I’ve never been to Vietnam. But I see from her window. Layers of tropic plants bright as noon with a cloud-stained sky. Past the trees, the white porch of a French mansion. The French were here, once; the French were there, once.
She has no curtains. Any French colonel could see us nude. But the colonel is away. He has not been home in some time.
This street is forgotten. It’s the last road to the Zone, the place where the sidewalk ends. Only memories live here, and ghouls, santurists and painters.
Mine is a painter.
Strange noises break the hum. A squeak, the clash of a shutter. Once this was a swamp. Then came the wealthy. We feast on their leavings, like the rats who never left.
I look at her in that sunlight. It’s a cold white light, a half-spring half-rain light. Her den smells like linseed. She has 80 grand of furniture, made by her own hands. She’s not selling.
She looks at me and smiles. I know you, I think. I’ve dreamt of you.
I can’t say the words. What if they’re a lie? I would never lie to a woman but I do lie to myself. What if the words, the dreams are wrong?
I lean back on the bed. In June she goes north; in June I go south. As with all great romance, we are under the threat of destruction. But one doesn’t promise the other.
She mumbles. Maybe “I know you.” I didn’t hear. I hold her hand and I breathe, sweetly drumming, sweetly drumming. One day we’ll be too old for ghost mansions. She’ll have kids and a more reliable man. I’ll have stories and an empty bed. Her great-grandkids will forget her name. Stories get forgotten, too.
Every wave recedes to the ocean, even the Flood, even the Flood.
It all goes to the ocean in the end.