We sat near the back fence framed by hammered mirrors and garden spiders; she was on her 24th cigarette. She spoke with a thick tongue and sometimes indecipherable accent, but I knew she’d given something away years, most probably decades, ago. She’d come to America in 1999, from Russia, told fast money could be found in Los Angeles, a city only dreamed of, feared. No hooker her, at least not from what I could tell, but she spoke of six abortions with irreverence, or maybe scars. Turns out she would never produce that Tennessee Williams play in Moscow.
It’s been 10 years now. We talk of cancer parents, and a husband dead in the least physical sense of the word. He comes to our mirror place after putting the twins to bed, because he heard her call him “asshole” from the kitchen.
“Why do you smoke?” he asks from the porch swing. I see him outlined by dark. I don’t leave but I should.
“Because I want to die.” She blows smoke into the sky. I think I see a smirk.
“What did you say, Benia?” He doesn’t sound sad. Shouldn’t he sound sad? I know I should leave.
“I want to die.”
I make to move. He tells me to stop, gets up, and goes back to the kitchen.
“I need to go.” It’s hard for me to say because her heart hurts and I want to help. But I need to see my kids. It’s true.
She pours wine into my glass. “Don’t leave me.” And I remember earlier, maybe an hour before in the living room, her folk dancing to Fiddler on the Roof, and me thinking there can be happiness here.
A day later I daydream I didn’t leave and said to her, “Give him a chance,” and to him, “Listen.”
But in real life, there’s a mirror, her heart hurts, and I want to help.