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Headache plowing through my mind I came into that room as silently as he sat there waiting but I knew he was not waiting for me and so I left after I had stood at the door several minutes watching him as he sat there in the chair which was far too big for him holding his drink but not tasting it just silently without moving holding his glass and listening to what was it yes La Boheme that was it he once told me he had taken her to see La Boheme last August well thats all right I dont much care anymore and now he is only sitting there in the room that is how I have left him because he was waiting not for me he didnt look up to see me enter so I pass from his room to hers softly because the distant throbbing in my head will come alive pounding with any sudden movement so I walk into the other room with my head at a precise careful angle trying to deposit the throb where I wont notice it in some unused portion some unwanted corner of my mind my painful memory she laughs at me not unkindly just amused when she sees me enter the room holding my head like this as I come through the door so I stand here with my trembling hand on the ivory knob and I smile vacantly waiting for her laughter to subside and I remember her in my mind where the throbbing is I remember her running across a city park shouting her white calves flashing while picnicking sailors eyed her thighs she ran up to us where we rested in the shade of a large oak tree drinking warm beer tasting melon and he caught her about the waist forcing her to fall between us laughing what was her joke oh yes the child that had climbed too high in the tree and was wailing for its mother to come she was laughing at its dusty face cracked where the tears came out she was laughing how white its knuckles were where it clutched at the branch yes that was her joke she had run across the park laughing to tell us that lying there between us three figures in the shade of an oak in a city park where voices hung in the air oh we loves ourselves and each other entirely that Spring but now she is laughing again and he is sitting in there by the window waiting for her not even caring about the view of the city I feared for from there the walls and the windows of the city below looked carnivorous like a menacing populace waiting for us to descend but he liked it and because he did we agreed to rent the place now shades are drawn against that view of the city and he sits there silently holding his glass waiting the music from their opera beating against me just as his eyes Im certain are so I turned and came into the room where she sits on her bed and laughs at me the way I am holding my head Puccini beating against my back and in that hollow of my mind where that distant throbbing lies I remember the day in May last Spring when three figures from the past the beginnings rested in the city park how she would twist her head to look at me as though it were my turn to be looked at only I didnt think of it that way then then it was as though I had won her away from him for a while but even the word while wasnt part of it because in that gentle landscape time was never a measure things were never measured well that was my mistake

I lay there that day on one side and he on the other and we both listened to her strange conversations with the grass and trees and we smiled proud to have her belong to us so very aware that the sailors with their own afternoon sweethearts were eying us a little jealous of our possession the laughter we had imprisoned between us on the grass under the tree night is going day is coming its strange he doesnt hear her laughing how her laughter grips at her her laughter when did I first hear it last Spring wild uncontrolled unfeminine almost shuddering convulsive that laugh and he came away rushing from the bathroom door the door of the bathroom we shared in the old apartment house yes thats it thats what happened thats when I first heard her and he came running down the stairs to his apartment past me blushing and she was laughing calling out he might at least have closed the door but he didnt hear her the only time I ever saw him honestly embarrassed she called out to me as I passed her laughter still running out of her mouth would I be a gentleman would I help a lady in distress would I close the door so I set down the groceries and trying not to look at her trying not to hear her laughter I closed the door opened mine and closed mine behind me I could hear her even in my kitchen but whether I really heard her or only remembered hearing her I dont know now although often enough that night I could hear her through the walls that separated our apartments I could hear her explode once more just as she is laughing now I even heard her in my dreams or walking alone at night through the avenues of that town that Spring or when he and I camped along the river in the early Summer evenings or hot August days when I would get rides in the valley I too could laugh but that was seldom now he could laugh though he was never so long in such dark moods as I maybe that was why she liked him so much at first or was it because of his walking in on her like that that day I asked her once why Im surprised I could ask her that that was that day when oh yes the middle of March we had set our bicycles down and after eating and swimming in the pond she suddenly fell on me kissing me pushing me into the wet grass not caring about my hands how they would move up and down her back I had wondered how taut her muscles would be under my touch now I knew tensility and she whispered the one word yes when my fingers had touched a button well after that when we finally lay apart on the grass breathing heavily at the air which was free again then I did ask her why it was him and not me but she never answered me she only turned to look at me and reached a hand now so calm to meet mine suddenly leaping pushing me aside she strode to the ponds edge her laughter trumpeting across the water and she dove in vanishing while I lay there in the sun wondering at her I never understood her I wonder if he understands her perhaps that is why he is sitting there now so preoccupied maybe he is just now understanding her maybe he is even now piecing together the fragments he has come to know of her I wonder if he will be successful he has seen more of her than I for when I returned to the apartment here in the city last Fall I found she had come back and was living with him of course I was more than willing to go on alone but no she insisted I stay so did he on the condition we find a larger place well he was right about that the apartment wasnt big enough for the two of us before and it certainly wasnt big enough for three especially our strange three-- I wonder what made her insist on the three of us staying together maybe I was right when I believed last Spring that she loved us both as though we combined into the perfect man for her the man of her dreams he thought I was crazy when I told him this theory of mine that evening on the river last Summer after she had disappeared and we separately mourned her disappearance oh yes he thought I was out of my head at first he got mad for a moment before he laughed and said something else I forget now and sank into that kind of silence he would when he felt like it ever since she left in June he sank into those silences ever since she left our town our flat our community bathroom last Spring last Spring most often it was the three of us cycling through the park or going to the concerts or anything the three of us and if one were alone he knew what the other two were doing but there was no jealousy there never was this was after all part of our lives and accepted just as the parties we went to were and the many serious discussions we three took part in as one corroborating each other against other people at the coffeehouse the reason we always won those arguments was that we were strong in numbers but then there was that bad night when we just the three of us in her room argued over some stupid thing not her I think it was money he owed somebody at the coffeehouse and it resulted in her throwing us out she didnt want us anymore and we never spoke to each other for several days we would try top keep from seeing each other even going to the ridiculous extremes of waiting just inside our doors watching until the other had gone by and the way was clear and when we did meet on the stairs we looked away pretending the other was not there but that was only when there was no quick exit when we couldnt avoid the other when we had to pass on the stairs like the time that I met him on the landing on my way down to pay the rent and he was coming up loaded with groceries which was certainly too bad for up until then we had been sharing food he knew I could tell he knew I had no money for food because I was paying my rent we never really talked out the argument we just came together again funny how that happened I wonder how else we could have my walking in on her in the bathroom and instead of turning and running like he did that first time I just stood there with my hand on the knob and then we both broke out laughing he was passing by and he stopped realizing what had happened so he broke out laughing we all laughed and laughed then I stepped outside and closed the door and he and I laughed and I could hear her laughing inside and the sound of flushing when she came out we laughed together again then after a while we went into my room for wine and I put on Tosca and he brought up some food which she cooked for us and we ate and once in a while she would look at us or I would look at them or he would look at us and we would start laughing again pointing mute accusing fingers trying to tell each other why we were laughing but not needing to while Puccini played away behind our laughter well thats long behind us now and thats too bad but we are together again thats something even though some things have changed a little in the past few months not big things just little unexplainable things certain glances or gestures have crept in or his long periods of musing silence or the false tinny sound which has crept into her laughter I suppose she hasnt noticed it yet

we dont laugh along with her much anymore things have changed a little now after all its been a year now we are all one year older we are in a different city and there was that long summer when she was gone and that month Id spent by myself after Id left him here last July after exploring the rivers and the coastline together that long month of August when I left him to explore the valleys to meet someone new in a small truck garden town my stupid hopes of finding something new when I could still hear her laughter

we are all one year older it shows in strange ways not the way you would expect but like the time we were eating at that Italian place eating out as we do every Tuesday now and that waiter sang Ah Mimi or maybe she would laugh at one of her strange untold jokes only this time that tinnyness creeps into her laugh and we would grow silent and stay silent for the night we sometimes look at each other we sometimes walk away from each other then that night last month after we had returned from that horrible party where she got into that strange mood and suddenly stood up from where she had been sitting between us spilling her drink and rushing out I thought she was sick so did he because we crossed the same glance but she emerged again in a few moments with a half hypnotized smile so vacant on her face and it was silent all you could hear was the record someone had just put on some long play quiet party type progressive jazz just piano and drums she lowered her arms and began dancing to the music making it sound as though it were planned along with her dance to lean against some impending unmentioned but unmistakably prearranged climax you could tell she had some climax in mind as she danced her jeans tight against her hips the way she always wore her jeans like a juvenile hip carboy barefoot and that white zipper sweatshirt everything clinging as though by static electricity to her skin her short black hair following a bit behind the movements of her nodding head and the band of white skin across her belly when she would arch her back her knees jutting forwards her jeans pulling up against her calves and back on her hips and her slow movements no one for many reasons interrupted her dance he and I least of all sitting there on the couch where she had left us amazed for she had never danced before that strange sweet smile on her lips that brilliant vision in her eyes no one knew what she saw while she danced not moving around the room at all almost remaining in the same place slowly dancing with the rhythm then when the pianoman paused for the drummers riff she held her pose her knees half folded under her her right hand reaching above and away her left shoulder dropped relaxed she froze like that remaining true to the pianomans melody that strange smile on her lips and when the piano picked up the quicker more agitated rhythms from the riffs she abruptly broke and moved throwing herself wilder then still dancing came down on her knees lay back on her heels flinging her lifeless hair across her eyes which were shut tight her smile gone groaning and then throwing herself too far forwards toward us she fell over breathing heavily on the floor the music resolving and repeating the opening bars

she was asleep so we picked her up so we brought her home where she slept it off taking seventeen hours waking up coughing and coughing we thought it was a cold

he accused me of not making sure she was properly covered of not taking care of her but the cough never really left her you can still hear it sometimes even at the high pitch of her laughter there she goes now

now shes coughing no longer laughing at how I am holding my head so that these memories will not come spilling out now shes coughing worse than ever

I can tell its hurting her I come to her I try to help

somewhere behind us I hear La Boheme

I hear a glass drop to the floor breaking.

This story was written in Berkeley in 1962.

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