For a time she had a male artist friend who carved miniature wooden birds and sold them to local boutiques. He was immensely talented and she admired his ability to translate rough blocks of pine into ornate parrots and stately eagles and long legged storks. Her artist friend lived down the hall, she often saw him at the elevator and talked about movies or books or some new restaurant. Once, when the elevator took an inordinately long time to arrive, she branched off into new conversational territory and detailed her upbringing on a large horse farm in the west. A nice bit of description she thought, but the next day she passed her artist friend’s apartment and saw the door standing open. She took a few steps inside. The rooms within were dark and desolate caves. Her artist friend had vanished without a trace. No note goodbye. No hint of where he might have gone.
She had her suspicions.
I shouldn’t have told him that story about stallions. . .
The neighbor’s wife left without any warning, it goes that way more often than people think. People consider the matter of abandonment and tell themselves there are always signs of it coming, but in truth there are rarely any signs, a person is there and the person is not. Some force spirits them off. What motivates such spirits, who can say. That’s life for you. That’s about what we can expect. I didn’t observe the neighbor’s wife make her departure, but did watch the neighbor walk around and around the house that night. I guess he was looking for his missing spouse. Maybe she’d come leaping from a bush or pop out of the garage. Don’t ask me what he expected. The neighbor went around and around. I was on the porch, dead from working all day, drinking grape soda because I’ve enjoyed grape soda since childhood. The neighbor circled his house more times than I bothered to count. Three soda glasses worth, anyway. Just after dusk he started, and continued until the moonless dark swallowed him up. The neighbor had never been a friend, just the guy across the street in the red house with the shutters. Still, I felt bad for him. I knew what the poor bastard was going through. Seven years back my own wife took off. I hadn’t received any warning signs, either, and had done a lot of things odder than walking around the house.