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Five Islands

When she returned, a few weeks later, the café was gone. Yet that summer evening, a crowd of souls had been laughing and drinking. The story of his past was the story of her future, the child he lost, the child she was carrying. In the café, the train hurtled toward the switch and in a moment they were looking at each other, one looking forward, the other looking back.

She opened the magazine and saw his face. She did not know his name. She had never seen him before, yet who she saw was so familiar, she wept. It was as if a stroke, an aneurysm had removed the crucial memory, yet she felt they belonged to each other with all the force of that loss.

Kentish Town. No time to lose, preoccupied. She was walking toward him on the other side of the street. They passed each other. Halfway down the block each turned at the same moment and looked back. He had never believed in it, and there he stood, bullied by fate into belief.

In the taberna with friends, his back to the door. He had lived five years in Madrid. Without turning, he felt her come through the doorway. Without turning, he felt the inaudible flame rush through his life, incinerating everything that had come before. The rough scratch of a friction match—"strike anywhere"—on the side of the box.

It was not the iron tongue that rings in the waves, tolling its warning in the shifting sea. It was the bell on Sunday morning that woke you in a hotel room in Paris after arriving late at night, unaware you were sleeping so close to a church.

Anne Michaels

All We Saw
Alfred A. Knopf

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