Gypsy Lily, A Tale of Woe

Gypsy Lily, A Tale of Woe

After Sally was struck by lightning, she’d whirl around whenever she heard the slightest disturbance behind her, startling whoever happened to be there with that crazed look in her eyes. I had known Sally a long time and she’d always striven to be normal. This tempest was new to her. She blamed Gypsy Lily for putting a curse on her. And she talked me into talking to Gypsy Lily to convince her to remove the curse. I told Wild Sally that Gypsy Lily couldn’t have charged the air with electricity, no matter how crazy she was. But Wild Sally wouldn’t let up on me. So I promised to talk to Gypsy Lily.

I never had a problem with Gypsy Lily. I liked her, in fact. She and I often made love in her cramped bedroom in the small house on Ash Street. I liked her house with its wild garden in the back that hid the smaller house she used as her studio. The overgrown garden and tangled shrubs always reminded me of a fairy tale. And she was a wonderful lover because she wasn’t held back by social restraints.

When I started up the walkway to Gypsy Lily’s house, she stood in the doorway and watched me. She swung the door open with an enticing smile. “How nice,” she said and stepped aside for me to enter. Inside, I squeezed up tight against a closet door to let Gypsy Lily by. She walked straight to the bedroom and I followed. Without saying a word she slipped out of her gypsy temptress dress and slid into the single bed. I ducked out of my tee shirt, fumbled with the button on my pants, and hurriedly stepped out of them. I slid in next to her and we made wild, gypsy love. Afterward, looking up at the ceiling, her marvelous ceiling, I asked her casually, since we hadn’t said a word to each other since I stepped inside her bungalow, “How are you?”

“Me?” she answered. “What do you think?”

“I think you couldn’t be better,” I said. We laughed. She rolled onto her side to face me. “Darling, what brings you here in the middle of the day?”

“Wild Sally,” I said.

“Don’t you like making love to me?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then what is this with Wild Sally?”

I hesitated. I looked into Gypsy Lily’s dark eyes. She was dark and beautiful. I reached over and kissed her and forgot all about Wild Sally. We made love again with loud orgasmic screams and she slid out of bed and into her gypsy temptress dress and flung her long black hair, from underneath the wild scarf, over her shoulder, stepped out into the hallway and into the bathroom. Inside the tiny bungalow, I heard the rush of pee and the toilet flush and I slipped out of bed and back into my capris, tee shirt, and flip-flops. When I ducked through the beaded curtains and walked down the hallway into her bright kitchen, she was putting the tea kettle on the stove. She whirled around and kissed me. Through the crowded plants, the sun streamed into the narrow kitchen, and I felt at home. Gypsy Lily always made me feel important. And I realized at that moment that I loved her. I was about to tell her, but she placed a long finger against my lips and reached up and kissed me again. Somehow she knew.

“Now tell me about Wild Sally,” she said.

I wanted to tell her I loved her while it was fresh in my mind, but I couldn’t ignore her question. “Well, she thinks you’ve put a curse on her, and this is why she was struck by lightning.”

Gypsy Lily laughed out loud. But then the tea kettle whistled and she flew to the sideboard and poured boiling water into the red-yellow-black flowered teapot. After she let it steep for a moment, she crossed to the table and poured the steaming black tea into two cups and sat down with her back to the sun. I sat down across from her and stared at her sparkling beauty. I reached across the table and kissed her again and she laughed. “You are filled with enthusiasm today,” she said.

“Always for you,” I said.

“Not always,” she said. “But that’s all right. Life ebbs and flows.”

“But not my love for you,” I said.

“Ah, love is it?”

“Yes, always for you,” I said.

“Again, not always,” she said. “Your love is like your penis, it comes and goes. Like the tides.”

“My love is not dependent on my erections,” I protested. “My love is constant as the night sky.”

“Ah, but this is where you are mistaken,” she said. “The night sky is a chimera, a visitor, a ghost. And you? Are you a visitor?”

“I hope not,” I said. “I would like to be a presence, not just a visitor.”

“But we are all visitors. Fantasies. Dreams.”

“For me, this is real,” I said.

“And what about Wild Sally?”

“Wild Sally?” I had forgotten. I sipped my tea and looked past her into the wildness of her back yard. “Why don’t we get married?”

Gypsy Lily threw her head back with an explosive laugh. “Married? You are crazier than me.”

“I don’t think it is crazy,” I said. “What do we have to lose?”

“Lose? Only that tiny slice of sanity that might still exist is all. Can you imagine me getting married? Why it would ruin my reputation.” She reached over and took hold of my hand. “Darling, we can make love, we can talk, we can drink tea, any time of the day or night, it doesn’t matter to me, but afterward, we must say goodbye, it is the only way.”

I looked at her. Sadness crept into my heart. She could see it in my eyes. “Nothing has changed,” she said. “You act as if I have thrown you out of my life when all I’ve done is to embrace you with my heart. Marriage is a poison that destroys people’s lives. Would you wish to destroy us?”

“No, I’d never do anything to destroy what we have,” I said.

“So, what is this talk of marriage?”

“I just thought it would bring us closer together,” I said.


“I don’t know. It’s just what people do, people who love each other,” I said.

“No, it is what people do who want to possess each another,” she said. “Now tell me more about Wild Sally.”

“She asked me to talk to you,” I said. “As I started to tell you, she’s convinced you’ve put a curse on her.”

“Because of the lightning?”

“Yes because of the lightning. She’s always tried to live a sensible life. It’s important to her to seem normal. But now she struggles with it. Her eyes are wild and often crossed. She can’t focus. And people say she’s crazy and tormented. Touched.”

“But why doesn’t she come to me herself?” Gypsy Lily asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “She’s afraid of you, afraid of your evil powers.”

“Evil? I’ve never used my power for anything but good. She has me all wrong.”

“I know that, and deep down, so does she, but she’s out of whack,” I said. “The lightning strike really did throw her out of equilibrium.”

“I don’t see how I can help her,” Gypsy Lily said. “But if she came to me, I could see what I could do. I’m not opposed to sitting for her.”

“I’ll let her know.”

I looked across at Gypsy Lily for a long time in silence. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, even though she was a temptress. But that is what I liked most about her. She was alluring. Mysterious. She didn’t try to be, she just was. And I wanted to make love to her again but was afraid to suggest it. I made it known in how I looked at her. If she was inclined to embrace my longing, she would. She always seemed to do just what her heart desired. I wasn’t going to push the issue.

I drank my tea slowly, still looking across at Gypsy Lily with longing and desire. She ignored my stare, choosing to look over my shoulder, deep in thought. She might be thinking of Wild Sally, I had no way of knowing. Gypsy Lily was an enigma. She always surprised me.

“What is going through that mind of yours?” I asked.

She looked at me but said nothing. She raised her cup to her lips and sipped slowly, never lowering her eyes. In her eyes, I could see the mystery of the universe. At that moment, I believed she was capable of bringing down a lightning bolt on Wild Sally. At that moment, I believed Gypsy Lily was capable of anything, even turning me into a rock. If she desired. She had powers I didn’t understand. Powers of magic. A magic about which only rare magicians and sorceresses knew. But I also knew how this magic could get away from them. Its power was incredible and hard to harness. One had to be careful. But when you glimpsed its power, when you grasped a wisp of it in your hand, caution flew out the window. Gypsy Lily was a dangerous woman.

And I was madly in love with her.

My uncomfortable imagination overcame me, and I was forced to look out the window into the wild garden. The sun was brighter now than before. It was mid-afternoon and I was blinded by the intense glare streaming in through the window. An aura of bright light engulfed Gypsy Lily. I squinted, not wanting to turn away. Finally, I was forced to push my chair away from the table and stand up. I didn’t know what to do next. I reached down and picked up my cup of tea. I took a drink. I turned toward the sink as if I were going to put my cup away, but my cup was still half-full. I took another drink, a long drink, hoping to finish it in one long gulp. I felt disoriented, confused. The sunlight was too bright. Gypsy Lily sensed my confusion and stood up to steady me.

“What’s the matter, darling,” she said.

“I don’t know, I feel a little dizzy all of a sudden,” I said.

She took the cup from my hand and set it on the table. She led me back to the bedroom and slipped out of her gypsy temptress dress. She stood before me in her naked beauty. I was relieved to feel aroused. I felt human again. I quickly unbuttoned my pants and stepped out of them. I slipped my shirt over my head and slipped my arms around Gypsy Lily’s angular back. I slid my hands down to grasp her fierce buttocks. She reached down and began stroking my penis. I tried to hold back, but her hand knew just what to do. She moved her hand back and forth along my penis. I nuzzled her neck, hoping to give her something. I was spellbound. Frozen. The pleasure was intense and I couldn’t hold back. In no time, I ejaculated into her hand. I laid my head on her shoulder in utter pleasure and exhaustion. This isn’t what I wanted to do. But I couldn’t help myself. I had given myself over completely to her whim. She held me in her hand. She controlled me completely.

I held her tightly, not knowing what else to do. My penis was still hard and my semen had spilled out into Gypsy Lily’s hand and down the inside of her legs. I was afraid to move, feeling raw. I moved my head around and kissed her unsteadily. She still held me in her hand. I kissed her more deeply. She pulled away and stepped back. I was exposed. Nowhere to hide. She was in control. That’s the thing with Gypsy Lily, she was always in control. I tried to stand firm by looking her in the eye. She looked down at my penis and reached out and grabbed my hand. She sat back on the bed and pulled me to her. She slid back on her back and I straddled her. I needed to give her something in return. The gypsy temptress.

Afterward, I fell back. I couldn’t even remember what happened. I was exhausted but filled with an overwhelming relief. I breathed heavily, staring up at the ceiling. Across the ceiling, in broad strokes, Gypsy Lily had painted sanguine stars trailing long metallic purple tails of light. A whole universe of wonder and magic. I looked over at Gypsy Lily, her dark eyes peering out from beneath her wild bohemian scarf. I had never loved anyone as much as I loved her at that moment. As I traced the line of the deep red heart split open by the ragged crack tattooed above her left breast, it occurred to me that this is how love is: a moment in time. One moment. That’s all. Among the mysteries of the universe, a moment stands out. And this is love. And like everything else in the universe, it is soon swallowed up by infinity. Love and infinity were both unimaginable concepts. I wanted to hold onto this moment forever, but I knew it was impossible. I whispered, “I love you.” She smiled, rolled away from me, and slipped out of bed. The moment was gone.

Her muscles stretched across her austere back and buttocks when she stepped into her long temptress dress and pulled the strings tight. I knew then that I had come as close to touching the divine as I would ever come. There is beauty only in fleeting moments. The sadness in life comes in allowing those moments to pass unnoticed. This moment didn’t pass unnoticed. But it left me sad and feeling empty.

She turned back to me with her seductive smile. She was a hard woman with a wild heart.

“I do love you,” I told her again.

“I know you do,” she said. She ducked through the beaded curtain and I listened as her footsteps faded down the hall. I stepped into my pants and pulled my tee shirt over my head, but before I left her bedroom, I looked up once more into the universe stretched across her ceiling. I smiled, knowing I would probably never again see such wonder and magic. I ducked through the beaded curtains and walked down the hall. I didn’t expect to see her when I reached the kitchen. And I didn’t. I would make up some story to tell Wild Sally. Life is a series of stories. I had mine. And I would make up one for Wild Sally. She could either believe it or not. It was the same to me.


In the intermittent sunlight that gripped the leaves on the trees along the twisting path that led away from Gypsy Lily’s bungalow, I looked back over my shoulder, but no one stood in the doorway. A deep sadness overtook me. As I stepped out onto the sidewalk along the narrow street, turning toward my apartment, I pulled my phone from one of the pockets of my pants. Wild Sally had called. I looked around, expecting her at any minute to jump from behind the thicket that lined Ash Street. I would call her when I got home. But I didn’t.

Instead, I settled onto a bench in the park across the street from my apartment building. I stared at my phone. I thought about calling Wild Sally but I didn’t have anything to tell her. And then I thought about calling Lenore. My wife. Ex-wife. Well, we weren’t divorced yet, just separated, so technically she wasn’t my ex-wife. But she wasn’t in my life anymore. Not much. Our marriage floundered in the doldrums that always came before the storm. The storm never came because neither one of us had any desire to wait out the doldrums. After seven years, we looked at each other one day and agreed, without a word, we just agreed. It was the easiest thing we’d ever done. But afterward, the pain came.

I watched the passersby on the path that wound through the park, trying to settle something inside of me. There was a torrent in me that wouldn’t calm down, no matter what I told myself or what I did. It was a part of me. Calling Lenore wouldn’t calm me down. And calling Wild Sally was out of the question. Sitting here only heightened the turmoil, so I walked to Black Smith’s Coffee House on Main Street.

I loved the smell of coffee more than the taste of it. When I sat down at one of the outside tables, I held the steaming cup of coffee to my nose. Ahhh, bliss. And then the taste bit my tongue. I set the cup down, holding onto its warmth. I thought of the afternoon spent with Gypsy Lily. I pulled my phone out and stared at the black screen. I laid it on the table and looked into the street. I gave the coffee another chance, but it was acrid. How could something that smelled so rich be so disagreeable to the tongue? And once again I thought of the moist, rich pleasure of Gypsy Lily. But I couldn’t shake off my deep sadness.

I walked back toward my apartment. The sun was low in the sky, but I was in no hurry. I walked up the three flights of stairs and down the hall and into my dark apartment. I flicked on the light switch in the kitchen. I walked to the living room window and stared out into the growing darkness. I stepped out onto the balcony. It was a warm night. I looked down into the street into the growing throng of what I liked to call the night people. They came out only at night. During the day, they hid in closed coffins like pale vampires. At night, unfurling their wings, they flew low over the crowded sidewalks in search of unsuspecting victims.

I stepped back inside, I had nothing to give to the vampires of the street. I thought about calling Lorene, more out of boredom than anything else. Or was I feeling the tug of loneliness? I dialed Lenore. As the phone rang, I hoped she wouldn’t answer. But she did.

“Hello,” she said. I hesitated. I hadn’t expected her to answer so I hadn’t thought about what I would say. Of course, she knew it was me.

“Hi,” I said. “It’s Keir.”

“I know who it is,” she said. “How are you?”

“Fine, how about you?”

“I’m doing all right. What inspired you to call? Checking up on me?”

“Hardly,” I said. “It’s been a while, so I thought I’d just see how you were doing? I think about you from time to time.”

“Hmm,” she said. I hated long pauses. And she was good at them. My mind raced to find something to say, but nothing worked. She could sit on the other end of the phone for minutes, and it drove me crazy. But I had called her.

“How’s the job?” I asked finally. How’s the job? Fucking lame. I didn’t care one whit about her job and she knew it.

“What is it you want, Keir?”

“Nothing. I just wanted to say hello.”

“Bored are we?” she asked.

“No, not at all,” I said. “Can’t a person call just to say hello?”

“Not in your case,” she said.

“We were married for seven years, after all. You just can’t throw that out the window.” I listened to the silence, wishing I hadn’t called. I looked out the wide window into the dark night. I could hear the night people swooping along the gurgling sidewalk below.

“Yes, you can,” she said. “We did. It’s in the past. I don’t regret our marriage. I learned a lot.”

“Learned a lot? What does that mean?” I asked.

“Nothing, nothing at all, it’s just an expression,” she said.

“It isn’t just an expression,” I said.

“Just drop it, OK,” she said.

“No, I want to know what you meant by that,” I said.

“I’m telling you, I didn’t mean anything at all,” she said. I could hear the pinch in her voice that always came when she was upset or wanted me to know she was exasperated. I knew I had exasperated her. I never meant to push her this far, but sometimes she annoyed me, too. This was a bad idea. My whole life up to this point had been a series of bad ideas. I should have learned something by now. But no. Not me. One fucking bad idea after another. But then I thought about Gypsy Lily. And all of a sudden I didn’t care about the silence across the wide expanse that existed between Lorene and me. She could hang on her silence until she choked to death. I didn’t care.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have called,” I said. “I hope you’re doing OK. That’s all.”

“I’m doing fine, thanks,” she said. “I hope you’re doing all right, too.” And then there was a pause. Interminable. I didn’t have anything more to say. And obviously, she didn’t either. Anything more? I laughed under my breath. I hadn’t said anything to begin with. Anything more? Bad idea.

I continued to look out the window. I almost forgot she was on the other end of the phone. “Thanks,” I said. “Take care.” I hung up. I stepped onto the balcony. The vampires were in rare form tonight. There would be a lot of blood sucking tonight. I found it strange that after seven years of being with her, I couldn’t come up with one thing to say to her. I stared down at my phone. And for a minute I thought about throwing it as far as I could. I shook my head and stepped back inside.

I sat down on the couch, reached over and turned on the lamp next to the couch, and turned on the TV. I flicked through channels mindlessly. I should call Wild Sally. Why did I dread talking to her? We had known each other a long time. Did I feel guilty about this afternoon? While Wild Sally waited to hear from me, I was having unbelievable sex with Gypsy Lily. I had gone to Gypsy Lily’s on Wild Sally’s behalf and ended up in Gypsy Lily’s bed instead. I picked up my phone to call Wild Sally. I owed her that much anyway. Or did I? What did I owe anyone? No one gave a good goddamn about me. What did I owe anyone else?

But I called her. I knew she’d answer.

“Hey, Keir, did you talk to Gypsy Lily?” she asked. Wild Sally was direct. She always had been. But even more so now after she’d been hit by lightning. It’s as if she had a fire in her pants. She couldn’t sit down. And she couldn’t focus on anything for long. She flitted around like a hummingbird. I thought about the vampire bats swooping in and out of the vibrations they sent out, swooping along the long, steep sides of buildings, while Wild Sally flitted around inside her tiny apartment, banging against her own reflection in the window. I pictured her now standing in front of the picture window in her well-lighted apartment, standing and then sitting down, standing again, chewing her thumbnail.

“I went by there,” I said. “I talked to her just like you’d ask me to.”

“And what did she say?”

“She said she hadn’t put a curse on you.”

“And you believed her?”

“I had no reason not to,” I said. “But it’s you we need to convince. Not me.”

“I don’t believe her, she’s a witch.”

“I’d hardly call her that,” I said. “Interesting, yes. But not evil.”

“You’ve seen me,” she said. “Someone put a curse on me. It wasn’t any of my own doing. And who else do you know who could have done it?”

“No one, Sally,” I said. “But not Gypsy Lily either. She has no reason to put a curse on you. She said she’d be glad to sit with you if you like. She’s as concerned about what you’re going through as you are.”

“Not likely,” Wild Sally said. “She couldn’t be that concerned or she’d release me.”

“Listen, Sally, why don’t you just go and see her. It couldn’t hurt.”

“I’m not going to let her get her evil clutches on me. She’s already done enough damage.”

“I don’t think you’re being fair,” I said. “You should at least give her a chance.”

“Keir, she’s crazy,” Wild Sally said. “Can I see you tonight? I’m scared.”

Ah, damn, I thought. This is just what I needed. My mind was racing again, trying to come up with a reasonable excuse. Why had I called? Ah, goddam it. Nothing was coming to me. Think, think, think. The bats were fluttering against my window.

“Tonight?” I was stalling.

“It’s early, Keir, and I really need to see you,” she said. “I can come over. I can be there in half an hour.”

I looked around my small apartment. I didn’t feel like entertaining Wild Sally. I really didn’t.

But I said, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“OK, I’ll be right over.” And she’d hung up. Just like that. I stood up and stepped out onto the balcony. Shaking my head, I looked above the street into the darkness, broken only by shadows of low flying bats that shot through the slick light from the streetlamps. I looked down at the phone in my hand. Why hadn’t I thrown it away?

I stepped back inside and walked into the bathroom. I turned on the light to look at my reflection in the mirror. I needed a shave. And my hair was a mess from the wild lovemaking this afternoon with Gypsy Lily. I turned out the light, walked into the kitchen, and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. I sat down at the kitchen counter. I got up and walked back to the refrigerator for a frosted mug. I poured the beer slowly. And sat down. I looked around the apartment. I went over and turned off the lamp next to the couch. I went into the bedroom and brought out a candle, lit it and set it down on the kitchen counter. I was feeling a little frisky, a little mischievous. I turned off the kitchen light. I waited.

By the time Wild Sally knocked on my door, I had finished one beer and poured myself another one. I had plenty. I opened the door and Wild Sally stood in the hall like an animal caught in the headlamps. I reached out and pulled her inside. For no reason at all, I pulled her close to me and kissed her. She kissed me back. Deep and long. It seemed natural – for both of us. When we separated, she looked into my eyes. The wildness had gone soft in her eyes. They glowed in the candlelight. I didn’t see the fury and rage in her deep emerald green eyes that so many other people claimed to have seen, but instead I saw a solitary sail on a bleak horizon.

I pulled her to the counter and sat her down in one of the barstools. I didn’t have to bend over far to kiss her again. She reached her arm around my waist. Her handbag fell to the floor. I was hard and wanted to make love to her right there, but I held off. It was early. I wanted to see how the night would unfold. I stepped away from her and smiled. She kept her eyes closed for a moment. I touched her knee and she opened her eyes. Outside, I could hear the fluttering of batwings.

“Hi,” I said.

She pulled me to her and kissed me. I touched her thigh and stroked the inside of her leg. Her hand touched me lightly. When we came up for air, I asked her if she’d like a beer. I wanted the night to stretch out in front of me. Outside, the bats scurried in the creepy light under the street lamps, but inside Wild Sally’s tiny wings fluttered in the candlelight.

“Sure,” she said. She wanted to stretch out the night, too. I don’t know why, but I could tell she felt safe here.

After I poured a beer into a frosted mug for her, I sat down next to her at the counter. She turned toward me. She was excited.

“Tell me about Gypsy Lily,” she said.

I really didn’t feel like talking about Gypsy Lily. The night was reserved for her. Gypsy Lily was a million miles away. Or she should have been. But wasn’t. She crept on the edge of my consciousness. And tugged at the sleeve of my heart. Through the shadows of my guilt, I knew that I would have Wild Sally tonight, but I loved Gypsy Lily.

“You should go see her,” I said. “She could help you.”

“But she’s the reason I’m in the mess I’m in,” Wild Sally said.

“No, she isn’t,” I said. “You were struck by lightning. It happens.”

“But I don’t remember getting struck by lightning,” she said. “How can I not remember getting struck by lightning? You’d think you’d remember something like that.”

“Well, it seems like you would, but who knows? You don’t get struck by lightning every day.”

“I still think she had something to do with it,” Wild Sally said.

“Lightning is a natural phenomenon. Getting hit by it isn’t something we have to deal with on a day to day basis, but it happens.” I pulled Wild Sally closer to me and looked deep into her emerald green eyes, her flaming red hair shooting in all directions from the top of her head. She was a beautiful, sad clown. And I smiled at her. Puzzled, she smiled back.

“Now do you really believe that Gypsy Lily put a curse on you?” I asked.

She thought about it for a moment and said, “Yes.”

I laughed and leaned back on my barstool. I reached over and picked up my beer. “Well, here’s to all the sorceresses in the world,” I said holding up my mug. Wild Sally clinked her mug against mine and said, “Cheers!”

“I have to say one thing, lightning certainly didn’t dim your beauty,” I said.

“Why thank you,” she said. I was enthralled by her wide, dimpled smile. I kissed her.

Wild Sally spent the night and in the morning while I rustled with the coffee maker, she snuck up behind me and kissed me on the shoulder. I turned. She was naked. And beautiful. Lily skin and wild freckles. At that moment, I was in love with her. Her tiny wings were folded close to her body and I pulled her to me easily. And just as easily, my penis grew hard. I kissed her deeply, lifted her onto the counter, and slid my head between her legs. She clutched my shoulders, leaning back in pleasure. When she was moist and fully aroused, I pulled her legs toward me and slid inside her. We rocked back and forth in eager ecstasy until she exploded in one final scream of divine rapture. The moment of love had returned, wound up in infinity. And then, just as suddenly, was gone. I pulled away from Wild Sally, holding onto her knees. Her arms stretched out behind her. Her wings seemed tinier, her skin whiter, her hair redder. And her emerald green eyes were closed, her head tilted back. She didn’t seem wild at all. She seemed frail and alone. I wanted to reach out to her, to gather her in. But she was too far away, far, far away.

When she opened her eyes, she looked away from me. Somewhere over my shoulder. I turned around to see what she was looking at, but there was nothing there. I turned back to her and her eyes smiled at me. She jumped off the counter and walked briskly to the bedroom. When she returned she was wearing my tee shirt that reached to her knees. She walked over to me and grabbed me tightly around the waist.

“Is that coffee I smell?” she asked.

“Almost,” I said. I turned back to scoop more coffee into the basket of the coffee maker. “Should be done in a couple of minutes.”

“Ah, divine,” she said. “I love the smell of coffee in the morning.”

I smiled down at her and asked, “How do you feel?”

“Divine,” she said. And I wanted to believe her. We were caught up in something neither one of us would ever understand. But this is how the universe teases us. One mystery at a time. It never gives away its secrets. But the mysteries keep piling one on top of the other until the weight becomes too heavy for anyone to bear.

“I’m sorry, Sally,” I said. She stepped back, puzzled.

“Why?” she asked. “What have you got to be sorry about?”

“Everything,” I said.

She cocked her head. She frowned. She was a beautiful, sad clown. I wanted to reach over and untangle the strings that held her up. But they were too twisted and snarled. I looked down. My hands dangled at my side. She looked down at my hands. I turned them palms out. She softly stroked the scars and calluses across my palms. She lifted them to her lips and kissed them, one at a time. Tears flowed down her cheeks. She shouldn’t be here. I wanted to tell her. Something. But I didn’t know what, exactly.

She dropped my hands and walked away. I heard the toilet flush. I turned around and reached into the cabinet for cups and poured coffee. I looked for sugar. But I don’t know why. I wasn’t even sure she used sugar. I heard her behind me, but I didn’t turn around. I kept searching for sugar. She touched my shoulder to let me know it was all right. She didn’t need sugar. She never used sugar. Would I just stop and sit down. She stepped away from me, took her cup of coffee, and sat down at the counter on the other side of where we’d made love only a half hour before. An eternity. And a split second. Love was too complicated. And simple. Both at the same time.

For the first time, I was aware of my nakedness. I glanced at her bare knees sticking out from underneath my shirt as I walked into the bedroom. I looked at the heap of clothes on the bedroom floor. I put on my pants and went to the dresser for another shirt. I couldn’t focus. It was a fucking shirt for god’s sake. There was a whole dresser drawer full of them. Just put one on. Just put one on. It seemed too easy. And too hard. I turned away from the dresser and walked back into the kitchen shirtless. I tried to smile. She had wiped away her tears. And she returned my twisted smile.

“How’s the coffee?” I asked.

“Sublime,” she said.

I laughed. “Well, I’ve had it called many things before, but never sublime.”

“It’s fine,” she said.

I picked up my cup and sat down next to her. I thought about the long silences during my phone call with Lenore. Long silences were easier in person than over the phone. But they were still long silences. Words can’t always fill the spaces. I stood and walked to the living room window, squinting into the bright morning sunlight. I stepped out onto the balcony and was caressed by the morning sun. I stuck my head back inside and asked Sally to join me. She looked up at me as if she had just remembered something.

When she stepped out onto the balcony, she said, “I’m going to do it.”

I looked at her.

“I’m going to go see her,” she said. She looked up at me. “Gypsy Lily. I’m going to go see her. She can’t control me. I’ll look her square in the eyes. I’ll make her remove the curse.”

The sunlight glared down on us. I pulled up a deck chair for Sally. She sat down. “Wow,” she said. “I wished I’d brought my sunglasses.”

“I have some inside,” I said. I walked back inside and found two pairs of sunglasses, put one pair on, and carried the other pair to her. I laughed at Sally, sitting there in my thick sunglasses and rumpled tee shirt. I was beginning to feel normal again. “You are ravishing,” I said.

She tilted her head, eyeing me with suspicion. “I love you,” I blurted out before I knew what I was saying.

She stared at me in disbelief. “Because I decided to go see Gypsy Lily?” she asked.

“What? No, because I love you,” I said. “What’s this about Gypsy Lily?”

“I just told you, weren’t you listening?” she said. “I’ve decided to confront her. I’m tired of this craziness. I want to feel normal again. And love? You said you loved me.”

I turned away from her and reached for the cup of coffee that I’d perched precariously on the top railing of the balcony. I repeated her question in my head. Love? I had said it. Had I meant it? I sipped my coffee. I couldn’t ignore her question. I set my cup down and looked over at her. She stared at me from behind the thick sunglasses. I laughed and told her I couldn’t take her seriously while she was wearing those preposterous sunglasses. She took them off and asked me, “Did you or did you not say you loved me?”

I hesitated, gathering my words. Words are cheap. They are used to fill empty spaces and break long silences. “I did,” I said.

“You did what?” she asked.

“I did say I loved you,” I said.

“And?” she asked.

“And what?” I asked.

“And do you?” she asked. “Do you love me?” Still holding my sunglasses, in the glare of sunlight, her white knees sliding out from underneath my tee shirt, she stared at me intently.

“I do,” I said. “Yes, I love you.” And I meant it. This time, I really did.

She put my sunglasses back on and held her cup to her lips, staring straight ahead. I reached over and she took my hand without looking. I wondered if we would make love again. But at that moment it didn’t matter. The warm sun, the scent of coffee, and her lovely knees peeking out from underneath my shirt were enough. Nothing mattered at that moment. I was happy.


Before Wild Sally left that morning, I agreed to go with her to see Gypsy Lily. After Wild Sally left, however, I cursed myself. Was I crazy? Why had I agreed to go with her? But it was out of self-preservation, I guessed. It would probably serve my interests to be there, in case they began sharing notes. I was caught in a web spun by two enchanting, wild, deadly spiders.

I called Gypsy Lily to set up the meeting. After she was struck by lightning, Wild Sally sold her hotel, living off the profits from the sale of the hotel and disability insurance. I was a freelance writer and pretty much set my own schedule. And Gypsy Lily, well, she worked odd hours, and time didn’t matter to her. We agreed on Friday night. I don’t know why, it’s just what we agreed on.

Wild Sally would meet me at my place and we’d go together over to Gypsy Lily’s. I had wanted to go to Gypsy Lily before the meeting but it didn’t happen. I’m not sure what I would have said to her, but I wanted to say something.

I was nervous all day Friday. I had no idea how this was going to turn out. It could be simple. Or it could turn into one hell of a disaster. For all of us. But when I thought about it, I mean, when I really thought about it and came clean to myself, I knew that I only cared about what might happen to me. On the other hand, what’s the worst that could happen? Gypsy Lily and Wild Sally would discover that I was a scoundrel, trying to keep both of them on the hook. But weren’t they doing the same thing with me? I mean, let’s be honest here, no one promised anything to anyone. Or had they? I thought about this. Why was I nervous? Was I in love? And if so, with whom?

Wild Sally got to my place around 8:30. We were supposed to be at Gypsy Lily’s at 9:00. I asked Wild Sally how she felt. She said she felt OK.

“How about a beer?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. We sat at the kitchen counter and drank our beer in silence. I looked over at her nervously. For some reason, I felt a lot of tension in the room. I don’t know if it came from Wild Sally or from me. Or from both of us. The hair on my arms was charged with electricity. I didn’t want to say anything to Wild Sally about it, but I wondered if she was feeling this same wild energy. I kept looking over at her trying to discover if she was, but she seemed relaxed.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked.

Wild Sally looked over at me. She seemed changed, transported somehow.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to say,” she said. “Last weekend. We made love. Right here in this apartment.” She spun around on the barstool, stood up and walked to the door that led to the balcony. “Out there, sitting in the warm sunshine, you told me something. Last Saturday, a week ago. Do you remember what it was?”

I knew what I’d told her. Was this some kind of trick? I looked nervously down at my phone sitting on the counter. It was 8:45. We only had fifteen minutes. I wanted to tell her we needed to be going soon. It would take at least ten minutes to walk to Gypsy Lily’s. But I knew she wasn’t going to let it go.

“We had a great night,” I said. “Magical.”

She turned away from me and looked out the wide window into the orange blue dusk. It would be dark soon. She turned back to me and said, “You won’t say it, will you?”

“What is it you want me to say?” I asked.

“Nothing, skip it,” she said. She walked back to the counter and set her beer down. “We’d better be going.”

I stood up, put my arms around her, and tried to kiss her. She turned away. I held onto her arm. “Listen, Sally, this hasn’t been easy on either one of us,” I said. “It happened so suddenly. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? You’re sorry.”

I stepped away from her, not knowing how to respond. I thought about Lenore and Gypsy Lily. I even thought about Sheryl from college. And Nancy after college. Before Lenore. I shouldn’t have married Lenore. Maybe I should have married Nancy. But it would have turned out the same. Probably. And how many others had there been? I looked at Wild Sally. I tried to wish away the sadness in her eyes. I reached for her again but she turned away and walked toward the front door. I reached her before she was able to open the door.

“I do love you,” I said. “It’s complicated, that’s all. Love is too fucking complicated.”

She looked at me, and the sadness I saw in her eyes crippled me. I needed Gypsy Lily’s dark, mysterious eyes. She didn’t need my love. She gave her love away freely. Wildly. I realized at that moment that the web I was stuck in wasn’t spun by Wild Sally, or by Gypsy Lily, or even by Lenore, but by me.

“It’s all right,” she said. “I understand.” She opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. I followed her. We walked in silence to the door that led down the three flights of stairs into the lobby and out into the night. It was a warm night and the moon stood on its tiptoes, peeking over the break of the eastern horizon. The sun was barely down. And the mischievous moon was up, watching us. It was a night for the moon.

As we walked in the soft moonlight, I wanted to tell her that everything was all right, that she didn’t need me, she could do this without me. I wanted to go back. But I stayed with her. And we walked in silence all the way to Gypsy Lily’s.

Gypsy Lily’s house was dark. I grabbed ahold of Wild Sally’s elbow and led her around to the back of the house. Gypsy Lily had told me that she’d be in the studio in back, which was lit by a single candle in the middle of a round table. Gypsy Lily stood up when we stepped inside. She offered the chair opposite hers at the table to Wild Sally and, squeezing my hand, told me to sit in the chair against the wall.

When Wild Sally sat down, Gypsy Lily smiled and reached across the small table and took hold of her hands. I sat quietly, entranced by Gypsy Lily’s mysterious beauty in the flickering candlelight. I wanted to take her into the snug bungalow, into her tiny bedroom where the cosmos spread across the ceiling, and make wild gypsy love to her. But then I looked over at Wild Sally. For the first time, I saw the fury in her eyes.

“Keir told me that you’ve been struggling somewhat after your unfortunate accident,” Gypsy Lily said.

“It wasn’t an accident,” Wild Sally said.

“But a lightning strike,” Gypsy Lily said. “What else could it be?”

“A curse,” Wild Sally said. “I know only one person capable of this, and I’m looking at her right now.”

Gypsy Lily never wavered but looked hard at Wild Sally. “And you think I’ve cursed you,” she said. “But this is absurd. This is not who I am.”

“I don’t know who you are,” Wild Sally said. “I only know that you’re capable of the vilest of things. And I want to be released from this thing you’ve done to me.”

“But I’ve done nothing, my dear,” Gypsy Lily said. “How can I release you from something for which I’m not responsible?”

Wild Sally, her face reddening with rage, pulled her hands away from Gypsy Lily’s. She glared at Gypsy Lily. I was frozen in my chair. I had no idea what would happen next, but I sensed something terrible was about to happen. I should have intervened, but Gypsy Lily seemed, as she always seemed, to be in control. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

Without warning, Wild Sally stood up, knocking over her chair. She pulled a pistol from her handbag. I had no way of knowing whether it was loaded or not, or even if it was real. I was dumbstruck. I reached for Wild Sally but she stepped away from me. “I’ll shoot you,” she said. “I swear to God, if you take one more step, I’ll shoot you.”

I stood still, looking down at Gypsy Lily. She didn’t seem to be in control now. Her eyes were wide and frantic. She looked up at me. I was helpless, frenzied. I tried to think. Options. What were my options? Wild Sally was fucking crazy. She’d shoot me, I knew she would. She’d shoot both of us.

“Listen, Sally, you need to think about this,” I said. “Just think about it, OK? Try to be reasonable.”

“Think about it? Think about what? My whole life, I’ve tried to be reasonable and look where it’s gotten me. People think I’m crazy.” She looked at me and I saw the desperation in her eyes. They weren’t green now, but black and tormented. I realized then that she was crazy. It had to be more than lightning. Something had been tormenting her her whole life. And she was fed up. But what was she capable of? I didn’t know. I looked down at Gypsy Lily, trying to show her that I was in control, I had this, she needn’t worry. I was here. And I would take care of her. I knew in that instant that I’d never loved anyone as I loved Gypsy Lily. She and I would live the rest of our lives in divine bliss. We would make love in the middle of the afternoon. Whenever and wherever we wanted. We existed inside our own fairy tale.

I looked back at Wild Sally. I had to do something. I wasn’t sure what, but something. I reached out to her. She told me to stay put, that she’d blow my fucking head off if I took another step. And then, before I could do anything, the explosion inside my head rocked me back over my chair. Nothing seemed real. The smoke was thick inside the tiny studio. The candle had gone out. I didn’t know if someone blew it out or if the concussion from the gunshot snuffed it out. I heard rustling inside the room. And then the door opened and I could see Wild Sally in the soft glow of the full moon. She looked back at me with fury and rage in her eyes.

“You didn’t have to say it if you didn’t mean it,” she said. “People shouldn’t say things they don’t mean.”

At first, I didn’t understand what she meant. But then it hit me. And she was right. I shouldn’t have said it. But at the time I did mean it. How am I supposed to know? How does anyone know if they’re truly in love? It passes in the blink of an eye. It’s a moment. And an infinity. It’s all blurred. I heard the door shut. Wild Sally was gone. I reached down for Gypsy Lily. I could barely make her out in the faint light from the moon. She was lifeless. I held her. I bent down close but she was limp in my arms. “Lily,” I said. “Lily, Lily.” At that moment, nothing seemed real. This wasn’t the ending I had in mind. Fairy tales aren’t supposed to end this way. Fairy tales. I looked out the tiny window at the full moon, on its face was a look of anguish. And despair. A solitary sail on a bleak horizon.



1 Comment
  1. A good many vaaelblus you’ve given me.

Leave a Reply