There was silence. Yes, but she had expected that.
If the body closes down and the senses don’t work
anymore, you would expect the world to be silent. What
she hadn’t expected was to be aware of the silence. She
was trying to escape awareness. Had she failed in death
just as she had failed in life? Was she a ghost? Was she
condemned to see the misery she had caused her
husband and her daughter? No: she didn’t believe in
ghosts, and so she couldn’t be a ghost. Some other
explanation was needed.
“She’s coming round.”
“She’s going to be fine. How about you? Are you
OK? OK to talk to her?”
And then she woke up.
“Where am I?”
“I don’t know, Asia. What happened?”
“I mean, why am I alive?”
“Do you mean, ‘Who saved you?’”
“Yes.” Her answer was very quiet.
“A teenage girl. Her name is Laura. She was
sitting across the river and saw you go in. She saved
“And how did I get here?”
“Well, Laura revived you and then phoned 911.”
“Asia, you’re tired and probably confused. We’ll
talk later. They’ve given you some kind of medication.
You should try to rest.”
She closed her eyes, grateful for the reprieve.
“I’ll stay with you.”
“No, no I’ll be fine, really, don’t bother.”
“Asia, we’ll be leaving the hospital in a couple of
hours. I’m staying.”
“Oh.” She closed her eyes again and tried to think,
but that was hard, so she just drifted off.
She must have fallen asleep, because the light was
quite different in the room now. “What time is it?”
“What time was it before?”
“When you woke up before? It was eleven or eleven-
“Can we go?”
“They said they would discharge you as soon as you
woke up. I brought you some clothes.”
“I want to go.”
She dressed very deliberately, placing each button,
measuring the loops as she tied her shoe laces. Donald
looked on. Finally, she tilted her head, smiled her smile,
and said, “OK, time to go.”
They walked to the car in silence. Then Donald
turned to face her and stopped.
“Asia, I have to know what’s going on.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Asia, Laura pulled you out of the river. What were
you doing in the river?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I’m sorry, but you have to talk about it. I have to
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Were you trying to kill yourself?”
“I’m not going to talk about it.”
“Asia, I’m your husband. What were you doing in
“No! I said no! Just back off!”
Donald let silence settle around them. Then he
asked pleadingly, in a whisper, “Asia?”
She walked away from him toward the car, but
walked slowly and kept looking behind, as though she
were urging him to join her. In fact, that was what she
wanted. She wanted him beside her, but beside her
walking, walking to the car. She wanted to push the
subject away, not him. She couldn’t have this
conversation now, not in a parking lot, without a glass of
wine to distract her fingers, without a fire to stare into,
with only hard, naked confrontation and no relief.
Finally, he began to follow her.
In the car, they put on their seatbelts. Donald
started the car but didn’t drive. After several minutes,
Asia said, “So, who is Laura?”
“She’s a high school student. She’s in her final
year, and she teaches swimming part-time. She was
kind of freaked out by what happened. She said you just
walked into the river and disappeared. When she got to
you, she tried to lift you up, but you were too heavy, so
she got you out of your coat and then swam you to
shore. You weren’t dead, but you had swallowed lots of
water. Laura brought you back. She deserves to be
“Then I’ll thank her. But please: no more guilt.
I’ll do the guilt thing later. Now, all I want to do is
cope. And please don’t worry: I have no plans to go
swimming ever again.”
Donald relaxed. He needed to hear more, much
more, but he trusted his wife. He could put his
understanding on hold, as long as he was sure that Asia’s
life was safe. He knew, the way one knows that a cat is
shrieking in the distance, that last night Asia had tried to
kill herself, but this was so foreign to the picture he had
of his wife that he found it easy to dismiss, and indeed
welcomed the dismissal, because this returned the world
to a place he recognized. He put the car in gear and
drove back to the house.
It was the middle of August, a breathing space
before school started in again. She had never explained
this to herself, but as much as the house had become a
nightmare for her, she had not put it up for sale. At first,
she had just done what her father had done: she had
rented it out. But her tenants had moved the year she
finished her second BA, and the house had stood empty
since then. Her agent made sure it was clean and in
good repair, but he hadn’t managed to rent it again. For
some reason, it had occurred to her to suggest that they
spend a couple of weeks in Williston. Donald was
surprised. He thought of the world beyond New York
City as a shadowy and vague kind of place, a place
where the air was thin and insufficient. Nevertheless, he
agreed to go.
Donald taught in the psychology department at
NYU. Asia had not been his student; they had met at
the bi-weekly departmental colloquia. The romance had
been short. They met, and two months later they
married. They both had beautiful apartments, but they
traded them in for a brownstone. Donald contributed,
but Asia paid for it. Her father had left her rich.
It puzzled her to be back at the house. It had
puzzled her yesterday, and it still puzzled her today.
This place had no happy memories for her. It was an
island, disconnected from everything. She had read
books on the island about a world that she had never
seen. Why had she come back? What had she expected
“I don’t want to be here anymore. Do you mind if
we just go home?”
“I’ll tell Sandra to pack.”
“And could you bring out little Asia?”
Donald nodded and disappeared into the house.
Asia looked around the garden. It was large, and it was
nice, she supposed, but it was somehow so lifeless! She
knew now that she would never come here again. Still,
she didn’t like the idea of selling the house, even if there
was no reason to keep it. She certainly didn’t want it to
be part of little Asia’s future. Why not sell it, then?
Donald returned with the baby. Asia took her in
her arms and nestled her face with her nose.
“It’s hard to believe she’s already six months old.
Soon we’ll be counting in years.”
Donald laughed. “I don’t know about ‘soon’. Six
months is a very long time in the life of a baby.”
“How long before we can go?”
“Sandra said she could be ready in half an hour.”
“Donald, should I sell this place?”
Donald hesitated. “You’re serious?”
“I don’t know. I want your opinion.”
“Well... yes. I’ve never really understood why you
keep it. It’s a money pit. If it had some kind of
nostalgic value, I’d understand, but I’m not sure that it
“You never talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Then sell it.”
“I don’t want to come here ever again.”
“Then there’s no point at all in owning it.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. Something is
telling me not to. But that’s just stupid.”
He shrugged. “Honestly, it doesn’t make any
difference to me.”
“Sometimes, I just don’t understand myself. I hate
it here. I belong in New York. We have a beautiful
house there. So why on earth would I not sell this place?
What kind of mysterious emotional hold does this place
have on me that makes me resist the idea? It makes no
“It’s where you grew up.”
“Really? That’s it?”
“Maybe. Here comes Sandra.”
“The cars are packed. Sorry it took so long. It’s
the baby stuff. It’s like travelling with an army.”
“I’m sorry I took you all the way up here for
Sandra smacked her hand through the air. “Ack!
Frankly, I’m happy to leave. There’s nobody here!”
“Are you eating with us tonight?”
“It’s sushi night. I’ve already confirmed with Lena
“Today is Tuesday? Boy, am I out of it. See you
Asia strapped her daughter in the car seat and then
got in herself. Donald drove to the highway in silence.
Once on the highway, he turned to Asia.
“I don’t want to talk about what happened last
night,” he said.
Asia said nothing.
“I mean, I do, but I don’t. If I thought you had
tried to kill yourself, I would have to report you to the
police, and I’m certainly never going to do that.”
“But I have a colleague... It would mean a great
deal to me if you would agree to see her. She doesn’t
teach, so you probably don’t know her. She does
supervision in the clinical PhD program. Her name is
Sylvia Pompura, and she is simply a wonderful human
being. If you would see her, I’d be very grateful.”
“I’ll see her. If that’s what you want. I probably
“You’ll like her. She’s a hundred percent likeable.”
“OK. Now, could we please talk about something
But Asia didn’t want to talk about anything. It was
dark, and she would have been hungry had she been less
tired. But the weight of her tiredness closed her eyes,
and she was aware of nothing but the sound of her own