Slow Train

THE LETTER RESTS in peripheral vision instead of an envelope. It comes from the side silently like the sound of paper in a mailbox. The friend of a lover delivers it in slow motion through the hot air of a stuffy bureau in a polluted city filled with refugees. Time pushes it along like hands above an outdated conveyor belt and instead of stamps it is pressed with medical, distant moments.

The missive has survived the storm over the Atlantic and finally arrives in an office full of concerned people, political people trying to make the war better.

How does one make war better?

The face of Pamela smiles and then disappears out the door with barely a word.  My hands unfold the pressed, rough paper of the letter and the words begin: I am waiting for them to take me into the operating room. I am writing this from my bed. My hair has been cut away from where they will make the incision. I am sad for that. I feel you touching my hair now, gently passing your fingers over my face. The drugs are very good here and I have no pain.

Felipe is still in Thailand. We ended poorly. Claudette and Brigitte are in Ethiopia working on the famine.

I have given this letter to my friend, Pamela. She was in the Paris office a few weeks ago and told me she had met you in El Salvador. Are you still in Honduras? If you are, she said she would find you. Maybe if things go well with my tumor, I will come back to Central America.

I started to get sick three months after Bali.  Do you remember?  I know you must.  I am afraid I am not so pretty right now. The doctors are unsure what will happen. I want you to know that I love you. If I am unlucky, please remember me and our time together. At night I can hear our train pass by on its way to the coast.

The letter is opened and closed a million times as it imprints upon my heart. Can a letter cure cancer? Can words build a blue-eyed doctor with bobbed, blonde hair to sit on a new beach beside a reliable sea?

The letter is soft resurrection and the words are the genetic code of her body enclosing my presence in the office. No one really knows but the two of us and the secret will travel on our slow train, moving toward the sea, lost in the night.

(Living and Dying with Dogs: Turbo Edition)



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