- Abide With Me
Aplaque, a photo, a cardboard likeness. Well, they will find none of those things here. Oh, they exist, and I have them still, but they are packed away in the other house, buried with the life I have now escaped, as surely as Liam has escaped his.
I cannot honestly say that Liam loved the mountain house. Perhaps he did, for all I know, but he was never here very [End Page 70] much. I was trying to please him when I chose it, but he may have let me buy it as much for the tax advantages as to spend time in this place. "But you grew up in these hills," I said once, as he looked down from our limestone terrace at the newly-landscaped ridges studded with what he called "stone and glass excrescences," built by the other summer people. He shuddered a little. "I'm not from here", he said. "Not from this place."
Well, naturally it has changed here since he was a raw-boned mountain boy. But at least it is close to heaven. One cannot argue with that.
He did come from these mountains, long ago before I knew him. Back when he was not Liam, the exalted racing champion, but plain old Billy, a north Georgia dirt track driver—before the fame and the money bronzed his life until the only mountains around him were the barriers of handlers and managers and buffers between him and everything else. When I chose this stone and glass eyrie on a cliff top, I thought I had found the best of both worlds for us: an elegant home in an exclusive enclave with other people from our social stratum, and all around us the enfolding hills he always said he missed so much. I don't know what else he could have wanted.
Sometimes I would stand outside under a blanket of stars and wonder if he might be up there, looking down on me in some form of heroic transfiguration. There must be scores of people out there who would believe that implicitly, but I was not one of them. Or else I fancied that he might be there beside me, if only I could have turned around quickly enough. If there is a hereafter, he ought to spend it watching over me, instead of staying out there with them. Surely now that he's dead, it can be my turn at last.
The local people come by sometimes to deliver flowers (on his birthday, never on mine, or on the anniversary of a race he'd won). Sometimes they bring me letters from strangers [End Page 71] that were put by mistake into their mailboxes. As I stand on the threshold, I can see them peering past me, down the hall, into the glass-walled great room, looking for the contrails of Liam's fame: a model of the race car; a bronze plaque; a photo of him with a president or film star; the life-sized cardboard effigy of Liam himself, arms folded, staring bleakly into the camera with that look I could never quite decipher. Now, though, I think I have worked out the meaning of that somber expression, so different from those first posed publicity pictures they took of him, when he was just beginning the journey that has brought me here and him—nowhere.
Back then—and ten years hardly seems a long time, looking back—Liam in a royal blue firesuit mugs at the camera with an aw-shucks grin, still marveling at his good fortune and happy to bask in the light of his new-found celebrity. He is a chosen one, ready to pay any price for that ride. A decade later, the face in the frame is a solemn man in black and gold, with mournful eyes and a chiseled face infinitely more handsome through time and experience, but minus the joy he took with him when he started. I see nothing of the jubilant boy in the face of this somber successor. Now he is like a one-star general who has seen the war, not from...