A short story, dedicated to Jessica and Kristen.

The first time we met, he was a pirate.  I watched him swing high above me on the rigging.  We sat together in the crow’s nest and looked at the stars.  I slept below deck in a hammock, listening to the sound of the waves.  The world was black and white, but you could see all the colors if you didn’t think about it too hard.

The next time we met, he was a song and dance man, and I was just a girl in the chorus.  Clean shaven and tuxedoed, he charmed everyone he saw, belonged to everyone who saw him.  Everything was technicolor and the lights were dozy and sweet.  Couples strolled down the sidewalks outside of the theatre, and dandies headed to the nightclub in the still night air.  We sneaked cigarettes and gin into the dressing rooms, and the entire troupe listened to his stories about his trip out west.

One summer we stayed in a cottage out in –shire. It was hot but there were plenty of diversions.  Our days were filled with picnics and croquet, and sometimes he’d glance across at me.  I’m pretty sure he’s the one who left the basket of strawberries on my porch.  At night, I could see the lights of his far off mansion, and plot what to wear in my hair that might tempt him to dance at the next ball.

For a while he solved crime.  I would bring him biscuits and tea, but he would ignore me.  His fingers steepled, his high brow furrowed, those clear eyes staring into the fireplace as if the answers could be sought among the flames.  Sometimes he would not be there at all, out into the grayscale night,  all sword cane and overcoat.  I never went along, but his partner would tell me all about it when they came back.

Soon, he was a cinema star.  Wearing shades so as not to be blinded by the popping lights.  Nobody understood him.  He went to Italy where no one knew him and met a small town girl from Wisconsin who just happened to be watching her uncle’s place in the village.  I remember the muted orange light as lovely… as if there were gauze over the sun.  I served him wine, but I only spoke Italian and he was watching the small town girl’s pert face ever so closely.

In the future, he will be a starship captain.  In the past, he was a flim flam man.  Right now, he’s pinning notes for his lover to trees, defacing the whole forest. I heard he stole his ship, or it stole him. When I think of him, it is hard to remember his whole face, but I recall all the parts clearly.  He is ravenhaired and ginger, he has an aristocratic nose and yet it arches too much,  his cheekbones could cut glass.  He’s is possibly 30 but sometimes he is is sixty. I very specifically know everything about the curve of his neck, and the way his fingers hold a glass.

He is curled up in my chair beside me.  In the light of the flickering cinema screen, I see him in the corner of my eye. I know it is him, because of the way he sits.


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