2 JUNE 1905

A mushy, brown peach is lifted from the garbage and placed on the table to pinken. It pinkens, it turns hard, it is carried in a shopping sack to the grocer’s, put on a shelf, removed and crated, returned to the tree with pink blossoms. In this world, time flows backward.

A withered woman sits in a chair hardly moving, her face red and swollen, her eyesight almost gone, her hearing gone, her breathing scratchy like the rustle of dead leaves on stones. Years pass. There are few visitors. Gradually, the woman gains strength, eats more, loses the heavy lines in her face. She hears voices, music. Vague shadows gather themselves into light and lines and images of tables, chairs, people’s faces. The woman makes excursions from her small house, goes to the market, occasionally visits a friend, drinks tea at cafes in good weather. She takes needles and yarn from the bottom drawer of her dresser and crochets. She smiles when she likes her work. One day her husband, with whitened face, is carried into her house. In hours, his cheeks become pink, he stands stooped straightens out, speaks to her. Her over, house becomes their house. They eat meals together, tell jokes, laugh. They travel through the country, visit friends. Her white hair darkens with brown streaks, her voice resonates with new tones. She goes to a retirement party at the gymnasium, begins teaching history. She loves her students, argues with them after class. She reads during her lunch hour and at night. She meets friends and discusses history and current events. She helps her husband with the accounts at his chemist’s store, walks with him at the foot of the mountains, makes love to him. Her skin becomes soft, her hair long and brown, her breasts firm. She sees her husband for the first time in the library of the university, returns his

glances. She attends classes. She graduates from the gymnasium, with her parents and sister crying tears of happiness. She lives at home with her parents, spends hours with her mother walking through the woods by their house, helps with the dishes. She tells stories to her younger sister, is read to at night before bed, grows smaller. She crawls. She nurses.

A middle-aged man walks from the stage of an auditorium in Stockholm, holding a medal. He shakes hands with the president of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, receives the Nobel Prize for physics, listens to the glorious citation. The man thinks briefly about the award he is to receive. His thoughts quickly shift twenty years to the future, when he will work alone in a small room with only pencil and paper. Day and night he will work, making many false starts, filling the trash basket with unsuccessful chains of equations and logical sequences. But some evenings he will return to his desk knowing he has learned things about Nature that no one has ever known, ventured into the forest and found light, gotten hold of precious secrets. On those evenings, his heart will pound as if he were in love. The anticipation of that rush of the blood, that time when he will be young and unknown and unafraid of mistakes, overpowers him now as he sits in his chair in the auditorium in Stockholm, at great distance from the tiny voice of the president announcing his name.

A man stands at the graveside of his friend, throws a handful of dirt on the coffin, feels the cold April rain on his face. But he does not weep. He looks ahead to the day when his friend’s lungs will be strong, when his friend will be out of his bed and laughing, when the two of them will drink ale together, go sailing, talk. He does not weep. He waits longingly for a particular day he remembers in the future when he and his friend will have sandwiches on a low flat table, when he will describe his fear of growing old and unloved and his friend will nod gently, when the rain will slide down the glass of the window.


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