Wednesday, February 27, 2013


She was looking up at his face with what was, for her, a characteristic mixture of outright defiance and fervent adoration. She turned and left him like that, a statue gazing after her, a tourist leaving some piazza. He stood there a moment, lost in the reflection of his shoes. Looking up and finding himself alone, his face hung like a stunned hound. From the next room he could hear the tinkle of a piano and a murmur of voices, broken intermittently by a bright laugh. Lilly.

As he walked into the room he saw her talking to Fuchs, a tall gaunt man with a long black beard, whose eyes were screwed up like two small black points, intense and piercing. With her laughter they grew, if possible, even more pointed and his face was twisted, as if in a rage. Still laughing, her eyes turned to him solicitously, apologizing and taunting at once. Her eyes seemed to promise now, finally, to take him seriously but when out of the depths of a tense bitterness he spoke her head arched backward and the laughter pealed from her throat as if from the pearls strung around them.

As if she'd sprouted from the forehead of Mr. Fuchs, Mrs. Fuchs, standing at the opposite end of the room, was staring into space chewing the inside of her cheeks. A man dressed in black turned to say something to her, catching her off guard. The look on her face seemed, to Lilly's husband, to express astonishment at having met a living person at a party. She gazed at him with wounded pride and wonder at his effrontery, looking at his whole face all its features at once and, at the same time, at nothing in particular, and, in such a way as to imply that this whole face in front of her was, in fact, nothing-in-particular.

A young man approached a little stiffly and asked Lilly to dance. She answered his blushing face with a look of kindly derision. Her consent surprised him and in that instant he looked nearly adult. They walked off to dance, leaving Lilly's husband to watch Mr. Fuchs staring at his brightly polished shoe tops, biting his lips in an effort to regain his composure. The dance ended and Lilly gave the young man an oblique look that seemed to say: "You're more than a man than I thought you were!" but, at the same time: "You're completely out of my league."

As she walked back to the circle she'd left, Lilly stopped for a moment to whisper something to a group of women gathered a few yards from Mrs. Fuchs. They responded with bright surprised laughter. Lilly's husband looked at the young man, who seemed to be discomfited, and back at Lilly who, catching the young man's gaze, shot him such an utterly tender look that he was reduced to a  paralyzed battleground of emotions. Looking over her shoulder, Lilly left the women with a parting shot that evoked renewed fits of a laughter that was both affectionate and salacious, with a hint of the vicious. Mrs. Fuchs neither laughed nor smiled. Her eyes followed Lilly with the same incredulity that, a moment ago, was reserved for the man in black.

When the guests were gone Lilly and her husband prepared themselves for bed. Not a word, not  even a glance was exchanged. No sooner had he turned off the lamp, his hand inadvertently brushed her shoulder.

In the morning Lilly donned her peignoir and walked to the bathroom, shooting a look over her shoulder that seemed to say "Come here!" and, at the same time: "Stay right where you are!" He lay in bed watching a bird on a branch jerk its little head nervously about. Then it sang, not from its throat but from its whole body. The branch dipped and sprung as the bird darted across the window frame. Just then he heard the rings of the shower curtain slide along the metal rod. Water. And Lilly's voice in song. He closed his eyes and, for just a moment, felt an absolute, perfect peace.

© 2003, 2013, Dan Goorevitch

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