I let my friends stay too long at Kathryn’s. I seemed to have lost track of them. Or they had lost confidence in me. Or perhaps the truth of the matter was that I had become too comfortable in Kathryn’s kitchen. In Kathryn’s presence. Her spell, quiet songs and the fragrance of her garden which followed her from the screen door to the sink. I knew that I had begun to distance myself from Elizabeth’s urgent worry and Arthur’s longing, his dream of an imagined or real past. Billy’s studies and his correspondence with Bodil and Søren in Denmark. Hollister’s mission to save and secure and comfort. Rita, so distant. And the old woman.
I had let them all slip from the center of my thoughts, where they had ruled my every waking moment for months. Yes, I had become too comfortable in Kathryn’s kitchen. I sipped at my coffee in the morning. Kathryn and I murmured agreement about the day’s promise or the night’s communion. I caressed her warm hands and fingertips gently in mine. The days were dreams. I wrote vague poems in the night. And lost track of time.
I think my friends wearied of me. My absence from their lives and their questions. They began to make plans without sharing excitement or seeking advice, and quit their chatter when I chanced upon them in the living room. They sorted out comfortable traveling clothes and bought simple totes and backpacks and maps. Passports. Billy and Arthur had theirs, but Arthur and Elizabeth had applied for new ones, using Kathryn’s address. They did not ask whether my papers were up to date. They seemed confident that they could travel without me.
I am certain that Kathryn is the only person in my story whose reality complicates wishful fiction. She is a gentle dream, fancy crafted from a true past in which we simply did not know that we could have been comrades or conspirators in that company of strangers. We were hiding out, and in the process missed each other, too. But the rest of my characters and friends are simply shadows and reflections of an aching heart searching this evening for the perfect five hundred words of truth and possibility. My choice: I will have to leave the comfortable thoughts of Elizabeth’s friend Kathryn. Soon. If I trade my chosen and crafted friends for the dream of a kitchen and coffee and a song, I think I will certainly die. Death by regret and what could have been. For them.
I will gather my things and organize my thoughts. I will put my friends into motion toward an expected end, and see where it takes us. Or rather, where they take me. No Great American Novel, but the hopeful travels of a sometimes fortunate group of strangers and their guide. All sharing hopes for reinventing love. Perhaps they will find it along the way. In bits and pieces of precious touches. Perhaps Kathryn will accompany the band.