“Cribstone bridge to Bailey Island” by WorldIslandInfo.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Rose awoke that morning in midcoast Maine to a fog that covered the streets and blanketed the homes: a fog so thick that breathing felt closer to swimming or drowning in clouds so dense it was never truly raining but never dry either.
She first saw the man through the little window in her kitchen, where she often watched the boats sail around black spruce-tipped Ragged Island. He was dewy and misty-eyed with a face that looked nothing like Samuel’s, but a soul that echoed longing the way his used to.
On days like these, before Samuel’s own fog engulfed him, he and Rose would play a game in which each tried to make the other leave the bed first, and once one of them did leave, they had to entice the other to follow them. Samuel always left first, with a heady concoction of musk and sweat and contentment trailing behind him across the floor. He wore his anniversary gift from Rose, a flannel robe that smelled like fir on an autumn day just after a storm and a firepit with friends so excited to see each other that they didn’t mind the wind that deposited smoke in every hair and fiber. Rubbing her fingers across the fabric, Rose felt the softness of her husband’s skin, the warmth of his arms around her when she woke up, and the thickness of his hair when she tangled her fingers in it. With one tug, she pulled the robe off by the hooks on the back, watched it ripple over his thighs and fall at his feet. While the mist rolled over the grassy hill that led to the craggy beach, Samuel and Rose’s bodies tumbled together.
Even a decade after Samuel, long suffering from the cloudiness in his own mind, slipped into the fog one night, Rose could still feel the tightness of him inside her, the whisper-soft kisses he left on her breasts, and the hint of coffee on his lips.
The man who came in from the fog had none of these markers, but Rose knew that he was Samuel. Not Samuel at the end, but the Samuel of happier times: who had taught their children to row in the just-big-enough-for-a-dinghy tide pool that formed on their little beach on the point of the island, who skipped rocks across the water and asked, “Who can swim out to where the ripples started?” and whom she held in the warm memory of the flannel robe.
When he came up the hill, Rose threw open the door and rushed the man inside. Rose wanted to say a thousand things and nearly all of them toppled out of her mouth, but the man said nothing. She pulled him to the bedroom and threw him on the bed. Their bodies blurred together, Rose drowning in the memory of their closeness.
The man didn’t break the idyllic moment. They laid together through the night, letting the salty wind wash over them, and when the mist blew through the window and slid across the floor, the man drifted away.
Ariel M. Goldenthal is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. Her work has appeared in The Citron Review, Flash Frontier, MoonPark Review, and others. Read more at www.arielmgoldenthal.com or follow her on Twitter @arielgoldenthal.