some fall in love. i shatter.

Fear Is The Heart Of Love (#33)

In Stories Volume 2 on December 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

Calvino was a doctor, tending to those ill in body and spirit; the head of a hospital people could only ever find when they most needed it.

 

Wolfe was a sportswriter, dramatizing the ups and downs, the wins and losses, the seasons and years.

 

I owned the ink supply shop back when ink could command it’s own store. Father John Paul II Street, in a shop that functioned on Floor 1.5; not ground level but only five steps up from the sidewalk.

 

Calvino would come by for espressos after midnight, whether his work had come to a close or was just beginning to get interesting. I would know right away which one it was. He either strolled through the door, reaching up to ring the entrance bell that hung an inch too far from the door frame, a question on his lips; or, he banged on the door, shouting, “Woolf! Come now!” I’d find him waiting for me at Quo Vadis, his knee tapping with impatience and his lips quivering with the stories of his shift. The waiters knew the signs and would have our orders ferrying towards us.

 

Wolfe and I didn’t get along, not early on, but he felt a kinship through our misspelled but shared last names. He came for ink – everyday – saying he didn’t like what the newspaper provided him. He came everyday and bought enough ink to last a week, even for a man such as himself. What he did with all that ink, I never knew.

 

They say ink can be a poison but I’ve never understood if it’s meant to be for the body or soul.

 

Calvino was afraid of spiders.

 

Wolfe feared sharks.

 

Neither were practical phobias but who can say if that’s for the best or worst.

 

Others say ink is a narcotic and that ink suppliers are the most visible drug dealers. I used to counter with the peddlers of alcohol or tobacco until someone noted that we’re so open, nobody even knows we’re addictive. I stopped arguing the point after that.

 

When Calvino was shot, those who were there say he bled black. I wasn’t there that day. I had traveled south for a meeting with my sisters about our father. He kept leaving home, barefoot and for days, in search of the perfect Communist, he said. Nobody understood what he meant until years later.

 

They say Calvino bled black after Wolfe shot him; shot him over Plath, who came to our seaside city from the mountainous areas to the east.

 

Did Wolfe love Plath? Probably, though her suicide and his subsequent departure left little in the way of concrete answers. If he wasn’t in love, he was infatuated.

 

Did Calvino? Most certainly. He was a doctor and she a mechanic, perhaps the best our world has known. Calvino fixed that which God created and Plath fixed that which man created. Both struggled toward immortality.

 

There was a crowd for the shooting and after Calvino reeled and Wolfe strode away with his head in his hands, everyone bayed for Calvino to be brought to his own hospital. But his was the hospital that nobody knew existed until they needed it, needed the life-saving expertise of the ex-patriots and former exiles that worked there. Unless you need that hospital, there’s no way to find it. And for Calvino, poor Calvino, the only doctor who could repair the bullet hole that bled black from his heart was himself. So there was no hospital that could save him, merely a dusty town square that turned darker each moment as the sun set on so very much.

 

Days before the shooting, I tried to warn Calvino; tried to tell him that he was too important to the hospital; tried to tell him that Wolfe was sincere; tried to explain that Plath was only Plath, only a person, only one amongst billions; tried to tell him that bluster and bravado would be his undoing and would rid the town of the best doctor it had. That it was only love.

 

It all ended so quickly. Everything. Peace returned to our town but tenseness had taken root alongside it. Wolfe still covered his sports beat and came in for ink everyday but he was colder. Even still, he lingered longer than he used to. There was something between us, something wound tighter than our names. There was something and if I’m honest, it was my something that held him. He had places to be. I made him stay.

 

I tried to calm Wolfe as well but he would not be calmed. Not could not, but would not. There are times when men give themselves over to their baser urges and their animal instincts, and then there are no inroads, no egresses. But other times, man is at his most calculating, his most logical and most clinical. This is to be feared above all else. A dumb beast can be deftly side-stepped or stopped with blunt force, but a calculating man will redirect himself or find a way around the force. Wolfe had become a calculating man.

 

There were more deaths in town. Accidents and illnesses; the kinds of things that Calvino’s hospital would have attended to but nobody could find it after he died. Some people think it shut down, some think it moved on, and some think it’s still waiting for new patients. Those patients being attended to when Calvino died all came wandering home through the woods one week after the shooting. They were emaciated and their feet ragged. Each one died within a month.

 

Wolfe could be heard every night outside of Plath’s house. Even as the aggressor, the killer, we pitied him for being so desperately driven as to kill the man he once considered one of his few friends. To see someone become so consumed left us all wary for our own souls and our own sanity.

 

She never answered his plaintive calls, Plath. She maintained a normal life: shopping at the grocery, visiting with friends, tending to the non-stop work that came through her garage, albeit with a mournful air. Her laugh, still existent, had diminished in quantity and volume. When Plath declined to come to either the window or the door of her home during the twilight hours in which he made his entreaties, Wolfe began attempting to reach her at her garage. Her assistants kept him at bay. After he figured out their shift changes, their lunch breaks, Wolfe almost snuck through to where she laid underneath a 1963 Mercedes Benz the color of the sea. That afternoon, Plath hired a kid to watch the door the entire day. Barring this new hire, the absence of Calvino, and the great sadness that encircled her, Plath’s life remained normal.

 

There was no punishment or retribution against Wolfe. Everyone seemed to think that he was suffering enough without the intrusion of outside agents.

 

Plath suffered the most: the loss of Calvino, her grief over him, and finally her own death.

 

Since his death, someone has placed a glass jar atop Calvino’s grave every year on his birthday. Inside the jar is a spider that can fit in the palm of your hand. Affixed to the lid of the jar, concealing but not covering the punctures that allow the spider to survive, is a note, which reads, “You no longer need fear.”

 

Wolfe, truth be told, should be next on the list of those who suffered the most. Murderer, rejected lover, he left our city unable to bear the pity we couldn’t help but smother him in. In the decade that followed, stories and rumors of Wolfe would come limping in to us: conning tourists along the Dalmatian Coast, advancing the causes of dubious individuals and institutions, losing himself for years in the darkness of war-torn countries. Intimations of another murder twisted itself our way. It’s been years now since we’ve heard anything and I often wonder if he’s still alive, wonder if he’s been put out of his misery.

 

I took over the sports desk once Wolfe left. I believe they chose me from the pool of applicants simply because our names matched phonetically. By now I run my own paper while still maintaining the ink shop from 8pm until midnight every night. I’m lucky to get two-dozen customers a week. The quietness haunts me in a beautiful way. The store looks the same as it did back then.

 

I believe that when he killed Calvino, Wolfe’s soul discovered the most wretched and hurtful place it had ever known. And after it had moved away from that place, it could hardly believe what it had seen there. Like a drug, like an accident on the road, he needed to encounter it again. The road of depravity and hurt could never bring him again to that same place, and yet he could not help himself from trying.

 

Actually, there is one difference at the store. Near the front door, I keep four framed photos. Calvino, Plath, Wolfe, and myself from a long time ago. I long ago took down the bell that only Calvino would ring when he entered. It now sits in a glass case on my desk at the newspaper.

 

I’m next on the list. I lost everyone, even Wolfe left me and now time and distance have left me to miss him more than he deserves. Time, the curse; time, the destroyer.

 

The moment that I rushed back to hear the news is seared forever in my mind. The moment when the telephone rang and I didn’t pick it up the day that Plath killed herself. The call came at 2:41 in the afternoon and the police say that she died in the morning. So it wasn’t like that but… no, it wasn’t like that, but I wonder.

 

Oddly enough, Calvino had it the easiest. The immediate victim. He lost everything but at least he lost it all at once. The rest of us lingered like so many shepherdless sheep.

 

I no longer drink espressos at midnight. It’s not the staying awake that bothers me, it’s the waking dreams. Quo Vadis used to know my order and every waiter knew my name.

 

My thoughts now slur in age and rye. I miss the world I knew. I miss the city I knew, the friends I knew. I miss Wolfe more than I should.

 

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