The days came and went and Mary kept getting older. It had been bound to happen. Her ears worked less effectively, one of them devising a high-pitched noise all its own. The noise reminded her of summer nights and the fathers appearing on the porches, each one with a different way of letting you know it was time for bed. Eddie’s father would put two fingers in his mouth and whistle; Mr. Andersen used a conch shell. It would get dark, the streetlamps would be lit, the girls would be singing a sad song as they gathered their trading cards together and said goodnight to one another. Romance was in the air, romance and false hope, not exactly the same thing but linked, like love and marriage. It was all the girls could think of.
My ear is driving me crazy, Mary told Walter as they lay together in bed. She knew better by now than to ask him if he heard what she was hearing. She would draw the curtains and he would open them, his shadow draping over her as he turned away from the window. They were in the vacation house he’d bought as a surprise for Mary—there was nothing intervening between it and the ocean. He thought the house would please her since she had fond memories of it from when she was a girl. Mary’s hair had turned to dross, her skin to paper, but even so Walter liked looking at her. What was happening to her was part of his original bargain, including the sorry condition of her teeth and eyes. The sight of Mary still had the power to arouse his desire. Then she would succumb to desire too, panting a little.
While her husband was at work in the city, Mary sat staring at the ocean through the large halfmoon-shaped front window. In the morning the waves were quite large but as the day wore on they grew smaller, almost too small to break, as if some long snakelike creature was tunneling along just below the surface. The days wore on, all of them; Mary rarely ventured forth into the sun until it had almost set. Sometimes Saint Foy girls would march along the strand two by two in their blue uniforms. Sometimes they would run single file in their bare feet at the water’s edge.
After graduation Blue-Eyes moved back to the city. Mary knew because Walter liked to fill her in on their daughter’s exploits. For some time now she had been working with him; as far as Mary could tell she was doing very well. Occasionally there would be a story on the console involving Blue-Eyes. An [End Page 10] interviewer would be asking her about Walter’s latest project, the two of them standing together in an undisclosed location. Once Mary thought she recognized the koi pool in the park at the end of the street where she grew up. Blue-Eyes was talking about modern marriage, a subject Mary was sure her daughter knew nothing about. Blue-Eyes was explaining that she and the interviewer were standing not far from where her mother and father had met. “My father always said it was love at first sight,” Blue-Eyes was saying. “What about your mother?” the interviewer wanted to know. “Oh, my mother.” Blue-Eyes stared straight into the camera like she knew Mary was watching. “You should ask her.” She went on to say that whatever brought two people together had nothing to do with sex. It had to do with the abyss, the face of the deep, with whatever came before people or animals or life of any kind and what would be left after they were gone.
The way Blue-Eyes was dressed and wore her hair reminded Mary of the caryatids holding the porch roof of the Erechtheion atop their heads as they stared blankly at the wine-dark sea. The caryatids kept on staring even as pieces of their bodies broke off and fell into the water. According to gaze theory, what a...