Was it Only a Scratch?
Isa could sit for hours staring out the window, motionless and barely breathing.
When Ben first saw her like that, he thought she must have had a stroke. It was easy
to think of strokes and heart attacks when confronted with middle or old age.
Don't give yourself a coronary, he'd say to his father, his mother, when they struggled
with something: the hammer, the hose. But Isa, he learnt, was her own age;
susceptible neither to strokes nor sighs. Her cane was strong, the walls of her house
made to withstand the coastal winds, the frequent waves. Her eyes looked breakable
though. When Ben stopped thinking the worst, when he stopped thinking heart failure
and deep vein thrombosis, he started noticing all the lines round her eyes,
and to imagine what would happen if all the lines were to join and form one long
continuous line to infinity. A whirlpool, she'd say, as if she'd read his mind. And then:
you are young, you are for the leaving, for the taking. Isa would engrave words
on Ben as if he were the glass and she the diamond.