Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A little tear came to her eye and she smiled sadly while looking down. She put her arm through his and leaned against him. "Oh Neil," she said, "if only you were ten years older."

She lifted her head and looked across the street at the barn that had been converted to a auto mechanic's shop. "But I can't say that," she said.

A woman in her fifties looked at them through the windshield of a pickup.

After that they went to the car and drove down the road a mile to a farm where tourists pick their own produce.

The first thing was an herbarium where the sun was filtered through high criss-cross wooden slats and the ferns and vines arched up overhead. Behind chicken wire there were large aviaries with birds. There were some kiwis. He thought they were kiwis because they had no tails. But they were young quail and when you saw them walk you recognized that.

A big red parrot was kept in a tall cage with just one baby quail for company. The quail ran nervously back and forth on the floor of the cage while the big parrot gnawed the wire at the level of Sara's eyes.

"You're all alone with no one of your kind to keep you company," she said, then laughed. "Of course you're crazy."

They went out to pick berries but the vines were dead and the brown flowers hung down.

Neil thought to himself: Don’t think about the symbolism of that.

But it was she who merrily said, “Here we are in the field of dead berries!”

She saw the ironic things the same way he did, and was willing to say them. They had felt other things together and she had been willing to name those and say them too.

That was why he loved her. She was willing to see the sadness. And the tenderness that must come from it. He wanted to turn to her and say that, to say, "I love you." But he didn't want to hurt her.

So he turned to her and took her in his arms instead.

"When you hold me like this I could never, ever break away," she said.

He held her face to kiss her but she turned away at the last instant. "I'm not ready yet," she said. "We can't do this all at once."

He put his thumb on her collar bone and touched the soft skin there. She sighed and moved against him.

I wish I could let her go, he thought. I wish I could let her go.

"Just tell me it won't be like last time," she said.

"I promise it won't." But it will be some kind of hurt, he thought. Maybe not as bad, but some kind of hurt.

"You took yourself away so completely," she said.

"You were so crazy. No, first you were hopeless, then you were mean, and then you were crazy."

"But now you know more about me. You won't be so scared this time."

"I'm not scared of you anymore. I'll let other people be scared of you. I love you."

And then he had said it and whatever happened next or did not happen was not important.

They went around behind the trees with the tiny apples and watched the dragonflies from a bench with a broken back.

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