The Night Seth Met Sara
“Heads you come home with me, tails you give me your number, and I call you in three days to ask you out,” Seth proposed, popping the cap off a bottle of Red Stripe and handing it to the woman next to him at the bar.
She was alone and she was gorgeous–all loose brown curls and stormy eyes. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Seth was fascinated.
“It’s a bottle cap, not a quarter, and you’ve got to be kidding,” she replied with a pirate smile.
“Fine. Smooth side up, you come with me,” he countered, tossing the bottle cap, which landed smooth side down in his palm.
She squinted at him. Seth had to resist the urge to smooth the tiny furrow between her brows.
“You win,” she said with mock resignation. She set down her Red Stripe and grabbed the bartender’s pen with a flourish.
She picked the bottle cap up from his palm, pocketed it. Cupping his hand in hers, she wrote her name across his lifeline followed by ten digits.
“Sara,” he said, looking at the upside-down writing.
“Sara,” she confirmed. “And you are?”
“And what do you do, Seth, when you’re not badgering helpless females in Central Square bars?”
“I craft humorous one-liners and work on my etchings,” he grinned.
She laughed out loud.
“Of course you do.”
She drank from her bottle, cocked her head to one side, and looked at him again in her squinty, furrowed way.
“Really, though. What to do you do?
“Right now, I’m managing a gallery on Newbury Street, but I’m thinking of taking on a few artists as an agent,” he said.
“Didn’t make it as a… painter?” she asked with a sly smile.
“Jesus,” he replied, taken aback. “Actually, yeah.”
“You have that not-tortured-enough look about you,” she said. “And since you asked, I am the bored daughter of a very rich man, living at home while he travels in Europe, speaking on esoteric matters of physics to sycophantic doctoral candidates. I am currently occupying myself with a graduate degree in English Literature at Harvard.”
She giggled at his stunned expression.
“Seriously. I couldn’t make that shit up.”
“Are you meeting someone here?”
“You, apparently. So, come on. It’s a mile walk to my house.”
She took his beer from him, set it down on the bar next to hers, took his hand and led him from the room.
Out on the street, Seth pulled out a pack of Camel Lights. She have him an arch look. He pocketed the cigarettes.
She said very little as they traversed Harvard Square, but fidgeted endlessly with the bottle cap.
She turned up the walkway to a cream and blue Georgian colonial just off Brattle Street saying, “This is it.”
When she fell, it happened so quickly, Seth didn’t manage to catch her. Her impossibly high, dangerously narrow boot heels snagged in the mossy crag between two worn bricks and she toppled.
“Fuck! Ow!” she cried, tears springing up in her eyes. She drew her hand up to her chest, still clutching the bottle cap. He saw that she’d skinned her knuckles when she fell.
He reached down, taking her by the elbow and helping her up.
He brushed the tears from her cheeks. She opened her curled hand and the bottle cap fell to the bricks, revealing a cut in her palm, blood welling in the serrated curve.
“Well,” she said, breathing deeply and shaking off the tears,”You have to come in now. I can’t bandage my own right hand, after all.”
He’d slipped out for a breath of fresh air. The gallery’s climate control kept the art safely cocooned, but it couldn’t filter out the inane babble of the crowd at the opening.
The air was fresh, sharp with cold, too cold even for snow, though the clouds, steel gray, like the warehouse door, hung low.
He reached into his pocket for a pack of cigarettes, drew out a quarter, some lint, and the ghost of his nicotine addiction.
Shit, he thought, I don’t smoke anymore.
Peregrine would be looking for him. Craving or no craving, he needed to get back to her. Of all the artists he represented, Peri was the most fragile, and the least predictable.
He put his hand on the door handle, the cold from the industrial steel handle driving straight through his flesh.
It wasn’t Peri he thought of when the cold burned his skin. It was another woman, another door handle.
Sara, warm and pulsing with humor and desire, between him and the antique five-panel door to her bedroom. He reached for the cool glass knob with one fumbling hand, the other attempting to work free the buttons of his shirt. She’d have known putting it on after her shower would drive him crazy.
“I’ll never be able to wear this shirt again,” he’d whispered against her mouth between kisses.
She’d pushed him away, reached for his belt buckle, looked up at him through her lashes.
“I want you to wear it. I want to think of you, babysitting your artists, hard for me, wearing this shirt, remembering slipping it off my shoulders.”
Impatiently biting her lower lip, she’d tugged at the button of his chinos.
“Sara.” He was a beggar.
He’d threaded his hand into the hair at her nape and brought their mouths together. The glass knob had turned in his hand, and they’d stumbled backwards into her bedroom.
The Burberry Scarf
“Hey Seth, I’m going to run down the street for some food. The Thai place on the corner is pretty good,” Jack said, dusting his hands on his dark washed Diesels.
“Thanks for helping me unpack,” Seth replied. The loft space Jack rented was amazing; he felt more like an art dealer just thinking that this was going to be home.
He heard the creaking of the freight elevator as he set the last box from his South End apartment down on a curious stool. It was sturdy, three-legged like a milking stool, but the wood grain, the natural twist and bend of the lines made it seem like a piece from a fairy-tale, something that grew up out of the forest floor.
He’d have to ask Jack who the artist was. And if he had representation.
He opened the box and immediately wished he hadn’t. Sara’s Burberry scarf, still smelling like Coco, lying there, haphazardly tossed in among her books, her worn boiled wool slippers, the things she left with him that last time she’d walked out the door.
The scarf she’d been wearing looped around her neck the morning their story began to end.
“By the time we stop at Peet’s for coffee, it’ll be eight,” he’d muttered to himself, taking the stairs up to the second floor of Sara’s father’s house two at a time. “If we get to Quebec by dinner, it’ll be a fucking miracle.”
At least four times in the ten minutes before she’d locked the back door, Sara had forgotten something she had to have.
He’d heard a car door slam as he entered the unused bedroom Sara had converted into a study.
He’d yanked open the center drawer and rummaged through receipts, pens, hair pins, Werther’s caramels, highlighters–the detritus of Sara’s academic career.
“Seth?” she called out from the kitchen. He could imagine her standing indignantly on the mexican tile floor, reflected morning sunlight bouncing off the rarely used Viking onto the unruly curls that escaped the messy bun she deemed her “traveling hair.”
No time for daydreams, he’d thought, and slammed the door shut. He’d hauled open the file drawer to the right.
“Seth! I said I’d get the damn passport!”
Her feet pounded on the stairs.
The folder was marked “Sara” which seemed a logical place to find her passport, and so he’d flicked it open with two fingers.
“Seth,” she’d whispered, a hand on his shoulder. His shoulder which suddenly seemed so far from his hand. Blood rushed behind his eyes, her voice swam in and out of earshot.
“You weren’t meant to see that.”
She took the sheet of paper from his hands and held it between them.
He couldn’t look at her, he could only see the inverse images, stark in their grayscale. The medical coding, the neurology jargon, meaningless. Only the shocking white mass, a clear, swollen kidney bean among the gray wrinkles, and her name in boldface.
EVANS SARA CABOT
“Seth,” she’d said, a little loudly, a little meanly.
“We have a seven hour drive to talk about this.”
He’d stood there, incapable of motion, until she’d bent suddenly, slipped the paper into her desk drawer, and slammed it, startling him. She brandished her passport in her right hand.
“You promised me dinner in an ice restaurant for my birthday,” she’d said, matter-of-factly.
She’d tugged at the ends of her scarf, pulled a wayward curl away from her lip, and walked out the door of her study. Her voice floated back to him.
“And as you’ve seen, I might not have another one, so let’s get going.”