I took a step further to meet Horace for health, for love, for a leg up.

And at Horace’s everything was gray there with some white accents—and the walls were gray, not paint. They were hung with fabric and he had a gray carpet on the floor.

Once, before I knew him well, I asked Horace to dinner, and after that he was always saying he’d be right over for a chicken dinner, but usually I visited him in his apartment across the street.

His place was very tidy and a bit surprising. He showed me his sword cane and the living room features an owl that’s made of poultry feathers.

This is a snowy owl that contains no real owl parts, but when I saw it for the first time—I had to ask him whether it had been shot or euthanized.

We got married and I should explain that I am tiny—a kind of skinny woman.

You see, Horace says he likes to think of me as a young sailor boy, or he may refer to me as a china doll and, for short, call me China.

I moved in with him, and not long after, we waited in line to see the Czech film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.

And when we both saw Lila Melinek in the line up ahead, Horace stuck a finger between the cheeks of my backside.

Even with my coat on, I was very much aware of the point of pressure.

One day Lila forced her way into our apartment while I sat alone in another room. It was a bold and moody time.

I heard Lila tell Horace, The trouble with you!

I’ll try to be a better friend, Horace told her, but I need to be with someone who knows French.

I am that one. Oh, otherwise I heard murmurs and I did walk in to join them where they sat.

Lila’s hair hung down her back and I’d like to offer more about her, but I don’t know what that would be. She is better than me?

I put myself into a chair and watched them, except sometimes I kept an eye on the owl, who also pressed on my nerves.

When can you go? I asked her.

I’ll return, she said, and stood.

And she’s not meek, but still she’s waifish, with babyish hands and oversize, ant-like eyes.

I had the impression that Lila wanted to belong to our family and in several ways Lila and I are likely alike, although I’m not one to come up with plausible ideas of myself.

Horace said, after she’d left us, She’s my Georgia peach. What do you want for me? That’s what I thought he said. But what he said was, What do you want from me?

Well, she did take him away when she came again.

 

I am in a room with . . . I am in a room where decisions are unlikely to be thought out, where I lack strong enough character and vital drive to take my dark thoughts and plant them at the right time like spring bulbs.