When in …


“Foresight may sometimes mean going to Rome, you know. And then doing as they would, you know, do in Rome. Which is to say that, sometimes, an absence of foresight leaves you stranded in Rome without a clue as to what the people around you are saying or doing. If that has ever happened to you, I hope you will forgive me. Because I stepped into the situation so freely, so utterly without foreknowledge, that you might say I could plead innocent, although I cannot plead not guilty.” He waved his hand vaguely at the stack of old magazines, the letters, and the photos, as if to say, here, here, this will explain it all.

“It was, as it always is, a time of war, a time of intrigue and excess,” he continued, and he poured an inch of cognac into my glass. I do not like cognac, particularly, but I do like the burning at the back of my throat, and the melting of the bones, and the reflection of firelight in the glass. I stayed in my seat, and he told me a story that hovered in the air, heavy with bombs, spies and codes. The night seemed to hold steady, like the flame on a candle in a still room, and his story wound through the war and through the endless night. There was a big war, and a silent generation, and a woman who stayed close but invisible as the enemy moved between them. Here, in this telling in this room, there was nothing in the war but sickness, depravity, and she was beautiful. She was beautiful, angry, and secretive.

“If you really loved me,” she would say, “you would live.”  The first time it happened, it meant one thing, and then the second, another, repeating again and again through all the war years, which were her romantic years, her forever darkened sense of love, sitting inside her body, waiting for one more explosion to carry her down in the rubble, planes, rain, smoke, and loss.

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