“I don’t remember anymore.  The questions I had—they seem answered…”

They aren’t in bed.  They are at David’s door.  Saying their partings.  Giving each other their momentary closures of something they knew wasn’t finished.  Bethany adjusts the scarf, the bandanna tied around her hair.  She doesn’t need a mirror.  She uses David’s eyes.  Looking at her.

“Is it what I feel?  Do you feel forgiven?”

But she already knows the answer to this as well.  She is the woman she can’t be with her husband.  She can be the woman that forgives because she is forgiven…  Her husband, Pete Southhouse, knows now of her visits—she’s told him as a woman tells a man these things.  And for some reason she thinks of the coffee.  The coffee she drinks in the house of her husband, the house shared with her grandmother and uncle.  How it tastes different from the chicory coffee David makes for her.  How she wishes she tasted of it first.  How she wishes that was the first thing she tasted of a morning.  With the marijuana they both share as a habit.  That habit something they both used to prefer to do alone.  For the full effect without fear.  But now she wishes to share it with him.  She wishes that was her mornings, felt even more so because it was spring in New Orleans—a good time of year, a good time to be there, noticing all the little details of nature becoming awake.  The music of it.  She wanted him to share in all this with her.  She wanted his coffee.  His exhale of smoke.  To make her awake.

She didn’t want to be the woman she was with her husband.  A woman that couldn’t forgive.  A woman that had to be hard and fight.  Wearing armor to her husband’s harsh words when he wasn’t fixing up with morphine.  The words he called her.  When she was with him she had to be something she didn’t like.  Though many women are like it.  The kind of woman that doesn’t take shit from no one.  Tough.  Spirited.  Willing to lie for practical benefits—survival.  Other women her family in her war with men, any man trying to keep her down.  She had to be a woman that would not break.  That showed no sign of weakness.  What was vulnerable used to attack.  For that world, the world of her life in that house in the 9th ward, was a place where she could show no sign of weakness.  No one would help her if she did.  Instead she would just feel helpless, and that’s not a feeling you want to have in that kind of world.  A world where love has somehow been so easily replaced with hate.  Leaving you feeling baffled as to how it happened.  Over time.  It does you no good.  You can’t be depressed.  Needy.  For you won’t find your fulfillment there, in that kind of world.  She had to be tough.  She had to be a woman, in full control of all her powers, and not a little girl, ready to break.

“You know you’re safe here.  You’re safe with me…”

They both look out David’s door.  To the morning becoming afternoon.  And it’s like their eyes are taking pictures.  His last words reassured.  By a soft breeze.  Soft sunlight.  Radiating their world with a glow.  Birds chirping.  In praise of what spring makes you feel.  And even a spider weaving its web in a nearby tree branch of a live oak is beautiful, with drops of dew falling on it from moist, green leaves.  New leaves blooming bright green. Blossoming flowers rich too in their myriad colors.  And even an impending thunderstorm that makes that web shiver, the gray clouds forming in the distance, ushering in Popovitch’s existence—what would happen—only made these fresh leaves, these fresh flowers with their moist dew drops, upturn to drink in even more, drink in this coming rain.  They saw all this looking out together.  In their parting at David’s door.  And they too drank it in.  No fear in how they shared in it.  How they shared in spring’s sin, marking winter’s true death.  Its plotted murder.

“I don’t remember anymore.  The days and nights in which I wrote the songs you’ve heard me sing.  I used to.  Every time I would sing them it wasn’t like I had to remember the words.  I just had to remember writing them.  What my life was when I wrote them.  And each time I sang them I remembered what I felt, what I felt writing them, putting that feeling into what I sang.  The song not really mattering, but what I remembered feeling.  I don’t remember that anymore.  I can’t now—don’t you see?  For any new song I write now will have you in it.  I’ll remember you singing it—writing it.  And I don’t know if I can bear it.  I can’t bear it just being another memory…”

She puts her hand to his cheek.  And they lean in to each other for a kiss.  Lips parted with an awakening that the birds around them sing.  Their eyes so close that they see themselves in them.  And then she turns and walks away from his reaching hands.

That image.  That image of David reaching out to Bethany.  Finding only emptiness even in a spring morning’s praise.  That image what must lead to what happens next.  Popovitch.  Leaving his card with a bar maid at one of David’s gigs in the city.  A hole in the wall in the French Quarter.  After he sang those songs that made him remember what was happening while writing them.  A note on the back, which read:  Meet me on the riverboat casino, the blackjack table.  Tomorrow.  3 o’clock.  Bring your guitar…