Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
I can’t lead, Sally thought, weak with wonder. Nobody will follow me.
She thought of hapless Malcolm Donald, almost killing a plaza full of people with his incomplete vision. I don’t want to get people killed. Anyway, I’m not charismatic like that, she thought.
But I could be. Like a firm field under her skittering mental feet was the sureness that, though she was green as grass at leading people, she could do it. But she was going to make a hell of a lot of mistakes.
Lavinia’s dark eyes watched her realize these things. Those eyes showed love, trust, support – and caution. She realized with pain that Lavinia still only provisionally accepted her promise not to leave. Time alone would make it clear that Sally meant what she said. Even at 27 Sally had lost enough people who promised forever to know that, no matter what she said, the only way she could lead Lavinia to surety was to be in love day after day.
She leaned forward, weight on her left hand and put her right hand under Lavinia’s raven hair. She breathed into Lavinia’s mouth like she’d done in the night.
For a timeless interval, the only sound was their deep, even breathing. Sally saw Lavinia’s dear, precious face lose its worried look, like Cosette relieved of her heavy bucket of water. Breath after breath they shared. Cinnamon had brought her this kind of peace.
Finally Sally’s left arm started to ache and she reluctantly rolled smoothly onto her side, bringing Lavinia with her. Lavinia gave two gasping breaths in helpless panic, then settled onto Sally’s confident arm.
“You see how I know you can lead?” she said. “But warn me next time you’re gonna move me around. I’m not used to being so helpless; I don’t like it.”
Sally saw in this small interaction exactly what she would face every moment as a leader and world changer. Again and again she would do what she thought was right and find that she’d hurt someone who depended on her. The muscles around her eyes tightened and she pressed her lips together.
“I’d like to get you into the sunlight, baby,” she said tentatively. “Is that okay?”
Exasperation seemed to be a good antidote to Lavinia’s darker feelings. “I aint made of fucking glass. Just, I always been a bit claustrophobic. Not being able to move like this….
“You remember I mentioned Ryan, my cousin who died of ALS? What a sweet guy he was. And funny? He could fart on cue, he could play the piano like Duke Ellington while telling jokes like Victor Borge. And he was claustrophobic too.” Sally watched traces of panic chase across her face like clouds in strong wind.
“Last time I visited him, he seemed like he’d made peace with the disease but my god! What he must have gone through to get there! Struggling and struggling to move, knowing it’s no good, that you’ll never move again, that something could be right behind you and you can’t turn to see it, you know it’s no good to try to move but you can’t help trying again. I’m only guessing, cause that’s how I feel now. But at least I know it’ll end as soon as the sun goes down.”
A shudder rippled through her. “Thank god I don’t have to spend the day in a coffin. That’d be worse.”
“Come on, honey,” Sally said more confidently. “Let’s get some sunlight onto you. I’m sure it’ll make the time go quicker.”
She moved to pull back the curtains on the rear doors, but turned back at a gesture she was coming to recognize: Lavinia starting to ask for something and then stopping herself. She put her face up close to Lavinia’s, put her fist under her own chin and raised her eyebrows high.
Lavinia laughed, and said, “Okay, okay, I was just gonna get all gooey and little-girly and say something like, ‘you’ll stay by my side’ or ‘you won’t leave me will you’ or—”
Sally put her finger on Lavinia’s lips, then kissed her softly. “I will stay by your side. I will not leave you,” she said. “You can be helpless with me.”
Then she pulled the curtains so that a square of sunlight fell on Lavinia’s feet.
Both of their faces fell, almost comically. But at the same moment Lavinia said, “Maybe it’s gotta touch skin” and Sally said, “Maybe it needs to touch skin.”
She pulled Lavinia around so her face was in the light and that did it. Lavinia gratefully and helplessly gave herself over to pleasure and Sally sat watching, careful for the moment not to meet Lavinia’s eyes but holding her hand.
Outside a red car, one of the new Volkswagen Beetles, pulled into the lot. Through the side window she saw a young couple with a little girl. The father cast a dirty look in the direction of the camper and she realized Lavinia was being fairly loud.
But the little girl just pointed at the camper and said happily, “Dat Mommy Daddy noise!” then ran toward the beach.
At the unquestioning acceptance, Sally could have picked that child up and swung her around in a great big circle. She clearly saw the mother meet her husband’s eyes with a beet-red face. “Well, there’s a great big beautiful beach to explore!” the father announced brightly. They followed their child.
Sally tensed, waiting for a scream. But she must have hidden the body well.
So she went back to stroking Lavinia’s hand, murmuring “Lavinia. My Lavinia. My wife.” She smiled quietly, like a mother who holds her newborn after a long, intense labor.