ISSUE 10
February 2000

Richard Burgin

 

Richard Burgin Richard Burgin is the author of eight books including the current novel Ghost Quartet and the 1998 story collection Fear of Blue Skies. He has won three Pushcart Prizes for his stories and is the editor of the literary journal Boulevard.

Vivian and Sid in Maui    Click to hear in real audio


"What do you mean you want an adventure?" Sid said, pacing the floor in his tee shirt and baggy chinos. "Why do you suddenly want to be like Wonder Woman, or maybe you're looking for more of a Wonder Man?"

I chose to ignore the last remark. Even though I'd recently turned 50 and had been with Sid—except for some brief breakups—for nearly ten years, he still gets jealous easily, especially when some change in our routine threatens to break out. It's probably the biggest reason (though there are others) why we never got married.

"Sid, this is nothing new, I've been talking about this for awhile now." 

"To me? When was this, while I was sleeping?"

"Close," I said with a smile. "While you were watching TV."

"Again with the put downs about TV, like I'm some kind of moron for watching television at night like most people do. I can be like most people in some things, and still not be a moron, can't I?"

"Sid, you're obviously very intelligent"

"A professor even, (though we all know not tenured like you) who just needs to unwind a little at night."

"Please Sid, let's not fight about this, O.K? I wasn't making fun this time, or only a little. I'm sorry."

Finally he sat down again on his La-Z-Boy and I got up from the couch, walked over to him and gently caressed his thinning black and silver-tinged hair. I was careful not to touch his bald spot which offends him even more than my admittedly occasional remarks about his relentless T.V. viewing or almost any unwitting use of the words short or little, (Sid at 5' 4" is three inches shorter than me) or his being a kind of permanent non-tenured lecturer at the same university in Boston where I got tenure nine years ago.

A contented little-boy smile was on his face. It's a smile I love and I smiled myself and said, "I just wanted to identify the last time I talked with you about it and also to remind you that I waited for the commercial."

"O.K. my beauty Queen, I'm sorry to be so jumpy. Let me try listening again and maybe a little understanding can penetrate this boney head of mine."

"Since you don't remember, can I try to refresh your memory?"

He put a free hand on my rear end and looked a little nervous. Often when I say I want to talk to him about something he starts touching me, as if to keep me from talking, and so reduce the odds of his getting hurt.

"There's no one on earth I'd rather listen to," he says earnestly enough, but he still looks worried.

"Do you remember our last time, our last glorious time in bed?"

"Yes, of course, why would I forget? I'm not senile ... yet." 

"We were talking afterwards in a kind of intimate way and I got a little weepy."

"Why weepy if it was so glorious?"

"Because I started thinking back about my life, how I always played everything safe, always trying to please my father and any other authority figures and so passed up a lot of opportunities."

"Oh yeah, yeah I remember."

"Like in my first marriage not pressing harder to have children when I really wanted them, because he didn't. . . Or later with . . .

"One of your many lovers."

"I haven't had many lovers, I wasn't courageous enough for that either ... and didn't want them anyway. I was thinking of the early years with you. Even though we weren't ready for marriage, 'cause we'd both been so hurt by our divorces, still if I'd played it right I might have had your baby."

There's a sudden look of sadness in Sid's eyes and I said, "but it's other things too. The kind of writing I do, or never did. All my publishing has been repressed. I mean just prim and proper academically correct articles on 19th century American Lit."

"And books," Sid adds. "I never dared to write a novel," I said.

"What about me? You've done far more than me. My publishing resume looks like a concentration camp victim compared to yours."

"I wanted to travel a lot more too. I still want to go places while I'm physically vigorous enough to really enjoy them."

"You're plenty vigorous enough, believe me. Remember last night?"

"What I'm trying to say is we need a vacation."

"A vacation?"

"What's the alternative? To putz around Brookline all summer and maybe drive to the Cape a few times."

"And we can afford this vacation?"

"We can't afford not to, is what I'm thinking."

His hand left my bottom and moved self protectively in front of his face. "So, you have a place picked out for this adventurous vacation?"

"There are several I thought we could pick from."

"For instance?"

"Maui."

"Maui?" he repeats, as if I'd said the Belgian Congo or Afghanistan.

"In Hawaii. It's beautiful, Sid, it's got mountains, waterfalls, the ocean ... You must have heard of Maui ... What?"

"I was just thinking, not that you need to, but are they O.K. to Jews there?"

"Oh for God's sake," I said, forcing a laugh, "would I ever go any place with you where they're not?"

Once he got used to the idea, (started reading a little about Hawaii in general and Maui in particular), Sid became a lot more enthusiastic. He even surprised me in the plane (where he's normally uneasy and also suffers a bit from sciatica) by being mostly jovial and complaining a minimal amount. The sweet, boyish Sid who could get contagiously enthusiastic was re-emerging and I sat back and congratulated myself for fighting for this trip.

We'd decided to really splurge (we always go 50/50 on vacations) and were staying at the Ritz Carlton in Maui, a handsome hotel, with an ocean view, spectacular grounds filled with flowers, palm trees and Norfolk pines, an elegant dining room and lounge and very professional service. We had a fairly ambitious itinerary planned and the first three days we followed it. The first day we went to the volcanic craters at Haleakala. It was quite a drive up the mountain - the highest one can go by car in the western world, the tour book claimed. When the road ended, we climbed the last few hundred feet. The air was thin and made us slightly dizzy.

"Is this enough of an adventure for you?" Sid said.

I laughed and squeezed his hand. It was an incredible sight - the barren lunar landscape up in the clouds with its red, blue and black colored rocks—like nothing I'd ever seen. The next day we took the fabled road to Hana, a drive on ever narrower hair pin roads past scores of waterfalls and jungle-like woods. We saw a Sea Monk on the black sand beach, more black lunar-like rocks the aqua blue sea pounded against, the sacred pools at Oheo gulch and, going back to the hotel, the black and golden mountains and the blue sea on the south side of the island, on roads so treacherous we could only go five miles an hour (the actual speed limit). "If we live, will this be enough of an adventure for you?" Sid said.

I was too nervous to answer him and wished he'd stop asking. By the end of our nature hike on the third day I was glad we'd come, very glad, and appreciated what a good sport Sidney was being, how good a mood he was generally in, but also knew the answer to his question was no. How could a vacation, something that was planned and paid for possibly address a life-long absence, a hole in one's being? "Adventure" had not really been the best word to describe my need anyway, though Sid had seized on it. It was more like a selling oneself short, like not following through on one's dreams, out of timidity or cowardice. A trip to Hawaii couldn't make up for not having a child I thought that night in bed, shortly after Sid began snoring. Tears started from my eyes (despite my stolid front, at times I can be quite the weeper) and I realized I hadn't even taken off my makeup and my mascara would be running.

I went into the big marble-tiled bathroom, -turned on the light, took off my make up and took a good look at myself. O.K., so I'd hit the big 50, it was too late to have a child and menopause was just around the corner, but damn it, I still wasn't bad looking. My face, dominated by my unusually large blue eyes (the part of me, besides my genitalia, that Sid praised most often) still looked like me. It had a few more lines, but it wasn't face-lift material yet. I took off my nightgown to look at the rest of myself in the door-length mirror. I'd put on ten pounds or so over the years, had bigger than necessary saddle hips and an academic's bottom, but the boobs didn't sag, the hair was mostly dark, graying in spots, but nothing my hair rinse couldn't fix. I still excited Sidney, the man I loved. I knew that, so why worry and fret so much and drive a stake through my heart? Maybe I could get this elusive fulfillment/adventure need through my work, maybe it wasn't too late to write a novel and I could get it from that.

I can be a very competent therapist with myself sometimes and though my insomnia lasted a little longer and I shed a few more tears, I eventually went to sleep.

The next day we thought we'd relax and hang out at the hotel. When Sidney discovered there were big waves at the hotel beach, his mood got even better. Something happens to Sid when he sees waves and contemplates the joy of body surfing. The macho part of his nature merges with the child part, he gets a big surge of adrenalin and can hardly contain himself. Personally, I have no use for waves, but it always hurts Sid if I don't share his enthusiasms at least a little. So I went in the water for five minutes, being sure to keep my head above water, while he frolicked about like a seal. Then I watched him from the sand, cheering and applauding, (I was secretly glad the beach was so scarcely populated) until the trade winds that were whipping about became too strong and I got cold.

As agreed, Sid accompanied me to the swimming pool where I felt much more at home and much warmer. I should say pools because there were three of them on different tiers, all large and undulating and surrounded by palm trees and floral arrangements. We lay back an our chaise lounges and held hands. But peace never lasts for long. I could sense Sid getting restless—his hand left mine, he changed his position in the chaise lounge and cleared his throat a few times until I said "What is it?"

"Nothing."

"I know, you're getting restless."

"Maybe a little."

"You want back in the waves again?" And he melted me with his sheepish grin. So I let him go, after making him promise to be careful about the undertow (there was no lifeguard) and to go in the jacuzzi with me when he got back. He agreed to these conditions cheerfully enough, kissed me good bye three times, waved and was off. In what seemed less than a minute I found myself alone in my chair by the middle pool at the Ritz with those crazy trade winds ripping around me.

I lay back in my chaise lounge and pulled my beach robe a little tighter because of the winds, It was the strangest weather I'd ever seen. It was sunny and hot in the sun with a bright blue sky, but when the trade winds came every few minutes or so, it got much colder. The winds were so strong at times it was as if a hurricane were about to begin. For the first few minutes after the winds died down, I luxuriated in my nice thoughts about Sidney. It was great to be getting along with him so well. Really, I knew I was lucky to have him. When he was feeling O.K. about himself, there was no one sweeter and more affectionate on earth, and there was nothing really that brought me more pleasure than making him happy—if only it were easier to do, or happened more often.

The wind returned then and with it a new train of thought, this time about my father. It felt like I'd spent at least the first twenty years of my life trying to please him and make him proud of me. (It's why I forced myself to be a straight "A" student -- school being an area in life where I could "objectively" prove my worth.) Then when my academic accomplishments began to mount and I discovered that he definitely was proud of me, I wanted to make him happy too. That was a lot more difficult. He could be stern and elusive and sometimes mysteriously sad. It was always a challenge to make him smile, but nothing pleased me more than when I did. It was like an instant emotional holiday when it happened and I'd love him more then than life itself. When he died three years ago, I thought I might go under too, but somehow with a lot of help from Sidney, I made it. How cruel to realize that a man as fine as my father was obliterated forever. That given enough years (given infinity) no discernable trace of his body, mind or soul would remain in the universe. And, of course, the same thing would happen to my mother and to Sid and me. It was like time was the true extra terrestrial that people feared. Or to put it another way, once you realized the true nature of time, you became as alien to most of humanity, who blocked it out, as the so-called "aliens" themselves. You became, in effect, an (invisible) little green man, as I had. That was the part of my thinking that I didn't tell Sid and, of course, it only grew more intense after I turned 50. I had to be very careful what I said to him. I figured either he was already feeling it himself (he was three years older than me) or he was one of those able to block it out, in which case let his thoughts rest in peace, at least as far as infinity was concerned.

An angry voice roused me from my reverie about time, but the wind picked up and I couldn't hear any exact words, just a hostile tone, maybe something more than hostile, and I pulled my robe a little tighter. When the gust died down, I found myself homing in on what the man's voice was saying, apparently to his wife or girlfriend—who else would listen to stuff like that?

"You've got a big problem. Yuh, I'd say you've definitely got a very bad problem."

"Please Ken, not so loud."

"You think this is loud? You think this is bad? You'll find out what bad is when we get back to the room. You can't fuck with me like that and get away with it. You must be an idiot to think that, you must be even stupider than I thought you were if you think that. You're in big trouble, very big ..."

"Please stop," she said.

"Shut up, Bitch," he said, or hissed rather, the word merging with the wind.

There was no one in the water now. There had been a couple of people (both youngish men) floating on water rafts, but they'd come in too, though it was still warm out. I turned my head slightly and looked at the woman. She was a blonde with dark sun glasses -- maybe somewhere in her 30's, but impossible to tell really. I couldn't see him at all because his back was turned to me on the chaise lounge, but his body looked strong and his back had more hair on it than I found palatable. I realized that a lot of people had left the pool, that I was the only one near them. Where was Sidney, I wondered. When would he come back from his waves?

"Stop whimpering," I heard the man say, wondering then at what point I should intervene.

"All of this is your own god damn fault, O.K.? So stop feeling sorry for yourself. Let me tell you what's going to happen. I'm gonna sit in that jacuzzi for five minutes and maybe, if you're lucky, it'll make me feel a little better, and you are gonna stop crying and fix your face, if that's possible, and be ready to go back to the room with me and we'll settle things then. O.K.? Got it?"

He stood up from the chaise lounge (he was medium height, but with powerful legs, shoulders and back), and walked uphill towards the jacuzzi, surrounded by palm trees and flowers, some thirty feet away.

I waited till he was out of ear shot then turned toward the woman and said, "Excuse me, I couldn't help hearing some of that. Are you all right?"

For a couple of seconds she looked around as if to see where the voice was coming from. Then she faced me, stared straight at me with her dark glasses. "I'm all right, really."

Her voice was strangely neutral and didn't invite another exchange. "Because if you're not, I'll help you. My boyfriend and I will help you right now .... I know what it's like," I added, though of course, I didn't know. Certainly no one in my well-protected life had ever talked that way to me in such a menacing voice, a voice that was even more awful than the things it said. "Thank you," she said, more softly this time, "but it'll be all right." "You sure? It didn't sound all right."

She looked once behind herself, doubtless to be sure Mr. Sadist was safely stewing in his hot tub. Then she turned and held out her hand and I took it and held it for a few seconds. Something that looked like a tear slid from under her glasses, and I felt close to crying myself.

"I'm sorry you had to hear that ... something so ugly," she said removing her hand.

"That doesn't matter. What matters is, will you be all right?"

"Yes, I think so. He just gets worked up easily, feels threatened and then he says a lot of things he doesn't mean, basically."

But she said that as if she didn't really mean it. "My name is Vivian," I said.

"Hi, I'm Helen." I paused as if we might shake hands but then it seemed that she didn't want to. She was very nervous, looked around herself again and I remembered that he said he'd be back in five minutes, in that drill sergeant's voice of his.

"Let me give you my room number and full name," I said, reaching into my beach bag and tearing off a corner of a page from a Jane Austen novel I'd been reading. "I've got a pen in here somewhere," I said.

"It's all right," Helen said, meaning it was O.K. if I didn't find it, but eventually I did find the pen.

"Vivian and Sid, Room 309," I said as I wrote. "What's your room number?" I asked.

"517. My name is listed under Buford."

I wrote down her information on the rest of the page and handed her my address. "So please don't hesitate. My boyfriend's name is Sid," I said, pointing to the piece of paper.

"O.K. thanks. I don't think I'll have to, but thanks. I mean I know what I'm dealing with here, known him for years. He just sometimes gets like this, he ..."

"Are you married?" I asked.

She nodded yes with an ironic smile. Then she thanked me some more for caring, saying it was "kind beyond what anyone could expect."

I made a quick dismissive gesture with my hand and said "I mean it." Then I lay back in my chaise lounge and she in hers. A minute later Buford returned, stood over her and said, "Let's go." I sat up to listen more closely, but just then Sidney came bouncing up to me dripping wet and smiling ear to ear.

"Quiet for a second," I whispered in his ear. I turned and watched Buford leading Helen away, his nails appearing to dig into her flesh just above her wrist. "Sid, we have to go back to the room now."

"What? Why are you whispering?"

"Don't argue Sid, I'll explain everything on the way. "

*** *** ***

"Tell me again, maybe there was some water in my ear, but I don't understand exactly what we're doing here?" Sid said. He was pacing in our room, still in his bathing suit though he'd thrown on an old white tee shirt, one of my least favorites, with two nickel-sized holes under the right arm.

"We're waiting for a phone call from Helen—I told you—I need to be here if it comes. Sid, this is probably one of the most shocking things that's ever happened to me, but I promised I'd help her if that monster started acting up. I told her she could call here and I can't back away from that commitment."

"Sure, of course, but she hasn't called. They probably made up a long time ago ..."

"It hasn't been a long time."

"They're probably in bed now balling away like we should be, only we can't because we're waiting for their call."

"Sid, this isn't funny, You didn't see how scared she was, how scary he was."

"No, I didn't, and you were very brave, Viv, really, you did the right thing, no question. But for how long? When does it end'?"

"It hasn't been that long."

"I mean I come in from body surfing all happy like you wanted me to be on our vacation and the next thing I know, I'm in a Nancy Drew mystery and you're Nancy Drew."

"Just be a little patient, Sid."

"Patient, I've already been. Been there, done that."

"Look, I know you wanted to make love when we got back, but we can do that later."

"That isn't what I meant," he said, stopping to look me in the eye, something he typically does when he wants me to know he really means something. "Though it would have been nice, it being our vacation, and you know how waves affect me, like marijuana affects other people. But there's the matter of food, Viv, I'm getting hungry, aren't you, and it's getting late."

"I thought we could do room service."

"Room Service. Who do you think you're with, Donald Trump? You think you're with Donald Trump in Hawaii instead of this boney little untenured Jew."

"Just this one time," I said. "I'll pay the difference."

"O.K., all right, let's spend away. I see this means a lot to you. Let’s do it. I don't understand though why she couldn't call the police or the concierge as easily as she could call you," he said.

"Sometimes it's easier for women to reach out to other women in situations like this. The creep is her husband, after all, she's not eager to call the police on him."

"And if she's really in trouble and he's abusing her, how will she even be able to get to the phone? Maybe you should call her. It could rescue both of you."

Now I got up from the straight back chair I'd been sitting on and began pacing myself, my eyes looking down at the floor at first until I stood next to him in front of the bed in the approximate middle of the room.

"I did call."

"When was this?"

"While you were in the bathroom."

"So?"

"I asked her if she was all right," and she said ‘Yes’".

"So? What more do you want?"

"You don't understand. It was just the single word 'Yes' said in a neutral, unconvincing voice, as if I were room service or a wrong number. Then she hung up."

"She probably was embarrassed and didn't want her husband to know about it."

"Obviously she didn't want him to know about it, but that could be for a number of reasons." 

"She could have said 'no' as easily as ‘yes'.

"That's what's been reassuring me, to the extent that I'm reassured. On the other hand, the call may have set the husband off and he could have started in on her."

"Viv, you're like me, you refuse to believe in good news."

"I just think it's odd that she never called me back."

"She's probably embarrassed and wants to forget the whole thing."

"You weren't there. You didn't see how scared she was and how grateful she was either, when I offered to help her. The woman shed tears, for God's sake."

It went on like that for awhile and then Sid agreed to order room service for dinner and even offered to pick up the tab. We ended up going 50/50, but I was moved by his gesture. We'd had so many angry, silly fights about money over the years, almost as many as we'd had over sex. (What I'd once called his "sexual paranoia," baseless, as it turns out, because I haven't even kissed another man since our relationship began, but as Sid points out it's hard to believe in good news.)

After dinner he humored me further by agreeing to stay in. "It's only one night," he said." I'll live." Unfortunately the movie we chose, "Boogie Nights," was both heavily sexual and violent,so neither of us got much relief from our thoughts.

With about fifteen minutes to go in the movie, just about the time when the deaths started piling up, the phone rang. Sid and I looked at each other at the same time, the phone rang again and then I picked up and heard a dial tone, said hello three times and hung up.

"I'm calling back," I said.

"You think you should? How do you know it was her?"

"I know. Anyway, I can't take the chance that it wasn't."

I called Helen's room twice, let the phone ring five times, but there was no answer.

"Come on Sid, shut off the god damn movie, we're going to their room."

"What's this?"

"It's either that or call the concierge. and ask him to get security."

"I vote for the latter."

I looked at him, his eyes widening with anxiety and said, "O.K. I'll call the concierge."

But the concierge was on a break. A young person who didn't seem to know much was filling in while he was gone. I explained this to Sid and then said we had to go ourselves. He nodded and said, "This is maybe a little more of an adventure than you bargained for."

"And could you put on something a little more substantial, quickly," I said, with an edge to my voice that I regretted. Sid smirked, as he put on a pair of pants over his bathing suit.

"No matter what I put on I can't hide how short I am."

I gave his hand a squeeze and then we were out the door waiting for the elevator, perhaps surprising a young couple in bright Hawaiian clothes who were kissing by the elevator (quite an uncharacteristic display for the Ritz) but they didn't stop in the elevator either, which made everything seem even more dream-like than it already was.

"From one porn movie to another," Sid muttered softly as we started walking down the hallway looking for 517. Then we both stopped talking—it was completely quiet in the hall as if we were swimming silently in some remote canal. I found the door and knocked. "This is the end of reality" I said to myself. No one answered. No sound anywhere on the canal. Sidney stood by me silently like a water ghost. I knocked three times saying "Helen are you there? Helen, it's Vivian," but no answer. I pressed my ear to the door and heard no sound except myself listening.

"Where to now?" Sidney said.

"The lobby. There's got to be someone there who can help."

The lobby of the Ritz is what you might expect from a grand, conservative, rather sleepy hotel. It was spacious and decorated austerely. Two immense doors were opened to reveal the gardens and the ocean beyond them. Candle light was everywhere and yet discreet. A pianist played romantic tunes quietly by the windows. It was a lobby I normally loved, but its placidity infuriated me then in light of what was probably happening to Helen.

At first I felt disoriented by its sheer size. It was like being suddenly transported from a ghostly canal to an immense but incessantly slow moving whirlpool. As if the jacuzzi outside had grown out of all proportion and eaten the lobby of the hotel. Then I saw an opening at the Registration Desk and ran to it, Sidney running right behind me. I found myself facing an earnest looking Hawaiian man and blurted, "There's a woman in 517 who's in trouble. We think her husband's abusing her, she'd asked me for help, can you check on it? Their name's Buford, Helen Buford."

He looked slightly concerned but neither left the desk nor picked up the phone. Instead he started pressing some buttons on his computer. He asked me for the name and room number again and I repeated it, as well as a shortened version of the situation.

"They've checked out, ma’am. They checked out this evening."

"You're sure?"

"I thought I remembered them and the computer confirmed it."

"She seemed O.K. to you?"

"As far as I could tell, Ma’am."

I thanked him and turned away stunned, scarcely aware of Sidney by my side until he started talking to me by the opened doors.

"This is good news, Viv" he said. He had a hopeful expression in his eyes.

"This is not necessarily good news, Sid. We were too late. We should have acted sooner. He probably found out or suspected that I called and decided -to leave. When our phone rang during the movie, she was probably trying to tell me something."

"You don't know that. They would have had to have acted very quickly. These are all wild suppositions. Come on Viv, calm down, you did everything you could, let's go home."

"No, I won't go home." I could feel my teeth set (an archetypical masculine gesture which I especially hate when it happens to me). "Why are you always trying to stop me from doing anything significant, anything that might make a difference to people?"

"I don't, how can you say that?" he said, putting one hand over his heart, as if I'd just shot him.

"You do. You've tried to stop me or discourage me at every turn when I was trying to help Helen."

"That's not fair."

"It is fair."

I was furious and couldn't stop myself. "You're so afraid that I might do something that matters or say or think something that you can't control. Look, Sid, I'm going after them, I'm not giving up on her."

"What's this?" he said, but I was already running through the lobby nearly bumping into a waiter carrying two tropical drinks. I continued down a long flower-lined walkway heading towards the valet service stand where the car hops were. I cut ahead of someone and started blurting my story to a mustachioed Hawaiian man who'd gotten our car for us a number of times. He looked perplexed and began fingering his mustache as if picking at a salad. I was talking too fast, was vaguely aware that I wasn't making sense. When I repeated it all more slowly and described the couple, he told me they'd left, but seemed reluctant to say when. I handed him a five dollar bill from my purse and he told me they'd left at least two hours ago. "Did he say anything else to you?" I asked.

"He said they were in a hurry to catch a plane." I thanked him—it was like thanking a shape in a dream—then turned away with tears in my eyes. I felt a horrid mix of guilt and anger. Then I saw Sidney rushing towards me. "What happened?" he said.

"They left two hours ago in a hurry for the airport."

"I'm sorry" he said.

"I need to be alone now, Sid."

"Viv."

"No, really, I need to be alone for awhile." And the next thing I knew I was walking briskly onto the winding path downhill through the dark gardens that led to the pool where I'd talked with Helen that afternoon.

There were a few strategically placed lamps and there was moonlight, but it was still dark. Because of the winds there was no one else by the pool. Almost immediately I began reviewing my meeting with Helen and what I'd done after I offered to help her. I hadn't just waited passively, Sid was right about that. I'd called, and she'd said she was all right and even if the call tipped Buford off, he’d gotten more scared than angry (which was probably good). Also, it was quite possible that she tried to call me from the lobby before they left and had to hang up before I could answer. Maybe she'd even call me later, before we left Maui, to tell me all this. There were still two and a half days left. Why was I so upset then, as if she were a sister of mine? Of course, the whole incident was frustrating and shocking, but millions of far worse things were happening to people every minute of my vacation - I was simply unaware of them. It's not as if people stopped suffering and dying just because you take a long trip to a pretty island. Your mind fools you that way. Absurd, of course, to hope the world would cooperate and stay at bay while you orchestrate a private adventure on your vacation. Talk about bourgeois fantasies and self-absorption!

I lay down on a chaise lounge and closed my eyes to think better. What did I have then? What wasn't merely vanity or illusion? Immediately, in my mind's eye, I saw Sid's face -- first with its kind and earnest look—then its anxious and needy one. I was sorry for the way I'd spoken to him, which was bound to hurt him, I knew. He was my lover but also at times like a father and at others, like my child. People did that to their loved ones —they made them into versions (usually better versions) of their family members. But eventually Sid would die too, of course, and if statistics were any guide, probably before me. I'd be all alone then. I'd be a minnow against a thousand waves of memory crashing over me. Talk about body surfing—this would be excruciating mind surfing till the end of time. I sat up with a jolt. How could I have left him like that? How could I have abandoned him—Sid, the world class abandonment neurotic, my only true adventure? I said his name then though not loud enough for anyone to hear, I didn't think, and then something strange happened. I heard my name being called at the same time by Sid, looked out and saw him. Apparently he'd followed me again and now stood about ten feet from me as if to show me he still meant to give me my space.

"Sid, I'm sorry for what I said."

"Don't worry, forget it."

"I said some angry words."

"Some of them were true."

"Sid, I'm so glad to see you. I thought you might have gotten fed up with my hysteria and called it a night, or maybe just given up on me forever."

"Never, my beauty queen," he said. "The truth is I thought you finally got a good look at me in all this Hawaiian sun and thought 'What am I doing with this pathetic, scrawny little paranoid Jew?'"

I told him that was ridiculous and he began moving quickly towards me, in fact, too quickly. "Be careful Sid" I said after I heard him bump against a chair and stumble. "I don't want you to fall into the pool."

A moment later he was beside me—a little hurt look in his eyes for doubting his agility—mixed in with his smile.

"You have no faith in me at all, do you?" he said.

"We'll see about that." I said, just before I pulled him down towards me onto our dark chaise lounge.

 

 

 

Richard Burgin: Fiction
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 10The Cortland Review