They say when you’re in love, you see your beloved in the faces of strangers. This was not the case with the woman who came down the path. She looked nothing like Reynold, and also I use the word ‘woman’ with reservations.
‘Excuse me, hold on,’ I said. ‘Did you see a guy in there?’ I was at the edge of the park waiting for Reynold, next to the trashcans he’d described in his text message. ‘Tall guy, spiky hair? Drunk kind of?’
I have this thing when I’m doing something stupid, I can feel the future two or three seconds in advance, so I winced a split second before her fist sunk into my kidney.
‘Do you have any money?’
‘The guy does,’ I said, hunched over. ‘The guy I’m waiting for.’
‘Tall spiky drunk guy?’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Reynold.’
‘We’ll wait for him, then.’
She came over and stood next to me. She smelled like a hospital.
‘You sure this guy’s coming?’
‘But he’s got money?’
‘He’s big, this guy?’
‘But big. Is he big?’
I looked at her, or up her, like a tree. ‘Not big like you.’
She seemed to like that. She put her hand over her crotch, twisted her hips. Whatever held her up or held her in was giving her trouble.
Something rustled and coughed in the bushes.
‘Here he is,’ I said. ‘Reynold?’
But it wasn’t Reynold. It was a skinny man in a tight cap pulled down over his eyebrows. His jaw fluttered.
‘Do you have—’ he said.
‘Here, take that,’ the woman held out a cigarette. ‘You can have it.’
He took the cigarette. His fingers combed the air for a lighter and I lit him. Then I said it, I don’t know why. ‘There’s a guy coming in a minute, he’ll straighten you out.’
The guy’s whole body seemed to land softly into this news.
I began to wonder if Reynold could follow through for these people. I wondered what the implications might be for my other kidney if he couldn’t.
I thought about the time he left me on the bus on the way out of Shelbyville, asleep across his lap with his balled-up jacket as a pillow. He sacrificed the jacket, just slipped out from under me and got off the bus. It was a nice jacket—three or four dollars in change in the pockets—so he must have really wanted to go.
Or the time he called me Laura by mistake. We were having sex, his eyes were closed. He said ‘Laura,’ and then opened his eyes—I guess he’d realized what he’d done—but then just went along with it. He turned it into a joke with himself, he said, ‘Laura, oh, Laura!’ until he came, and then refused to let me come until I called him Laura, too.
Reynold did accounting, and in the evenings he solicited donations for a Jewish NGO. He rang doorbells at dinner time to ask for money. ‘Fellowshipping,’ he called it. That’s how we met. He asked me if I thought the people coming into the country from poor countries were refugees, immigrants or aliens. I said I didn’t know. He asked me if I thought foreigners should get health insurance. I said I thought that seemed like a good idea, but could he maybe stop by not at dinner time?
There are some people, like Reynold, that you just can’t imagine ever being born, ever having parents. Like they just folded out of themselves one day like a parachute. Reynold claimed he had parents but I never saw them. I did see his cat. He lived with a cat in a small apartment, where he kept a fishtank with the lid off stocked ith tiny blue fish for the cat to claw out and kill on the carpet.
Up ahead, sneakers crunched on the gravel path.
‘Reynold?’ the tree woman said.
It was another man. He wore a heavy coat and seemed surprised to find us standing there.
‘No,’ I said. ‘That’s not Reynold.’
He pulled a gun from an inner pocket. ‘I’m going to kill every single one of you motherfuckers,’ he said.
‘Oh, God, no,’ I said. ‘No. We’re waiting for one more.’