Sunday, February 12, 2012


To me, almost every romantic song sounds creepy ("If I was invisible, I could just watch you in your room."). I guess the line between obsession and love can be thin. So, I thought I would write a short story about that idea, as is my wont.

I saw her first at the airport. She wore a dark suit and a crease in her brow as she stared up at the monitors displaying flight information. She glanced down at her ticket, then up at the board again, with one fist clutched around a small bag she carried. It’s funny, how the memory is engraved in exacting detail in my mind. I can see the pale green and blue patterned tiles beneath her mary janes. I can see the man buying a sandwich at Panera Bread behind her as he barked into his cell phone. I can see a child swinging on his mother’s arm above her shoulder. I see those pale lips, the lower slightly curled under the upper as she tugged at it with her teeth. And her brown irises, so dark that only occasional rays of light could brighten them beyond blackness.

I don’t know what it was that made her so prominent, so unforgettable, but the moment I saw her, I knew I could not lose her. I wanted to touch her arm, caress that tawny cheek, whisper into that curvaceous ear. But, I could do none of those things. I could only stare, gears turning rapidly in attempt to find some way to accomplish my desires.

She felt my eyes on her. I could tell by those fleeting glances beneath her long, midnight eyelashes. She turned to leave.

“What time is it,” I blurted, attempting to add a few more precious seconds of her presence. She wore a gold watch that was too big for her tiny wrist. She lifted it to her eyes, unaware that the time was not only displayed on the monitor we had just been staring at but on a large face clock above the aforementioned Panera Bread.

“6:23,” she informed me incorrectly after glancing down to her wrist. It was 4:39. She had misinterpreted the watch hands as she was not used to a face clock. The yellow was tarnished, which meant that the watch had to be a family heirloom handed down if she was so inept at using it. It was her father’s, judging by the size. And, by the way she clutched at it, her father had been important to her, but was now dead.

“Thanks,” I said breathlessly as she quickly walked away. I turned around, as to not alarm her that I was watching her, but I could not ignore the soft clack as her shoes impacted the ground. She was tired and walking heavily. It must have been a long day.

It would be a longer one for me. I didn’t know her name or where she was from. All I had was her face, her voice, and three numbers, but I would find her. I would know her, as I knew I must.

It was not so difficult. I could narrow down cities based on a departure time after 6:23, one displayed in the middle board of the gate information, and one with a gate larger than B23. Three cities fit the bill.

She was an academic, by her bearing and the untastefully heavy suit she wore. She had been interviewing for a position, as she was too young for much else and her eyes betrayed her uncertainty.

There were thirteen universities in those three cities, and I scoured through them all. I looked through every picture, eyes scanning for those distinctive eyes and pale lips. Days passed, but I did not hunger for sleep or food when my soul yearned for her alone.

She came up in a crowd. There was a lecture given by a political candidate, and she stood in the background with a t-shirt with Schrodinger’s cat on it. She was an undergraduate physics major then. While the photo did not list her name, the physics department page did list on their graduating seniors which included ten women. Seven of them had pictures that were not her. The other three were still mysteries.

Two were going to graduate school. One was going to medical school. The pre-medical society had a web page displaying a photo of all seniors applying. It was barely two inches tall and included forty people. However, those thirty-seven pixels that made up that face let me know I had found her.

It did not list what medical school she had decided to attend, however, I knew whatever it was, I would have to be there with her as soon as possible.

Waking from a daze, I found a new flight home, and immediately afterwards enrolled in a university. The next year and a half passed in a blur. I took more classes than any advisor wished to let me. I wheedled my way into classes without the required pre-requisistes. I studied until I collapsed, then studied more. I aced the MCAT, received astounding letters of recommendation, and applied to only one medical school, the one I now found displayed her dark eyes on their list of first-year students.

I received an invitation to interview, and I practiced for it with reckless abandon. I researched all the admissions committee, learning what personas they looked for and how to gain their respect.  I fine-tuned my body language, learning how to seamlessly shift personalities to fit better with who I was talking to.

I arrived at the school all but breathless. The other applicants and I were introduced to many of the students, but not her. The only glance I caught of her was in the lecture hall where she studiously scribbled into a notebook on the first row. She was right there, barely a hundred feet in front of me. And, within a few months, we would be fellow students. I would know her.

My interview went perfectly, as I knew it would. I had my acceptance a few weeks later. Within a few months, I was there with her.

As she was a year farther along, we shared none of our classes. However I planned spontaneous meetings a few times a week. I would observe her with her friends. I would read into her thoughts. I felt her heart beat in mine at every turn. I saw how she smiled when she was sad, how she squeezed her toes when she upset, how her eyes lit up when she was happy. I saw that although her friends called her the robot with good will, her eyes clouded slightly when they denounced her as emotionless. I knew she felt, but did so carefully and fearfully.

I learned and read her favorite books. I watched her favorite movies and plays. I learned how to mountain bike, like she did. I learned how to paint like she did. I espoused her same political ideals. I spoke of a universal force of humanity, like she did. I became like her.

I learned how to play the guitar, since she expressed the desire to learn. I learned how to speak Mandarin, like she wished to learn. I became what she wanted to be.

And then, slowly and carefully, I inched into her social circle. I smiled at all the right times, gave compliments I could see penetrated her to her core, needled jokingly to see that contrary smile as she needled me right back, and then I invited her to a dinner and a movie that I knew she would want to see but hadn’t heard of.

We talked long after the movie, and she went home. She said she had an anatomy test and needed to study. I lied to her and said I had a friend who had made up notes for the test from a few years ago. I gave her twelve pages of study notes I had worked on for the last week.

I called her after her big test in anatomy later that week. She took me out for ice cream and told me to thank my friend. I said I would. We held hands. Her flesh entwined in mine. Her skin so soft and close, and warm like the breath of angels.

We spoke for a long time, as we talked medicine and life.  I could see something new in her eyes when she looked at me. She recognized that I was the perfect fit for her, but I knew any quick move would send her fleeing. Instead, I thanked her. She went home.

Then we went hiking over a long weekend. I explain the flora and fauna I had studied for the sole purpose of describing it to her. She was enthralled, and she concentrated deeply on each factoid with that same wrinkle in her brow when she stared up at the monitors three years ago.

It was at the peak of the mountain, with the sun shining down on us, that she sat close to me. Sweat shone on her face as her cheeks flushed a pure pink. Her eyes were lit from within, rendering them beautifully copper. She looked at me meaningfully, as our conversation reached a lull.

Then, quickly, she placed her lips to my cheek. The wind had dehydrated the pair of lips, leaving them rough against my bare skin, but the motion was as tender as newly shooted grass. She retreated from the kiss just as swiftly as she entered it, flushing red. I turned to her, and pressed my lips to her cheek without a moment's hesitation.

We both smiled goofily as we held each other hands and proclaimed our romantic maturity that of a middle schooler’s with self-effacing mirth, as I knew she would need.

Months and years elapsed as we grew closer, inching together with machine-like precision. We both went into surgery, her neurosurgery and I, cardiac. I helped her apply to residencies, promising to meet her next year.

We e-mailed often when she left and visited each other with every holiday. When I was matched to the same hospital as she to do my residency, we decided we should move in together. By the time she finished her residency, we decided to get married. By the time I finished mine, we were.

We practiced in the same hospital, passing each other in the halls with special smiles sometimes as we headed  off to here or there. But there was something that was missing. I knew we must have a child together.

She was opposed, as I knew she would be. Neurosurgery was enough to fill a person’s plate without a child, but I knew what had to be. So, I worked slowly. I mentioned other people’s children. I suggested that her mother call her off and ask about grandchildren. I talked about how great it would be to have another person like her in the world. I talked about how we could both care for the child, and she would only miss a small amount of work for delivery.

She beat me back at all attempts, furiously at first, but then less vehemently. Then, as she began to develop a solid practice and the stress of her life died down, she relented.

Now, I watch her breathe in sleep as her swollen stomach rises and falls like a tide. The moonlight dances in her raven hair. Her eyelashes cast shadows on her rosy cheeks. I let my hand linger against her flesh, feeling the warmth. I realize now that she is mine. More than a decade had past since I realized I wanted her, and now, I have her, heart and soul. And our child.

I got her, as I knew I would.

I rise from the bed silently. She does not notice, still smiling sweetly in her dreams. I walk calmly to our kitchen, already stocked with baby bottles and child-proof drawers. One such drawer I open and pull out a gleaming filleting knife. I check the silver edge with my thumb, drawing a red pool from the digit. The thin metal is as sharp as death.

I walk back to the bedroom. My thumb drips with every few paces, leaving a trail of blood as I go. The red impacts the bamboo parquet floors with a force that sent tendrils flying out to the eggshell walls and capped electrical outlets. Their steady arrival acts as a metronome to my measured steps.

Despite myself, I am breathing quickly. My heart beats faster and faster. I did not think of this conclusion, but I now realize it’s the only ending to be had. Romantic. Poetic. Tragic. She would understand. She was always so picky about endings in movies and books; she needed catharsis, character development, and change to feel satisfied.

I linger at the door for a moment. Her hands rest over the bulge of the belly, embracing her unborn child. I wonder if she dreams of her, with that gentle smile on her face of nothing less than tranquil peace. Despite her protestations, I knew her soul is that of a mother.

I take a step closer. I feel the knife in my palm like an extension of my heart. It beats in turn with my rapid pulse. It is no use trying to calm myself now, not when I am so close.

I lean over the bed and I kiss those tender lips for the last time. She does not wake, but smiles further. Then, I raise the knife.

As I place it, those dark eyes open in abject horror. They are wider than I had ever seen eyes reach. They look, without comprehension. That little crease in her brow is there, like all those years ago. I cannot look away from those black eyes and the blood spreads across her, bubbling up like a  mountain spring.

Then, I collapse. I cannot stand anymore. She stumbles from the bloody bed, grabbing for the phone. She dials 911 and holds it with her shoulder as she leans over me the best she can with her wide belly.

She holds her hand over my neck, attempting to staunch the blood that will not be stopped. She may not be a cardiac surgeon, but she knows I have severed my cartoid artery and jugular vein. She could do nothing.

She repeats one letter sentences. No. Why. Please. Sam.

I look up at her. It won’t be long. My peripheral vision darkens. Sounds mute. Already, she is receding, as I fall back into darkness. Everything fades away.

I can’t speak, but I still I move my lips to form one sentence. “Because of you, Isidora.”

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