The dinner party starts in one hour but she insists. And I cannot refuse. I have never been able to. I am weak when I am near her.
She looks to me, a stern and intent look. “I must,” she says simply. Her curly dark hair pulled up, an armless black dress silhouetting her thin figure. There is a great strength in her exposed arms, in her heels, the solid black that accentuates a solid line. She is a vision of perfection, every curl a perfect ring, everything just as it should be. In one hour, I will sit across from her as she converses with the bespectacled man on her left, laughing with the blond woman on her right. I will watch her smile, her outstretched fingers move about as she talks. I will watch her eyes narrow as she discusses the book she is reading, the presidential candidates or what constitutes “good design.” Later in the evening, we will dance and I will hold her body close to mine, hoping that by letting all of my love surround her, she will forget her strength, and she will never leave me.
I tell her that now is not the time for this, but her look says she will not be deterred or persuaded otherwise. She reaches out and rests her fingers on my chest. “I don’t know why. I don’t know why now, but I must. I must do it. I know it will make us late but I must do it now,” she says and smiles. She knows that all she has to do is ask. I want to make her happy.
I return her smile, for I am weak within her vulnerability. I must give her what she desires. She lights a cigarette and slowly sits in the chair. I ease behind her, my hand grazing the top of her shoulder, her skin soft to the touch, but I do not look at her as she slides deep into the chair, her left hand gripping the arm. I reach down with my right hand and push the silver lever, and the machine winds itself into a whirl, and a beam of light shoots forth, illuminating the wall. The film begins to turn on the metal reels, moving across the light. I swallow, deliberately, for I cannot bear what we are about to witness, yet I cannot turn my eyes from the screen.
I feel her breathe, almost in time with my own breath. On the screen, in a faded purple shirt, he is sitting behind a birthday cake, three yellow candles awash in yellow flames. Her hand comes into the frame and moves the cake slightly. He smiles and looks to the camera. Her face appears, curly dark hair pulled back, and kisses him on his head, her right hand brushes the spot where her lips had just been.
As the film projector vibrates beneath me, I whisper that it is time to go.
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