Saturday, January 16, 2010


She knows every inch of his skin, every crease in his face. Once, on the phone, Jake mentioned that his doctor wanted to biopsy a mole he had just discovered on Jake’s leg. “Left leg?” she had asked. “Yes,” Jake answered. “Mid-calf, inside?” she went on. He laughed. “Yes...” “Well, you can let him do the biopsy, of course you should, but that mole isn’t new and it hasn’t changed shape or color. It’s exactly the way it was the day I met you.” “Okay, Doctor Lang,” he had kidded, but she heard the edge of fear leave his voice, and of course the biopsy turned out negative.
She knows what every little sound he makes means. She knows, from the next room, when he’s finished a book, because he’ll let out a long sigh. “Good?” she’ll ask, although that sigh usually signals his disappointment. “Could have been,” he’ll say.
She likes thrillers and medical mysteries, books that all hinge on plot, not character. He likes books by women, books about the interior life. In the mornings, while she’s drinking her coffee, he’ll ask her what’s going on in hers. She will take an hour or so, telling him in delicious detail about the killer’s lair and how the detective is being thrown off, going after the wrong man. She describes the locale and the food, the way the detective deals with his loneliness, whether or not she believes the red herrings. “What’s going on in yours?” she’ll ask. “Well,” he’ll say, thinking back to the hours he spent reading the night before, “Adrianna went to have lunch with her brother.” “And?” “They haven’t ordered yet,” he’ll say, and they’ll both laugh. He’ll reach for her book and start skimming. After two or three days he gives up on the books he’s brought and reads the ones she’s just finished. He starts predicting who the killer is on the third page, and looks deep in her eyes to see if he’s right. She never tells. And he’s always wrong. He doesn’t have enough practice with books that are really about nothing, the kind you read just to pass the time. But his excitement always makes those books seem better than they are.
She can tell when he’s having an orgasm, even if there’s no fluid. This happens quite frequently, and the way she knows is that a sound deep in his throat, guttural and animal-like, will reach her ears. “Did you come?” is a question she asks him often. It’s a question he has never had to ask her.
So now, when the enormous mahogany doors are swung open and Jake has an almost imperceptible intake of breath, Julia’s heart starts to race. He is the king of understatement, so this must be good. But she doesn’t look up, just continues to look at the ground as Jake leads her inside, and then up five concrete steps. She likes seeing things through his eyes, with him, and she knows he’ll take her to a good spot to get her first glimpse. Finally he squeezes her arm and she knows it’s her signal to look up.
She has never seen anything quite like this house. It doesn't so much sit near the ocean as hover right above it. She grabs Jake's arm and squeezes tight. This, she thinks, is going to be their best vacation yet.