His arms support her in the black-and-white world of a February Paris morning. She leans back but not completely. She still does not know how strong he is, how far to trust him. Not too far. While his right arm pulls her back, while he plants a kiss on her face, his left hand clutches the leather bag, ready to move forward toward the train. Maybe to work. Maybe away, just away. To create distance from the sheets that swaddled them. To inhale the perfume -- still too fresh -- on morning secretaries and the scent of cigarettes.
I am in the shadows behind his left shoulder. I woke early to come here, slipped out of a bed that still smells of him, although the sheets have been washed weekly for months. My father said, “Don't go. Don't tell him,” and I am still deciding when I see him reel her in for one last kiss.
Don't trust him. Don't lean too far back, I want to whisper. He'll drop you, and the ground is hard. Part of me wants to see her fall.
I know what is in the bag. He never leaves anything, not a toothbrush, not a comb. Nothing that lasts.
Do I stop him? Do I tell him? How sweet to foil his perfect record! But the ground is cold and always hard. I don't want to rip my skirt if I tumble.
I could just sit down and tell him. What a sight: me, sitting on the ground of a Paris metro, saying, “Look down here. This woman, on the floor like a child, once loved you. Do you remember her?”
Quickly people are moving, pushing. I hold onto the railing so they won't carry me with them. I wish I had worn gloves.
“I'll see you at six,” he says and squeezes her hand, but the bag is already on the train, and he follows it as he always has.
I tried to keep it once. “We are having dinner tonight,” I told him. “How silly to take it with you!” All he said was, “Life is full of surprises.”
The door closes, and the train strains down the track. An older man looks sadly after it. He will have to walk.
She moves toward the stairs and looks suddenly drained, black and white, like too much sun causes too much shadow. He has that effect on people. His mother once told me he leaves her in joyous exhaustion when he calls.
My joy is tired. Too much life without rest can age you. And still I walk a block behind her, studying her back for a burden I lost and still miss.
I want to say, sister, take warning. But she is not my sister, and life is full of surprises. After all, the bag could stay one day. Not in the morning. It is easy to have him in the morning. Only when he stays for lunch will he be home.
She steps into a brown brick building, and I must return. I am sculpting today. A man riding a leather bag down a hill. At the top is a castle. The carved edges will play shadow and light. It will be small enough for a child to reach.
Deborah Edler Brown
Deborah Edler Brown is an award-winning poet, writer, journalist, and author. Her work has appeared in Nimrod, So Luminous the Wildflowers, poeticdiversity, Altered Lanes, Blue Arc West, and Sisters Singing: Blessings, Prayers, Art, Songs, Poetry & Sacred Stories by Women. Her poem “Cubism” won Kalliope’s Sue Saniel Elkind Poetry Prize, and her fiction has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Deborah was born in Brazil and raised in Pittsburgh. She resides in Los Angeles, where she is busy building communities among characters and readers.
The Ekphrastic Review
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