THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY
Jerry was a lizard of a man, with those long fingers and toes that could cling to anything. He’d climb windowsills and peer through lace curtains, his tongue flicking at the flies gathered there, his head casting about, to and fro. Susanna could almost see his heart racing in his chest.
“Jerry, come and sit awhile,” Susanna called to him. At the table, beneath his collection of beer bottles, dusty and cluttered, where Susanna kept her own curios, her fairy and cow, her witch and owl, her brass candlestick and pewter rat, she said to him, “How did we marry?”
Jerry flicked his tongue, looked up at Susanna’s witch, and said, “Trickery.”
That hurt her feelings a little, but by now she was used to him. “I’ll grant we aren’t a perfect match.”
“Not perfect, no,” he said. “We run on parallel tracks. We’ll never meet.”
“It wasn’t a trick, though,” she said.
“It was! It was a spell. A trick of the light. And now we suffer for it, the both of us.”
“How was it a trick?”
“You were a sea, Susanna. A big, vast sea. I didn’t know you had no water—like the Sea of Tranquility. And now look at me. I am parched.”
Susanna looked at him, at his long fingers, at his black eyes, empty of substance, needy, wanting. Ever wanting. “You drank of me,” she said, “until I was dry.”
“If that’s so, you never complained.”
“It’s not my nature to complain.”
He sat and waited. It was interminable, the waiting. He needed to get up, to walk, to pace, but he sensed the end. Finally, when she didn’t say it, he did. “I saw last night. I got home early, and saw through the curtain. You and Henri.”
Susanna’s cotton dress suffocated her. It was a hot day, and sweat pooled under her breasts, dripped down her belly so that the thin fabric clung to her, like Jerry’s lizard fingers. Susanna looked at him, her eyes also dark, but not empty. They were full of life, and love, and never accusing, as Jerry’s were. She could sit for hours, content and comfortable.
“You want to leave,” he said.
She got up and sliced four thick pieces from a loaf of bread, put them in a basket, then poured olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, a little oregano and basil and thyme, onto a plate, and set them on the table. She gathered two wine glasses and set those also on the table. Then she opened the bottle she and Henri had begun the night before, and poured.
“It’s like you to say that,” she said. “Another man would have shot him—and me. Not you. You worry that I want to leave. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?”
She pulled the thick crust from the bread and dipped it in the dressing. As she ate, oil dripped from her lip, onto her chin. She wiped it with a new piece of bread, which she also ate.
“You want me to shoot you?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No.”
“What do you want of me, Susanna? I’m the one who was wronged.”
She took a sip of her wine, all the while looking at him, not with hate, not with contrition. With pity. And love. “I won’t leave you,” she said, “if you want me to stay.”
Jerry rose from his seat, paced across the linoleum, as far as to the stove, then back again. He sat. “And Henri?”
Susanna wiped at the sweat between her breasts with her finger, then underneath her breast, her hand cupping the luscious mound through the thin fabric, her nipple hardening at the memory of the last night. She shrugged. “Henri,” she said. “What is he to me?”
Jerry reached for the wine, then for the bread, but touched neither. He paced to the stove and back, to the stove and back again, this time standing behind her chair. His hands, with their long clingy fingers, held her breasts, and he bent to kiss her neck, his tongue flicking at a bead of sweat, and he said, “I want you to stay.”
Susanna touched his head, took a sip of her wine, had a bite of her bread, and said, almost sadly, “Then I will stay.”
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