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datatime: 2022-12-03 19:43:01 Author:xzrUXmXC

She had laughed softly under her breath. 'Every goddamned death's a murder. Why do you think they come after us doctors with their lawyers?'

It was an easy exchange, deepening their knowledge of each other, and amplifying the intimacy they'd already felt. He had liked what she said about going out to sea; about being alone on the bridge with the coffee in her hand, the wind howling past the wheelhouse. He didn't like it, but he liked to hear her tell about it. He liked the look in her gray eyes; he liked the simplicity of her easy, languid gestures.

He didn't tell her about the weeds in the gutters, the men sitting on the steps with their cans of beer, the smell of boiled cabbage that never went away, the riverfront trains rattling the windows.

But the point was, he had to leave, and he didn't want to. And it made him sad suddenly, sad and almost desperate, as if they were somehow doomed, he and she.

When she'd been describing the rescue to him in more detail, she had said a strange thing. She had said that a person loses consciousness almost immediately in very cold water. Yet she had been pitched right into it, and she hadn't lost consciousness. She had said only, 'I don't know how I reached the ladder, I honestly don't.'

Talking about his life here had been a little easier - explaining about Elizabeth and Judith, and the abortion that had destroyed his life with Judith; explaining about the last few years, and their curious emptiness, and the feeling of waiting for something, though he did not know what it was. He told about houses and how he loved them; about the kinds that existed in San Francisco, the big Queen Annes and the Italianates, the bed-and-breakfast hotel he had wanted so badly to do on Union Street, and then he had slipped into talking about the houses he really loved, the houses back there in New Orleans. He understood about ghosts in houses, because houses were more than habitats, and it was no wonder they could steal your soul.

Now he lay on the rug, thinking how much he liked her and how much her sadness and her aloneness disturbed him, and how much he didn't want to leave her, and that nevertheless, he had to go.

The sun was burning through the eastern windows and skylights. He could hear her working in the kitchen. He figured he ought to get up and help her no matter what she'd said, but she'd been pretty convincing on the subject: 'I like to cook, it's like surgery. Stay exactly where you are.'

As for her having been born down south, it had nothing to do with it. His head was full of too many images from his past, and the sense of destiny that united these images was too strong for it to have come from some random reminder of his home through her. Besides, on the deck of the boat last night, he'd caught nothing of that. Knowing her, yes, that was there, but even that was suspect, he still believed, because there was no profound recognition, no 'Ah yes,' when she told him her story. Only positive fascination. Nothing scientific about this power of his; might be physical, yes, and measurable finally, and even controllable through some numbing drug, but it wasn't scientific. It was more like art or music.

'I know what you're saying.'

'I'm not talking about doctors now. I'm talking about ordinary people in the modern world. What I'm saying is, when you look down at that body, and you realize all the life has gone out of it, and you can scream at it, and slap it around, and try to sit it up, and do every trick in the book to it, but it's dead, absolutely unequivocally dead...

Why did this other thing have to be happening? Why did this feel like stolen time?

'And you have to remember, for most of us we see that maybe once or twice in twenty years. Maybe never. Why, California in this day and age is a whole civilization of people who never witness a death. They never even see a dead body Why, they think when they hear somebody's dead that he forgot to eat his health foods, or hadn't been jogging the way he should have been...

He realized that he had never had his knowledge of a human being commence at such a pitch, and plunge so deep so fast. It was like what was supposed to happen with sex, but seldom if ever did. He had entirely lost sight of the fact that she was the woman who'd rescued him; that is, a strong sense of her character had obliterated that vague impersonal excitement he'd felt on first meeting her, and now he was making mad fantasies about her in his head.

He was thinking that she was the first thing in all these weeks that really mattered to him, that took his mind off the accident and off himself. And it was such a relief to be thinking of someone other than himself. In fact, when he considered it with this new clarity, he realized he'd been able to concentrate well since he'd been here, concentrate on their conversation and their lovemaking and their knowing of each other; and that was something altogether new, because in all these weeks, his lack of concentration - his inability to read more than a page of a book, or follow more than a few moments of a film - had left him continuously agitated. It had been as bad as the lack of sleep.

'Well, let me tell you about one other supernatural event,' she'd said, smiling. 'It's when you've got one of those dead bodies lying on the deck of your boat, and you're slapping it around and talking to it, and suddenly the eyes do open, and the guy's alive.'

'I know what you're saying.'

She had smiled so beautifully at him then. He had started kissing her, and that was how that particular segment of the conversation had come to an end. But the point was, he hadn't lost her with his crazy rambling. She had never once tuned out on him.

It was an easy exchange, deepening their knowledge of each other, and amplifying the intimacy they'd already felt. He had liked what she said about going out to sea; about being alone on the bridge with the coffee in her hand, the wind howling past the wheelhouse. He didn't like it, but he liked to hear her tell about it. He liked the look in her gray eyes; he liked the simplicity of her easy, languid gestures.

The sun was burning through the eastern windows and skylights. He could hear her working in the kitchen. He figured he ought to get up and help her no matter what she'd said, but she'd been pretty convincing on the subject: 'I like to cook, it's like surgery. Stay exactly where you are.'

Talking about his life here had been a little easier - explaining about Elizabeth and Judith, and the abortion that had destroyed his life with Judith; explaining about the last few years, and their curious emptiness, and the feeling of waiting for something, though he did not know what it was. He told about houses and how he loved them; about the kinds that existed in San Francisco, the big Queen Annes and the Italianates, the bed-and-breakfast hotel he had wanted so badly to do on Union Street, and then he had slipped into talking about the houses he really loved, the houses back there in New Orleans. He understood about ghosts in houses, because houses were more than habitats, and it was no wonder they could steal your soul.

It was an easy exchange, deepening their knowledge of each other, and amplifying the intimacy they'd already felt. He had liked what she said about going out to sea; about being alone on the bridge with the coffee in her hand, the wind howling past the wheelhouse. He didn't like it, but he liked to hear her tell about it. He liked the look in her gray eyes; he liked the simplicity of her easy, languid gestures.

Talking about his life here had been a little easier - explaining about Elizabeth and Judith, and the abortion that had destroyed his life with Judith; explaining about the last few years, and their curious emptiness, and the feeling of waiting for something, though he did not know what it was. He told about houses and how he loved them; about the kinds that existed in San Francisco, the big Queen Annes and the Italianates, the bed-and-breakfast hotel he had wanted so badly to do on Union Street, and then he had slipped into talking about the houses he really loved, the houses back there in New Orleans. He understood about ghosts in houses, because houses were more than habitats, and it was no wonder they could steal your soul.

When she'd been describing the rescue to him in more detail, she had said a strange thing. She had said that a person loses consciousness almost immediately in very cold water. Yet she had been pitched right into it, and she hadn't lost consciousness. She had said only, 'I don't know how I reached the ladder, I honestly don't.'

All these weeks, if only he could have seen her, been with her. And the oddest thought occurred to him. If only that awful accident hadn't happened, and he had found her in some simple ordinary place, and they had begun to talk. But she was part and parcel of what had happened, her strangeness and her strength were part of it. All alone out there in that big awful cruiser right at the moment when darkness fell.Who the hell else would have been there? Who the hell else could have gotten him out of the water? Why, he could easily believe what she said about determination, about her powers.

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