Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lydia brings me a plate of hot empanadas and a beer, then floffs down into the other chair at the little table.

"I think it's time for my break."

"Busy day?"

"Enough. I think the expeditions are coming back through."

We watch a group of people trudge up the street, stopping to point and comment--everything new to them. They look like scientists. Some days in Puerto Williams everyone looks like a scientist.

"I just feel like I need to get out of here--get outside in some air before it's dark."

"Do you want me to stay for a while?"

Lydia pauses. "Could you work for me this weekend? Alex is coming through, and if the weather holds, we can do a little hiking."

What can I say? Besides, it will be good for me to get out of my own little house, see some new faces, fix up something besides a pot of beans.

"Sure. I can cover for you."

Alex--and yet the postcard burns in my hand.

"What have you got there," Lydia asks, eyeing the photograph from Santiago.

"Haven't read it."

"You're impossible!" She makes half a grab at it, and then she wipes her hands on her apron and sashays back behind the counter.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A brisk Autumn, the wind snapping, blowing right through me as I walk down the hill into Puerto Williams. Picking up the mail has become a daily ritual instead of once a week. I don't find something every day, but I can feel my heart lifting just a little in my rib cage--just in case.

This afternoon, a letter from my sister and another postcard from Sevario, a picture of Cerro Santa Lucia. I look at the photograph, not wanting to turn the card over yet, savoring that delicious anticipation. I tuck both into my jacket pocket and head down the street to see Lydia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

(This on a postcard.)

Dear Misha,

I'm in Nevados de Chillàn, covering the sea and spa scene--spring on the slopes.

How are you? I'm still angling for another assignment down south. Tell the Chief hello for me. And Lydia.

-- Sevario

Succinct. But it's a postcard. I met him for a couple of days. But I read it again.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Misha,

I read your letters and I realize I've never heard you, the sound of your voice. I don't want to hear it flattened, compressed into a recording, or stretched thin over the wires.

Maybe this is sudden--too sudden, this need to meet you, to be with you. Why now, after so many years?

I walk along the docks before the sun comes up, listen to the birds and the slosh and the clanks. I listen to the old men tell stories over beer and Aqvavit. I listen to the wind sweeping through the streets. I've hung a wind chime up at the house. I hope you'll like it.

South Bend sounds bright--maybe in the winter? That's too long, too far away. Or right away. Yes, it sounds crazy. But I just finished another project, and I've been saving. I'll talk to Holloran about flights.

We will meet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two cards

February 2. Back home, it is Groundhog day--a day of hope, a trust that Spring will come and maybe even soon. No matter that the Northwest sky would still hunker down like a wet blanket until March rolled in on its fierce winds. No matter that night still dropped early.

Here on the opposite side of the equator, it's a sad day for me, a sign that Autumn is growing serious. It will be dark sooner and longer until we leave for the north.

Again, I consider some mid-point. And I knit and purl and cable. The stream of travelers through Puerto Williams is thinning, but the cash in my jar has grown.

Is it enough?

I think at this rate it might take decades for me to meet Henry anywhere. Saverio is closer.

And I stop. Both of these are impossible. I'm talking about traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to see two men--neither of whom I even know. That isn't even safe. It's crazy. It's not me.

Then I look at the letters resting on the kitchen table, and I read each one.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


"I don't know what I'm doing."

"Here?" he asks. "Here with me?"

I drag another silence into its own epoch.

"One of those."

The waiter clears our plates.

Saverio smiles. "This is a very different first date," he says.

"I'm out of practice."

"What, with all these young men around?"

"Some." I think seriously about dessert--I saw a lemon tart on the board.

"Some young men. Saverio, I knit for a living. I sell books. That must tell you something."

Please let it not.

"I am rushing this," he says. "We don't need to talk about travel yet. I have your address. I'll write."

More stamps.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And I don't have one.

Studiously, I saw into my lamb chop--not exactly delicate of me.

What can I ask him? What can I say?

It's been a couple of days--just a couple of days. And yet I feel a connection, this thrumming. It's the way I feel when I read Henry's letters. But this guy is not on paper. He's sitting right across from me, cracking open a crab leg.

Why do I feel allegiance to anyone? I don't think of myself as a drama queen, and yet I'm constructing scene after scene--like turns in a labyrinth. True, that's pretty dramatic. But I'm losing myself--or I'm finding myself, and it feels like lost.

I chew through the silence.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I order lamb--a sumptuous splurge. Saverio orders crab.

"Surrounded by the sea," he explains.

I live in the midst of crab harvests all year long.

"Chile is so thin, you're never far from the sea."

"It's true," he admits. "But in the city it is not the same. Here, I feel like I just climbed out of the sea myself."

"That sounds cold. And very wet."

He laughs. "You live close to the sky here--Nido Claro--and close to all the weather."

"On the margin of comfort."

"But you seem happy. You all seem happy."

I shrug as the waiter brings us our bottle of wine. We wait while he opens the bottle and pours.

A simple toast, and then Saverio adds, "I'd like to see you some more."

I want to ask why, and I know that it won't sound right. I don't say anything yet. I don’t know what to say yet.

"But I won't be able to come down here for a while."

He swirls the wine in his glass. Is he waiting for me to offer to come to Santiago? I'm already trying to save money to meet with Henry. I can't possibly afford two trips, and now I'm starting to worry, and I'm feeling more tense, and I sip my wine.

"You don't travel outside, do you?"

"It's hard," I start. "It costs money--another margin we're on."

I need a new question, right now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saverio stays at a hostel down the hill for three days. He speaks with the Lydia and the Chief and Gabriella. He stops by my house for tea--and now I can knit while he asks me questions. He is like a shark--or some other animal who can hunt out its answers. But he does not seem hard or voracious like a shark. No, he targets a thread and follows it.

I end up telling him about growing up in South Bend. I tell him about my family. I tell him about my father.

I tell him about my letters to Henry, and his letters to me. I think about the card I sent so long ago. I haven't heard a word since.

And Saverio can see that cloud crossing my face, so I try to change the subject.

"What about you?"

He asks me out to dinner.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Here, I don't know as much, except what I've read from Henry, what my friends have heard about their partners.

Some people can't stand the sunlight. Is it their brains, their nerve endings? I haven't read the research--any of it--but the sun can give them migraines. Excruciating. So they seek a way to avoid the sun, to live and work in darkness.

It's a smaller group. And they have been able to get some research grants. Maybe that isn't it. Researchers have been able to get grants to study them--people who want to find out more about brain chemistry or the physiological effects of living with such low doses of sunlight. Vitamin D companies, too.

But I falter. I don't really want to talk about Henry right now.