Thursday, June 18, 2009
He tried not to remember. Which was harder than forgetting.
But music was the devil on his shoulder, fanning old flames until they licked his ear with the urgency of heated breath. Anna’s music. Her cello.
He heard the ghost of the instrument now, cloaked in the low vibration of the museum office refrigerator. A bow agitating its string with indefinite equations. The beginning note of a Bach Sarabande, dragged to infinity.
He tugged on his eyelids and wiped his face. The wearying madness of it all. Too many years of sustained strangulation, without time’s loosening indifference. If she were dead, it might be easier, his brain sometimes rattled. Before he squeezed the thought out.
Grabbing the bones from the protective plastic bags, he started to inventory them for the museum’s new Homo erectus exhibit.
Clavicle . . .
Latex fingers traced the bone’s curving ridges. Palms sweated inside the gloves. His eyelids closed and fluttered.
But opened again.
Anna wasn’t there. She never was, except in the sleight-of-hand that dreams tricked up. Her music might linger like perfume, but his understanding of her face had muted into a finger-smudged memory of soft skin, without the hard lines defining it. His mind would not permit him the small pleasure of looking into her eyes. Of seeing her lips stretch into a smile. Of rediscovering the many soft hairs on the nape of her neck.
Only this music of the mind, continuously looping the loss. Like a shape-shifting tombstone. With pretty flowers pouring from its mouth.
Death masquerading as life.
So as the refrigerator’s motor kicked off and bones hoped for some kind of resurrection by his hands, Galen tried. He tried very hard not to remember. What living felt like.
Until the cell phone vibrated in his pocket with the prelude to their song.
His heart lunged. The vibrations dug deep and spread high. For this moment, he would not check the caller ID. On this day only—the anniversary of his injury, and their meeting—he would let himself believe that it was her.
Somewhere, on the other side.