The ride to her new home passed in silence. When we arrived at the condominium complex, she could barely stand and tripped over the first set of concrete stairs. It was called Breezy Meadows, and after we passed through the gates, a dog let out a series of barks as we struggled along the laid stone path. A large waterless pool was crowded with flyers and old newspapers and a clanking ice machine directed me through the maze. I half-carried her onto the landing.
She unlocked her door and tried to pull me inside, whispering in my ear that I should spend the night. I held her upright and said yes, but once she’d taken a step into the living room I let go and stood there as she toppled backward into the darkness. Her arms worked at the air for a moment and soon flagged and I walked inside and looked down. Lily, beautiful, strange, hurt Lily. Her feet blocked the door from closing and I took hold of her by her arms and pulled her into the middle of the room. I found a blanket on the sofa and covered her and took one look back. She looked like a child, no older than me.
I closed the door behind me and walked to the pool, not knowing what to do with myself, thinking maybe the empty pool would tell me something.
A wind kicked up and scraps of trash swirled in eddies. Everything looked small, out of breath, diminished.
I searched the balcony of condos opposite Lily’s. One of them must belong to the fat guy who sat there with his dick hanging out. Most had plastic chairs placed outside, so you could sit there in the afternoons and stare out into this wasteland. I was about to turn and walk away when I heard a door click open. I watched in surprise as Lily walked onto her balcony, dressed as I had left her. Oblivious to my presence, she stumbled down the steps and across the courtyard and climbed back up the steps of the balcony opposite. She staggered and fell to her knees twice, but not for a single moment was I tempted to call out her name.
She found a door and stood stiffly, swaying from side to side. She gripped the frame to keep her balance. In the weak lights that illuminated the balcony, I could see flying insects circling her head and forming a disorderly halo which flashed on and off as their tiny bodies fluttered. After a moment, she raised a hand and knocked. She didn’t have to wait long. A light came on inside, and the door opened to the width of a chain.
In the opening I caught a glimpse of a fat, naked man. The light from the apartment left Lily in shadow and I couldn’t tell what was being said. Finally, when he unlatched the chain and opened the door, I saw him, briefly, in the full armour of his nakedness. Lily disappeared inside and as the door began to shut, he stalled and reached his head out and cast a glance all the way up and down the courtyard. He spotted me and our eyes met.
My hands gripped the cool railing circling the swimming pool. Nothing made sense. Not Lily, not me, none of this or the night or the heavens. At that moment, something changed inside me. Everything I thought I’d ever known, the realisations I’d had, crumbled and fell away, one by one, like heavy slabs of marble falling on their side and shattering. Spinoza’s words returned for a second time that night. I didn’t know why, and it made no sense to me, but I suspected that maybe he was right, seeing Lily tonight — even in her degradation, and me in my ridiculous, impotent rage — that this world was perfect, because it could be nothing else except exactly what it was.
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