FirstYou’ve heard it before: There’s a right time and a right place for everything.
Yes. That’s fine, as far as it goes. But Lucky wondered, what about love? Shouldn’t we say, anytime, anyplace, if it’s for love?
Stern morning, crowded noon, night suffused with pleasure. Never spurn an opportunity.
Lucky wouldn’t. You can bet on that
Happiness is thrift, it abhors waste. Every resource that fortune bestows, happiness finds a use for. They are too dear to squander.
According to Lucky, that’s how it is.
Cold seeped into the room. He could almost smell it. His foot against her foot. Up her sleeping calf, up her sleeping thigh his hand slid up her sleeping body.
Love, yes, by all means love! But easy does it, Lucky. It’s a risky business, tinkering with love. Even its image may be perilous to defuse. Caress or flail, like as not you’ll come to grief. Hasn’t it brought others—stronger and wiser than you—straight to their knees?
She sniffed in her sleep. The truth is, he wanted her again.
Sure, fantasy may be satisfied to sit in the shade cast by its own prompting flare. The picture held up to view and the craving for its subject. The hand that oils the mirror.
But true passion? No. Not even the most faithful reproduction is enough to satisfy the heart determined to have the original.
And who of us can really tell between pure desire and its tainted facsimiles? Or pretend to have mastered the appetite to own? Or knows all the codicils and namesakes of love? None. Let’s face it, Lucky.
Then there is idolatry and its snares. But I needn’t get into that, I think. Others have captured that folly so well.
Yet it goes on, implacable and tireless, this vehicle of disillusionment. Of what? Of the faith that possession will satisfy the will to possess.
Yes, I’ll admit it, the voyeur’s medium is a cool medium, a little detached from the real heat of the action. Blood on the ice, an oxygen mask, the hand in the gutter.
Yes, it was cold outside, cold deep and determined. It beat against the window like a heavy yellow gas.
Inside, under the blankets, their bodies were warm and still, hers careless with sleep, his tuned to the signals of the night. Lucky was wide awake.
There is a right time and a right place. The old saw. Back and forth. I mention it again because Lucky stirred his pot of caution very thick indeed. And it made him slow to respond, liable to flounder in the clutches of the bold type. So it wasn’t in him to resist such allure as hers.
In the bar she’d whispered to him: I know where this belongs. Swooning! He took her up.
Now she slept. He studied her glossy hair. The light dabbing at her neck. It left a moon on her shoulder
He’d been right to do it? She was beautiful, or maybe just this side of beautiful. You have to be careful with that word.
A child though. No argument there. What, 15? That’s a real tender age.
Another time he might have passed it up. Another time, another place, Maybe. This time, though, chalk it up to experience.
Such as the foregoing was the gist of Lucky’s musing when his attention was turned from contemplating her sleep to the bedside table, upon which lay a dozen threads of cocaine, drawn out in ranks.
The properties of cocaine are well known. He thought maybe he’d wake her up to share the rise that stuff gives.
But he was distracted by the light throbbing against the window and the sound of a filter sucking at the orange night of the city.
There were sirens. He went to the window. Down the block smoke was pouring from the corner Bodega. Flames licked out the upper story windows.
Not many people on the street. Too cold, too late.
Lucky pulled out his camera. Anytime is a good time to practice. He took four of the lines and he practiced.
In the viewfinder, in that displaced formality of the lens, hooded figures wandered through a tangle of hoses, through the infernal glow. The lamps flashing blue and red, the glistening asphalt.
It got tiresome after a while, as such spectacles will—even the hellish ones—and the cocaine wore off, as cocaine will. So he returned to bed and he slid under the covers and he fitted along the warm length of her. She wiggled against him. Still eight lines left. He woke her up.
In the morning he put a coat over his pajamas and went out for the papers. It was still bitter cold. Down on the corner the windows were scorched black, the gates guarded nothing, the streets glittered with ice. And there was the lingering perfume of fire. That’s all.
Lucky got the papers and skipped right back. It must have been a slow night because on the cover of the News was this headline.
THREE DIE IN EAST VILLAGE BLAZE
He made some coffee. She didn’t wake up until noon.