A piece of paper fell out of the book as she pulled it from the shelf. She placed the book in the paper sack she was filling at a furious pace, part of a sort-and-purge mood she was in. The grocery bag was nearly full of books to sell at Powell’s.
With a sigh, she bent down and picked up the paper, fancy cream-colored stock she recognized instantly; she knew whose handwriting would be folded inside. She paused a long moment, calling up a once familiar face: thin lips, dun-colored mustache, a small but strong chin, eyes that she’d come to know were weak. Even easier came the memories of anger, jealousy, heartsickness.
Slowly she unfolded the piece of paper and read the three lines of vaguely erotic poetry he had conjured up for her and placed beside one of the extravagant dahlia blooms from the garden his soon-to-be ex-wife had planted in the backyard of their little rental house. A house she had come to night after night that first warm summer, sleeping alone until 5 am when he would come in smelling of machine oil and sawdust, his kisses ardent, overcoming her sleepiness with his need to connect.
They never talked in the middle of the night, none of the intellectual banter that had attracted them to each other. Instead, they made love briefly or at length, depending on his level of fatigue: how many log decks he had crawled under, how much equipment he had polished. She then lay awake listening to him sleep as his night began and hers ended.
All that in a folded piece of paper.