There’s the way you see lines of the palm cut short by a scar there on the hand where once a kitchen knife may have slipped. He used to tell her he would see her without so much travel, odds and ends, or his adventures. A day ahead, a week later. A month goes by.
“I will be there,” he’d say, like a meeting memo to a coworker.
Making salary cap is good if that’s what you want to do. There’s a security in it, landing the first house and safely paid bills. But this isn’t the story of the white picket fence, the way to trim around the shrubs, in between them, feed the rosebed or the art of mowing grass on Sundays. This is the story of crooked lines, how time steals those things away from us in small moments.
He remembered the first time he lost her, a blink of the eye, hummingbird wings, and the speed of sound or light. Something like that. He could see in a rearview mirror of every rental car of everywhere he ever went, the nearing of the end of the palm where the fingers began and exactly how long they hadn’t been with each other.
Trace the line to the index finger. Good, go back now. A lifeline was cut short there where once a kitchen knife may have slipped, at the bend where the fingers wrapped around the phone, the call from Tommy, their mutual friend, who talked cancer, the letter C and how big a deal that was in her alphabet.
Emotions spread like wildfires or wings, things bending or breaking. That was the emotion used when she told him over the phone she was seeing someone else years ago that broke his heart.
“You aren’t here for me,” she pleaded to him, sitting on the edge of a well-made bed at a well-made random hotel. The air conditioner ran with CNN on the television.
“They are things here. Furniture, beautiful awnings that keep the rain and sun away, the porcelain tub for summer nights for me. But you’re not one of these things. You’re not here for me.”
“But,” he whispered, lowering his head, forcing the palm to the wrinkle in the temple. “I used to tell you I would see you in a different life.”
That’s a wrinkle of time. And after the cancer, he knew he’d lost her twice.
“I will be there,” he said to her at the hospital, whispering it like how one whispers geometry, there being one, and only one, line between two points on a graph or hand.
Christopher Bowen is the author of the chapbook We Were Giants, the novella When I Return to You, I Will Be Unfed, and the non-fiction, Debt. He blogs from Burning River and has traveled and spoken throughout the U.S.