It’s like seeing a ghost, or it’s how most people would react if they saw a ghost. I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t react at all if someone from my past showed up as some ethereal hallucination and quite honestly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already. This is a little different because it’s the light of day and while ghosts are supposed to look like who they were this is a specter I have to watch carefully before I realize who she is. The eyes are the same, not in superficial color but intent, and if someone with a gun had sat down across from me and laid that gun on the table it would not have struck the same sense of fear as seeing those eyes fronting a mind that knew how to make them glitter like that again. This cannot me real, I tell myself, no. After all I have seen and felt and experienced in the dark world that has nothing to do with this one there sits in front of me someone I have never seen before but I know exactly for what she is, if she is at all.
“You’re Mike Firesmith,”she says and I can tell she already knows. As she sits down across from me everyone in the room looks at her, glances over to see who this woman might be, and if she looked totally different I would know, if for no other reason, this.
“Yeah” and it’s all I have. There aren’t any words anymore. If she were holding a gun I wouldn’t have much else to say. If this is the end or if this is the beginning of the end, then there are few words, fewer still, that ought to be spoken. Let there be some volume in the noise of life but let there be a sense of quietness when the transition of life switches from the living to something else, please, and this woman is a transition.
Her face is more rounded, smaller, and her ears are smallish, and her two front teeth are ever so slightly prominent but her lips make up for it, full and sensual. The hair is a rusty sort of brown, not really red but there is a tint there, maybe real and maybe not. There’s a smattering of freckles across her cheeks, below the eyes and for an instant I wonder if she’s had them tattooed there but she looks too real to have done that. Her eyes are a liquid brown bordering on the same color of the water of the Okenfeokee and I wonder if she knows. Is there some way that she would know, I mean, other than who she is? These are incidental and coincidental thoughts that will float and swirl like dark water around cypress stumps just below the water’s surface. Then there is the fear, the real and honest fear, that this is madness in its purest form, or worse, it is not. What if this is real or what if it is not? I cannot speak or act but sit and stare and this young woman who sits across from me and she grins. She knows who I am in a way that is deeply dangerous and I have no idea how she would know. But I realize that I have told her. I realize that she knows a life only through my words. Another thought occurs and she laughs out loud and again, this in and of itself would be enough, this laugh. I have heard it a million times, alone in the dark or across a crowded bar, or shouted across the ocean and for the last time, I truly believed, on my front steps well over a decade ago.
She keeps her eyes locked on me and I know that predatory gesture, too. Which is more dangerous, I wonder, for a woman to have eyes of the clearest green, that reflects light and sparkles even in the tiniest candle light, or the eyes the devour all light and seem endless, bottomless, as infinite as the deepest and most majestic cavern on earth? I cannot hold that gaze even though I know I must. The truth is going to be overwhelming no matter which way the pressure lies. And the truth? What of it? What could she tell me that might be believed? She is a ghost, a piece of my past that has taken form in front of me for reasons that I cannot begin to guess or evade. I know she waits for the question and that is why she sits there with that smile, oh if there is some god, gods, goddesses, or thoughtless creature whose whim spins this universe as a child would a toy, why do this to me with that smile? Is there not enough to occupy the minds of this earth or the mechanisms of the stars that this smile must be repeated to me, an echo of a life I know has ended?
But she cannot exist. I reach for the smallest straw of hope, I gather any reason I have left in my mind, and take a deep breath. This is the day I have awaited and feared. This is true madness when a dream might walk the earth and sit in front of me. My mind has conjured this creature out of the shattered remains of my past and even as I sit in wonder and horror, I realize that my insanity has broken free of its cage of darkness and now walks openly in the sun. That is my most wild and utterly futile hope; that I am insane and this is not real and this woman does not exist.
Even this hope is subverted by my own thoughts. She cannot be more than twenty-five, not likely younger than twenty, but she has a freshness about her that might carry a woman into her thirties without marring her and at fifteen she might still look a woman with those eyes. No, the calculator of age fails me as will any other device I employ to pin her down in any way.
“Who are you?” I ask. She has been waiting this question even though she knows that I have realized at once. I have my part to play and must play it. I have dealt these cards over a lifetime and now I gather them up to see nothing; no suits that I would recognize and no face cards but odd forms and odd shapes and nameless numbers.
“ My name is Lynn,” she tells me, “I’m Sara Poole’s daughter”
“Lynn?” I couldn’t speak other than to repeat something that I heard.
“Linn,” she repeated, “with an “i” instead of a “y”, it has something to do with mom’s last name, her made up last name. You two were made for each other, you know.”
“Linn,” I began, “you know…”
“I know she’s dead.” Linn snapped at me. “And I know you claimed the body. I know you took the ashes out there to that damn swamp where no one could find the spot and you might not be able to again. It took damn near a year to find you. You never use your real name anymore, do you? We have to get the test run. I need to know if you’re my biological father.”