FICTION: US by Benjamin Mark

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7 weeks before his death.

She looked at him. She looked so forlorn. He had started to leave.

Don’t, she said. Don’t go.

I have to, he said.

A little more? Just a little more?

Okay. He went back.

I miss you, she said.

Me too.

Do you have to leave?

I can stay a bit.

How long.

A bit. Maybe a bit more than a bit. He took a step back. Then returned. I can’t go,

he said.

I know, she said. Her beauty was ethereal. Communication is difficult now isn’t


Yes. Why do you think it’s so difficult?

She shrugged. It’s energy draining.

They stared into each other. They knew each other’s souls better than they knew

their own.

Are you having difficulty with this relationship, she said?

Yes. You?

Yes. Her face was sad. I want to ask you to stay a little longer, but I can’t.

I know, he said. His hands hung by his sides.

I love you, she said.

I know. I love you too.

For how long?

For always and forever. There was a hint of a smile. He left . . . walking

backwards. She stood there . . . looking.

I’ll see you next week?


6 weeks before his death.

She was waiting as he knew she would be. He said, hi.

I’m glad to see you, she said.

She took his hand though he barely felt it and they walked along a path and up a

hill. She seemed real and she seemed unreal. They turned to look at each other. No

words. Language was unnecessary. Her eyes brought memories of a blue shade seen so

long ago. Was he in a dream? Would he have the presence of mind to let her know he had

to leave before he awakened? She seemed so happy to be with him. There was an

intangible element to her. She was a wisp of a woman . . . real and at the same time not

real. She squeezed his hand. He hardly felt it.

I’m here for now, she said.

He suddenly realized she was an Empath. She pulled him to the right and they

entered a mall.

We’re going shopping again, she said.

Again? Had they gone shopping before? It was crowded. Everyone seemed to be

mouthing words. Voices were strangely muted. He stared at them. No one seemed to

notice them. Suddenly she turned. He eyes were sad.

You have to go, she said. It was a statement. Not a question.

Now, he said?



She didn’t answer. She backed off. I’ll see you again soon.


Soon. Next week.

She knew before he did. And she was gone.

5 weeks before his death.

He got there early. It was by now an old haunt. She strangely seemed barely

visible. Translucent. The sun was blurring his vision. She was smiling. She seemed so

delighted to see him again. He was engulfed by her presence. He was afraid she would

evanesce before he had a chance to talk to her. She seemed so fragile. A delicate woman

glimmering in a morning sun.

I’m so happy to see you, she said.

What would you like to do, he said. He was so happy to see her too.

Let’s sit, she said. She patted the grass beside her and they settled in. What do you

like, she said.

Kiss me, he said.

She leaned over. Her touch was so light he wasn’t sure he felt it. He started to

reach for her.

Don’t, she said.

Why not?

The time isn’t ready.

When will it be ready?

Soon, she said.

He did not understand. Who was she? He knew her and he did not know her and

he knew he had known her forever. She existed in a world different from his.

One day, she said, we’ll be together forever.

He smiled. He understood and he didn’t understand. One day, he agreed.

An hour had passed. He had to leave. She got up. I know, she said. She knew

what he would do before he did. Will I see you next week, she said?



4 weeks before his death.

He was back. He had gotten up early. He couldn’t sleep. He was anxious to see

her. She waved as he got closer.

I thought I saw you sleeping last night, she said. Were you dreaming of me?

He shrugged.

Do you ever see me when you’re dreaming, she said?

Sometimes, he said.

Are the dreams good?

Sometimes. Usually not.


No. Waking makes me sad. You’re no longer with me then.

But then you get to see me every Sunday.

Yes. He smiled. It’s my joy when I’m here and it’s not my joy when I’m here . . .

all at the same time.

And when you leave?

I hate that part the most. It brings tears to my eyes.

She looked down. I cry when you leave too, she said.

He didn’t know she cried. He stared at her. I didn’t know, he said.

I feel everything you feel, she said. I know everything you know.

Even when I’m not here?


Do you miss me when I’m not here.

Yes. Very much.

Why can’t we be together all the time then?

She looked up at him. It’s not time.

Then when.

Soon. Perhaps too soon for some.

There was silence. A light breeze carried the smell of life to them. A butterfly

flitted across the lawn.

Did you know they were once called flutter-by’s, he said?

Yes. You told me that once a long time ago.

Was it really that long ago?

Yes. And no. Time is strange.

How long have I been here, he said.

She said, you have another fifteen minutes. You usually stay an hour.

I could stay longer you know, he said.

I would like that, she said.

The sun was getting higher in the sky. He reached for her hand. He dared not look

to see if she would take it. He thought he felt her hand in his. He still did not look for

fear it would not be there. The disappointment would be too strong.

My hand will be in yours whenever you want it, she said.

I don’t always feel it, he said.

It doesn’t matter. It’s always there.

He looked at his watch.

You’ve been here for two hours, she said. You’re never here more than an hour.

I have to leave, he said.

I know, she said.

Maybe next week I’ll be able to stay longer.

You’ll always end up staying a little longer, she said. Till one day . . . .

3 weeks before his death.

She had let the sentence hang. And now another week had passed and he was on

his way to her again. He did not always understand her. He walked slowly toward her.

Something wrong, she said?

He shrugged. He felt a malaise. He couldn’t place it.

So what do you want to do, she said.

Let’s talk about memories, he said. This way they won’t die.

They never die, she said. Except in the minds of those who have never

experienced them and only know of them second hand.

Do you remember our song, she said?



I remember each word.

Can you sing me one line.

Marie-Lou Marie-Lou . . . qu’il fait bon le premiere rendezvous . . . .

It’s my favorite you know.

He nodded.

Remember when I used to say to you to sing me a Marie-Lou.

He could see it in his mind’s eye. He could hear it in his mind’s ear. He

remembered her smell. They were in bed . . . cuddled up. He had one hand on her breast

as he sang into her hair. Marie-Lou Marie-Lou . . . qu’il fait bon le premiere rendezvous

. . . .

They were silent. More time than usual had passed. He got up.

Already, she said?

I have to, he said.

She nodded. I know. She blew him a kiss. Soon you won’t have to go.

How will I know when it’s that time, he said.

2 weeks before his death.

The week had dragged. He had looked at the clock continuously. He couldn’t

sleep anymore. He did not feel right anymore. Something was wrong but he didn’t know

what. Things took forever when you were waiting. Three more hours and maybe he

would go to sleep and Monday would be over. Four more hours . . . and then it would be

Tuesday . . . and then Thursday . . . and now it was Sunday and he was on his way and

she was waiting.

How long have I been coming to see you, he said.

You’ve been coming since even before you knew I existed, she said. Only you

didn’t know you didn’t know it.

He smiled. I don’t always understand you, he said.

She rested her head on his chest. What would you like to do today, she said?

Whatever you want.

Let’s play the story game then. Do you know how?

He shook his head.

I start with a sentence. When I stop . . . you continue. When

you stop . . . I continue. It’ll be a magical story because no one will know the ending till it

ends. Ready?

He smiled at her.

Once upon a time they lived together in a land that never existed, she said.

It had no scents, he said.

And yet it smelled like beauty, she said. The sun rose down and night fell up, she said.

And everyone who wasn’t there was there, he said.

Time did not exist and so no one wore watches, she said.

Do you remember our first meeting, he said.

Yes, she said. You came and you thought about me so deeply that I appeared.

I never stop thinking about you, he said.

Nor I you, she said.

He had been there three hours. This is the longest, he said.

I know, she said. Soon it will be longer still.

I think I have to go, he said.

The story’s over isn’t it, she said.

He shrugged.

Soon, she said. Soon we will be in the story together and you will never again

have to go.

I wish it, he said. And he left.

1 week before his death.

Will it hurt, he said the next time they met?

You mean when we’re in the story together, she said? She always knew what he

meant. Sometimes even before he himself knew what he meant.

Yes, he said.

Not once we’re there, she said.

Is it hard getter there, he said.


What do I do while I wait, he said.

Write about us, she said.

You mean a story?


Okay. I will.


Yes. But I don’t know how good it will be.

What will you call it?

He shrugged. I don’t know yet, he said.

She smiled. I’m sure you’ll find a good title, she said.

This is our last visit, isn’t it, he said?

No, she said. We have one visit left. But that will not be our last time together.

I never understand you, he said.

You will, she said.



The last visit and one day before his death.

You look nice, she said. I like the way you look in a dark turtle-neck with a shirt

over it, she said.

It’s yours, he said. I often go into the closet and pick one of yours that

I can wear underneath. I like the way your turtle-necks fit.

Could he see her clearly, she wondered? She tried to make herself more visible.

Can you see clearly, she said.

Better than I usually do, he said. He looked into the sky. There wasn’t a cloud

there. Sun’s bright today, he said.

She smiled.

One day later . . . the day of his death.

His children were looking at him. He looks like he’s sleeping, one said.

He looks as though we could wake him.

They’re sending an ambulance now, the older one said.

You spoke to the doctor, said the younger one?


It felt as though he was driving to her. But he was in his room. His children were

waiting. And now she was there. She had come to him this time. She seemed suddenly so

vibrant. So much part of his world.

Don’t know how long you can stay, he said.

This time forever, she said.

Am I dreaming, he said.

Yes and no, she said. She took his hand. He felt it strong this time. Did you write

a story about us like you promised, she said?

He said he did.

She led him away. What did you call it, she said.

“Us”, he said.


Benjamin Mark

Benjamin Mark

Benjamin Mark studied writing at The New School for Social Research. He has been writing a weekly e-zine for over ten years entitled Tidbits which has a free readership distribution of around 10,000 readers per week around the world. His unpublished and published writing accomplishments are on Educated in Europe and U.S. Multilingual . Member of Mensa and Intertel. Favorite writers. Louis Ferdinand Celine. William Burroughs. Hubert Selby Jr. Gunter Grass. Other short stories have been accepted by Integra and Storyfile magazines.

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