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All the scars of the nevers and maybes

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When Roger rolled the dented Buick out of the parking garage and onto the street, it did not occur to Mark, who stood watching from the sidewalk, that he might never see him or Mimi again. It did occur to him that he would have some explaining to do.

"What am I going to tell my mom?" he shouted as Roger rolled down the window. A puff of white accompanied each word.

"Tell her…" Roger began.

"Tell her we're off to see the world!" In the light from the streetlamps and the garish Christmas display across the street - though it was only the night after Thanksgiving - Mimi's eyes were as big and shiny as ornaments. She was smiling; Mark saw the white flash of her teeth.

"Yeah, but…" He shoved his bare hands into his jacket pockets and stamped his feet. He couldn't feel his toes. "She's expecting you for brunch on New Years. She's got the fucking spread ordered already. Bagels and lox, whitefish… You won't find that stuff in Santa Fe." He could have gone on, could have told them all about the things they'd miss if they left. The smell of roasted chestnuts softening the sting of the December air; the windows on Fifth Avenue, especially the one with the miniature train with lights and bells chuffling through a snow-covered landscape; the crunchy, salty, oily eggrolls at Yang's Chinese Restaurant, just up the block from their apartment. It would have kept them there a few seconds longer. Instead he shook his head and stamped his feet again.

"Tell her we're sorry," said Roger. All Mark could see was his hand on the wheel and the rough line of his cheek. He started to roll up the window. "I'll write."

"Yeah."

As the car pulled away, Mimi turned in her seat and waved at Mark. Light splashed her face and for a second Mark saw her very clearly. The wild hair that filled the car like smoke, the tired eyes, the full lips all seemed too big for her thin frame. She looked like a cartoon character, shockingly beautiful but proportioned all wrong.

It occurred to Mark then, when the car was almost to the end of the block, that he might never see its occupants again. Too cold and dejected to run, he heard his words chase after Roger and Mimi:

"It's cold in Santa Fe, you fucking idiots! You'll fucking freeze! You might as well stay here! At least we've got real bagels!"

The car turned at the corner and the idiocy of Mark's words came back to punch him in the stomach.

I've never seen the desert, Mimi had said over cards and leftover Chinese takeout. I want to be someplace warm until the spring. And suddenly they were off. Beautiful. Like something out of a movie. The rock star and the dancer ride away together.

Then the credits roll, and while that's happening, the cameraman gets to shuffle inside and take the stairs up to his empty apartment.

8/22/2006