She wanted out. I knelt, hang dog and disbelieving until her U-Haul pulled down the gravel driveway. She stood erect, somber in the sunshine, dramatic and self-consumed. “Give me your hand,” she insisted, twisting the diamond off her finger. “Here.”
My innards twisted. She didn’t notice. I battled my instinct to throw it into the woods. The stone reflected her: ideal cut and nearly perfect. I slipped the ring into my pocket.
“Now help me clear out.”
We scoured the house to extract her paraphernalia, junk jewelry, Christmas decorations, loads of outfits and assorted furniture that had moved in over ten years. Photos of enchanting travels spiked our memories: castle-topped mountains of Portugal, sizzled squid and ouzo in Greece, Egyptian tombs of Tut and Nefertiti, blue ocean Curacao, millennial galas in Quebec and all-nighters in Vegas, mirages without mass or substance.
She vanished, leaving only apparitions, specters mourning.
I first saw her after midnight at Foxwoods, the world’s largest casino. A svelte inamorata beckoned me, a Bombay Sapphire martini girl, straight up, extra dry with a twist. “Hey sailor, can I buy you dinner?” Her eyes fox-flashed behind ebony curls and arrest-me-red lipstick. “I just won a thousand dollars. Celebrate with me. I’m Bombi.”
I skydived, freefalling love struck into daylight before I pulled the rip cord and realized I neglected to get her number. I wanted to stand in a circle and kick myself in the ass, agonizing over my stupidity until a card arrived at work. The note read:
Hey sailor, you owe me dinner. After dessert, we’ll go Velcro wall jumping. Call me. 203-598-0264. Bombi.
I called, palpitating. “It’s Zeth, how did you find me?”
“Your business card, silly. Let’s get together.”
We did, spending every weekend, holiday and summer laughing and romping in protracted private celebration. Never quite together, we lived parallel lives during the week, but on weekends, we plunged into each other. We mastered the art of extended sexual orgasms and choreographed strip tease acts, cutting off clothing with knives and scissors in the well-mirrored rooms of the Poconos and French Provincial Montreal. We made love on a balcony high above Atlantic City and on the glacier of Mount Rainier.
Bombi sported the breasts of an eighteen-year-old girl, tea cups, round and perky with brown nipples. She flashed me while we dined in restaurants or climbed the cliffs of Santorini or hiked the Mojave Desert. Her head swung left, then right while her hands dropped to her waist. Her shirt rose like a stage curtain to reveal the cyclorama.
Always preferring a Marriott, she learned to eat by fires and sleep in tents but going gamey soiled her pretty clothes. I enjoyed jerky, and she opted for ganja. At home, she employed electrolysis to eradicate unwanted hair, but she condoned my beard. Her perfect nose job contrasted my slightly deviated septum, a reminder of my stint as the world’s worst boxer. Our differences seemed trivial. After two years, I proposed.
Bombi said yes to marriage, but she coveted the cloistered confines of Connecticut’s exclusive college prep, Westover School, where she lived and reigned as dorm mother for notables like Princess Zein of Jordan, daughter of King Hussein and sister to King Abdullah II. She taught health, sex education and aerobics. The young ladies loved her irrepressible energy while she delighted in their pubescent antics. Leaving Westover was so unimaginable that she repeatedly delayed the wedding, resisting change for eight years. She needed two lives. I pushed too hard, forcing her to cut and run. She reminded me before she drove her Uhaul up the gravel driveway to escape, “You’ll never find another Bombi.”
In the aftermath, I blazed, seared by fiery remembrances, flowing lava slow, molten remnants of great love reduced to ash and pumice. I disappeared into the Cambridge think tank, grappling with the boys in the back room, solving elusive problems no one had ever solved. We built a system to listen for the shock wave off the nosecone of a bullet and put the sniper in somebody’s gunsight. Secretly, I leveraged their frenetic brilliance to paper over my void.
She knew where to find me. After eight long months of Radio Free Bombi, she called for the first time since she left. “I’ve been thinking. We should get together, over dinner.” We met halfway and sat in a corner booth, to probe paths to reconciliation. Like the unguided rafting expedition through the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, Bombi was a wild ride, dazzling, delirious and death defying, but possibly not a do over. We agreed to take time, a month, to reconsider.
On my way home, I stopped at Kmart. Contemplating Bombi as I walked across the parking lot, I didn’t see the car. I only heard the shrill screech of tires. Reacting, I leaped up and out of my sandals. As I reached apogee, suspended momentarily in midair, a car rushed beneath me, backwards. I returned to earth, hands on the roof, shoes under the car, face to face with an elderly woman in an old Dodge. I envisioned my mangled body under the chassis. For what? Some blue light special? My life passed before my eyes, literally, not myth or metaphor, my life flashed before me, critical moments and significant people, but no Bombi. As I knelt to retrieve my shoes beneath the undercarriage, I knew what my answer would be.
I lollygagged for weeks, procrastinating the showdown. Parallel lines, however close, cannot converge. Defying our fervent wishes, they never bundle or entwine to attain unity.
Bombi called me, and her voice quivered, deadly serious. “I’ve had a life altering experience, and I need you.” Her words struck my sternum like a stiletto that snapped as she continued. “I have breast cancer and big decisions to make. My mother had it, so she’s freaking out. My sister is freaking out, feeling herself up all night. I have nowhere else to turn. I need your logical mind to get me through this ordeal.” A prepared speech, delivered flawlessly.
“Of course. We’ll take this trek together.”
The biopsy confirmed a malignant lump, aggressively enlarged, threatening to snuff her out. She required an immediate mastectomy. The decision to take the second breast to thwart metastasis loomed large. We researched the risk/reward statistics and decided not to gamble. Both breasts had to go.
“Play with them one last time,” she begged me with tears on her cheeks. “I’m too young. I’m not ready.”
“We are not ready.”
“If I make it, I’ll be a good girl. I will pray,” she promised.
I raced to her after the operation that removed tumors from both breasts. She was beyond consolation.
“Look what they did to me,” she wailed. Slowly, the curtain rose. The core of each breast had been excised with the wounds crudely sutured, creating the illusion of bruised and swollen figs, purple and puckered.
“When do you start radiation?” I reached for her. The curtain dropped. She shook her head. “Chemo?”
“Nothing,” she said. “They got it all. The bastard said, ‘Have a nice life.’”
I held her as she lapsed into slumber. I held her until the morning paper plopped outside her door. I made breakfast and put her to bed before I left. “You should get a second opinion.”
She did. Another, “Have a nice life.”
More surgeries lay ahead. Her saline implants grew rutabaga hard, painfully grotesque reminders of her mutation into a disfigured cancer survivor. I worried about her despondence, fearful and angry at her diminished body. She needed to look forward to something, and she looked forward to silicone implants, soft, pliable and her choice of size. She always wanted larger breasts and asked me for them every year at Christmas since we met. Now, she found an unconventional way to hoodwink her insurance company into paying for breast enhancement, and her attitude improved as the date approached. Afterwards, she called on me to inspect, fondle and evaluate, but Bombi rejected my assurances. The reconstruction left one breast larger than the other. She scheduled another treatment to achieve symmetry.
The final operation purloined patches from her buttocks to form aureole and snippets of earlobe to simulate nipples. The last step tattooed brown the summits to match her original shade. She called less often now, and when she did, she came to visit me, to sit by the lake, allowing her psyche to convalesce in sylvan settings as her physical regeneration progressed.
One evening, she appeared unannounced, wearing white, miniskirt and thigh highs that didn’t quite reach. “I’ve always wanted to wear this outfit. Since I was in the office anyway, I ponied up for liposuction.” We made martinis and strolled by the lake, hand in hand. At curtain call, I stepped back to venerate the masterpieces. I palmed them and placed my nose into their pliant warmth, inhaling her pheromones, then tonguing, licking and burbling bubbles while she giggled. She pushed away, raising her skirt to reveal lacey panties matching the lace atop her hose. I snatched her in my arms and lifted her to denouement, casting its shadowy spectre behind us. Our finale intoned the transience of flesh and passion, the unbearable gravity of emptiness and the contrasting cravings for entirety. For me, it was a life-affirming celebration of love and gratitude. For her, it was dress rehearsal for her resurrection.
“Did you pray today?” I asked as we sprawled on the lawn in post-coital exhaustion.
“No.” She rose up. “Changes don’t last forever.”
She dressed quickly and kissed my cheek. “I’m leaving. I can never thank you enough.” Standing erect, phosphorescing in the moonlight, she whispered, “You’ll never find another Bombi.”
Bombi was back, and she was gone, forever out there in the wild, flashing her killer breasts.