a witch, not an angel, not the devil. I am a healer.”

    “Can you help her?”

    “I cannot help her. I can heal her.” My skin got suddenly goose pimpled all over my body.

    “Are you sure?”

    “You came to me, didn’t you?” Those eyes, those eyes incessantly drilling into my soul... “There is a price, you know...”

    I let my breath out very slowly, not realizing I was not breathing for the last few minutes. “I am not rich, I will give you all I can gather, I can go as high as one hundred grand. Please, tell me your price, I will pay.” She looked at me for a further five seconds, then suddenly burst into such laughter that for a few moments I was frozen in a cage of fright. Jack laughed as well when I mentioned the sum to him, my God, was it so much higher than that? My fright metamorphosed into searing anger. “Tell me your price, healer, you name it, I will get it...”

    She stopped laughing, wiping her eyes on her sleeve, and then returned her regard to my face. “Tell me, Jim, do you know some physics?” What kind of a question was that? Of course I knew, and more than some. I nodded. She went on. “The law of the conservation of energy, are you familiar with it?” I nodded again, still puzzled by her irrelevant remarks. Her face suddenly became detached, cold, locking my eyes with her stare, leaving me with one single choice out of one single choices list - listen! “Listen. One can have nothing for nothing. One can have something for something. There is no third option. I am a healer. I know the value and I know the exchange rate. There is no appeal since there is no other possibility. At times there is no possibility at all. My job is to perform the exchange if...” she counted on her fingers, “ one - it is possible, two - the price is accepted.” She stopped talking. I was dizzy. I remembered fractions of the stories that Jack was telling me about his gang times, the hospital days... the pain in his blind eyes... something about his brother... something about his brother just as his sight returned... I shuddered, my hair bristling all over my body, this was a joke or something?... “This is no joke, Jim. Someone has to pay. I can tell you who, I can tell you how much. There is no other way. I know it. I am the healer.”


    “Dear Keeta. I loved you. Your pain is too terrible for me to bear, I am sorry, I cannot take it longer. I must leave you. Please forgive me. Please do not think badly of me, we had good times in our private world, we touched the stars, we touched the sun. Now we have to touch the earth. We must part. I do not hurt, please do not worry about me, I am already forgetting. Now is time for you to think about yourself.

    Dear Keeta, I have a parting present for you, please accept it for the sake of the good times, for the kisses we never kissed, for the touches we never touched. You can be healed. Don’t, please, don’t shake your head in disbelief, don’t ask questions, don’t hesitate, don’t try to be logical about it. Call it a miracle if you want, call it witchcraft, call it my crackpot dream. All you have to do is try. All you have to lose is nothing. All you have to gain is everything. Dear Keeta, please do as I ask you, trust me, you always did - now I demand it of you. Listen to me carefully and do not hesitate for one second.

    Please search deeper in this box. You will find at the bottom another small box, sealed with three strands of spider web thin silver wire. Take this box out. Cut the three strands of wire and open it. Inside the box you will find a thin crystal egg painted with golden symbols. Keeta, my once upon a time lover, all you have to do is give up your love for me. Nothing more. This is the price to pay for your healing. Give up your vow of love. Replace it with a vow to forget. And as a symbol for accepting and never going back on your new vow, break the crystal egg, put the shards together with the cut silver wires back in the small box, and send them back to me. That’s all. See? simple, no obscure mumbo jumbo, no stupid magic potions, no nebulous promises. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain. Your life. Anyway, I am not part of it anymore, therefore - Keeta, please do it.

    I once loved you. Do it, in the name of that once upon a time love. Jim.”


    Days passed. Then weeks. I took a long no pay vacation to stay at home. My computer off, a symbol to a storming fire once so terrible, now extinguished as if it never existed. I kept reading her old mails, her poems, my poems... so many words saying so much turned into nothing saying nothing, so much passion and flame turned into the frost of a dying sun... I spent much of my time staring into plain nothingness, eyes vacant, heartbeat as regular as a Swiss watch - no up, no down, alive yet dead. From time to time I descended to buy something to eat, the sink loaded with unwashed dishes, putrid smells filling the house from weeks-old garbage. Waiting for the final seal, the final blow. Waiting for the bell to ring. The bell rang.

    I looked through the spy hole, didn’t feel like any kind of company. It was a courier. I opened the door, signed for the package and for the accompanying invoice, took the battered small box to my living room, swept to the floor the piles of papers littering the small table and placed the box in the middle of it. The sacrifice, the symbol, on an improvised altar. I knew. I shook the box softly before I put it on the table, the unmistakable tingle of hundreds of pieces of broken crystal echoing in my ears like so many death warrants. Like one single wonderful life warrant. It was done. Life has won another battle. Yes, life won its battle. I sat on the sofa, eyeing the box, waiting maybe for something special to happen, a cloud, thunder, something extraordinary. Nothing happened. As I knew it would not.

    I took the envelope with the invoice, tore it without anger, and read the standard photocopied text: “Dear sir, we are sorry for the... if there is any damage we will gladly... please accept our apologies...gladly credit...” I froze. A tingle running through my spine, my eyes shining, my fingers unsteady. I cut the paper wrapping covering the box, cutting myself three times in the process, opened the box, spilled the contents on the table, and picked up the smaller box that fell out, large drops of blood from my cuts staining the marble top. I was hardly able to see through that terrible haze clouding my eyes the three uncut strands of shiny silver wire hugging the undisturbed walls of the small square box. Heart thundering. I unfolded the thin sheet of paper that floated down next to the small box, a sheet of paper covered with a fine, thin, regular, pink colored handwriting.

    “Dear Jim. I trust you with my life, the way I trust you with my death. My heart is so full with pain, my heart is so full with warmth. You are free to make your choice. You were always free. I never bound you to my side, all I had was your heart, you had mine. It was a fair swap. I made my love vows, you made yours. You are free to change your choice, you always were. You are free to make a new choice. I am not holding it against you. And I am free to make mine. I can choose between love and life. I made my choice, Jim. I chose love. Keeta.”


The Bet...

    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, katu@katuish.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.


    “Hi Joe.”


    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.






















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