Nothing: no space, no time, no Thomas. No light, sound, needles poking him—no tubes forced into him.
That much had surfaced.
Afterwards, a tug. The atmosphere stirred and he heard birdsong. He lay lost in dimness, while a girl slammed a metal railing.
Becca said, “You make me sick!”
Such a feathery, caressing sound, Becca’s anger.
“Why did you ask me here then? Why can’t you leave me alone?” Another girl. He summoned her name but none came. Just the voice. “Bitch.”
Birds trilling above his head. Angels fluttering their wings.
Later, faint sensations seeped through him, as if filtered through damp wool. Thomas remembered his daughter, Becca, and the second girl, Ashley—daughter of Julia. How he loved Julia! In secret. In dark nothingness, he had always loved Julia. But she was married to George.
George knew. Before they got in the car, George had confronted him. Suddenly, after years. Their daughters graduating from school. The way you look at her, he said, is unreal.
After that, George yelled and threatened and Thomas had yelled in response. Both of them wild with rage. Love was uncontrollable, not reasonable.
Hydroplaning, he recalled that sensation. What progress he was making, remembering the car hydroplaning.
Thomas woke perhaps a week later. Or maybe only a few minutes. Awake, asleep now, he couldn’t pretend. Fatal car crash in torrential rain. George was gone but still taunting him: Come on, it’s over. What are you, chicken?
Every time he woke now, Thomas sustained consciousness longer. His eyes opened and rolled toward the light. Julia sat by his bed, knitting. She told him she was learning from a book, which kept sliding off her lap.
Thomas tried to speak. He said Julia but no sound come out. Nonetheless, she dipped toward him, her face circled in light. He touched her hair hanging down.
Why hadn’t he touched her hair eons ago? Oh, yes, he remembered.
The gulf between reality and what he had wanted was so enormous he had wondered why the geography alone didn’t kill him.
Now the world had changed. He touched Julia’s hair and cheek and she said, “Hello.”
Thomas had yearned for her so desperately, he feared the immensity of his desire would overcome him; he’d black out. But now Julia was touching his hand and for once he feared nothing. He kissed her fingers and she restored him. He became whole.