“Did you sleep well?” I asked.
“Not really. Last night just before bed,” she hesitated. “You asked by about how you could find me again. I didn’t sleep so well either thinking about that. You’re such a draw. You’re the only real, personal connection to my life in Saigon in nearly twenty years, outside of my family. So many memories are boiling up out of my past. And it’s a past that I’m conflicted about.
“Actually, more than conflicted. I said yesterday that I was a child of war and had known only that till I left Saigon. Last night the ghosts war came calling again and among them was Cerberus the three-headed dog. He keeps the damned from leaving the underworld?”
“Yes, I recall. He appears in a movie I saw about Carnival in Brazil. Now that was a tragedy. Any sad stories I told are nothing compared to that.”
“Well, I’m done with tragedy, either Greek or Shakespearian.” She paused. I swallowed hard and took another sip of coffee. She’d made is suitably strong.
“We should let the dogs of war lie sleeping,” she said quietly. “Doing otherwise courts more trouble than I want to deal with — for several reasons: one is you’re so bruised I don’t know where I could touch you that wouldn’t hurt; then being around you I don’t know how I could avoid re-living the war and it’s aftermath. And you clearly shouldn’t; and then eventually I’d have to explain you to Tommie and I haven’t been totally honest with her about her ancestry. I’m not ready to wade into those waters and I don’t think she’s old enough to deal with it anyway.”
“Oh — I’m disappointed. But I suppose we do risk starting a fire we can’t control. As much as I want to know the rest of your story, I’m grateful for the memories and I can speculate about the rest. But I want you to know that your clues have not gone unnoticed. You’re right, I’ve pieced together bits of your story that you’ve left unsaid.
“But know that I’d like to meet your daughter some day. We could stage a chance meeting, say some Sunday brunch at The Cliff House or on a downtown shopping trip sometime when I’m in San Francisco. You wouldn’t have to explain anything. Just introduce me as an old acquaintance and leave it at that.”
“You really think that would work? She’s awfully smart and reads people well. I’m afraid that would backfire badly. Let’s leave it alone.”
I had finished my coffee and scooted my chair back to leave. Agnes said, “Let me get my shoes, I’ll walk you to your car.”
I put on my sport coat and she met me at the door. We walked to the car in silence, just the gravel crunching under foot and the sound of wheeling gulls on the wing. Just as I put the key to the door, she stepped around in front of me put her arms around me and kissed me.
I looked back at her trying hard to hide the tears, reached into my pocket and took out my card case. I handed her a business card. “If you change your mind you can find me here.”
She took the card and squeezed my hand as I opened the door. “Thank you for sharing your life with me.”
She turned and walked back toward the cabins. I started the car as she walked off. I watched her in the mirror but my vision was a bit blurred. I reached for my glasses. I’d left them on the dash yesterday, cleaned them and put them on. It didn’t help.