She said, “Hold him.”
The guards gripped his shoulders, straightened his arms.
“It was you. With dye in your hair. You’re Rachel.”
She said, “Don’t flinch,” and sank the needle into his arm. He caught her eye. “You’re an excellent actress. I mean, you really had me, all that stuff about your dear, dead Jim. Very convincing, Rachel.”
She dropped her eyes from his.
“I’m Emily,” she said and pulled the needle out. “You sleep now.”
“Please,” Teddy said.
She paused at the cell door and looked back at him.
“It was you,” he said.
The nod didn’t come from her chin. It came from her eyes, a tiny, downward flick of them, and then she gave him a smile so bereft he wanted to kiss her hair.
“Good night,” she said.
He never felt the guards remove the manacles, never heard them leave. The sounds from the other cells died and the air closest to his face turned amber and he felt as if he were lying on his back in the center of a wet cloud and his feet and hands had turned to sponge. And he dreamed.
And in his dreams he and Dolores lived in a house by a lake.
Because they’d had to leabe the city.
Because the city was mean and violent.
Because she’d lit their apartment on Buttonwood on fire.
Trying to rid it of ghosts.
He dreamed of their love as steel, impervious to fire or rain or the beating of hammers.
He dreamed that Dolores was insane.
And his Rachel said to him one night when he was drunk, but not so drunk that he hadn’t managed to read her a bedtime story, his Rachel said, “Daddy?”
He said, “What, sweetie?”
“Mommy looks at me funny sometimes.”
“It makes you laugh?”
She shook her head.
“No,” she said.
“Well, how’s she look at you, then?”
“Like I make her really sad.”
And he tucked her in and kissed her good night and nuzzled her neck with his nose and told her she didn’t make anyone sad. Wouldn’t, couldn’t. Ever.
ANOTHER NIGHT, HE came to bed and Dolores was rubbing the scars on her wrists and looking at him from the bed and she said, “When you go to the other place, part of you doesn’t come back.” “What other place, honey?” He placed his watch on the bedstand. “And that part of you that does?” She bit her lip and looked like she was about to punch herself in the face with both fists. “Shouldn’t.” SHE THOUGHT THE butcher on the corner was a spy. She said he smiled at her while blood dripped off his cleaver, and she was sure he knew Russian.
She said that sometimes she could feel that cleaver in her breasts. LITTLE TEDDY SAID to him once when they were at Fenway Park, watching the ball game, “We could live here.”
“We do live here.”
“In the park, I mean.”
“What’s wrong with where we live?”
“Too much water.”
Teddy took a hit off his flask. He considered his son. He was a tall boy and strong, but he cried too quickly for a boy his age and he was easily spooked. That was the way kids were growing up these days, overprivileged and soft in a booming economy. Teddy wished that his mother were still alive so she could teach her grandkids you had to get hard, strong. The world didn’t give a shit. It didn’t bestow. It took. Those lessons could come from a man, of course, but it was a woman who instilled them with permanence.
Dolores, though, filled their heads with dreams, fantasies, took them to the movies too much, the circus and carnivals. He took another hit off his flask and said to his son, “Too much water. Anything else?”
HE WOULD SAY to her: “What’s wrong? What don’t I do? What don’t I give you? How can I make you happy?”
And she’d say, “I’m happy.’
“No, you’re not. Tell me what I need to do. I’ll do it.”
“You get so angry. And if you’re not angry, you’re too happy, bouncing off the walls.”
“Which is it?”
“It scares the kids, scares me. You’re not fine.”
“You’re sad all the time.”
“No,” she’d say. “That’s you.”
HE TALKED TO the priest and the priest made a visit or two. He talked to her sisters, and the older one, Delilah, came up from Virginia for a week once, and that seemed to help for a while.
They both avoided any suggestion of doctors. Doctors were for crazy people. Dolores wasn’t crazy. She was just tense. Tense and sad.
TEDDY DREAMED SHE woke him up one night and told him to get his gun. The butcher was in their house, she said. Downstairs in the kitchen. Talking on their phone in Russian.
THAT NIGHT ON the sidewalk in front of the Cocoanut Grove, leaning into the taxi, his face an inch from hers...
He’d looked in and he thought:
I know you. I’ve known you my whole life. I’ve been waiting.
Waiting for you to make an appearance. Waiting all these years.
I knew you in the womb. It was simply that.
He didn’t feel the GI’s desperation to have sex with her before he shipped out because he knew, at that moment, that he’d be coming back from the war. He’d be coming back because the gods didn’t align the stars so you could meet the other half of your soul and then take her away from you.
He leaned into the car and told her this.
And he said, “Don’t worry. I’m coming back home.”
She touched his face with her finger. “Do that, won’t you?”
HE DREAMED HE came home to the house by the lake.
He’d been in Oklahoma. Spent two weeks chasing a guy from the
South Boston docks to Tulsa with about ten stops in between, Teddy
always half a step behind until he literally bumped into the guy as he was coming out of a gas station men’s room.
He walked back in the house at eleven in the morning, grateful that it was a weekday and the boys were in school, and he could feel the road in his bones and a crushing desire for his own pillow. He walked into the house and called out to Dolores as he poured himself a double scotch and she came in from the backyard and said, “There wasn’t enough.”
He turned with his drink in hand and said, “What’s that, hon?” and noticed that she was wet, as if she’d just stepped from the shower, except she wore an old dark dress with a faded floral print. She was barefoot and the water dripped off her hair and dripped off her dress. “Baby,” he said, “why you all wet?”