Issue 225, Summer 2018
She would remember everything, out of the blue and in full detail. She would see the jade ring wrapped around her ring finger and, immediately, she would see the other jade ring. She would open her eyes wide and, without knowing why, would fall silent. She would say, Yes, very beautiful indeed. And she would run her fingertips over the delicate shape of the serpents.
A caress. The hint of a caress. An immobile hand underneath. An alabaster hand. A velvet island.
She crossed the city at dawn in the back of a taxi. She drifted between sleep and anxiety, her handbag pressed against her chest. The beginning of a long journey awaited her at the airport. She knew it and knowing it produced a sense of unease. She couldn’t tell when such a dislike for traveling had developed, that reluctance to set forth, that way of resigning herself, somewhat bitterly, to it. She frequently had nightmares before leaving, and, as she climbed the steps to the plane, she had premonitions of terrible things. The discovery of a chronic illness. A sudden death. Loneliness.
“This will be the last one,” she quietly promised herself, and then shook her head, unable to believe her own vow.
“Were you saying something?” the taxi driver asked, watching her in the rearview mirror.
“Nothing,” she whispered. “Only that this will be my last trip.”
The car slowed behind a long line of traffic. They both peered out the windows.
“An accident,” he murmured.
But as they approached the site of the collision, they didn’t see mangled cars or other signs of a crash. They rolled forward without knowing what was going on. They opened their eyes wide. They looked at the gray sky, the faces of the sleepy drivers, the shards of glass on the side of the road. It wasn’t until they were about to leave the scene behind that they saw what had happened.
“But that’s a body,” he said, his voice sounding an alarm.
“A naked body,” she said. “A body without a head.”
She asked him to stop and wait for her. Once out of the car, she showed her identification to the police guarding the scene and crossed the yellow tape. She walked around the decapitated body and paused to look at the dead man’s left hand. There, around his ring finger, right above the edge of a large pool of blood, was the jade ring. Two entwined, green serpents. An extremely delicate thing. The Detective shot her hand out toward the object but stopped short of touching it. There was something about the ring, something between the ring and the world, that blocked her contact. It was then that she looked at her own hand, immobile and large, suspended in the dawn air.
“It’s getting late,” she managed to hear. And he started the car.
There is a city within a head.