He sits across the table from me, a trembling wreck of a man. In his hands is an old photograph, its colors long faded, its edges folded and creased.
We have had our coffee, shared our pleasantries. I am not one seduced by nostalgia. It means nothing to me.
'I didn't think you were coming back,' he says.
'But you know why I am here,' I say. 'Don't you?'
'Everything has changed now,' I say. 'We can never go back.'
He nods again, this time with a tear in his eye.
I glance at my watch. It is time, and time is short. I stand, bring my coffee cup to the sink, rinse it in scalding water. I dry the cup, return it to the cupboard. I am wearing gloves, but one can never be too careful. I return to the table. We fall silent. There is always a calm before the truth.
'Will it hurt?' he asks.
I listen to the voices of the dead swirling around me. I would love to ask them this question. Alas, I cannot. 'I don't know.'
'It's all so Cho Cho San, is it not?'
' Without the baby,' I say.
' Without the baby.'
A few moments pass. Clouds shade his eyes. 'Remember how it was?' he asks.
'I do. All things were possible then, n'est-ce pas.? All futures.'
When I think of those times, I am saddened. I realize how much of it is gone forever, lost in the ductwork of memory. I stand. 'Do you want me to wait?'
He looks at the table for a moment, then at his hands. 'No,' he says softly.
I take the photograph from him, put it into my pocket. At the door I stop, turn. I see myself in the mirror at the end of the hall. It reminds me of the shiny crimson mirror of blood on the floor.
Before leaving I turn up the music. It is not Chopin this time, but rather Hoist's Planets Suite, a movement called 'Venus, The Bringer of Peace'.
Sometimes, I think, as I step through the door for the last time, the music exalts the moment.
Sometimes it is the other way around.