Author : Glenn Blakeslee

Lisa called me that afternoon. I was standing in the rain in front of the In-Situ Laboratory, watching deer run beneath the elevated walkway.

“I just wanted to say,” she said. “Sam… I’m sorry about Saturday.” Her voice was quiet. She sounded tired.

“I was going to call you to say I was sorry,” I said.

“You don’t have to apologize,” she said, “I do.” This was where Lisa, had I said the same, would have asked me what, exactly, I had to apologize for. I could hear the low slowness of her voice, and asking would have been heartless.

“I know you need someone to listen, sometimes. I didn’t do a good job of that,” I said. “When you tell me these things I want to do something, but I don’t know how to help you.”

“I didn’t know how to ask for help,” she said. “I don’t know what you could do to help me.” I stood in the rain and watched the deer, my cell phone to my head. A doe stood on the sloping ground, next to the walkway, watching me. Her hide was wet and her eyes were huge. Her nostrils flared. She took a tentative step toward the walkway, watching me.

“I just got back from the hospital,” Lisa said. “I was there three days.”

“Oh Lisa, I’m so sorry. What…?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. “Did you take pills?” The doe’s forelegs jerked, trembling, and she bolted under the walkway, beneath me. I could smell the rain-soaked sogginess of her hide. I pulled out my cigarettes, and then put them away without trying to light one. I could see the hood of the first of the Security vans as it pulled in behind the lab. Those bastards.

“My son took me in,” Lisa said. “I was in ICU.”

“Lisa,” I said.

“And I got out today. I’m just sitting here, and the kids will come home soon, and I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I’m afraid to be here by myself, and I’m afraid to see anyone. I’m afraid to talk to anyone and I’m afraid to not have anyone to talk to.” It was raining harder, and more deer were running beneath the walkway, jumping across the retaining wall beyond the slope. I could hear the clatter of their hooves across the patio that lay sheltered beneath the overhanging floors of the In-Situ Laboratory. The rain ran down my forehead, into my eyes. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Lisa said.

If I loved her I would have run to her. I would have run to my car, wound down through the ways of the University, clutching my wet, fatal briefcase to my chest. I would have kept my phone to my ear, my voice to her heart. I would have left my job, and my little mournful life and the end of it all, and drove to her. I would have run to her.

I would have given her the thing she really desired. I picked my briefcase up from the walkway, held it under my arm.

“Honey…” I said.

“You’re at work,” she said. “I should let you go.”

“Well…” I began. “I love you,” I lied. “Keep your head up. I’ll call you tonight,” I said, but I never did.

Instead I dropped my briefcase from the walkway, heard the tinkle of breaking glass, and watched as the deer on the patio of the In-Situ Laboratory began to drop dead.

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