Nothing Beside Remains
They stand in a field where live music is playing on a barren looking stage. It’s a field next to a warfare museum, and amongst the bronzed cannons and tanks and people dancing to salsa, he puts an arm around her waist and she smiles.
She later tells him that this was an awkward moment for her. She tells him this under the shade of a tree in her garden after he walked her back home. She tells him that it felt too soon for him to put an arm round her. In spite of this, she kisses him. In spite of this, he kisses her. He kisses her, and then, as the evening becomes night becomes morning, they make love. They make love and they talk. They talk about themselves, their lives, their hopes and dreams and fears. She cries as she talks about her father, and now she doesn’t feel awkward as her puts an arm around her.
He leaves early next morning, kissing her goodbye. She even comes out to the car and tells him that she thought it was a really special night. She feels they connected on a level she didn’t expect. He drives away, and on the way back he passes the field where the bronzed cannons and tanks remain, though the stage has been taken apart. You wouldn’t even know it was ever there.
He then never hears from her again.
He goes over his past messages looking for clues, because if he finds a pattern there, he can fix things.
Maybe she’s just lost her phone, or run out of credit, or can’t get to a computer.
Maybe she had regrets. Or fears. Or doubts. He got too close and she felt exposed, like an overstripped wire that no longer carries a charge.
Maybe she just didn’t really care.
To her, it wasn’t a special night. It was a one-night stand and next weekend she’ll do the same thing again with someone else. Salsa will be playing again and she’ll tell this new stranger about her father too. He’ll put an arm round her and she’ll smile while thinking that it’s too soon.
He heads into somewhere dark for a while, analyzing the chain of events with the forced detachment of a detective attending a fatality of someone they know. It’s hard to tell if he’d be better off not knowing, but he stays in that dark place a little too long, and friends have to pull him out with junk food and beer and platitudes. This too shall pass, they say. This too shall pass. He deletes message logs and texts and emails, and pass it does, and after a while, you wouldn’t even know she was ever there.