“Birthday,” by Nancy Reisman, appears in the Winter 2019 Issue of MQR.
For a year after her room emptied and I left town, I was still, nonetheless, there with her. For a year it was night and she was afraid and we lay on the bed together holding hands, a painting of wild clouds above us, and she asked if I thought she would make it to her birthday. Three months. That’s what I’m planning for, I said. In the room then—and again, for a year—we were an island, which was, as it happens, how I’d begun. Do you think I’ll make it to my birthday, she said, and I said that’s what I’m planning for, and the snow fell thickly, covering the lawns and roofs, the branches of maples, the conical spruce, covering the streets of the town, white and more drifting white, rare passing cars just scratches on an LP. She said, do you think?And I said I’m planning, while we held hands in the night in the house from which the others had left for distant cities or nowhere. My birthday, she said; I’m planning, I said, suspended above us that sky painted in mauve, amethyst, white acrylics, dusk clouds from a universe of yes. Do you think, she said. I was the only you. I said, I’m planning on it, the word yes unreachable: there was only the not-knowing, the wish, speckled air beneath the streetlight. Do you think? I could not think, only imagine—on her birthday we would lounge in the yard beneath a transformed sky, the moment a grassy brightness edged in red geranium, a scene expanding into always. The snow fell, and we lay on the bed, held hands. From the street, the faint scratch of passing cars. My birthday, she said. I dreamed but couldn’t say dream, or here’s some paper and straw. Or, here is my separateness, my solid if ordinary hand. I held hers, said plan, said birthday, pressing into each word my full body weight and the strange fervent thing I call myself. Did we sleep? The snow fell on the house. Do you think? I imagined, etc. Then, for a year: our bodies beneath the mauve painting, her hand, her question, the unaltered night unaltered. For a year we still lay on the bed. Do you think? The moment repeating, in case—one time—in case yes….
Purchase MQR 57:5 or consider a one-year subscription to read more. This story appears in the Winter 2019 Issue of MQR.