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Margot sat in the icy café, waiting patiently. She peeled off her black wool mittens, revealing her pale hands traced with blue-green veins. The hands appeared so fragile that they felt foreign. She began to imagine that the hands belonged to another; she imagined how she would take the thin, bony fingers and hold them in her own, warming them. She imagined how the chilly flesh would feel in her warm palms, how she would feel the layers of ice melting, how the blood beneath the skin would begin to flow again, and the hands would become alive. She stretched her fingers slowly, coaxing them back into life, but they seemed to be held captive by an invisible coat of frost that resisted any movement. There was no warm hand to hold them, and so they stayed rigid and blue, like the hands of a cold, lifeless body that Margot could hardly recognize as her own.
Thirty minutes had passed and he had still not arrived. Margot had grown tired of thinking of her hands, and she stood up swiftly from her seat, threw on her black overcoat over her turtleneck, pushed a few loose strands of wispy blond hair behind her left ear, hastily grabbed her bag from the chair and marched out of the café, an air of defiance about her. A few heads turned as she passed, alarmed by the draft that she caused as she strode briskly through the café and pushed open the double doors, letting in the wintry street air.
As she walked back to her apartment, her steps became robotic and automatic, like her body was simply a vehicle that walked on mechanically without direction from her mind. She became lost in her thoughts, which had taken on vivid shapes and colors that contrasted sharply with the grey, slush covered city. The images in her head swelled and contracted; one minute she felt as though all the arteries in her head were clogged with ideas and that her mind might well explode, and the next the images had released their strenuous grip and the space inside her skull was clear again, like a vast, empty field stretching on for miles. Her mind felt like a surrealist work of art, her cells juggling one another languidly in an absurd, lethargic game.
By the time she reached her apartment, Margot had grown angry at her own mind. Its inconsiderate playfulness seemed a cruel effort to undermine her sense of control, which she took great pride in maintaining. She ran up three flights of stairs like a storm, collecting wind along the way. By the time she made it to the 3rd floor she had all the power and wildness of a hurricane, her hair frizzy and electric, and upon opening her apartment door, had Emile not been sitting at her kitchen table drinking a steady cup of coffee, she would perhaps have torn the whole place apart in one breath of whirlwind fury. His presence made her check herself. Her windy mind heaved in an effort to still itself, and slowly the hurricane breathed a final, gentle breath and died out. At this, Margot was quite impressed. It was as though someone had thrown a bucket of water over her fiery psyche and now she stood, humbled and soaking wet in the middle of her kitchen floor, small and shivering before the thoughtful eyes of Emile. She was filled with love.
For a moment neither of them spoke. The tiny, white apartment was filled with the tension that exists between people who love each other but can’t articulate it. The kind of tension that arises from the push and pull of strong emotions that are too huge and abstract to pinpoint. Their feelings filled the room like a nebulous cloud, pregnant with stardust and nameless forms of matter. The cloud hovered around their heads, trickling into their ears and seeping through their chests until they were heavy and intoxicated with the potent, shimmering cosmic soup. The room ached with them; it throbbed and kicked like a baby not yet born. The world ached within and without, bitter winter colors mixing with ripe emotion. Margot and Emile liked to think of themselves as intellectuals, but in moments like these they found their analytical minds had gone silent. Their minds were like vacuums in which thought-waves could not travel and were therefore bereft of all their prized, fearful power. But, oddly, Margot and Emile did not die in the absence of thought. They stood, humbled but alive, amidst the cloud of feeling, the aching, hungry baby that filled the room.
Eventually the cloud settled on the floor of the room, the wind from the open windows blowing the glimmering dust across the oak panels. The baby bent down and drifted out through the window, leaving Margot and Emile alone with their swollen hearts. Margot’s love was calm now; it spoke in a soft, saintly whisper, and reached out to Emile like a quiet offering. She had offered it to many others before, but most let it brush by them, mistaking it for something that sought to possess them. Then they would get up quietly, with a shaking, disappointed sigh, and leave. But Emile did not leave. He stayed in his seat, took a sip of his coffee, and spoke.
“I just wanted to stop by. I can only stay a minute.”
“I waited for you at the café.” Margot’s voice creaked like an old, wooden staircase.
“I know, I’m sorry, I was so late that it seemed pointless so I just came here to wait for you instead.” He took a sip of coffee and then rubbed his eye.
“You could have called. I was driving myself crazy waiting.”
“I’m sorry.” Emile looked at her with big, deer-like eyes. She could see his apology swimming in them. She forgave him without a second thought. She hated herself for it. She didn’t know how to be angry at anybody but herself.
“It’s alright.” Margot looked at her feet as she spoke the words, and then at her hands. She took off her black wool mittens again. Her naked hands were still icy and foreign. In her mind’s eye she saw Emile take the hands. She saw him take the hands and hold them in his own hands. She even saw him kiss them with those big, rosy lips. With each kiss she felt the ice melt a little, slowly, slowly, revealing the living flesh beneath. But Emile did not take the hands. In reality she waited, hoping he would see into her heart and follow its biddings. She waited until the waiting grew so uncomfortable that she didn’t know what to do with her hands, and so she clasped them together in front of her in an awkward, clammy embrace. Emile seemed to take this to mean that there was nothing more to be said. He got up, put his mug in the sink, and walked to Margot. He put his arms around her briefly and kissed her cheek.
“See you around,” he said as he released her and walked out the door. Margot heard the lock click behind him. Her hands were still cold.