Today's Reading


Nearly getting killed can change your life in interesting ways.

There's the physical healing, but that's tedious to think about. What fascinates me is how people behave when they know you've come close to death.

Some you haven't heard from in a while get in touch out of obligation. Most of the time they have no idea what to say or do and you end up assuring them you're fine and trying to make them feel better. Or maybe that was just me, reverting to the psychologist's role.

I'm close to only two people on the planet.

The woman I live with handled the whole thing beautifully, pulling off the perfect balance of caring for me and allowing me space when I needed it. Even more impressively, when Robin allowed herself to get angry at me for being in danger in the first place, she was able to talk about it reasonably.

My best friend, a homicide detective, was overcome with guilt. I'd been working with Milo when a lunatic nearly crushed me to death. No one's fault, reasonable precautions had been taken. Just one of those things that happen. But, still.

He'd worked hard at keeping the guilt in check but I could tell. Our conversations began ebbing into long silences, terminating when he told me I needed to rest.

Eventually, his visits tapered off, though he tried to keep up with regular phone calls. But he avoided talking about work, which peppered the calls with awkward silences.
Worst of all, he stopped calling me in on cases. The "different ones" where he tends to overestimate my talent. When I brought up the subject, he claimed the two new murders he'd taken on were open and shut.

Four months after being injured I sat with Robin on the second-story terrace that fronts our house, eating and drinking and enjoying the weather that keeps people in L.A., and said, "Still nothing from Big Guy."

She said, "Can you blame him?"

"I think he's overdoing it. Objectively, he did nothing wrong."

"Who's ever objective, Alex?"

I poured myself another finger of Chivas—the pricey gold stuff I'd never buy for myself. A guilt offering from Milo.

Neither of us talked for a while and I resumed rubbing the big, knobby head of our little blond French bulldog, Blanche. She's also been perfect. Sitting next to me as I knitted, silent and patient, careful not to touch the torn muscles in my chest. She's always been a wonderful companion, intuitive, perceptive, more keyed in to nonverbal cues than any human could hope to be. But this was more. She knew something was different and she cared.

Robin said, "All those custody cases came in but you're still bored."

"I could use some variety."

"Know what you mean." That surprised me.

She said, "Why do you think I do what I do, baby? Every instrument's different, it's not like I'm making the same armchair over and over."

I said, "So you wouldn't mind if I diversified. Maybe got into macramé?"

She grinned and placed her small, strong hand over mine. Her hair's thick, auburn, and curly and when she's not in her studio, she wears it loose to the midpoint of her back. Tonight, the moon was medium strength and it gilded all those curls and limned her oval face, her pointy chin. The slightly oversized milk-white incisors that had attracted me in the first place.

"Would I prefer if you never got involved in all the ugly stuff? Part of me would. But I'd be living with a very unhappy man."

"Unhappy fool."
She laughed. "Don't tempt me. Anyway, I'm sure he'll call when he really needs you."

"I'm not."

She poured herself another half glass of Zinfandel. Daintily polished off a stuffed grape leaf. Greek takeout, tonight. Blanche had scored bits of rice and lamb. Everyone happy.

Except me. I'd been faking serenity for a while, had never stopped feeling incomplete.

It took another two weeks for that to finally change.

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