That Day / The End
The prompt was this photograph by Vivian Maier.
PEN Center USA Blog, February 2015
That day was the last time. Up against the wall with our wet coats on the floor I said, my heart is like horses slamming their hooves in the dust of the pen. Months later he wrote to say, You are an organ I didn’t know I was missing—but by then it was too late.
That day the rain was crushing the city. He took me by the shoulders and kissed me just as strong as the first time. I was looping his tie back over his head so my face was right up close to his. We had been acting like children for almost a year until that day when the rain was crushing, and I was looping his tie back over his head, and he got all serious, and said, look, we’ve got to stop. I told him to shut up but the words when he said them were lightning through me. I didn’t expect that when he moved in close and got all serious… I didn’t expect to feel something so jagged and fierce.
We had been acting like children for most of our lives. I had spilled wine in his lap at the party by the lake. His wife had gone upstairs with a headache. When I got down on my knees with a napkin he pulled me up to his face by the wrists so I could see what he was thinking. The sun was coming up over the lake and I took him down to where the grass grew high, where the old barn was crumbling, where no one could see us. We sat there as the sun came up looking out at the old lake and the brown sand where a lonely bright umbrella was stuck waiting to burst open. Both of us all serious. I said, I’ve liked you forever, you idiot. He said, I don’t believe you, but I had.
After that it felt like falling even though the earth became more solid and the rain was wetter than before. After that we were full of secrets, children hiding in the tall grass, building sand castles only ever to be crushed by rain.
That day had started out sunny so neither of us had brought an umbrella. When it was over and he had said what he said about the end, his tie was looped back around his neck and my coat was buttoned and we left the hotel and walked out into the wet city together for the last time. We passed a couple up against a wall and for a second I thought they were us. Horses in a pen.
Months later he wrote me to say, You are an organ I didn’t know I was missing. His wife had found out and left him and he wanted to undo the end of us but it was too late. I was tired of being a child, tired of hiding in the tall grass.