Chapter 32

32.1

Helene, limping a bit, makes her way down the Eastern Parkway boulevard. The Brooklyn Museum is illuminated to the south, as are all the pre-wars to the north. Cars whirrrrrr past at a quick clip. Helene seems calm. At peace. She is focused on each step, poised and content. She stops, turns around, locates her apartment—the home she shared with Alina—and confirms that, yes, she’s back in the exact spot where Alina was struck. She takes a deep breath, and her composure cracks. A tear crawls down her cheek.

32.2

Helene inches her way towards the curb. A couple walks by, and the woman shouts “Be careful, lady!” Helene turns, as if she’s just there to jaywalk or something, and smiles to the couple. “Yes yes, thank you,” she says. A truck barrels past, the force of which pushes her backwards a couple steps. She recovers and tiptoes again to the curb, then waits for the next car to come. She counts down from 5 as it approaches, but as she hits 2, the car changes lanes, one away from her, and honks its warning. “Motherfucker,” she curses, as more tears pour down her face. She stands there, waiting for traffic to pick up again. She can see a light turn green in the distance, and the cars build steam towards her. She steps back a bit, so that they don’t swerve again, but plants her foot, ready to leap. Then, suddenly: “Helene?” She whips her head around. Ward is there.

32.3

“What are you doing here?” Helene asks Ward. “Well, I live in the neighborhood, as you know,” he says. “More importantly… what are YOU doing here? Can you please step back from there?” She shakes her head confidently: “This is it, Ward. There’s nothing ahead of me. Nothing for me.” // “We both know that’s bullshit, Helene.” He steps towards her, and she shouts “No! Stop. I’ve readied for death before. I’ve been as good as dead for years.” // “Helene.” // “Can’t you see? I want this.” // “You THINK you want this. You’re going to disappoint a lot of people. Alina included. And…the 80-year-old Helene who is happy and IS capable of looking forward, no matter how short-sighted it seems. Why would you let her down?” Helene diverts the conversation: “How did you ever get over Amanda?” It’s terse, her delivery. “I didn’t,” Ward replies. “I won’t, ever. But anyone who comes into my life will know that she remains with me. There’s room for more people and experiences in there, but I won’t be moving her out.” // “Then why did you leave your home, when she was still there?” // “She wasn’t there, Helene. She was never there again. Just like Alina was never with me after she died. Nor with Tracey.” Now he’s got Helene’s attention. Her neck is still craned back, her gaze upon Ward is desperate. It craves every word he has to say.

32.4

Cars continue to blaze by, honking their horns. Ward tries to talk Helene off the curb: “Sometimes we see what we need to see. We manifest what we desperately need to believe,” he says. “I needed Amanda around, until I didn’t need her around. I felt some sort of responsibility for the failed transplant. So I carried her with me until I was ready to move past it. Same with Alina, with making sure her book would be complete, with looking after you, and seeing that you were content in her wake. And for a while, you were. Tracey made you that way. But Helene, Tracey and I didn’t see the real Alina. That was our guilty conscience trying to atone for something. For me, it was for introducing Alina to Tracey, and feeling responsible for the thing that killed her.” They stare at each other intensely, and we see in the distance a large truck coming our way. Helene looks at it, then she looks back to Ward. Her eyes tell him that this is it. He has one last plea: “Helene. Helene! You can’t always believe what you see. But—you CAN see what you need to believe. You can convince yourself of anything. You can convince yourself that you can get past this.” // “Goodbye, Ward.” She turns towards the truck, which is 15 seconds away. We hear Ward, but our focus is with Helene: “Helene! Helene! I’m not here. I’m not here right now. I’m home with Meredith, watching a movie.” She turns back, and Ward’s not there. But we hear his voice still: “Sometimes we see what we need to see. We manifest desperately what we need to believe. … You don’t want to do this.” Then, as the truck is a few seconds away, Helene’s voice cracks: “I don’t want to do this!” But her foot slips off the curb, and she stumbles into the truck’s path.

32.5

The driver reacts fast, and swerves out of the way. The truck practically flies off its right-side wheels as he does. Helene struggles to the curb, to a nearby bench, and sits herself up. The truck screeches to a halt and the driver gets out, sprinting to Helene to see that she’s OK. She assures him: “I am fine. I am fine. I…am fine.” He offers her a ride home. Then, we cut to Helene’s bathroom, where she is climbing carefully into a bubble bath. The room is dimly lit by two large candles. She submerges herself into the hot water for 10 seconds, then sits up with a deep breath. She wipes the bubbles from her face, and looks around—studying the bathroom, still searching for Alina, perhaps. There’s a glass of wine on the bath ledge, and she takes a sip. Helene savors it, sets the glass down, and sinks into the water. She is up to her chin, while the bubbles gather at either side of her head. She swallows the wine, and finds it in herself to smile. “Thirty more years,” she whispers into the water. “Thirty goddamn more years.” She smiles again, and sinks underwater. Both candles’ flames flicker furiously, the shorter one vanishing to smoke as we cut to black.

THE END

You can read the entire series here: Download PDF

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