it’s hard being left behind. i wait for henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. it’s hard for me to be the one who stays.
i keep myself busy. i take walks. i work until i’m tired. i watch the wind play with trash that’s been under the snow all winter. everything seems simple until you think about it. why is love intensified by absence?
. . .
it’s ironic, really. all my pleasures are homey ones: armchair splendor, the sedate excitements of domesticity. all i ask for are humble delights. a mystery novel in bed, the smell of clare’s long red-gold hair damp from washing, a postcard from a friend on vacation, cream dispersing into coffee, the softness of the skin under clare’s breasts, the symmetry of grocery bags sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be unpacked … and clare, always clare. clare in the morning, sleepy and crumple-faced. clare with her arms plunging into the papermaking vat, pulling up the mold and shaking it so, and so, to meld the fibers. clare reading, with her hair hanging over the back of the chair, massaging balm into her cracked red hands before bed. clare’s low voice in my ear often.
i hate to be where she is not, when she is not. and yet, i am always going, and she cannot follow.
. . .
henry and i have very different ways of looking at houses. i walk through slowly, consider the woodwork, the appliances, ask questions about the furnace, check for water damage in the basement. henry just walks directly to the back of the house, peers out the back window, and shakes his head at me … i finally find it a month and twenty or so houses later. it’s on ainslie, in lincoln square, a red brick bungalow built in nineteen twenty-six. carol pops open the key box and wrestles with the lock, and as the door opens i have an overwhelming sensation of something fitting … i walk right through to the back window, peer out at the backyard, and there’s my future studio, and there’s the grape arbor, and as i turn carol looks at me inquisitively, and i say, ‘we’ll buy it.’
she is more than a bit surprised. ‘don’t you want to see the rest of the house? what about your husband?’
‘oh, he’s already seen it. but yeah, sure, let’s see the house.’
. . .
henry walks out of the building looking unhappy, and suddenly he cries out, and he’s gone. i jump out of the car and run over the spot where henry was, just an instant ago, but of course there’s just a pile of clothing there, now. i gather everything up and stand for a few heartbeats in the middle of the street, and as i stand there i see a man’s face looking down at me from a window on the third floor. then he disappears. i walk back to the car and get in, and sit staring at henry’s light blue shirt and black pants, wondering if there’s any point in staying here. i’ve got brideshead revisited in my purse, so i decide to hang around for a while in case henry reappears soon. as i turn to find the book i see a red-haired man running toward the car. he stops at the passenger door and peers in at me. this must be kendrick. i flip the lock, and he climbs into the car, and then he doesn’t know what to say.
‘hello,’ i say. ‘you must be david kendrick. i’m clare detamble.’
‘yes–‘ he’s completely flustered. ‘yes, yes. your husband–‘
‘just vanished in broad daylight.’
‘you seem surprised.’
‘didn’t he tell you? he does that.’