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London, 1969

I almost came alone; my husband, convinced
the plane would crash into the ocean,
wanted to get off until I said I would go
without him. I didn’t know
he hoped in London to escape from guilt,
though I’d guessed of the affair.

Once we arrived, I found a room. My husband,
sunk into himself, refused to leave the bed.
At night he fought nightmares galloping
through his sleep: his mother’s face, distorted,
melting; the two of us in his father’s car, bursting
into flames, and others that he wouldn’t tell.
I couldn’t think, didn’t know, could only put
one foot in front of the other, so I bought bread
and cheese and eggs and soup at the little market
down the street, heating them on our hotplate,
and for Christmas a plum pudding in a can.
He only told me later of the abortion.

The day after Christmas we headed for home,
out of money, lugging our suitcases
down the narrow street.
He wouldn’t talk, his eyes darting
here and there. Heavy clouds oppressed
London that fall and winter, but only now
I feel his terror
as his life descended
into mania and depression;
back then my only thought,
to get him on the plane.
A pot of red geraniums, shining like a lighthouse,
sat upon a windowsill we passed.

Oh, look, I said, and pointed at the flowers.
They can’t be real, can they? In winter, in London?
He looked at them. See the double-decker bus?
The next one is ours. We’ll be there before it comes.

He nodded. On and on, my one-sided
conversation about everything I saw, each time
pulling him out of himself for a second:

red-haired little girl, boy on a blue bicycle,
bus driver with the too-small hat, dog
with three legs, blind woman playing the violin
outside the Tube station, stewardess with hair
the color of Goldfinger’s girlfriend, fat man
in the window seat in front of us with the apocalyptic
snore, crying baby who couldn’t be comforted.
For my husband there was no way back,
but on and on and on I went, and the endless wave
of my chatter carried us across the ocean.

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