Quentin wasn’t married. No secret needed tending. With friends and strangers, and particularly with his family, he was never someone’s husband. Signatures on paper were the least consequential pieces of the world, and an unseen wife was just another young woman standing in the first ranks of a million strangers.
Two months into the marriage, a small package arrived with the usual mail. Black ink and a steady hand had written two addresses on ivory tape, but Customs stamps and small scale abuses had smudged everything. What remained included the word Teheran, and beneath that, a strange name attached to Quentin’s address. “F. Fakoor,” triggered a private, there-and-gone embarrassment for not remembering the name instantly.
He chuckled at his stupidity, but that pleasure melted quickly. Some conspiracy of incompetence and miscommunication had given him this problem. Quentin walked to Harp Hall. Adjacent to the resident shepherd’s apartment was a stale cubicle, complete with a counter and two broken phones and a board full of names and room numbers. F. Fakoor, 303. He hadn’t visited the room before, but he was intimate with the terrain. Two flights of stairs led to the right bare door, and he knocked once, with authority.
A girl emerged.
He knew the face, the body. The student was just as angry as she had been sitting in the back of Quentin’s little car.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
“I live here,” said the Viking girl, frowning.
A story wrote itself: Farah and this blonde beast had become roommates, and lovers, and wasn’t the world amazing?
“I’m looking for Farah,” he admitted.
“Go find Vinnie,” the girl said. “You want Vinnie.”
Then the door was slammed, and locked.
Vinnie’s door leaked voices. One voice moved, another held still as it spoke, and then the first voice came again, from a greater distance. Resisting the urge to write stories, Quentin knocked lightly.
Somebody said, “Yes?”
“Who is it?” she asked, and he told her.
Another pause became whispers. Then someone close to the door said, “Please, come in.”
He assumed Farah.
And was wrong. Bodies jammed the apartment. Women sat on the furniture, the floor. Two students were perched on the windowsill, blotting out the afternoon sun. Everybody stared at the unexpected man. Everybody looked happy. Small crimson Bibles rested in hands and laps. None of those little hands or warm laps belonged to Farah.
“Welcome to Thursday scriptures,” said Vinnie. “Care to join us?”
Several ladies made appealing sounds.
“No thank you,” he said.
“Your loss,” she said.
He said nothing.
“Where have you been, Quentin? It’s been ages.”
Which was when he said, “Farah.”
The mood chilled. Backs straightened, and eyes avoided his gaze.
Except for Vinnie. She didn’t blink, staring at Quentin when she quietly asked, “What about her?”
“I found something of hers.” And then he showed everyone a tiny parcel light enough to hold nothing but air--a half-breath carrying kisses or plagues from the far side of the dangerous world.
Vinnie bristled, explaining, “The girl moved. She’s living off campus.”
“I don’t know the address,” said the ex-lover. “It’s an old blue house east of the Clinic, somewhere near Dido. Oh, and there’s a steel dog sitting in the front yard.”