She had to be convinced to move to Crescent City. They weren’t married yet. He was military, just joined, straight out of boot camp. It was a waiting game for them.
“It sounds like it should be a city on the Moon,” she said. “Crescent City, the Moon, Space.”
“That’s where people would have to address letters to us.”
“I think it would have to be more like, Crescent City, the Moon, the Earth, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Universe. If you really want to get specific about it,” he said. “We’ll go one weekend. To Crescent City, not the moon.”
He brought her to a lighthouse standing on a small piece of windswept land jutting out from the coast. The lighthouse was nothing more than a little house with whitewashed walls, a red-shingled roof. A light set on the roof resembled the top of the long body of some lighthouse out East that had been chopped off and molded onto this dwelling.
On top of that hill, looking out over the water, she thought to herself, I could live here.
He said, “Not bad, huh?”
“Not bad at all.”
“We’ll get married before I deploy, won’t we?”
“If we live here, we can,” she said. Then, “You’ll write me a letter about this day in three months from now, you’ll be somewhere that’s nothing but sand and ash and you’ll long for the ocean and lighthouses on top of hills in the sea and me with my hair still long and a time when we still had the rest of our lives and we lived on the verge of things only, not in the midst.”
And maybe that was something she only meant to say if she could see past this day or maybe it was something she added to her memory a long time afterward.
In the Southwest, a billionaire disappeared in an experimental plane, simply flew off into the horizon, became a small spot in the distance, then a blip on a radar screen, and finally nothing. She thought, How strange to just disappear like that.
The same day that billionaire disappeared into the desert, her husband was somewhere in the Middle East. He, too, vanished, simply flew off in a Black Hawk helicopter in whirl of sand, became a fast-moving black speck against tan, then nothing. Unlike the billionaire, he was eventually found. He did not wake up after the crash, although his heart kept on beating, which was so very like him.
When she got the call that he was missing in action, she couldn’t for the life of her figure how it could be that you are somewhere, flying in a helicopter, and then be nowhere.
Cave Junction, Oregon: so cold inside the caves, water dripping quietly from seemingly everywhere. Rocks shaped like deformed human knees rose out of the ground. Limbs came out of the ceiling, arms straining down from heaven. Through the rocks, she saw faint light filtering in, thinking it was the sun, but it was only the lamps set up to illuminate the path and rock structures. Grasping that she was alone, she called out her husband’s name. He came around the corner.
She said, “Do not lose me in a cave system, for Christ’s sake.”
“You lagged behind. Keep up.” Then, “In the hospital, I’ll dream of caves and I won’t be able to open my eyes no matter how much I try. I’ll dream of large caverns echoing with faint drips and a cool breeze on my skin coming from deep within and overhead. I will fear that the stalactites will fall on me and I will wonder why you are always just behind me and why you cannot catch up.”
She answered, “And I will believe that you don’t dream of anything at all.”
And she dreams that she is flying in a small experimental plane with a billionaire in a flight suit and aviator glasses.
“I’m going to make all the papers. This plane is state of the art, built it myself,” he explains proudly.
“Oh, you’ll make the news all right,” she tells him.
Suddenly the plane shakes violently. She tightens her seat belt, grasps at her armrests. Through the windshield, the earth is growing bigger, rising up to meet them. The billionaire is at the controls, trying to keep it steady, but he is failing.
“Well, this wasn’t in the plan, damn it,” he shouts.
Her husband leaned against the doorframe on the night before he left. He didn’t question what she was doing, just stood comfortably with his arms crossed, watching.
She was not sure how to start; cutting hair seemed impossibly complicated. Deciding to get rid of as much as possible at once, she gathered her hair in a ponytail, reaching behind her to cut it off above the rubber band. The scissor blades were dull. It took a bit of strength and a few cutting motions to get all the way through. Her ponytail fell to the floor, and the remaining hair swung forward.
Her husband walked up behind her, ran a hand through the back of her hair, said, “That’s the way to get it done. Quick and painless. We should remember that.”
The back of her neck, exposed, made her feel strangely exposed herself. She gave him the scissors. He trimmed the ends so that they were even, hands unsteady. Already she was becoming someone else, and he hadn’t even left yet. She looked at their image in the mirror, no longer remembering what they looked like before.
“Nothing for it now,” she said.
She wants to seclude herself in a lighthouse somewhere on the coast. Or crawl into a cave and lose herself among the carved rock walls and become a slimy, sightless thing, never letting the sun touch her skin. More than anything, she wishes for her husband to wake from his deep sleep, to be found.
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