The lone tree in her yard shakes its fists at her. She picks up her bag and shoves it into the arms of the young man. “We can talk upstairs,” she says, and, as soon as they are inside, she slams the front door and turns the lock. Breathes deeply. Here, finally, in the stairwell, her back against the solid wall, she can gulp the sweet life-giving air.
His boots drip brown salt on the living room rug. “Please,” she says, motioning to remove them. The west-facing windows drown him in light. His large and ungainly feet, sheathed in multiple pairs of multicolored woolen socks, are incongruous with his slender body. He unwraps his scarf to reveal a pleasing mutation of his father’s face, one made kinder by a softened Roman nose and blunted cheekbones. His mother must have been a girl from the country, plump and sweet and adoring. Likely against her wishes, he has decorated himself with a beard and mustache and the feminizing long hair favored by the youth of film departments since her day.
He is very sorry to bother her, he says, helping himself to Pieter’s leather chair. The last thing he wants to do is to trouble her in her grief, especially given its recent onset, but he has come because he hopes he might be of some comfort, or at least an agreeable distraction, or maybe even a happy walk down what he calls—with no apparent discomfort with the cliché—“Memory Lane.” He couldn’t resist the chance to see her in person, he says, once he read the name Anja Bloom in Professor Meisner’s obituary in his university’s newspaper. Who would expect to find such a name in such a place, dropped into the history of the great astronomer’s life as casually and matter-of-factly as one of his distant stars? But of course, he says, in a phrase he must have scripted, she was one of Meisner’s stars, too. Did people tell her that all the time?
“No,” she says.