Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ten Days

Saturday, April 11  Sunday, April 12, 1987
It must be nearly dawn by now, so it’s no longer Saturday, but I think the date is irrelevant in any case. All that matters is that this may be a day that changes everything.
Last night Father’s birthday celebration was a rousing success. Everyone lingered long into the night. Kipper had such stage fright about playing his piano piece in front of everyone that he delayed it over and over again, hour after hour. Finally, near midnight he found the nerve to tell Father that he’d learned a song and he was going to play it for him as a birthday gift.
I must never let Kipper know how little of it I actually heard.
He was only a few notes into “Ode to Joy” when I began to feel— something. I don’t know what to call it. There was an uneasiness that soon turned to anxiety. A skittering of something in my spine. My feet felt the need to fly, but I didn’t know why or where. Whether I wanted to run away from something or towards it, I had no idea.
I congratulated Kipper as soon as the applause died down, and then I rushed to make my excuses to everyone and escaped. I hope no one noticed and thought me rude, but at the time the imperative to follow this call was irresistible.
I rushed Above to the park and stood at the culvert. I listened but heard only the sounds of the city. Looked far into the darkness but saw only the first leaves of spring swaying gently in the breeze. I even scented the air for anything unusual. How I hate to admit that even here, where only I will ever know it. It’s so shameful – so base and feral, sniffing around like an animal. But it was none of my senses – keen as they are – that was alerting me.
I simply felt that I must go north from the culvert, and I have no rational explanation for why.
Is there a name for such a feeling? Not in any of the languages I know of. The only thing I can call it is called. I was called. Called in a way that I cannot explain with logic or reason, not with metaphysics or ideology. I simply felt this call. And I was powerless to do anything other than answer it.
I’m grateful it was late and the park was nearly empty; I know I wasn’t exercising my usual caution when I go Above. I couldn’t. The call compelled me, overriding all other concerns.
I found her off the side of the road near the 96th Street entrance to the park. She was lying in the damp grass, unconscious and bleeding badly. I know this sounds mad, but I swear it’s true; I felt every place where she was hurt as if I were in pain myself. I staunched the blood as best I could and brought her Below.
What else could I do?
I knew Father would be livid – and he was – but he could never let any patient go untended. I was right about that, but he is not best pleased with me just now.
She’s sleeping in my bed as I write. Her injuries are serious, but she’s resilient. Even sitting here at my table, I can see her heartbeat pulsing in a small, blue vein in her wrist, steady and strong. She will survive – that’s not in question. Her ribs and contusions will heal. But she was born with the face of an angel. She’ll be used to being beautiful. Now some monster has done this to her— I cannot write about that for the rage that consumes me to think of it. The poor woman. She will have a difficult journey ahead, adjusting to this. How would anyone react to be being disfigured in this way when she was meant to be so lovely?
At least I’ve always looked like I do.
She’ll be frightened, I’m sure, when she wakes. I have no plans to sleep tonight. I’ll stand vigil by her side all night. I’ll be here when she wakes up, and I’ll let her know she’s safe here.
She must know she’s safe now.

Monday, April 13, 1987
Her name is Catherine.
She’s woken only twice today, both times very briefly. She was filled with fear the first time, not knowing where she was or how she got here. I think I was able to comfort her, and she went back to sleep right away. The second time we spoke a bit longer and I began to explain what had happened to her, to let her know no one would hurt her again, before she slipped back into the deep unconsciousness of healing rest.  
Although we’ve only exchanged a few dozen words, each one she’s spoken glows like a sun in my soul. What a beautiful voice she has.
Everything about her brings Longfellow to my mind ~
Within her tender eye
The heaven of April, with its changing light,
And on her lip the rich, red rose.  Her hair
Is like the summer tresses of the trees,
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky,
With ever-shifting beauty.  Then her breath,
It is so like the gentle air of Spring,
As, front the morning's dewy flowers, it comes
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy
To have it round us, and her silver voice
Is the rich music of a summer bird,
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence.

She’s slept all the rest of the day, healing and regaining her strength.
Father’s fury has ebbed – somewhat – though I expect I’ll be lectured about this ad infinitum.
It is a price I’m willing to pay; I shall have no regrets for meeting Catherine. 

Tuesday, April 14, 1987
Catherine was stronger today. She’s still in pain, of course, but she’s healing.
I know I should feel guilty about foisting all my duties onto Cullen and the others, but I don’t. I stayed by her side all day, save for when Mary came in to bathe and help her. Even then, I hated to leave her. Caring for her is an indescribable joy.
Feeding her. Such a simple thing. I’ve fed so many children through the years, so many elderly, too, but now… Before, I was only taking care of someone else. Now, though, it’s as if I myself am growing stronger by caring for her. It’s almost as if— If her appetite is any indication, she’ll be well all too soon. She’s especially fond of William’s chicken corn chowder; she ate three bowls of it.
I should also feel guilty for telling her about Below, but I couldn’t help myself. I told her all our secrets: the Tunnels, the community, the pipes, how we live. I even told her how I was found and named. She asked and I told. She has promised to keep our secret though, and I know she will. I can feel it. Catherine is worthy and honest. I know this.
Father would tell me that I’m being foolish and reckless to trust her so readily, so completely. And with anyone other than Catherine, I would agree with him. But in her case, he’d be wrong. She is everything good.
I frightened her today when she touched me. How could I have been so careless? I ought to have put on my gloves before I picked up that bowl of soup. What an idiot I am! I can still hear her gasp reverberating in my ears. She was too polite to ask what was wrong with my hand, but I know she was confused and concerned. What will I do when it’s time to take the bandages off of her eyes? It’s a thought I cannot bear, though I know I’ll have to face it.
I asked her this morning what had happened to her; if she knew who’d hurt her. She told me how she was attacked as she was leaving a party by men who thought she was someone else. I could see it disturbed her to relay the account to me, so I hastily dropped the subject.
Thankfully, I was able to create a distraction by offering to read aloud to her. How she smiled when I suggested it! She said she hadn’t been read a story since she was a child. We read aloud so often down here that I forget sometimes that it’s unusual Above. I suggested a number of books and she chose Great Expectations. She enjoyed it; she said she liked my voice and how I read. I felt like I might float off the bed with happiness to know I’d been able to please her.
And then she smiled again.
Her smile must be what sunshine feels like.

Wednesday, April 15, 1987
I have a dilemma. This morning Lou sent down his newspapers from the last few days. The story of Catherine’s disappearance has been all through the headlines. She’d told me she was an attorney, but she didn’t tell me she was a wealthy socialite as well. Or that she worked for her father’s famous law firm. Of course she’s been worried that her father will be distraught, not knowing what’s happened to her, but she understands why the secret of Below means we can’t tell him she’s here and safe. She never told me she was all but engaged to Tom Gunther either. Even down here, we all know about him from all the buildings with his name on them. A witness saw her abduction, and for all they know Above, she’s not only kidnapped, but dead.
How can I possibly tell her all these things that I’ve learned from the papers? She’ll worry even more about her father if I do, yet we still won’t be able to get word to him. But I cannot lie to her either. I simply can’t. It wouldn’t be a lie to omit the truth, I suppose, but when I think about deceiving Catherine in any way, I feel a nest of vipers in my stomach. 
Yesterday I promised her we’d try to get some news from Above for her soon. While she didn’t ask me about the papers today, she will. And what should I do then?
To tell or not to tell: that is the question. I hope this conundrum ends better for me than it did for Hamlet. 

Thursday, April 16, 1987
As I feared, Catherine asked me about the newspapers almost as soon as she woke this morning.
The way she reached for me when I told her the news. The despair in her voice as she said, “Oh, poor Daddy.” The way she squeezed my gloved hand while she wept on her father’s behalf. I was certain I’d made the wrong choice by being honest with her. I felt I ought to have protected her from the pain of this knowledge. I should have found the strength to lie to her. Somehow – no matter what it cost me to do it – I wished I’d never told her. My heart felt like it was under a rockslide.
I was grateful that she couldn’t see that I was crying right along with her, as if her pain were truly mine as well. 
And then she was apologizing. To me. I’m the one keeping her from sending a message to her father, but she apologizes to me? I can’t believe it. She was sorry that she was burdening me with her tears.
Catherine, are there no limits to the marvel that you are?
I promised her that we would get her back Above to her family as soon as she was well enough. She’s had no hint of infection, thanks to the antibiotics that Father had been hoarding, and each day she hurts less. Father thinks her ribs weren’t broken after all; very badly bruised with possibly a slight crack, but not broken. It won’t be long before she’s recovered enough to make the walk Above.
Each night as she sleeps, I sit here writing and listening to her softly breathing. And each night I dread the day when she will be well enough to take that walk, because she will be walking out of my life forever.
We’re halfway through Great Expectations now. 

Friday, April 17, 1987
With her breakfast today, I brought Catherine some of the new tea blend from Dr. Wong – the sweet one with the orange blossoms and pineapple. I was the only one here Below who liked it – until now. She was as delighted with it as I am. I gave her my own cup of it, too. Letting her enjoy it brought me as much pleasure as drinking it myself could have.
And that is not hyperbole.
I can scarcely believe that I’m about to write this.
I’ve spent days now thinking about this, trying to make some sense of it all. Yet I still cannot understand it. Perhaps writing it all out will help me to fathom what’s happened to me.
I know I will sound insane even to myself.
I’ve been trying to deny it, trying to find some explanation, something rational and reasonable… But it’s simply not possible to do so any longer.
The other day I started to write – and then I crossed out – that it was almost as if I could feel what she was feeling. But I can. I can literally feel what she’s feeling.
I can’t believe I’m confessing this, not even here in the privacy of my own journal. I’ve been avoiding doing so for days now.
I’ve sat here staring at this page for many minutes, unwilling or unable to believe that I just wrote that. Yet it’s the truth.
I feel what she feels. It’s almost as if we are one.
I could feel where she hurt the moment I found her. I knew her ribs were damaged long before Father examined her – I felt my bones echo with her pain. When she was despondent yesterday, I felt that same despair. When she was amused because I suggested reading aloud to her, happiness bloomed in my heart at that same instant. I can tell when she is becoming tired and I know it’s time to stop reading. Was the call that I felt the night I found her connected in some way to this— What shall I call it? This link. This tie. This bond between us.
Whatever it is and whatever I call it, it is. It cannot be denied. It exists.
It’s as real as the bedrock beneath my feet. 

Saturday, April 18, 1987
It’s two in the morning and Catherine has only just now fallen back asleep. I was sleeping on my pallet on the floor when I began to dream. Someone was grabbing me from behind and I couldn’t get free. I was paralyzed with terror. And then there was pain – so much pain. And that was when her cries woke me. 
I called to her and reached out to touch her, to shake her awake. But then I saw my own claws about to touch her shoulder, and I had to step away. I couldn’t touch her, not with these hideous hands of mine. All I could do was call her name again until she woke.
I pulled on my gloves while she told me what she’d been dreaming about. It was her kidnapping and assault, of course. I felt her nightmare in my own dreams.
There is a Bond between us unlike anything dreamt of in our philosophy.
It’s evening now. Mary’s bathing Catherine again, so I’m in Father’s study, and I cannot say I’m sorry he’s in the kitchen helping with William’s inventory. I couldn’t bear to be in the same chamber with him right now.
This morning Father told Mouse and Kanin to locate the sub-basement of Catherine’s apartment building. She lives right around the block from where Lorenzo and Sofia used to have their restaurant, so it will be easy to reopen the old subway tunnel off the abandoned Broadway stop. Those passageways should lead right below her building. 
They’ve already started the work. Father is so pleased.
I think I’ve already started to die a little. 

Sunday, April 19, 1987
Catherine. Catherine. Catherine. Even the mere act of writing her name brings me bliss.
I will have to apologize to Olivia for teasing her that time when I caught her doodling Kanin’s name over and over. I know now what it is to fully give oneself over to a dream.
Dreaming, I am. I know that. But I can sleep just a little longer, can’t I?
Today Catherine felt so much stronger that I scarcely read to her at all. This time, it was she who did most of the talking. She wove me the story of her life and each thread is made of gossamer and gold.
When she was little, she was – as she put it – “one of those horse-crazy girls.” Apparently the phase didn’t last long, though. She went through a series of interests: ice skating, gymnastics, ballet lessons, gardening, astronomy, playing the clarinet “breathtakingly badly” as she described it. She was such a curious child, so anxious to explore the world, to learn everything.
She told me about a time when her imaginary friend, a pretend sister she named Rosalinda, climbed a tree in the park. “Naturally, I had to follow her,” she said with a laugh. “After all, what kind of person would go home and abandon her imaginary sister up in a tree? Rosalinda wouldn’t have had any idea how to get back home alone. She was younger than me, you see, and she needed my help a lot. The next thing I knew, I was stuck up in the tree like a kitten with no idea how to get down. My parents actually called the fire department to come to the rescue, but I refused to budge until they carried Rosalinda down first. It’s no wonder my dad went gray early.”
She’s brought her girlhood to life for me with her words. What a delightful child she must have been. I can see young Catherine so clearly in my mind. I think I can even see Rosalinda. What adventures Catherine, Devin and I could have had together.
Her mother passed away when she was just ten years old. They were very close; Catherine said she was the best friend she’s ever had. Ten is much too young to lose someone so vital to one’s life. Of course, I don’t suppose there’s ever an age when someone would feel they were old enough to lose a mother. I don’t truly know what it would be like to have a one, but I can imagine. There’s still a great emptiness in Catherine that aches for her mother – an emptiness perhaps greater than even Catherine herself realizes – and I sense it’s a wound that may never be fully healed. She’s all the closer to her father since it’s been just the two of them all these years.
She told me so many stories.
She learned to ride her bike going up and down the sidewalk in front of their brownstone “twenty thousand times.”
She was forever skinning her knees as she climbed the rock outcroppings in the park and she still has a small scar on one shin because of it.
One year for Halloween, she was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and she had shoes that looked just like the ruby slippers.  She loved them so much that she refused to wear any other shoes until the following spring. Even then, when all the glitter had long since worn off, she didn’t surrender them willingly. “I only gave them up because they were two sizes too small. If my feet had stopped growing, I might still be wearing them today.”
She painted her whole life for me: vacations all over the world with her father and family friends, college, law school, her job at her father’s law firm. She’s not satisfied with her work, and she knows she wants something more fulfilling, but she doesn’t know what she’s searching for yet. She’s got so much in her that she longs to give, and I told her she’ll find a way to put her heart into action.
She said she believes me.
I admitted how much I’ve always longed to go to the places that she’s been – the places I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing. She promised to take me anywhere I want to go – London, Paris, Egypt, India – anywhere in the world. It would be her way of thanking me for all I’ve done for her.
I’d forgotten while she transported me with her words that she didn’t know who what I am. She has no way of knowing that these tunnels and chambers are all the world that I can ever have.
I can feel what she feels. How grateful I was at that moment that she couldn’t feel what I felt.

Monday, April 20, 1987
Catherine is definitely getting well more quickly now. Today she was antsy and cranky, chafing at having to stay in bed and be cared for. She wants to take the bandages off yesterday.
I can’t blame her, of course. I would be the same. I have been the same, every time I’ve been sick or hurt. Father readily reminded me of that today when he said she was nearly ready to go back Above.
She’s taken root in my heart deeper with each passing day she’s been Below.
I find I am reading Great Expectations more and more slowly with every page I turn.
We’re nearly to the end.
In more ways than one, it’s almost the end. 

Tuesday, April 21, 1987
It’s happened.
While I was sending Kipper to Chinatown to get more tea, Catherine got up and removed her bandages. I felt a jolt of shock and horror, and I raced back to my chamber—
I don’t need to write it down.
It isn’t as if I’ll ever forget it. Not one instant of it.
I wish I could.
I wish that headlamp would have killed me where I stood, because I know I cannot stand living without her.
Without Catherine.
Forever without Catherine.
But, no. These are days I cannot wish away.  Not even one moment of them. Not even if I have to bear this agony for the rest of my life.
I will not trade away the sight of her small, pale hands reaching to push back my cloak from my face. I wanted to run away. I wanted to run into her arms. I could do neither.
And that moment at her threshold. Again she reached out to me. Her hand on my chest. Her head on my shoulder. The heady scent of her hair by my cheek. What it felt like to press my hand against the small of her back.
My first embrace with the woman I love.
My last embrace with the woman I love.
I can say I love her here, on these pages. I must. It’s the only way it can ever be said. It’s the secret I will carry with me forever. I’ll hold it in a hidden chamber of a heart bound forever with hers.
It’s precious little solace to me as I sob alone in this chamber, where her scent still lingers. I welcome it, breathing it in deeply, painful though it is that soon her scent will have faded away to nothingness. 
As much as I want this pain to end, I now understand that Tennyson was right ~
I envy not in any moods
   The captive void of noble rage,
   The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods;

I envy not the beast that takes
   His license in the field of time,
   Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
   I feel it, when I sorrow most;
   ‘T is better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Lost her, I have. But my Bond with her is still alive. As far Above as she is right now, I can still feel her.
And it will keep this dream alive in me.
These ten days will – for they must – sustain me to the last of my days

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