Stere­op­ti­con

New England Review - - Explorations - Glen Pour­ciau

Weather's gor­geous, so I head down the tree-lined gravel path along the lake to the Melzi gar­dens, slight breeze off the lake. Six years va­ca­tion­ing in the same town, six years on course for the Melzi gar­dens. I've imag­ined the walk for weeks in ad­vance, and I see the en­try, long trail of gray gravel, plane trees stretch­ing ahead as if in ca­dence, green moun­tains in the dis­tance, lake rip­pling end­lessly, ex­tend­ing out of sight. I pay the ad­mis­sion fee, take the path, and look for a bench to sit on to con­sciously ab­sorb the sur­round­ings. If I don't the words will carry me away and I'll only dimly see where I am through the noise in my head. Benches near the path, none in use, views of the lake, clean air, oc­ca­sional crunch of gravel un­der the feet of passersby. I choose one, trees on both sides of my field of vi­sion, and let my eyes rest on the lake. Af­ter sev­eral min­utes I close my eyes and vi­su­al­ize the wa­ter, words lurk­ing in the back­ground, but I don't hear them at ev­ery mo­ment.

When I'm as re­laxed as I'm go­ing to be I get up, much to see, paths to walk at dif­fer­ent el­e­va­tions with broader views. I stop at the oc­tag­o­nal open-air tem­ple, four open door­ways, walk in­side, alone in the tem­ple with air and lake, en­joy­ing the space around me, glance over my shoul­der to see if ap­proach­ing gravel crunch­ers will turn to­ward me, but they go by. No boats are pass­ing, clear sight of the moun­tains on the op­po­site side, no en­gine noise, move­ment of trees, breeze blow­ing through them and over me.

I con­tinue on my way, on the path to the villa, small pond there with lily pads, not as spec­tac­u­lar as the pond at Monet's gar­dens but not a frac­tion as crowded. Here you can take in the lily pads in peace, no orgy of tourists snap­ping photos, a lake view in front of you and the villa be­hind. No cam­era with me, hands free, alone, my eyes guid­ing me. The win­dows of the villa are shut­tered, the house closed to the public, and I won­der what it looks like in­side and think that as many times as I've passed through I might be rec­og­nized, some­one in­side the villa might push open a set of shut­ters and in­vite me in for a look. It's you again, we've missed you, come in for a glass of wine and a chat. You're alone this time, tell us about it, we want to know. I turn away from the day­dream and make my way to the en­try on the Lop­pia side.

The small struc­ture where you pay to en­ter is un­oc­cu­pied, as it has been on ev­ery visit I've made. The woman who works there sits nearby in a chair un­der a shade tree, a book in hand, the same woman ev­ery year, I'm pretty sure, and I smile when she looks up, glad to see her still read­ing and soak­ing up the shade. Since I don't speak her lan­guage I ges­ture that I want to go out and later come

back in. She gets it, nods, and her at­ten­tion re­turns to her book.

I walk to the res­tau­rant just out­side the gate, too early for me for lunch, but I park my­self at a small ta­ble on their nar­row pa­tio and or­der a beer. Across the street is the cov­ered ve­randa where they serve food and to the left a small ma­rina. I'll eat here one night for din­ner but for now I sip my beer and look out at the ve­randa, the ta­bles set, a hand­ful oc­cu­pied, green­ery on top of the per­gola and sur­round­ing the din­ing area. I watch the boats idle in the ma­rina and the sway­ing trees above the walls of the gar­den. Oc­ca­sion­ally a car drives slowly by on the road be­tween the res­tau­rant and the ve­randa. Only one other ta­ble on the pa­tio, un­oc­cu­pied, and the two empty chairs at the ta­ble add to my sense of be­ing at ease, no strangers ask­ing me where I'm from and where I'm stay­ing and for how long.

Af­ter I've swal­lowed the last of my beer I put enough money to cover the bill un­der my glass and re­turn to the gar­dens. The woman with the book glances up when she hears the gravel and then con­tin­ues read­ing, and I as­cend to one of the higher paths, veg­e­ta­tion dense in some places around the path, cooler and damper, dif­fer­ent out­looks. I en­joy the ef­fort of the climb, feel­ing the air, paus­ing to look around, no one ap­proach­ing.

When I reach the point where I can see the tem­ple I stop and try to ab­sorb the vista well enough to re­call it when I'm at home, not like a photo but as if it were alive around me. A cou­ple that could be more or less my age ap­pears on the low path and the woman is drawn to the tem­ple, moves to­ward it and goes up the shal­low steps. She stands in the mid­dle of the tem­ple and looks at the lake, her com­pan­ion walk­ing up be­hind her and stand­ing near but not too close, giv­ing her space to feel the open­ness. She turns to her left, ninety de­grees, wind in her long hair, tilts her chin up and lifts her arms as if spread­ing her wings. I take a sud­den step to­ward her, my leg hits a shrub, and I al­most fall. I close my eyes, the sight of her arms in the air, her head an­gled slightly up, crushes me. Yet I open my eyes and look at her again and see that her arms re­main aloft. I shift my feet to get my bal­ance. She at last drops her arms and I let out a breath, her low­ered arms have re­leased me. I start walk­ing again, drained by the sight of the cou­ple, es­pe­cially her, in fact only her.

I fol­low the path down, over a bridge that crosses a larger pond with lily pads, a bench close by, but I won't sit in it to­day, another time, the gravel path leads me out. I take the prom­e­nade along the lake, but I'm sud­denly worn out and take a seat on a bench that seems to be wait­ing for me to crash on it, no hurry, catch my breath. The cou­ple is un­likely to emerge from the gar­dens and walk in front of me; they've prob­a­bly just en­tered.

A man strides by, be­tween me and the lake, walk­ing much faster and more in­tently than any­one else around, stir­ring up a racket with the gravel, head­ing away from town, but in­stead of con­tin­u­ing he piv­ots and turns around and paces back in the di­rec­tion he came from, a stormy look on his twisted face. I ex­pect him to again turn and come this way, and af­ter cov­er­ing a long dis­tance I do see him re­verse and start the process over. What­ever rooms he lives or stays in are

not big enough to con­tain what's bot­tled up in­side him, and the closer he gets to me the more an­noy­ing he be­comes. I don't want his tram­pling in my head, and I see that other peo­ple are be­gin­ning to take no­tice of his air of up­heaval. Some­one should tap him on the shoul­der and ask how long he in­tends to stir up dust, but no one gets near him. I'm not ready to get to my feet. I'm stuck with his pac­ing and I can only do my best to ig­nore him. I close my eyes, feel my breath. I stay this way un­til it comes to me that I don't hear him, he's gone, in­ner forces have car­ried him away.

Still, the pacer lingers in my mind and I ask my­self why. The sound of his foot­steps stays with me, and de­spite my aver­sion, my mind joins with him and paces along on the same path. I curse him and blot out his im­age with the lake. I stand and walk closer to it, watch a ferry float past, some­one on deck wav­ing. I al­most took off straight to­ward the woman in the tem­ple, get a grip, what would she have thought if she'd seen me?

I walk away from the mem­ory, re­turn to the ho­tel, the same ho­tel where I've stayed for years and al­ways in the same type of room, lake view, small ter­race, large bed. In the room I shed my clothes and put on my robe. I open the ter­race door and stretch my­self out on the bed, on my back, eyes shut, try­ing to sleep, but my mind won't leave me alone.

I see the pacer im­pos­ing his pri­vate tur­moil into the tran­quil land­scape, blur­ring my view of the lake and the moun­tains be­yond. I see my­self in his shoes, pac­ing to­ward the woman in the tem­ple but think­ing bet­ter of it and walk­ing away from her be­fore turn­ing back. I tell my­self she is not the woman I'm think­ing of, though some­thing still draws me to her as if she were. Could it have been her? Can I al­low my­self to think along these lines? Did the staff at the re­cep­tion desk look at me strangely when I walked in? They could have been re­act­ing to my ha­rassed look, or did they want to tell me some­thing, pos­si­bly that she had ar­rived at the ho­tel? For a mo­ment I imag­ine her ly­ing next to me, but I don't let the thought take hold.

I stand and go to the ter­race, sit in the chair and look out at the lake. One of my neigh­bors is stand­ing on the ter­race to my left. She glances at my robe, but I don't look at her, don't nod or say hello. I gaze at the lake, or try to, but the im­age that comes to me is again the woman at the tem­ple, a lit­tle too heavy and the hair too long to be her. But peo­ple do let their hair grow and they do gain weight. Her face was par­tially ob­scured by sun­glasses, but did some­thing in me know it was her? I've never seen her hus­band. I'd made a de­ci­sion not to form an im­age of them to­gether and never at­tempted to find out any­thing about him, in­clud­ing what he looks like, but now I want to know if it was him, to see him and to see her. I could dress and go down to the front desk and let them get a look at me and see what hap­pens. Maybe one or two of them worked at the ho­tel when we stayed here as a cou­ple. One of them could re­mem­ber, though it's been a few years, and the per­son who re­mem­bers could tell the other staff. They'd likely as­sume we hadn't planned to stay here at the same time and they'd won­der how we'd re­act to the sight of each other. How would it be at

the break­fast buf­fet if we found our­selves in close prox­im­ity at the cof­fee pots or the eggs and sausage? Would she feel ob­li­gated to ask me to join them? Would I be able to stop look­ing at her? Would I be able to swal­low my food? I'd be­come ob­sessed with what they were say­ing and think­ing. I didn't know if I could go down to break­fast with these thoughts in mind, un­less I went down first thing. If she is here she'd never come down early, she'd have to drink two cups of cof­fee in the room be­fore she got go­ing. But do I want to spend my va­ca­tion dodg­ing them with­out know­ing if there's any­one to dodge? On the other hand, can I put the pos­si­bil­ity of her be­ing here aside? Will she and her hus­band emerge at any mo­ment on the ter­race to my right, the sight of her knock­ing me out of my chair? Maybe I should have charged down the hill and con­fronted her, looked her square in the face to set­tle the mat­ter, suf­fer­ing mo­men­tary em­bar­rass­ment in­stead of be­ing left with doubts and ques­tions that plague me. Did the woman re­sem­ble her? Was there some­thing about her height, gait, and shape that struck me as fa­mil­iar at a sub­con­scious level, some­thing that pro­voked my feet to move un­til the shrub halted their mo­men­tum and snapped me half­way out of my trance?

My sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity mounts as I wait for the ter­race door on my right to open. I rise and hurry into the room. I put on my clothes, take the el­e­va­tor down, and ask the woman at the desk if I have any mes­sages. She asks my name and room num­ber, does some check­ing, then says she has noth­ing for me. Her face looks straight­for­ward to me, no con­cealed nar­ra­tive show­ing through, so I go out­side for a walk, this time away from the Melzi gar­dens.

I don't get far be­fore I de­cide to sit on a bench; the idea of hik­ing up the hill wea­ries me. I have trou­ble fo­cus­ing my at­ten­tion on the lake, pedes­tri­ans walk in front of me and bugs land on my face, but mainly my pre­oc­cu­pa­tions dis­tract me, one of which is where I can safely eat din­ner with­out run­ning into her and her hus­band. I couldn't go to our fa­vorite places, which are also my fa­vorite places, be­cause those are the ex­act places she'd be most likely to re­serve a ta­ble. I'd find it dif­fi­cult to eat, might have to bolt, and an early exit wouldn't be enough to cure me. I could feel com­pelled to leave town rather than face the prospect of other chance meet­ings. If we saw each other again would she think I was stalk­ing her? What would I say? I can't imag­ine a con­ver­sa­tion with her and her hus­band, though there is noth­ing I want more than to speak with her. On both of our vis­its here we took a tour of the lake in a wa­ter taxi. I'd thought of tak­ing the tour this year, hav­ing skipped it on my last three trips. What if she and her hus­band were to book the same tour at the same time? The boat would seem un­bear­ably crowded, we'd never be able to keep our minds on our sur­round­ings, we'd be sub­merged in our thoughts. Would her hus­band look at me and then at her and then at me and so forth, won­der­ing what he should think as he swiveled his head? I wouldn't know what I should be think­ing as I watched his head swivel and nei­ther would she. I'd be try­ing not to look at her, she'd be try­ing not to look at me, but we'd look any­way, if only fleet­ingly. I might as well leave town as tor­ment my­self with fan­tasy en­coun­ters. I'll book the wa­ter taxi, what are the

odds she'll be on the boat, and af­ter it leaves the dock I'll be as­sured that for the tour's du­ra­tion I won't see them and I can sa­vor my time on the lake.

As I sit with the lake in full view I ask my­self why I re­turn here ev­ery year. I avoid say­ing her name to my­self, avoid remembering her im­age, but I re­peat­edly re­turn to a place with mem­o­ries of her. Are my fears of see­ing her some twisted form of wish­ful think­ing? She tried and failed to en­dure me, grew tired of my ag­i­ta­tion. Her body, she said, was no longer with me. She couldn't ac­cept the way I was and couldn't con­vince her­self that I'd ever be any dif­fer­ent. I might be on my best be­hav­ior for a pe­riod of time, but in­side I'd al­ways be the same. My mind could never quit be­ing it­self, she said, but not in an un­kind way. It sounded as if she felt cured of an ail­ment, the ail­ment be­ing me, or as if her body had re­jected a trans­planted or­gan. She had no hos­til­ity in her, noth­ing but kind­ness and com­pas­sion, and I couldn't dis­agree with any­thing she'd said. You're al­ways telling your­self the wrong story, she told me, a state­ment that has stayed with me. Her as­sess­ment of what was good for her seemed painfully true, but I knew she was good for me and I couldn't ac­cept that she'd given up on us.

Ear­lier when I'd passed through the ho­tel lobby I re­mem­bered an evening we'd called a taxi to take us to the res­tau­rant by the Melzi gar­dens. I went out­side to wait for the taxi three or four min­utes be­fore it was sched­uled, look­ing up and down the street and check­ing my watch. She sat in the lobby read­ing a news­pa­per she'd picked up off a ta­ble. He'll let us know when he gets here, she said, sug­gest­ing that I sit with her and re­lax. By the time the taxi ar­rived I was wound up and she was calm and fresh, though some­what dis­turbed by the ten­sion I'd in­jected into the air.

We'd been to the Melzi gar­dens for the first time that morn­ing and she'd loved the place from the be­gin­ning. I loved be­ing there too, but my thoughts kept run­ning be­tween the gar­dens and their sur­round­ings. When we reached the tem­ple she went to the cen­ter of it and spread her arms like wings and closed her eyes and let the wind blow over her. I could see the beauty of the tem­ple and I felt the wind on my skin, but not with the same di­rect­ness that she did. I watched her, won­der­ing what it must be like, and I turned my head, not want­ing to dis­tract her from that mo­ment, a mo­ment I couldn't for­get.

My way of liv­ing seemed in­fe­rior to hers. Af­ter all, what were we here for? Not that ask­ing the ques­tion changed the way I was. And to­day I saw the woman drawn to the tem­ple, spread­ing her arms, and I started to­ward her. Had I, in some way, been wait­ing for that mo­ment? It made sense that she'd re­turn to a place she loved and that she'd re­mem­ber stand­ing in the tem­ple.

I re­sume my walk, hike up the hill to the twelfth-cen­tury church off the pi­azza, a good place to sit qui­etly, get away from peo­ple, a few tourists pass­ing through, one or two towns­peo­ple pray­ing, but high ceil­ings, open space around you, no sou­venir shop selling CDS of hymns. I sit in an empty pew, no one else seated near me. I hear a cou­ple ap­proach­ing from be­hind, and I don't turn and ex­pose my face to them but look at the stone floor. When they pass I take a peek, the woman is not her, too young.

I re­turn my at­ten­tion to the floor, my fear of see­ing her wear­ing on me. I need to re­mem­ber not to hold my breath in self-in­flicted sus­pense, noth­ing mov­ing around me, watch the floor or the al­tar, set­tle into the peace­ful­ness of the church, the place is a refuge, don't fight against the rea­son I came here.

I hear another cou­ple com­ing up the aisle, hear a voice just above a whis­per and my breath catches in my throat be­fore I know it. I cut my eyes to­ward them as they pass and see the cou­ple from the Melzi gar­dens, their eyes on the al­tar. I look closer and see that it is her, hair longer, pulled back, her ear and cheek­bone, I know that the ear and cheek­bone be­long to her. I have to get out, but I don't want to bolt sud­denly and stir up a wind or stum­ble over the pew. I don't know if I have enough com­mand of my­self to rise with­out mak­ing a sound, but I have to get up, on my feet, care­ful with my foot­steps, eyes on the door.

I'm in the sun, as I walk imag­in­ing my­self on the ferry with my bags, taxi to the train sta­tion, but I stop. I re­mem­ber the first time I called her, out of prac­tice call­ing any­one, didn't know what I would say, but I knew I was call­ing, I had to, there was no telling my­self I wouldn't, I ac­cepted my fate, I was go­ing to call her. And now I'm go­ing to stand here wait­ing, I can't walk down that hill and for­get I've seen her, I'd run around look­ing for her again and that would be ridicu­lous, even I know that.

Af­ter a few min­utes I'm afraid I'm sweat­ing too much, it's warm but not that warm, but come hell or high sweat I'm stay­ing. And then the church door opens, here she is, her hus­band a step ahead of her, block­ing her line of sight. I take a step to the side so that she can see me. Her eyes are on him at first, but she senses that some­one is look­ing at her, me, she sees me. I'm shak­ing, but my feet are rooted. Her hus­band doesn't know yet that his wife has ceased fol­low­ing him, but then he sees my eyes on her and he looks over his shoul­der and sees that she's far­ther be­hind him than ex­pected. She no­tices that he has turned and she starts to­ward him, or is it to­ward me? She catches up with him, they speak, he takes her arm with­out giv­ing me another look, with­out show­ing a re­ac­tion to the news, ad­mirable re­straint. Un­der­cur­rents are show­ing in her, the sight of me soak­ing in, and I see a smile com­ing as they get closer. I'm not fol­low­ing you, I say, I come here ev­ery year. He smiles, says his first name, which I can't quite hear, and of­fers his hand. Big shoul­ders, big hand, I shake it, iron grip, but he doesn't try to yank my arm off at the el­bow, the sore­ness will wear off, I'll re­cover. I've heard a lot about you, he says, and the words idle in the air. We ex­change small talk about where we're stay­ing, and I barely hear my own voice, but it sinks in that they're in a dif­fer­ent ho­tel, one just down the road from mine. He can tell I'm as­sess­ing him and I know he's as­sess­ing me, no an­i­mos­ity show­ing in him and I hope none in me as I at­tempt to de­ter­mine how strong the con­nec­tion is be­tween them. It's safer to look at him first than at her, but it won't last, she's look­ing at me, and when I look at her I can't see any­thing else around her. I can't tell her I miss her, noth­ing I can think of to say seems

ap­pro­pri­ate with him there, and I think he senses it. Then he sur­prises me.

I'll let you two talk, he says and puts his hand on my shoul­der. I'll see you at the ho­tel, he tells her. He kisses her on the cheek and leaves us. You've got a nice guy there, I say. He is a nice guy. We've been see­ing each other for about two months. You're not mar­ried? I got a di­vorce, not too long ago. Not long enough. I hadn't heard. How have you been? she asks. Be­ing here makes me think about you. More than usual.

I don't want to let her see me cry, not now, and I don't want her to hear me howl­ing, nor do I want to hear my­self howl­ing, and some­thing like far­away howl­ing is go­ing on in­side me.

I've been the way I al­ways am, I ad­mit, no point in ly­ing, she'd know it if I did. You're still with me, she says. It's al­most the same thing as be­ing to­gether. Not ex­actly. It sounds like it. She doesn't dis­agree, which gives me hope. You thought we were the wrong story. But do we al­ways know for sure which story is the wrong one? You thought your hus­band was the right story, didn't you, but he wasn't.

You could be right, she an­swers, and she doesn't look as if her body's about to re­ject an or­gan. Did your boyfriend ever com­pete in the shot put? He did in col­lege. How did you know? Just a guess, some­thing about his grip. Has he ever picked you up in one hand and held you on top of his right shoul­der? No, but it's funny, I've imag­ined him do­ing just that. Maybe I've left a mark on you. Maybe you have. Look­ing back, you do seem fun­nier. I never knew you thought I was funny at all. Just barely, she says. She takes one long step and em­braces me, her eyes let­ting me in closer, her chin over my shoul­der, and my arms are around her, my chin is up, a howl ris­ing from my chest. I sti­fle the howl be­fore I make a spec­ta­cle of both of us, but more of it is ready to come out, maybe when I'm in the room and the sound's turned up on the tele­vi­sion.

She lets me go and starts away, not be­cause of the howl, which seems to tickle her, but why the rush? I want to say some­thing to make her stay.

I'll think about it, she says, rais­ing her arm to­ward me, not like a wave but more like imag­in­ing that she's still touch­ing me.

I can tell you one good thing about me, I say, but she knows what it is be­fore I say it.

I know you do, she says, and I watch her as she walks down the hill.

I stay in my room that night and or­der room ser­vice for din­ner. I pick at my food and put the tray aside. The sit­u­a­tion may work out, I have to wait, but for how long and how long are they stay­ing? I can't get to sleep, can't stop rolling over, on my side, on my stom­ach, on my back, on my side again. I get up and pace, and af­ter a while the phone rings and a voice says the guests be­low have com­plained that my foot­steps are keep­ing them awake. I sit up in bed think­ing that what­ever will hap­pen is not part of a plan, nor was see­ing her again, nor was her di­vorce, I'm at the mercy of cir­cum­stance and what­ever mark I've left on her that could af­fect what she de­cides. She knows I'm wait­ing, but I hope she won't rush her de­ci­sion, don't leave me again, I won't come back here alone.

At break­fast I get the far cor­ner ta­ble on the ter­race, the one most dis­tant from the food and drink ta­bles. One small plate of food, don't want to eat much, and I watch birds land on nearby ta­bles when food is left unat­tended, their beaks peck­ing at plates, pick­ing up pieces of bread and fly­ing off. If she comes now she can guess where to find me, but should I stay in the ho­tel all day, not know­ing if she'll come at all? If I leave I could miss her and I can't go to her ho­tel and seek her out. She has to make up her mind at her own pace and we can't have the boyfriend hov­er­ing around us when she tells me. I'll stay at the ho­tel or close by, that's the plan un­til I grow tired of stew­ing and then I'll see about tak­ing a walk.

I don't go straight up to my room af­ter break­fast but go out the side door where I can see her ho­tel down the road. I don't see her com­ing, not on the lake side or on the side with the shops. Will think­ing of my men­tal pro­cesses weigh on her and work against me? What will she be let­ting her­self in for if she takes me back? Can she be with me with­out a cu­mu­la­tive ex­haus­tion over­tak­ing her? She will come, I don't know, out of my hands, ease up on the grind­ing.

I get my­self back into the ho­tel and up the el­e­va­tor. My room has been cleaned, my bed made. I sit on the bed and make an ef­fort to steady my­self. I have to put on a good face for her, I must con­trol my­self or I could scare her away. I don't want to go any­where else at the mo­ment, I want to be here, to be still, do­ing noth­ing, the urge to pace is cur­rently dor­mant, don't imag­ine her be­ing back, let the sit­u­a­tion un­fold.

The phone startles me when I hear it. I pick it up, the front desk tells me she's here and wants to know if she can come up. I say yes and hang up, my mind loud and rac­ing. I'm at the door when she knocks, and I pull it open and step back, don't crowd her, swing the door shut. We walk into the room and she stud­ies my face be­fore speak­ing. I don't know if I should of­fer her a chair, un­sure if she plans a dis­cus­sion or a state­ment. We're both ner­vous and I can't hide it, I want to hear her voice.

I told him I wouldn't get in bed with you or kiss you on the mouth. I have to con­sider him too.

I can't be­lieve she said that. It's not like her, but I take it that her feel­ings could be as raw as mine.

I'm will­ing to try, she says, mo­men­tum gath­ered in her words. How much longer will you be in town? We're leav­ing to­mor­row. I can't think right now, but it's less than a week. Call me when you get back. I've missed you, she says, her com­po­sure wa­ver­ing as if she's made an ad­mis­sion.

I go to the bed and sit on its edge, gulp­ing air. She fills a glass in the bath­room and brings it to me. I gulp the wa­ter down and then I'm through with gulp­ing for the time be­ing. I don't want to tell her I've been a wreck with­out her. She al­ready knows any­way, bet­ter than I do prob­a­bly.

She takes the glass from my hand, where it has been wob­bling, puts it on the night­stand and sits be­side me. She holds me and I hold her. I feel lucky, I say, my voice sur­pris­ingly strong and clear. I like it that you said that, she says, her hand on my head as she re­leases me. She stands and walks to the door. You need some time to set­tle down, and I do too. But don't for­get, she says be­fore shut­ting the door, you'll be with me again soon.

I don't want her to go, but I know she's right, I need time to ad­just. She of­ten knows and un­der­stands me bet­ter than I do. I'd wanted Lana to an­swer one ques­tion as we sat to­gether on the bed, but I was afraid to ask. I wanted to know what she could pos­si­bly see in me.

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