by Pia Ehrhardt
The train you take back home is half full. You rest your head against the glass and page through the travel magazine you took from Henry's briefcase. He's used the curled wrapper from a band-aid as a bookmark, and you go there and read about the coarse black sand, the chatter of monkeys in coconut trees, the white flowers that open at night and perfume the air. He means to go to this beach with his wife, because last night in bed at the Hilton, the two of you talked only about driving to the Adirondacks to hike. He's circled in red ink a bed and breakfast on Paradise Cove, a place to rent bicycles, an open-air restaurant that serves fresh lemon fish and Brabant potatoes.
The train stops at Kings Park. You stare out the window at neighborhood men playing baseball. The train pulls away, and you twist in your seat to watch the argument that's broken out at home plate. Something flies at your face, breaks glass, and blood splashes on the seat back in front of you, spatters your white skirt. You wake in the hospital. Your neck is wrapped tightly in gauze. The doctor touches your arm. "You're lucky," he says. He unwraps the dressing and hands you a mirror because you want to see.
Henry brings you daisies in green wax paper. Out of habit, you smell them. He takes you home. The police have arrested the man who fired the gun. He's brought you the New York Post with a photograph of the man, his hands cuffed awkwardly in front. "The guy wants to write you," Henry says. He helps you dress the wound, holds the mirror. He kisses you, is careful, like you might break, but you already did. You ask him to get you off, watch his hand in the mirror because you want to see how he will touch her on the beach at night. You forget it's your hole until the finger he puts in you disappears.
You write the man back and tell him the bullet missed your jugular. He sends you an envelope filled with pink and yellow petals torn from roses. From your garden? you ask, and he mails you a bigger envelope with leaves, thorns and roots, wrapped in foil as proof. I thought I aimed over his head, he writes. You look at a photo of school kids eating ice cream cones in front of the Hayden planetarium. My daughter is the one spinning. Showing her teacher how to orbit. Her panties have polka dots.
You go to the beach in the magazine with another man you don't yet love. Still you are attached to him and there is sense in this. He was on the train that day, called 911, and used his jacket to block the view of the other passengers who were elbowing for a look. You sleep beside him with the windows open so you can smell the night-blooming flower. You order the lemon fish. He sprinkles sea salt over his. A thirty-mile bike path traces the perimeter of the island and you start out with the wind in your faces so the pleasure can be saved for the ride back.
About the author:
Pia lives in New Orleans with her husband and son in a house ordered from the 1908 Sears catalogue. It came in 33,000 pieces that were brought by barge down the Mississippi River. She's relieved she didn't have to put it together because she doesn't follow directions so well. More of her work can be found here.