Merry Ryder by Ted Stetson

Merry Ryder takes me home and helps me lose my mind. She is very kind, but, oh, so blind. She is kind and sweet and loves my mind, but her feet walk on air. She just isn’t there.

She was standing on the steps outside the library crying, big wet tears dripping down her angel face. Her corn silk hair hung down to her waist. I went up to her to see if I could help, “Are you okay?”
Merry Ryder
Merry Ryder by Ted Stetson
“I am now,” she took my hand in her soft grasp and wouldn't let go. With her little hand in mine, she led me down a dark tree-lined street. Her blue tent dress billowed in the wind. She held her dress down embarrassed it was riding up so high. She took my arm and put it around her for me to help hold her dress down. She had me hold her tightly, afraid the wind would lift her away. She stopped to smell a magnolia blossom on a low-hanging branch. She stood on her toes and breathed in the aroma and the wind blew her dress up. I tried to help her, but she said I was helping it. She laughed as she smoothed the dress down and hugged me tightly. She asked me to pull down one of the large white blossoms, cupped it to her pretty face, and breathed in deeply. Above the white flower her blue eyes smiled at me, I don't remember ever seeing anyone prettier. She took my hand and led me away. I don't remember how we got to her apartment. We sat in her seedy living room on the threadbare couch and watched TV until she turned off the lights and gently put her head down on me. When she was finished she said, "Cat got your tongue?" and laughed. Later her tiny hand took my hand and she led me into the bedroom. She pulled the blanket cover onto the floor and lit a small candle. She undressed and looked at me. I stood there, frozen, staring at her, at the flickering candle shadows playing across her body. She took my clothes off and pulled me into her bed. Afterward she laid with her head on my chest and her leg over me. She must have opened the window because a breeze was billowing the thin curtains. Our sweaty bodies lay on the wet sheets like harbor seals in the surf. I went into the tiny bathroom. There was barely enough room for me. She squeezed into the bathroom and pulled me into the small shower. She washed me and dried me and dragged me back to bed. When I woke, I saw the window was closed and went to open it. That’s when I noticed it was snowing outside. I asked her how long we had been here. When she didn't answer, I turned to the bed. There was a note on the pillow. The note was illegible. All I could make out were the skinny letters. I dressed and went outside. I was lost. It took me some time to find the cafeteria. My friends were gathered at our table. They kidded me about her size, but I couldn't understand what they were talking about. When she walked into the cafeteria, they quieted. There was no kidding now. Now they sat with their mouths open, staring . . . she was so beautiful. She came over, smiled at them, and took my hand and we left. They watched us leave. When the door closed, their riotous chatter continued. We went to my apartment. My roommates hurriedly left when we got there. Afterward, we lay on the lumpy bed feeling the breeze blow across our naked bodies and listened to the cicadas. It was on a night with stars above and lightning flashing in a distant thunderhead that she told me she was leaving. Like a fool I asked, “Why?” She said I deserved better. I laid there and tried to think. When had I ever done to deserve better? Suddenly, the cicadas were quiet, the wind was still, so quiet, so still, so empty. I heard a strange mournful sound. It was me. When I looked up, she was gone. I ran to her apartment. The landlord said she had left, didn’t know where she was. The name on the lease was someone else’s. I found her friends. They gave me strange looks. “Don’t you know?” one of them said. “Know what?” “Is this a joke?” “What?” They looked at me as if I had insulted them and hurried away from me. I cornered one of them and told her I wouldn’t let her leave until she gave me her address. “Are you sick?” “Just give me her address.” She scribbled it on a pad, handed it to me and hurried away. I drove to the small town. Took me awhile to find the street. I parked outside a cemetery. I double, triple-checked the address. It was correct. The sun was shining brightly as I walked to number 6758. It was an old mausoleum. On the stone wall outside the door was a note. I carefully unfolded the torn notebook page. The paper had been cried on. It had been so blurred by her tears I could only read the last word. BYE. I stepped inside. On a plaque was her name. She had died exactly one year ago. I don’t remember how I got home. I remember stumbling outside and sitting in my car. I walked back and checked the name and date again. And again. Now I stand on my apartment balcony listening to the cicadas, feeling the wind on my face and stare at the millions of stars in the black velvet sky. Sometimes I hear laughter out on the street and see a couple walk by under the streetlight and think of her and ache inside like it will never go away.


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