The small time apprehensions I had had were never sated. If there had been the falling of a bough from a thunderous tree, I would look only to the open sky. And when a stream had over-flooded, my eye fell on the brightened pebble, once the mud had cleared days, or weeks later on. In another age I might have been deemed ‘delicate’ and in another ‘tender-hearted’ and even in a third perhaps a bit ‘melancholic.’ In this one, I am afraid, no just appellation fits, and there just isn’t a glass slipper, even if in the bottom of a lake, frozen over by a star-cracked sheet of crystal ice, there had drowned there indeed a noble and youthful prince. There are only whispers ever had, and other whisperings which have come before even that. When looking afar across mountains, from one mountainside to another, beyond the valley that lies between the two, you can see the banded snow clouds about to drift from the south to the north, and you know the needles of trees high up near the summit will next soon be covered with the white dust of winter. But, and this is the important thing, I had never—but once or twice in my life—been within that distant forest. I may not have lived inside the snow. Still, there had been in my life a spell of enchantment. I carried it with me everywhere. It was like a calendar without numbers or dates but many pages, all blank, to turn. Or like a faceless watch to be worn on my wrist—without either figures or hands marking its empty surface, yet housing within itself a beautiful jeweled mechanism, bound finely with little rubies and other precious stones from Switzerland allowing it to run always perfectly. For these reasons, when I had been upon the Mediterranean I threw handfuls of sand back into the sea. And when I was in the Alps, soft mittensful of snow into the clear icy air. And at other times, I reached into my raincoat and tossed away all the sunshine and raindrops, too, still hiding plentifully in my pockets.
I had been hiding overnight in my make-believe overnight camper. There were all sorts of things I never saw: a yellow tiger without stripes, a circus tent as high as the sky itself, a perfect diamond as large as outer space. It was a dream of dreams of course, and in my dreams of dreams there wasn’t any sorrow. I admit: there wasn’t glee there either. There really wasn’t a soul left in all the world herself except of course me sleeping in my little cot. I mustn’t, I had believed, write a moment of my mind down anywhere—neither on birch bark nor on the aluminum sills, lest thieves arrive and take from me what was yours, and what was mine. It’s all mixed up now the soot and all the sweetness, the campfire paradise I once had known with broiling devilish heat; good sense with nonsense, apricot juice with turpentine. One day soon when I had woken up, I saw upon the marble bust of tomorrow, the people there were all chatting, some cheerfully enough and others merrily too, even if, upon that waking, the rest of life was cut off from them, severed, like a head chopped perfectly from a torso, and they apart from me.
She played a game of Parcheesi by a certain set of rules that were her rules but not all of them. And beside the swimming pool, he played with her for years. One day, after he had proposed his taking a little swim, she promptly then decided to fold the board game up. As he had come back dripping and looking for his towel, he was surprised to see their time for playing had been declared over. She wept and told him about the rules he hadn’t played by, and he was loath to say, “My dearest love, but these are not all the rules the game is, in fact, played by.” He could hear that in her mind she was making up her heart. He could see she was creating for herself a Parcheesi picture. He dried himself off completely and refused to disagree. Who was he to decide another’s rules? He was nobody to rule that. And, besides, it would have done no good; it would have neither advanced nor prolonged their poolside game. Still, he was quite disconsolate. Parcheesi, with its little, brightly colored wooden pawns whose tips felt just a little too small for his hands, and the same went for the dice, was certainly his favorite. The sound of luck tumbling in the knocking cardboard shakers was something he would always remember. Swimming laps now back and forth will help forgetfulness.
Everyone loves a sunset. The ribbons of lavender, peach, orange, and purple in the eyes. It could be off the coast of Costa Rica. It could be seen across the Promenade of Brooklyn Heights. It could be remembered caught along a little, pleasant street in Hammam-Lif. It could have been St. Petersberg, Tallinn, Brno, New Delhi, or Kalamazoo. It doesn’t matter where, or from what mountaintop we have seen them. Over chemical wastelands or the most poetic climes of England, sunsets are beautiful. They restore the daylong soul and bring the tiring body a welcome touch of sightful peace. As for the moon, the moon, I’m afraid, is full of heartbreak. Its borrowed rays scatter across the darkened water like frightened fish. The fuller the face the deeper the woe. In the middle of night, like the saddest dream I ever dreamt, I wandered out upon an empty golf course one time to see the shining full moon myself. I was with a lovely young lady who did not love me an inch back. But to have been with her there this once, stranded in the middle of those acres of softly groomed grass, I could only imagine that—were we seen from afar standing so close in the sweet radiant vacancy of Earth by that all-seeing midnight moon herself—she would have exclaimed, “Look! A human treasure to behold!”
What exactly separates the simple from the sentimental? I asked her, and there was no reply. The next day she had gone before the break of day and left a postcard at the corner of my bed. The next time I asked her if by that, by an unsigned postcard with just a few lines written on its back, and no postage at all, she were being sentimental, she neither smiled nor laughed. Again, I felt quite foolish. For I had in life already received many postcards of all kinds, and many sorts. There once had been, I believed, a point in time when these things were considered a failsafe sort of thing to keep in touch with those who one must keep in touch with, in lieu of a letter proper. Who knows what their origins are, but I am sure I could look that up. I began to look forward to her departings, and finding, pinned to the corner of the mattress, another picture postcard with another brief note written upon its back. I began to collect them all, week after week, and stored them in a wooden Clementine box, the sort that comes from Spain in the wintertime. Even as the years passed, I looked forward to these little notes. I never wrote her back, as of love there was no deny.