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Overdue

A little apology to a woman who's long, long gone.

(Rough draft of a quick fiction.)

I have to leave for work; I only have a few minutes to tell you how I remember vomiting together. I held your neck as you leaned into the toilet and puked triscuits and clear vodka. I cleaned you up and held you until you couldn't stand to be touched, and you threw off the bedclothes in a sweep, opening your skin to the air, the areolae contracted, the nipples stiff, but sweat in your navel, a whole body cascading down to your toes in big curves of cold and hot.

The next day we made love behind the sculpture at the hairpin turn, at the top of a crooked hill, still sick from the night before. I didn't see the edge in the snow, and I nearly slipped into the valley, right over. You pulled me back, grunting. And right about then your father fell, splash, off his own cliff.

You didn't tell me. Your mother called when you were out. I asked about your dad, and she said, "he's gone." She told me he had taken the Volvo and driven to some other state, to complete a chat-room romance. He had planned it, and told her it was a fishing trip. Then he called two days later, and after some fishing lies, he blurted out the truth.

The night after your mother called, your father called. You were at work again. He asked me if you were upset. I said I couldn't tell. "Have her call me," he said, and gave me a number. "Or send email." We talked for a minute about computers, my job.

I gave you the message when you came home. You were 19, and looked down to the floor.

I said, "do you want to tell me?"

You sat on the brown couch and we held hands. After a while, you got up to turn on the ceiling fan. I waited. Finally, you said "no, I don't." Then you told me anyway, and we went to a movie with Uma Thurman, and stopped for a beer after.

Later, in bed, you put your arm on me. You always ran too hot, with the regulator up, and I lifted it off. You slid it back across my chest, and I pulled it off again, and then we built that little action into our first real fight.

I'm still not sure why I pushed your hand away. But I'm writing this as an apology. I should never have shoved you off that night, regardless of the heat.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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