So Long as I have Yesterday
Illustrated by Allen Forrest
After, when she’s lit a cigarette, and they share it, the backs of her knees are warm.
“This’ll be my last night.
She laughs. Her laugh is used up, throaty. She says, “This isn’t your last night.”
“It is. I almost didn’t come.”
“You always come.” Her fingers trace the skin at the curve of his hip. Marvelous. The way the stomach muscle dives from view there.
“I’ve met a girl.”
“You’re married. You can’t meet a girl.”
“She reminds me of you, dark hair and dark eyes.” He puts his hand on her thigh and squeezes above a growing bruise.
“Oh,” she says. Touch of his fingertip now almost no touch at all.
“She’s very smart.”
“Not now,” she says. Her hand covers his mouth.
Cigarette smoke hangs over the bed, and she pulls the cigarette from his fingers for the last drag. She exhales the smoke to the ceiling. Water spots brown faster in the smoke, like age spots on older men, on their hands.
“Is she pretty?”
“Are you?” he asks.
“We aren’t all pretty.”
“When you look like her you are.”
After the door closes and after another cigarette and after she gets out of bed to step down the hallway to the banister, she remembers to breathe again. Of course she hasn’t stopped breathing, in fact for a time, she was all a mix of some very complicated breathing, but she never remembered to remember when it was she breathed again, after he first walked through her door.
“Darling, where is your robe?” says a thin woman sitting by the bar. Her old wrinkled face lined with shadow. Gray hair floats at her temples, and a long slit of robe flashes bare legs crossed on a bar stool. She, gargoyle, perches there. Drawn up. The way a woman does, all used up and stuck with no real need anymore.
“In my room,” says the girl. She leans on the banister. It creaks.
“You’re not pretty enough, darling.”
“You can’t walk around like that.”
“I think I’m in love,” she says.
The banister dips under her weight.
“Don’t worry, darling, you’ll fall in love again,” says the thin woman. She traces the line of a wrinkle with the point of her finger. “It will happen again and again,” said the woman to the empty and the quiet of the early afternoon.