It was all more perfect than I could have imagined! The yard was filled with circling neighbors, so many new faces and bodies, all so extravagantly adorned. I soon spotted Matches bolting around in ecstasy, racing to all corners of the party, enthralled at the panoply around him. As I traced his path I came across faces both familiar and strange, family and neighbors alike. However, I could not find that face I had spent my day envisioning with such vigor. Where was Lisa?
I tried to my maintain my rapture, and convinced myself that she would simply be along shortly, that of course she was just choosing for herself the most perfect dress to wear. The evening was mostly clear, and as the sun set the stars began to shine bright as candles. A band was playing in the twilight as the crowds of couples, young and old, danced in the joint light of the evening sky and the bulbs strung along the fence. This continued for some while until the sky began to light up with color. As we watched the brilliant fireworks fanning out across that beautiful canvas, the lights too caught their reflection in the flow of the river. The speckled mirror image of the stars and the flaming colors of the fireworks bounced off the shining dark surface, giving the effect of a feverish Impressionist painting. I watched both the sky and the water, forgetting myself completely for the better half of an hour. I was only brought back to the world when the show ended and, looking back up toward the crowd, I spotted the unmistakable figure of Lisa walking toward the patio. I ran to meet her, eager to catch her as the band struck up again and the party burst back to life. Yet she seemed intent on some unknown goal, and I watched her from several paces behind as she ascended the steps and crossed the porch.
What follows grows increasingly blurred in my mind, but I do recall trailing her in earnest, as if possessed, crossing through the door into that dark house. Every limb of mine was on fire; I was indeed surely in a strange dream. Yet I followed the sounds of her footsteps, which soon transformed into a voice, and that into two. I immediately recognized my father’s unmistakable speech in the darkness, and I crept closer and closer to the sound. The words had become something other than words, and as I rounded the corner of the hall and my eyes adjusted to moonlit interior, everything revealed itself. Lisa’s hair draped over the lip of the chaise longue…
The rest of what remains is mostly sound and color, but from what I understand I must have run a considerable distance, only to collapse on a rocky shoal a ways off from the edge of the road. It wasn’t until the morning that I was discovered by Matches, tugging away at my ruined pants from the night before.
I came down with a nasty case of pneumonia, and so passed the rest of the summer with my mother at our brownstone in New York. My father and brothers remained in the country for the rest of the summer, occasionally venturing down to check on me. I don’t remember much of this at all, as for the first few weeks I was constantly passing in and out of a feverish state, but I seem to recall these visits as being only antagonistic to my health.
My summer had ended almost as soon as it began, and the remainder of July and August dragged along in a haze. I did eventually recover, but the prospect of returning to the country seemed no longer to hold any appeal. At the very end of August I did in fact return briefly, but only to collect some last belongings and join my brothers for the journey home. Saving very few possessions, I decided to stow away the majority of my things, packing them away in a musty corner of the attic where I imagined they might never again see the light of day.
I did, as it happens, catch one last glimpse of Lisa as I was packing away my belongings. It was only for a moment, as she stood with her arms crossed in the afternoon sun. She was watching my father load the last of our things into the car, and for a brief instant it appeared as if she were preparing to approach him. But, as he proceeded to swiftly shut the trunk, she caught herself and slowly turned away toward her own drive.
Throughout the year my father occasionally returned to the house, tending the grounds or, weather permitting, joining old acquaintances for a round of golf. Yet, early in the spring of the following year, on his way from one of these trips, he found himself in a crash that left him fighting a losing battle with death, and soon after he gave up the ghost. Various accounts of the crash itself suggest the presence of a second passenger, mysteriously vanished from the scene, but, as the accounts were in conflict, they soon faded into obscurity.
Many years later, an orderly from the hospital where he passed sent me a note that had apparently been discovered on his bedside table. Perhaps once comprehensible, the incontinent words he scrawled in his last moments seem less clear with each reading. Death renders everything both painfully vivid and hopelessly obscure. I suspect that one day his words might reveal some hidden meaning to me, but until then it is through distance that I hope to preserve a shade of his former image in the recesses of my memory.