A visitor

River’s a good choice

I was lying awake trying to decide what to do next given my failure, when a doorway drew itself on the wall — there’s no other way to describe it. It opened out to a terrace, a lawn and hedges behind it.

A rustling sound grew louder as an angel drifted down, alighting on the terrace. He pulled in his wings and came through the doorway. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. His spoke very clearly. He sounded like one of my father’s friends. “Forgive me, but when you plunged into the river, they sent me. It’s not necessarily sinful. It depends.” He looked around the room. “You may as well know that the Axis will be defeated. Your empire won’t long survive the war, though, and the repercussions of that will play out here for a long time. Your husband will recover and live on.”

He hovered above the floor in the manner of an Italian painting. “Others leave marks on the floor,” he explained. He paused, then spoke again. “Your reputation is secure.” Another pause. “It may seem incongruous that I’m not trying to talk you out of it, but it’s not like that. People do what they do. Most of it is pointless, but there are exceptions. When they hear of one, I pay a visit — provide a bit of reassurance, knowing how things will go, and some practical advice, if I may. The river’s a good choice, but put some stones in your pockets.”

The suitcase

Turned away, a document demanded that I lack, I’m back in this small room. I should be out asking who to bribe or locating a guide, but do I have the funds? More to the point, would I survive the journey? I will nap and then decide. Ah, but I must be dreaming, because there’s an angel standing here! Am I dead? No, he assures me that I’m not. He’s speaking French, a voice like the baker back in Paris, but softer.

He tells me that if I go tomorrow, they will let me through and I will end up in New York. If I don’t get up tomorrow, then the suitcase I’m carrying will be lost, but everything else will be safe. Some lives are odd, he says, apparently star-crossed and thwarted as you live through them, but in retrospect they make sense.

Now and then, he says, he encounters someone like me, laden down with hastily written notes that just are the fragments of something bigger even than a metropolis and just as discursive. A suitcase weighs not much, but the work itself presses down like so many gold ingots, immensely valuable but no longer supportable.

He pauses, then speaks again, but this time in German, a voice like the porter in a good Berlin hotel. Not every ending is an ending in truth, he says. This is an example: you could press on, suitcase in hand, but everything that matters is behind you. You will have to set it aside for five years, try to make your way in a new language. A project like this not easily set aside, but you’ve given it a separate existence. Here, let me take your suitcase. It’s superfluous, but its aura will linger, part of your reception. There is, he adds, no reason to linger.

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Writer and editor, based in Berkeley, CA.

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