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by Atar Hadari
I always knew he would go far. I mean, as much as a woman in love thinks of these things, which is always. He was marked with a generous spark and I saw in his face that he loved me, if not too much. And I saw at once that if I could make his path straight he could be anything. So I chose him for the road to my heart and he went down it, step after step, without feeling a thing, the tongues turning slowly into flames.
I was born near Boston, Massachusetts, in a house not too large, that I later buried myself in, if only temporarily. My resting place would be in England, but I practiced, you might say, everywhere.
I was not what you’d call a smart child. Not what you might call clued up. But when my mother and father went to look for me, under the summerhouse, I was nowhere to be found. I'd crossed. Into another place where no one could touch me. I was in a place where the beetles sing, where birds sip strange flowers. I was eating handful after handful of dirt, like I would one day swallow pills. But I was there for days. Three days. Eating dirt, spitting black vomit, hearing my name, called over the house, under the house, over my head through the kitchen floor - but not loud, not loud enough. They found me the third night. I coughed, made a noise, got some dirt stuck in my throat vomiting oil. Before I knew it I was grabbed by the ankle and dragged out of the belly of the house, back to the light. Which was street-lights, wavering. It was so dark and soft and sweet there listening to Momma through the kitchen floor. Then they grabbed me and made me look at the tiger's eyes stuck on all those streetlamp poles. I still see lights - when I wake up sometimes, from a sleep. I see streetlights and think - I could just be alive.
The phone rings. She rises naked from the sheets and pads downstairs. There is no one in the house. She lifts the receiver. The line goes dead.
The phone rings again. She is getting back in bed. She has padded, listening to every creak in the empty house, upstairs - and it rings again. She waits and hears it peal through the downstairs’ echoing hall; she feels the folded down cotton covers, barely warmed under her flesh. She goes again, downstairs, down through the landing. On the phone, when she lifts the receiver, it is the man.
“Is it too late?” He sounds as if he’s shifting from foot to foot in the phone box.
A long pause, and she sighs. She says again she cannot help.
"That doesn't matter," he replies, "Listen to me, Julia. Will you listen?"
And she does, again.
"Look, I don't know if it matters, but I'm straight now - I'm a hundred percent, you can set a watch by me-"
"That's not the problem," she says.
"I’m not a menace any longer," he says, "I can be - how d' you put it? - left under my own recognizance-"