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For Two Years

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

It is said that when Captain Widal recovered from his mysterious disease, he would not talk to anyone about what had happened. But he was a kinder man. ... He never married, though he was seen once or twice with a beautiful young woman whose name was never known. ... Neither did he ever wear short sleeves in public.

- Widal: A History


I put spices on your tongue for two years, night after night. I folded my fingers into yours and I pulled the sheets over us.
And you did not blink.
You did not notice -- even when I pulled up your shirt, just a little, to the elbows.

Captain, Captain, I am writing on your body.

You did not notice, night after night.

We met in a café in the narrowest street, but you do not remember me. You sat at the table and ordered hot water with a lemon squeezed into it, and I poured it for you with hands that you took into yours, saying, “My mother’s looked better when we exhumed her. Girl, do you eat?”
“Sometimes,” I replied.
“Take this,” you said, “and eat more often.”

I brought flowers to your window, day after day. I sat with my harp in my lap and I played for you.

When you collapsed in front of a small group of townsfolk, none carried you away. None remained in the street to check your pulse, but me.
You fell asleep, my mother later said.
An enchantment, my father said, and good riddance.

I brushed your hair. I polished your buttons. I gave my parents all the money I made with your coin and I bought what I needed to care for you.

I took your coin to the races and I brought back handfuls of gold.

And you did not blink for two years.

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