Mary Ann lived near me in Baton Rouge, then she was in Memphis. She’d told me they could never return. Return to this life, she meant. Her husband, Knox, I’d hated, and he’d been called, of all things, a kind man. People called him good, gentlemanly, liked to say it just that way. Her mother had. But he took Mary Ann from me, and I don’t let myself near swindlers.
She did not die with me. She died with Knox, and such a fast thing tells me this is how a life can run, gone to a Memphis firmament.
We’d first met in the Goodwood Library at the crowded bank of computers, Mary Ann in a cold metal wheelchair she paid seventy-five dollars a week to rent. I was there most Saturdays to be in the air conditioning and to use the internet, both of which were expensive at my apartment. I have a twenty-first-century disease, Mary Ann told me.
“Called what?” I said. And she didn’t know—not that she didn’t, but she wouldn’t tell. She often ached all over, couldn’t use her legs for hours. She got terrible nosebleeds that kept her up at night. I sensed her half-wakefulness, her nostalgia for the world she knew outside of dreams, though perhaps she waited to return to them. Dreams that ran through her in waves, through her defenseless bones. At the end of the first day at the library, we went to the coffee shop next door. The entrance was narrow, and I made a deep bend while holding on to her chair, pushing and summoning the will from my knees. Inside, we ordered raspberry iced tea and lavish sandwiches, but she wouldn’t eat. I watched her cry with her palms flat against her eyes and worried she’d cry so much her face would come off in her hands.