In this story, there are no sea turtles swimming. There are no cool nights in Capetown, or cathartic bar brawls. There is no reeling from unification.
Instead, this story is the safe story, mine.
In it are long walks from the campus library, over the foaming Iowa River, back to my temporary home, and the trees bursting-to-sexy. Oh dear, there are Black-Eyed Susans everywhere. And there are older gentlemen with walking shoes on. And women pushing strollers, their shih tzus on leashes.
Here, the days are spent resurrecting a ghost. There is searching for the ghost's name, in vain. There is the woman who knew the ghost, her slanted teeth, her cane, French Silk pie, a table of truckers. There is the ghost's gravestone three hours away, and its pull.
With me but not with me are sandalwood, feet like Dixie cups, a Roman nose. And: the remembered feel of bare shoulders, the liminal between what was then and what is now.
There are my eyeglasses I place beneath the bed. There is reaching for the light switch. In this story are no calls-to-prayer or the skid of skateboards or a cat's squeeze-induced meow. In the dark, here, it is the dehumidifier that purrs.
And then, suddenly, there is Isabella, my friend from that other place, a widow in her mid-50s. It is last year at this very time, and we are at the cafe not far from the bench where once there was a person waiting for me, he with his canvas bag. Isabella is rolling us a cigarette. She is drinking tea and I. am. speaking. English. very. slowly. The waiter's coins are jingling as he pours milk into my coffee.
Here is Isabella, here are my dry feet beneath sheets. She is saying, “Saaahra, you must take careful of alone.”