October 16, 2015
They drove north in midday traffic, Freddie snotting on the steering wheel and Claire resting her forehead on the cool glass of the passenger window. Central Park. Then the Bronx and the Bronx zoo, the children standing on street corners in thin coats, their fists hidden inside sleeves, sleeves holding radios. She caught pieces of songs. At a stop sign she heard Ray Charles, his bent-branch moan. She nodded her head to it, and they drove on.
Freddie had said he needed fresh air and that he knew how badly Claire wanted to see the leaves turn. He wouldn’t want her to miss that confetti ground just because he was feverish. An hour upstate, they reached a dirt road and a small patch of trampled grass. They’d been here once, long before. They congratulated themselves on finding it again.
The lookout point was a mile from the car, a view of the Hudson waiting there. The short walk proved difficult for Freddie, and he stubbed his toe on a rock. But he said he felt invigorated. He wandered off to the edge on his own, and she watched his back. He’d worn his gray trench coat and struggled to take it off. It swashed and moved with his body; it seemed too big for him now. Ahead of her, in the light and shadows, he was nearly camouflaged. But a moment later she heard his voice calling to her. “Get over here. It’s beautiful.”
Claire lagged behind along the path and the loud leaves sounded like cracking joints. She breathed the cold air into her lungs. It felt good. A cigarette would also feel good. She reached Freddie, leaned against him and looked at the river not so far below, the water shimmering in the breeze.
“We haven’t done anything like this in ages,” Freddie said.
“Why is that?”
“We could try. We should try to be good.” Freddie made her look him in the eyes. “I want to be good to you, Claire.”
She pulled away slightly to look at him better. “Is that so?” She tried to sound light, and thought: how funny that I do not feel a thing.
“You know you’re very hard to please,” said Freddie.
“And you’re so easy,” Claire said. She was smiling, wasn’t she?
“We should take a trip. We could go back to Cuba for our anniversary.”
“We could go upstate.”
“We’ll talk about it.” Freddie leaned in, spoke into her hair. “We’re all alone up here. No one around for miles.”
Claire turned from the wet of his breath, his arms around her waist.
He grinned. “You know I could kill you and no one would ever know.”
“That’s not funny.”
“I could, and then leave you here. Who would know?”
Claire did not answer.
He laughed sharply. “But I won’t. That’s the point. That’s how much I love you. I could, but I won’t.”
He took her silence to be anger—how would he know it was indifference? He said, “It’s a joke, Claire. Come on. Come here.” He sniffled, pulled her closer, and tried to kiss her mouth, but she turned and he settled for her ear. The Hudson moved beneath them.
“You could barely walk up that hill, let alone fight me,” she said.
“It was a mountain,” Freddie mumbled. He let go and walked further along the path, into the woods. She could not say out loud that she did not love him, because then it might be true.
I could kill you, you mean.
CARMIEL BANASKY is the author of The Suicide of Claire Bishop, published by Dzanc Books. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, Slice, Guernica, PEN America, The Rumpus, and on NPR, among other places. She earned her MFA from Hunter College, where she taught Undergraduate Creative Writing. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Bread Loaf, Ucross, Ragdale, Artist Trust, I-Park, VCCA, and other foundations. After four years on the road at writing residencies, she now resides and teaches in Los Angeles. She is from Portland, OR.
Adapted from The Suicide of Claire Bishop, by Carmiel Banasky, Copyright © 2015 by Carmiel Banasky. With the permission of the publisher, Dzanc Books.