This winter it’s something new every day. Today at sunrise I find Natasha in the closet, which is crammed with dozens of her old, glamorous gowns. Having sneaked into it, she stands there wide-eyed and completely nude, shivering slightly in the morning chill.
A vein is pulsing on her breast. It’s blue, and so are the tips of her long, delicate fingers as she pulls a bunch of dresses down. Most of them slip off her arm, except for the slick, silvery dress, which she wore on her recital appearance in Paris, back in 1945, when both of us celebrated not only the victorious end of WWII but also our wedding.
Now, fascinated by the silky touch, she tries to put it on: first backwards, then inside out. In frustration, she drops the thing to the floor and starts thrashing around, kicking it, becoming entangled as fallen metal hangers clink furiously against each other. Her eyelashes flutter over her pale cheeks as she listens to the mad rhythm.
I turn on the bedside radio and rotate the knob this way and that, in an attempt to find something, anything that will distract her from that noise. Oh, how about this: a song is playing, and to the sound of it I find myself rolling back into the dent of her body on the sheets.
I hug you softly, I kiss you in your dream
Your breath is warm, my lips are trembling
Let me wake you, are your eyes agleam?
I whisper your name, can’t you hear my heart breaking?
I reach to hold your smile
Here it comes, so sweet in the morning light
Love, let’s wait, wait for a awhile
Let’s cling together till the morning light
Hold me holding you
And I think it’s me
At last, when all is quiet, she opens her eyes, turning her attention to something else: shoes. There are dozens of them, most with high heels, all strewn carelessly across the floor, remnants of times gone by.
“Don’t,” I say, hating myself for having to control her. “You can't wear these anymore.”
And she asks, “Why?”
I hesitate to tell her that nowadays she cannot walk in them without losing her balance. With a stubborn glint in her eye, she puts on a pair of stilettos and holds her breath, just standing there like a child, afraid to move.
“Here,” say I, rising from the bed to set a pair of flats before her, so she can step into them. “They look like ballet flats, don’t they? With these, you’ll be able to move about. Want to dance, Natasha?”
“I do,” she whispers. “I so do.”
Lenny in Dancing with Air
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