The local police hauled him away. Susyn explained, not entirely accurately, that the drunk had attacked me when I tried to stop him from harassing her. The drunk’s hundred proof breath went a long way toward supporting Susyn’s story. It helped even more that the officer had seen Susyn in daily conversation with his chief.
When they had gone, and we were settled in at the table, Susyn turned angrily and said, “What the hell was that all about?”
I didn’t have anything to say.
“I thought I knew you better than that. You didn’t have to beat up that bastard; he was harmless enough.”
“So why . . .?”
I put my hand over hers and said, “Please.”
Her eyes were inches from mine. I watched the fire die down in them, and watched sympathy replace it. She said, “You’re hurting.”
She said, “Why? What did I miss?”
“I can’t tolerate drunks.”
I had told Raven about my drunken father, but I could not tell Susyn, so I did not reply. She chewed her lip, looking puzzled, and said, “You don’t drink, and you hate drunks. A lot. There has to be a reason.”
“A few of years ago,” I answered, “I woke up from a fourth of July spree and found out I couldn’t remember June.”
It was an exaggeration, but basically true. A small part of the larger truth that I could not share.
Susyn looked puzzled and angry. She could tell that was not the whole story. But it was all she was going to get.
* * *
We went down to Venice the next morning, to find Raven. It was a twenty hour journey that sent us through the eastern fringes of the Alps. We sat in desultory conversation, alternately reading and watching the scenery.
During the last week, I had begun reading newspapers again. When I was with Raven, there had been no time, and when she first left me I had had no interest. Now I read that East Germans by the thousands were going down to Hungary on summer vacation and not returning home. The Honecker government had sent protests to Hungary and some kind of international incident was in the offing. It didn’t seem like much to me, or to any western observer. Communist eastern Europe was falling apart before our eyes, and no one understood what was happening.
Including me. I had other things on my mind.
For the second time in a few months, I had been thrown into daily intimacy with a stranger. For the second time, that stranger moved me deeply. As we crossed the fields and forests of eastern Austria, Susyn went to sleep slumped against me. I shifted my arm around her and settled her into a more comfortable position. The miles slid by with the soft, warm weight of her against my side, and the smell of her hair in my nostrils.
Susyn had reserved a couchette compartment. After she was asleep in the upper berth, I lay awake a long time thinking. After a while, Susyn’s hand and arm slipped down to hang above my head. I wondered if she was asleep. Then her fingers twitched in a come-here motion. I reached up and took her hand in mine. We rode on that way for miles, silent, hand-clasped, saying nothing. Finally she gave a tug and pushed her tousled face over the edge of her bunk. I stood up. She put her arms around my shoulders and drew me closer. Her lips on mine were soft and undemanding. When we broke, there were tears in the corners of her eyes, but she put her hand on my mouth when I would have asked why. She simply said, “Good night, Ian,” and drew the covers up around her until only her violet eyes showed. more tomorrow