Aquarela do San Francisco

We see the man standing on the corner of 24th and Mission, hailing a cab, then again on the wet piers, under an iron lamp, looking out to sea. Still later, watching Brazil, we see him standing in the street outside our window, staring at us under his hat-brim, so we close the curtains, lock the deadbolts, and turn off all the lights in the house. After a few minutes, we unpause the film, but we can no longer concentrate: we are concerned about the man, that he may reveal something about our lives, our pasts, that he has come here to unravel us. We crawl into bed, silent, and listen to footfalls that, though distant, seem to explode right in our ears. Are they the man’s footfalls? Should we pull aside the curtain and see? We cannot decide: we lie here, too frightened to move, though filled with the desire to know. We sense that one of us may soon summon the courage to peek out the window, leaving the other alone, but we do not let on. We even fling off the silk sheets for a swift separation; still, neither of us moves. The one who leaves our bed does not believe in our union, and we believe in our union. Let the man pace all night under the orange streetlamps, in the gathering fog: he is not a part of us; he cannot determine our fate. We listen to the lowing of the cargo ships, then to the gaggle of bar-goers on Clement Street, playing “Marco Polo,” and finally — ominously — to the footfalls again. Though we long to know what the other is thinking, what the other has been hiding all these years, we find ourselves reaching out across the bedspread, as across an impossible expanse, to squeeze each other’s hand.

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