Page 13 Cartoons


September 27, 2007

The shade was a welcome relief from the San Antonio sun. Despite the verdant ranks of trees lining the river walk, determined lines of light still pierced the overhead cover like tiny pins through dark green velvet. William sat alone between two of those rays of light, contemplating the smooth, cool surface of the water, undisturbed by any hint of a breeze. He was alone, unmolested by nature or by other human beings. He scolded himself. He was thinking about Sarah again. It had been one year today, June 15th, since she died, he reminded himself. His well-intentioned friends and family had told him that he should move on with his life. It was what she would have wanted, after all. William, however, could never forget Sarah.

He had discovered this place a day after arriving in San Antonio. When he was staying in town every few weeks for business, he made it a habit to take hour-long trips out of the confines of his hotel at lunch time to sit and eat on this bench and watch the water. In reality, though, he came to think about Sarah, the girl he met here such a long time ago, the small-town boy and the beautiful San Antonio girl. It had been so long. Her memory was the only true touch of humanity left in his life. William’s life was about his work now, and at fifty-one years old it was likely to stay that way. It left him with no contact, no feeling, nothing but identical hotel rooms, bland meals, gray suits and the stale air of countless Boeing 737s.

He closed his eyes and felt himself drift into his memories—memories which were growing steadily more remote. The details of Sarah’s face had begun to fade in his mind. It was as if fate were taking her inexorably away from him forever, leaving him without even the memory of her beautiful soft features or the gentle touch of her reassuring hand. He opened his eyes slowly and sat up, unfolded his hands from his blue pinpoint oxford shirt and looked around him. His solitude had been disturbed.

As she walked purposely toward him, he guessed that she was about five feet and eight inches tall, fairly tall for a woman. She was wearing a white collared shirt and a tan, pleated skirt that ended right below her knees. Her deep brown hair was tied back carefully, with the exception of a few strands which slipped out and lay gently across her round cheekbones. William noticed her eyes. They were rich, deep swirls of cocoa in a face defined by soft, smooth brush-stroke curves. Those eyes were round and deep in their form with a quality that was more knowing than penetrating. Around her neck was a string of large and perfectly symmetrical pearls which gleamed brightly in contrast with the matte tones of her skin.

She sat down and stared out to the river for a moment. When she finally spoke, her words were carried on the tide of a cultured Southern lilt. It was a calm voice which matched her tranquil posture perfectly. William did not know how she could be that way after seeming to have appeared out of nowhere. She told him, “It’s a great place for a view, and a better place to be alone.” William leaned forward and nodded, a graying temple catching the sunlight that thrust its way through the trees above, and surveyed the newcomer carefully before making a reply. “Yes,” was all he could think to say. She just smiled. “Being alone is what you want sometimes. I understand that.” William wanted to tell her that he doubted a great deal that she did, but he said nothing, he just tugged his eyes away from hers and stared at the trees, now gently undulating in a soft breeze. They both sat in silence, worshipping like pagans before the shrine of the river god.

The strange woman looked at William. She spoke again. “The river is a place where people usually come when they’re looking for something inside of themselves. Something they’ve lost and want back terribly. Something they’re worried that they’ll forget. ” William suddenly became angry. “Who the hell does this woman think she is?” he thought. “How can she possibly understand?” He stood up to leave when she broke the silence again. “I do understand.” William turned around to face her. “How did you know that?” he asked, his voice quivering slightly despite his best efforts to control it. “I guess you could say I’m perceptive.” William was not sure what to think. Either this woman was psychic or she was out of her mind. Maybe she was both.

She stood slowly, revealing the gentle arcs of long legs, and walked toward William. She extended her hand and a pearl bracelet slid down her slender wrist. She wrapped warm, lithe fingers around William’s own wrist, just below the Omega watch Sarah had given him for their twenty-fifth anniversary. William relaxed. He didn’t know why he trusted her. He didn’t seem to be completely in control of his emotions or his faculties of reason. He just walked.

The breeze had picked up and the gentle water was beginning to form ripples, especially along the banks of the river. William turned to the woman and asked, “What’s your name?” “Lily,” she said. After a five minute walk, they sat together on the edge of a tiny stone bridge. Lily turned to William and just looked at him. Her glance was so much more than that. It was an invitation, an olive branch, a perfect gesture of calm intimacy. Strands of her hair fell out of place and were animated by the growing breeze. After a moment, she spoke softly to him. “Tell me why you’re here.”

William laughed. “I thought you knew all that. I mean, you seemed pretty omniscient back there at the bench. I’d like to know what I’m doing here. Jesus, I don’t even know anything about you besides your name!” Lily laughed a slight, hesitant laugh. She seemed mournful for a moment, William silently noted. Then he caught her eyes which seemed to slide up with measured precision to perfectly match his before she said quietly, “Tell me about her.”

William stopped smiling. He almost stopped breathing. “How could this be real?” Lily put her other hand on top of the one she was already holding. He didn’t even have to ask her who she meant he should talk about. Somehow, he knew she would know. Then he began to talk. He told her everything he could remember. He told her about how he fell in love, about the time when he came to the river, a young air force pilot, to find a pretty young girl reading by the river. Her name was Sarah. She became everything to him. He told her about marrying Sarah in a church in his small home town. William talked of their twenty-six years together. Finally, he told her about how she left him, how the accident had claimed his heart and mangled it like the wreck of her silver Mercedes on the side of the road. “I would give anything to have her back. You understand, don’t you?”

Lily put her hand on William’s cheek. He could feel the warmth penetrate his skin and soak through him. She smiled and he saw that she was crying, the tears forming shining half-moons underneath. “I understand.” As she said this she embraced him and pulled his entire body against hers. She laid her head on his shoulder and whispered into his ear, “You have a choice, William. You don’t have to be alone.” She slid her arms down his shoulders and her hands crept into his. The sunlight played in and out of the space between the two figures, and made stained glass windows of her eyes, sliding in and out of their intricacies. She gently drew closer to him again after surveying his face, as if studying God’s own artistry for the first time. Only inches apart now, her finger followed the curve of his cheek down beneath his jaw. “It’s your choice to make now. You can never go back once you make it though.” He didn’t know what this meant, and then he did. He saw Sarah in her. He saw the chance she offered. It was a chance to never ever have to let go, to hold on forever. Finally, he whispered “I’ve always loved her. Nothing else matters.” Lily looked down and then carried her gaze up, the light refulgent in her eyes now. She smiled a knowing, warm smile. He felt her hands embrace his tired face and pull it close to hers. He felt the smooth kiss come slowly but determinedly. She inhaled as she held him there. As the breath slid from her and her chest withdrew from his, she finished the kiss. As her hands dropped away from him he felt cold. He understood. His choice was made.

The churchyard is covered in shades of yellow and orange. In the fall, the breeze chases leafs down through streets lined with proud old Victorian houses. It leads to the simple cemetery on the edge of the town. A woman stands alone in the far corner of the field. Shaded by an oak tree are two white crosses, solemn sentinels guarding the memory of two lovers. The woman is wearing a dark blue flowered dress. The hem flutters frantically in the strong breeze which whips across the field, stopped only by the lines of oaks encircling the town. She looks at the graves, studies them for a moment, and then bends down. She places lilies next to the crosses and then rises again slowly and walks away. The choice had been his.

Evan Regan-Levine is a freshman in the college.

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