By Tom Thompson
Puget Sound, Washington 5:37 a.m.
Beyond the bed the chill from misty Puget Sound made him want to draw her closer. The easy fatigue of intermittentlove-making had put his mind in the island¶s gray-green fog, a steam-like mask that covered the thick vaulting DouglasFirs that grew from bluff to bluff over the length of the island. The stillness of the floating house was disturbed only bywailing seagulls and ferry horns, all from an uncertain distance.He loved the special sunlight of the Pacific Northwest, the way it seeped in at dawn only to bleed away at dusk,transforming day and night with dramatic and even mysterious effects. He loved the gauzy fog that could hang aroundall day, taking away the sharp edges of everything and making it impossible not to appreciate life¶s never endingambiguities. Depending on his mood, he could have been floating in the center of the world, or, in a different mood,near its edges.Gabriela wasn¶t his wife. Although with only lingering guilt and sadness, he easily remembered Nicole fondly. She haddied less than a year ago. She had been taking a shower, soaping herself down. ³Houston, we have a problem!,´ shehad added crying, ³A scattering of small hard beans!´His own low-voltage adrenal drain and the nearly constant charge of anxiety never met with any sympathy. There wasnever any µclosure¶ of anything, he thought. The cancer¶s discovery just prior to their decision to divorce had destroyedany artificial appetite for hyperbole. Nicole was thirty- nine. At her memorial service, he had surprised everybody byoffering the admission that too much of the drama of their lives had simply been the manufactured kind, drawn fromfear, misperceptions, and multiple misunderstandings. Now she had become a jumbled pool of contradictorymemories and reflections, some warm and happy, all of them tinged with regret, and even now still ripe at times withvisceral grief. Before she died, she had insisted that they finish the divorce process, ³if only for closure,´ she would joke from a morphine haze. But it never happened.His eyes opened, and his body still covered by the down comforter, he knew that within minutes he would be rowingon the glistening, placid surface of nearby Eagle Harbor. It was always easily the best part of a day. No sound but for the quiet rippling water. He craved the tranquility, the solitude, the speed of a feather-like all-cedar rowing scull.He imagined his body carefully balanced on the pencil-like 20-foot long boat. He was obsessed both on and off thewater by the physics of legs compressing, shoulders and arms following, in a brisk and even pull, one hand above theother, pulling on two ten foot carbon-fiber oars, bending with the muscular rhythm of stroke after seamless stroke. Ona good day, he could feel the boat lift, as he began to knife through the water in a harmony of effort that blended bothunmistakable grace with starkly physical grit.In the two months that he had known her, Gabriela had been fascinated by his fever-pitch rowing. She thought that hewas trying to be an exorcist with himself. ³You row as if you¶re fighting something deep inside your soul, Derek,´sheobserved. But he remembered responding only by admitting that rowing was too much like his consulting career. ³I¶malways afraid of getting blindsided.´ He had wondered if her English was good enough to know what he meant. Hewould never know.It occurred to him to make love again, Gabriela¶s preferred beginning to every day they were together. They weren¶tgymnasts, both of them in mid-life, but they both imagined and knew from the outset in Rio that their love-making wasprecious, both tender and passionate. For now Gabriela was falling back into a deep sleep, even as he bumpedagainst her with yet another hopeful erection. His renewed youthful vigor pleased her, but it frankly astonished him.Proof that he was moving on in his life.³
Gusto de estar contigo
,´ she interrupted, and sighed deeply, and then finally turned onto her stomach.They were both tired after the late evening dinner with one of Derek¶s clients, Mitch Ryder, an old friend fromGeorgetown who simultaneously had rescued Derek from university teaching and who had introduced Derek to thebusiness world of international trade disputes, and, more importantly, the need for market research to supportincreasing claims of unfair trade practices. Mitch described himself to be a ³free-trade lawyer,´ but all of his firm¶sclients were U.S. companies seeking protection from foreign competition.They had been at fashionably up-scale Il Terrazo in Seattle, reported to be the site of the best veal picata anywhere,when mid-meal Gabriela had essentially terminated the evening with one sentence: ³Mitch, you have zero listening