Marenna has left me a note saying that she will be back later on Monday--today. Her casualness pleases me, distresses me. It is as if we were always this way; no hesitation of formality. The charm, too, of unfamiliarity, and the crisp edge of curiosity, is also gone. I read her message. I go to the cupboard and know that, before I even open the bin, that there will be a half-eaten loaf of bread there, bread that she has baked. In the living room will be the stacks of canvases, the linseed, the colors smeared on cloths, on the furniture. The same curious moonfaces staring at me from their respective shades. I go up to the room I always stay in. My old shirts are here. I draw a bath. I stir in several
drops of amber. An amber bath. The heat and steam of the water intensifies this smell until I am surrounded by a physical presence---women, men, are summoned up and press against me; their heat and their scent do not bother me for once. They brush their oiled hands against me. The entire bathroom is swathed in mist. The phone rings. I am sure it is Marenna; she will call again later.

The familiarity of this place seeps into me like the heat. I think I will look through her room later, to see if she still has any of my old letters.
She doesn't mind that I go through her things; she hasn't anything to hide from me. I imagine lying on her large bed after this bath; dizzy with heat, still wet. Once I collapsed on her floor, passed out. My blood pressure is absurdly low, anemia, I think. I am sure I wish to die here. Because I know, with a surety that borders on love, that I will not be a disturbance. I know that she will understand what I did, not be horrified, mortified or furious. I know that she will realize that this is where I was born ( into her life, her second life, her third...) and that I chose this spot because it was familiar, comforting; this spot is my grave. Perhaps I will persuade her to burn my remains and seep them in amber. (My grave; the thought makes me feel a growing spot of warmth within me. My permanent home. Every day I work, and every
day, and every way, I try to earn my death, to find the way to end life without qualms or misgivings so tht I may pass aways utterly, leaving nothing behind; not my curiosity, not my mind; no part. As if I had never existed; had never been thought up.)

Maria, Marenna, Maria, Marenna. I often wonder if her name had anything to do with my wife's name. And now we, Marenna and I, are almost like a couple, with the old gestures and familiar habits of people who have been married for years. Except that we have never hurt one another. It is pain that cements. Without it, we float, without obligations or guilt. I can demand nothing of her; she, too, can expect nothing of me except courtesy. And neither of us are stupid enough to lull each other into the conspiracy of trust. That is what I like about her: she is clear-headed.

She's here.

That clear-headed woman.
The chiming of a hall clock.
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