Please, she said. Please. Then she cast her eyes past my shoulder and sighed that maddening smile that had been the reason her uncle had killed those cats. Please.
I shook my head, but I shook it with genuine sadness. It wasn't as if I enjoyed marking the fences with my own urine. And accumulating sufficient urine hadn't been a joy, either. And in these days of postrefridgeration, I knew it hadn't been a joy for her either. I thought of apologizing, but my pride had already taken too many beatings that month.
She turned around and watched the hairs on a rabbit skull blow in the wind. I know, she said. I knew, rather, I knew.
You didn't know anything, I snarled, then felt immediately embarrassed. Although most of our suffering had, yes, been her fault, I knew it wasn't fair to blame her --- or, rather, I knew I couldn't blame her more than she already blamed herself. But I stopped short of apologizing.
The sweat on the backs of her calves sparkled in the setting sun, and for the first time in weeks I took notice of her shape as a woman and of the ragged yellow remains of a sundress that hung from her tired, dirty, emaciated frame. And felt glad I could not see myself.
It has to be done.
I'm --- But I still could not apologize. But to what end? For what could I be blamed.
I know, she repeated.
So I continued sloshing out my urine and tried desperately not to look at her, not to remember, not to apologize, not to hope to dream to hold to repair. We could not go backwards. So I would not go backwards.
I just continued down the fenceline, trusting she would follow me. Or if not, hoping that we would forgive.