I, of course, didn’t believe her. I told her I did but I didn’t. She smiled at me in a half-hearted or perhaps a whimsical sort of way and said ‘thank-you.’ She whispered the two words to me and looked away. Her soft hair, straw colored and wavy, veiled the side of her face in a cascading shine of brilliance as she looked down at her hands.
I felt a surge of male adrenaline. Was she that damsel in distress or that Victorian lady, even the mad Ophelia who was sitting across from me?
My friend, this is the 21st century and maybe my Baby-boomer father would have succumbed to her soft strength, I did not. I pocketed my anxiety about her, along with my surge of Freudian awareness, paid the bill and walked away.
She was found dead the next day – her neck was broken. I was questioned by the police and it was determined that I was the last to see her alive – outside of her murderer.
I did not kill her.
I did not.
I was at a party that night, celebrating my best friend’s engagement to a wonderful woman; strong, an attorney and not beyond child bearing years despite the time it took for them to fall in love between their accomplishments.
Does that sound cynical?
The cynicism is for me alone and anyone who might read this and ponder their long nights working not for the money necessarily but for the security of being the best.
She told me that nothing was secure. She told me just before she died.
“Jonathan, nothing is certain. You must believe me. I’ve seen hell and nothing is worse than that, please help me.”
“I believe you.” I think I even reached forward and squeezed her delicate hands. They were warm to my touch but only, I think, because they had held the coffee I had bought for her. She had looked almost anemic, frail, suffering.
No, perhaps now that she is in a pauper’s grave, by the grace of the state of New York, I see her differently. My memory, no doubt, is romanticizing her last moments.
Don’t think me a total brute, please. I would have taken her with me, fed her, introduced her back into the fold of our mutual friends but she said no. She had to face her reality. Odd now that I rethink our last meeting, odd that she said reality and not destiny. Writing this all down, to whom or really why I don’t know, it strikes me that I didn’t pick up on that. Perhaps I was too busy being pragmatic and telling myself it was for her sake.
For you see, I did believe she believed what she told me. Now I believe her and it will no doubt be the death of me.
I won’t suffer as she did, the long nights, the endless pursuit of truth. I’ll fight the monster as long as I can and hope I have the strength to choose death in the end.
Lydia Ink / The Strength to Choose by SK Woodiwiss