by Irving Kenneth Zola


It was quite large -- perhaps six inches by four of folded manila newsprint, neatly sealed with a sticker. And it lay before me unopened on my desk. There was no return address -- only a postmark from a far distant place and six block printed letters spelling out a name from the even more distant past.

It had been six years since I'd seen her, but only yesterday that I'd thought of her. A yesterday when someone passed that looked like her and once more, I called out hopefully, "Elizabeth?"

I know it sounds clicheish, but there is no relationship in my life I remember so vividly, perhaps because it was so short. I remember not so much when we met but when our relationship changed. I don't know what we were talking about, only her request to go somewhere where we could speak more comfortably. Thinking nothing of it I agreed and suggested a bar not far away.

And then, as in a Class B Hollywood film, it happened. Just as our drinks were finished and we reached across the table to look at the bill, our hands touched. And much to my surprise, hers did not pull back. Awkwardly, I said something like, "We must find a way to continue this." And again to my surprise she agreed and we made an appointment to meet for lunch the following week. As we walked to our respective cars, I wondered what I was doing with this golden beauty -- the WASP ideal of my adolescence -- an ideal I didn't think I still held. In a way I needed to pinch myself to see if this was real, and so I took a chance. When we reached the car, I played the gallant. Leaning my canes against the side panel and with one hand on the car for support, I opened her door. As she sank to the seat, I leaned forward in a bow which put my face near hers. When she raised her lips to meet mine, my fantasies soared.

In the following week when we became lovers, I was frankly quite nervous. I remember sitting on her bed and realizing how little we knew about each other. As she returned from the bathroom, I announced a warning, "Well, now you'll see the real me!" The words sounded more scary than they usually did. Something about it being daylight really bothered me. I'd made love in the afternoon before, but never with a stranger. Here I was surrounded by my equipment -- my corset, bandages, braces, canes, all seemingly illuminated by the bright rays of the sun. Night seemed a safer time. In the darkness of a dimly lit room, I and my equipment seemed at least muted if not hidden. But here in the sunlight I felt on stage, fully exposed.

"Are you embarrassed?" she called in before she entered. "Please don't be. . . .I'm not."

Immediately she lay down beside me and gently touched my scarred leg. Turning to me with a smile, she said, "You know, some of us have disabilities you can't see." And with this she took my hand and guided it over her body till I touched the places where she injected herself with insulin.

But our idyll was a short one. I saw her one more time and then, for some reason I cannot recall, I had to break an appointment. When I called the following week she was gone; her apartment empty; her phone disconnected. With no forwarding address, my letters returned unopened.

Though I tried to track her down, all my efforts were unsuccessful until today. With these thoughts I carefully broke the seal and unfolded the paper. It was a hand-drawn announcement of a birth from the distant past. I was mystified. What was she trying to tell me after all these years? My impulses got the best of me and I called information at the place listed in the postmark. Several times that day and the next I phoned but with no success. Maybe I should just let it lie and do nothing. Maybe I will....and then again maybe I won't.


copyright Irving Kenneth Zola