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He was not there

He was not there

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Published by Donald Macleay
A short story about meeting a lover's wife. No names, place or time is given, but the context and result are clear.
A short story about meeting a lover's wife. No names, place or time is given, but the context and result are clear.

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Published by: Donald Macleay on Oct 25, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2015

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There was no calling ahead.

Not coming from where I came from, not coming the way I came. I called when I got here. She answered, not him. I felt surprised and embarrassed. There was no reason for either. I knew about her and she did not know why I should be embarrassed. "He is not here, he is down there". Well of course he could be there. I only knew him there and he was there all the time. Him going there was the only reason I have ever met him. It was me who was out of place. Always there, part of that, never here, never part of this, never having spoken to her on the phone before. Never having met her. Never having seen so much as a photo of her. I only knew that she existed, her name and who she was in his life. What to say next was not clear and I felt awkward. My awkwardness was lost in the torrent of her words. She told me that she knew all about me from him. I doubted that. She brought me up to date. Telling me what he was doing there, when he left and when he was due back. As it became easy for me to talk with her I let her know that I have a parent from here, that I was on my way back there, that this was only a short, unexpected visit. "He would be so disappointed to miss me, but he would still be there when I got there." And of course we talked about the guy who was dead. That is what had caused all this motion. Someone needed to go back there and help them get back on track. We all knew who that was. My guess was that it would take me about half a year. There was politics for all of it. This death was getting more attention than all the other deaths. She, like most told me that she now understands that it could have more easily been my death. My desire for that, or any fame was zero. The movement was full of those wanting that spotlight, hogging the microphone and needing their name out there. I did not not want that, I just wanted my people to be well and now another one was gone. I would speak, but only because it would be irresponsible for me not to. There was nothing to hide. The services knew I was here. My father's back woods road had a couple of agents parked in a car down by the rail tracks.

There were few secrets here. His and mine being one of the few, at least from her. "Why don't you drop by so we can meet?" She said something about a solidarity gathering the next day. I could meet up with her and we could go together. It would be social. No need to announce. No need to speak. Had I ever expected to meet her? Why was I so certain that she did not know? He had never told me that. She was part of the movement. My time was open. I said yes. The address did not need to be told. A time was chosen. After her work. Dinner. Then on to the solidarity fund raiser. She came up to her home to find me sitting on her porch reading the paper. Habits from there, not from here. Paper from here, no news of there. My speech was out of date. I had not been here in a long time. She was wonderful. Delightful. We drank ice tea on the porch. I was totally charmed and there was nowhere else I wanted to be. Had I expected her to be such a presence? Had I expected anything? He was with her and thought the world of her. Now I saw how right he was to think that. I thought the world of him and if I had thought about it, I would have supposed that she would be a person of quality, as was he. Had I ever asked more about her? Probably not. I never asked for anything. I had never asked him for an "us". I had never asked if she knew. I had no expectations of him. I would have had some expectations of him if I could promise myself that I would be live from one month to the next. Since I could not, I accepted. I did not expect. I did not ask him to be honest with her, honest with me. I did not ask the questions. I did not dare to want anything of him. I just lived from event to event moving our projects forward. No plans for him. No plans for myself. Not even an idea of what I would do or where I would live, if I lived. It would be over some day. I knew that in my head, but did not dare to hope for it in my heart. In the meantime I just worked on surviving. We did a part of the work. Most of us were still here. We would do another part. Afterward seemed like an abstraction. Now that one of the dead was famous, I was collaterally known in small, well informed circles. Whoever was following me around from my father's farm to here must have known me, him and her. Those agents probably knew more than I did about the three of us. We all knew this famous death. Few knew of the small deaths. The deaths of those

for whom no protest will be made. Deaths only mourned in private, isolated families. Funerals held quietly with few in attendance. My death would be one of those if I were not careful. The famous death worked with me and so did the unknown martyrs in unmarked graves. My choices were between an anonymous death and anonymous survival. I did not know half of the people that she was talking about as she told me what the public reactions were. One person, who I did not know, was going to speak to some committee, that I also did not know. There were people she wanted me to speak with at that evening's party. I promised to to talk to whoever she wanted me to talk to as long as she stuck close. I was enjoying her company enough to put up with the self important. The mailman came and she stood looking at the mail. There were hand addressed envelops for him. She casually opened them. My heart leapt. Something showed on my face. All I could think of was my letters. Delivered by that mail man, on this porch, to him. I felt almost naked, caught in the act. The act of his deception, not mine. But caught as if him and I were both caught. She saw my reaction. She told me that she does not normally open his private mail, but that these were letters that she was expecting and she knew what was in them... Then she stopped talking mid word. She looked at the letters. She looked at my face. And she knew. She knew him and had just met me and she knew. "Oh, but of course" It is amazing how little there was to say. Me, him, it added up. I just watched as her intelligence reviewed her memory and added things up. I don't remember what she said at first. She did not ask how long it had been going on, she had figured that out and told me. She was right. She told me about how it had been time to open things up. How she had had someone too and never told him. She told me that it was time for him and her to speak up and communicate more. What had she decided? Did she think it or feel it? Maybe it was simply that I could feel why he was attracted to her and she could feel why he was attracted to me? She stood up to get some more tea. The new tea was set on the porch table in front of me. Her hands slid through my hair as she pulled my face around to her. I melted

under her touch and lost myself into her. When I got back there from here I met him at his hotel room. How many times had he and I shared a hotel room? This one was much nicer. There was a note for him, from her. I gave it to him and waited in fear as he read it.

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