The doctor wore two days of stubble, an air of cigarette smoke and a black Adidas track suit to dinner, where we drank grape brandy out of crystal glasses, each etched with a single running horse. Enormities lay outside the circle of kitchen lightâ€”wind slamming doors and breaking glass at night, a young, drunken Bulgarian at the wrong apartment who knocked and shouted to let him in, my gut, broken by too many days in the infectious tropical climate Iâ€™d come from, her dream of me carrying a glowing skull, my need to escape her, escape me. The doctor was her friend and sat patiently while she translated my symptoms. Who else was there? I canâ€™t recall, having purposefully forgotten so much of that, our only winter together in a foreign land. Somehow, itâ€™d all seemed much easier in California with temperatures tomorrow again in the 70s, cheap Mexican mangos all year round, and our common tongue. But there, in that intimate land of saints and demons, broken Romany musicians playing in the taverns, what looked like a dyslexic alphabet, and the â€œblocksâ€â€”monoliths of communist concrete honey-combed with small, indistinct apartmentsâ€”we fell sick. The doctor outlined a plan for me. If I could go back, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™d ask forâ€”a transplant of his purpose, the gravity of his dark features and thick eyebrows, the way he could drink brandy or stand the relentless cold. He probably cheated on his wife, but even then, I couldâ€™ve used the strength of what love he had for her, even if it was as small as the last sip of spirits in a crystal glass. Instead, I received a regimen of vitamins, herbal teas, and dietary restrictions that I ignored. In place of vitamins, I took indecision and long walks in the cold. In lieu of herbal teas, alcohol. And as for diet, the only thing I didnâ€™t eat was her, as I shouldâ€™ve, like a bear for warmth before hibernation. Spring threatened. From our apartment, I saw a black horse gallop down the street while three men pursued in a car. One leaned out the window with a rope, but they disappeared around a corner before he could make the throw. And when I realized the young, drunk Bulgarian hadnâ€™t had the wrong door, I knew no medicine would work for us, but after the police came to ask for my expired passport, it didnâ€™t matter whether we were sick or notâ€” all the documents agreed I must go. It was better that way, to go suddenly without a big goodbye. Suddenly, like one grows old, tired of the same fights, then leaves on a weirdly moonlit night. Suddenly, like one takes medicine, a shot of brandy, betrayal, or a kiss.
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