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Wish You Were Here


March 13, 2020

When I was six years old, I painted a corner of the sky. My fa­ther was working as a conservator, one of a handful restoring the zodiac ceiling on the main hall of Grand Central Terminal—an aqua sky strung with shimmering constellations. It was late, way past my bedtime, but my father took me to work because my mother—as usual—was not home.

He helped me carefully climb the scaffolding, where I watched him working on a cleaned patch of the turquoise paint. I looked at the stars representing the smear of the Milky Way, the golden wings of Pegasus, Orion’s raised club, the twisted fish of Pisces. The original mural had been painted in 1913, my father told me. Roof leaks dam­aged the plaster, and in 1944, it had been replicated on panels that were attached to the arched ceiling. The original plan had been to remove the boards for restoration, but they contained asbestos, and so the conservators left them in place, and went to work with cotton swabs and cleaning solution, erasing decades of pollutants.

They uncovered history. Signatures and inside jokes and notes left behind by the original artists were revealed, tucked in among the constellations. There were dates commemorating weddings, and the end of World War II. There were names of soldiers. The birth of twins was recorded near Gemini.

An error had been made by the original artists, so that the painted zodiac was reversed from the way it would appear in the night sky. Instead of correcting it, though, my father was diligently reinforcing the error. That night, he was working on a small square of space, gild­ing stars. He had already painted over the tiny yellow dots with ad­hesive. He covered these with a piece of gold leaf, light as breath. Then he turned to me. “Diana,” he said, holding out his hand, and I climbed up in front of him, caged by the safety of his body. He handed me a brush to sweep over the foil, fixing it in place. He showed me how to gently rub at it with my thumb, so that the galaxy he’d created was all that remained.

When all the work was finished, the conservators kept a small dark spot in the northwest corner of Grand Central Terminal, where the pale blue ceiling meets the marble wall. This nine-by-five-inch section was left that way intentionally. My father told me that con­servators do that, in case historians need to study the original com­position. The only way you can tell how far you’ve come is to know where you started.

Every time I’m in Grand Central Terminal, I think about my fa­ther. Of how we left that night, hand in hand, our palms glittering like we had stolen the stars.

It is Friday the thirteenth, so I should know better. Getting from Sotheby’s, on the Upper East Side, to the Ansonia, on the Upper West Side, means taking the Q train to Times Square and then the 1 uptown, so I have to travel in the wrong direction before I start going in the right one.

I hate going backward.

Normally I would walk across Central Park, but I am wearing a new pair of shoes that are rubbing a blister on my heel, shoes I never would have worn if I’d known that I was going to be summoned by Kitomi Ito. So instead, I find myself on public transit. But some­thing’s off, and it takes me a moment to figure out what.

It’s quiet. Usually, I have to fight my way through tourists who are listening to someone singing for coins, or a violin quartet. Today, though, the platform is empty.

Last night Broadway theaters had shut down performances for a month, after an usher tested positive for Covid, out of an abundance of caution. That’s what Finn said, anyway—New York–Presbyterian, where he is a resident, has not seen the influx of coronavirus cases that are appearing in Washington State and Italy and France. There were only nineteen cases in the city, Finn told me last night as we watched the news, when I wondered out loud if we should start pan­icking yet. “Wash your hands and don’t touch your face,” he told me. “It’s going to be fine.”

The uptown subway is nearly empty, too. I get off at Seventy-second and emerge aboveground, blinking like a mole, walking at a brisk New Yorker clip. The Ansonia, in all its glory, rises up like an angry djinn, defiantly jutting its Beaux Arts chin at the sky. For a moment, I just stand on the sidewalk, looking up at its mansard roof and its lazy sprawl from Seventy-third to Seventy-fourth Street. There’s a North Face and an American Apparel at ground level, but it wasn’t always this bougie. Kitomi told me that when she and Sam Pride moved in in the seventies, the building was overrun with psy­chics and mediums, and housed a swingers’ club with an orgy room and an open bar and buffet. Sam and I, she said, would stop in at least once a week.

I was not alive when Sam’s band, the Nightjars, was formed by Sam and his co-songwriter, William Punt, with two school chums from Slough, England. Nor was I when their first album spent thirty weeks on the Billboard charts, or when their little British quartet went on The Ed Sullivan Show and ignited a stampede of screaming American girls. Not when Sam married Kitomi Ito ten years later or when the band broke up, months after their final album was released featuring cover art of Kitomi and Sam naked, mirroring the figures in a painting that hung behind their bed. And I wasn’t alive when Sam was murdered three years later, on the steps of this very build­ing, stabbed in the throat by a mentally ill man who recognized him from that iconic album cover.

But like everyone else on the planet, I know the whole story.

The doorman at the Ansonia smiles politely at me; the concierge looks up as I approach. “I’m here to see Kitomi Ito,” I say coolly, pushing my license across the desk to her.

“She’s expecting you,” the concierge answers. “Floor—”

“Eighteen. I know.”

Lots of celebrities have lived at the Ansonia—from Babe Ruth to Theodore Dreiser to Toscanini to Natalie Portman—but arguably, Kitomi and Sam Pride are the most famous. If my husband had been murdered on the front steps of my apartment building, I might not have stayed for another thirty years, but that’s just me. And anyway, Kitomi is finally moving now, which is why the world’s most infa­mous rock widow has my number in her cellphone.

What is my life, I think, as I lean against the back wall of the eleva­tor.

When I was young, and people asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I had a whole plan. I wanted to be securely on a path to my career, to get married by thirty, to finish having kids by thirty-five. I wanted to speak fluent French and have traveled cross-country on Route 66. My father had laughed at my checklist. You, he told me, are definitely your mother’s daughter.

I did not take that as a compliment.

Also, for the record, I’m perfectly on track. I am an associate spe­cialist at Sotheby’s—Sotheby’s!—and Eva, my boss, has hinted in all ways possible that after the auction of Kitomi’s painting I will likely be promoted. I am not engaged, but when I ran out of clean socks last weekend and went to scrounge for a pair of Finn’s, I found a ring hidden in the back of his underwear drawer. We leave tomorrow on vacation and Finn’s going to pop the question there. I’m so sure of it that I got a manicure today instead of eating lunch.

And I’m twenty-nine.

The door to the elevator opens directly into Kitomi’s foyer, all black and white marble squares like a giant chessboard. She comes into the entryway, dressed in jeans and combat boots and a pink silk bathrobe, with a thatch of white hair and the purple heart-shaped spectacles for which she is known. She has always reminded me of a wren, light and hollow-boned. I think of how Kitomi’s black hair went white overnight with grief after Sam was murdered. I think of the photographs of her on the sidewalk, gasping for air.

“Diana!” she says, as if we are old friends.

There is a brief awkwardness as I instinctively put my hand out to take hers and then remember that is not a thing we are doing any­more and instead just give a weird little wave. “Hi, Kitomi,” I say.

“I’m so glad you could come today.”

“It’s not a problem. There are a lot of sellers who want to make sure the paperwork is handed over personally.”

Over her shoulder, at the end of a long hallway, I can see it—the Toulouse-Lautrec painting that is the entire reason I know Kitomi Ito. She sees my eyes dart toward it and her mouth tugs into a smile.

“I can’t help it,” I say. “I never get tired of seeing it.”

A strange flicker crosses Kitomi’s face. “Then let’s get you a better view,” she replies, and she leads me deeper into her home.

From 1892 to 1895, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec scandalized the impressionist art world by moving into a brothel and painting pros­titutes together in bed. Le Lit, one of the most famous in that series, is at the Musée d’Orsay. Others have been sold to private collections for ten million and twelve million dollars. The painting in Kitomi’s house is clearly part of the series and yet patently set apart from the others.

There are not two women in this one, but a woman and a man. The woman sits propped up naked against the headboard, the sheet fallen to her waist. Behind the headboard is a mirror, and in it you can see the reflection of the second figure in the painting—Toulouse-Lautrec himself, seated naked at the foot of the bed with sheets pooled in his lap, his back to the viewer as he stares as intently at the woman as she is staring at him. It’s intimate and voyeuristic, simultaneously private and public.

When the Nightjars released their final album, Twelfth of Never, the cover art had Kitomi bare-breasted against their headboard, gaz­ing at Sam, whose broad back forms the lower third of the visual field. Behind their bed hangs the painting they’re emulating, in the position the mirror holds in the actual art.

Everyone knows that album cover. Everyone knows that Sam bought this painting for Kitomi from a private collection, as a wed­ding gift.

But only a handful of people know that she is now selling it, at a unique Sotheby’s auction, and that I’m the one who closed that deal.

“Are you still going on vacation?” Kitomi asks, disrupting my rev­erie.

Did I tell her about our trip? Maybe. But I cannot think of any logical reason she would care.

Clearing my throat (I don’t get paid to moon over art, I get paid to transact it), I paste a smile on my face. “Only for two weeks, and then the minute I get back, it’s full steam ahead for your auction.” My job is a strange one—I have to convince clients to give their beloved art up for adoption, which is a careful dance between rhapsodizing over the piece and encouraging them that they are doing the right thing by selling it. “If you’re having any anxiety about the transfer of the painting to our offices, don’t,” I tell her. “I promise that I will person­ally be here overseeing the crating, and I’ll be there on the other end, too.” I glance back at the canvas. “We’re going to find this the perfect home,” I vow. “So. The paperwork?”

Kitomi glances out the window before turning back to me. “About that,” she says.

“What do you mean, she doesn’t want to sell?” Eva says, looking at me over the rims of her famous horn-rimmed glasses. Eva St. Clerck is my boss, my mentor, and a legend. As the head of sale for the Imp Mod auction—the giant sale of impressionist and modern art—she is who I’d like to be by the time I’m forty, and until this moment, I had firmly enjoyed being teacher’s pet, tucked under the wing of her expertise.

Eva narrows her eyes. “I knew it. Someone from Christie’s got to her.”

In the past, Kitomi has sold other pieces of art with Christie’s, the main competitor of Sotheby’s. To be fair, everyone assumed that was how she’d sell the Toulouse-Lautrec, too . . . until I did something I never should have done as an associate specialist, and convinced her otherwise.

“It’s not Christie’s—”

“Phillips?” Eva asks, her eyebrows arching.

“No. None of them. She just wants to take a pause,” I clarify. “She’s concerned about the virus.”

“Why?” Eva asks, dumbfounded. “It’s not like a painting can catch it.”

“No, but buyers can at an auction.”

“Well, I can talk her down from that ledge,” Eva says. “We’ve got firm interest from the Clooneys and Beyoncé and Jay-Z, for God’s sake.”

“Kitomi’s also nervous because the stock market’s tanking. She thinks things are going to get worse, fast. And she wants to wait it out a bit . . . be safe not sorry.”

Eva rubs her temples. “You do realize we’ve already leaked this sale,” she says. “The New Yorker literally did a feature on it.”

“She just needs a little more time,” I say.

Eva glances away, already dismissing me in her mind. “You can go,” she orders.

I step out of her office and into the maze of hallways, lined with the books that I’ve used to research art. I’ve been at Sotheby’s for six and a half years—seven if you count the internship I did when I was still at Williams College. I went straight from undergrad into their master’s program in art business. I started out as a graduate trainee, then became a junior cataloger in the Impressionist Department, doing initial research for incoming paintings. I would study what else the artist was working on around the same time and how much similar works sold for, sometimes writing up the first draft of the catalog blurb. Though the rest of the world is digital these days, the art world still produces physical catalogs that are beautiful and glossy and nuanced and very, very important. Now, as an associate specialist,

I perform other tasks for Eva: visiting the artwork in situ and noting any imperfections, the same way you look over a rental car for dings before you sign the contract; physically accompanying the painting as it is packed up and moved from a home to our office; and occa­sionally joining my boss for meetings with potential clients.

A hand snakes out of a doorway I am passing and grabs my shoul­der, pulling me into a little side room. “Jesus,” I say, nearly falling into Rodney—my best friend here at Sotheby’s. Like me, he started as a college intern. Unlike me, he did not wind up going into the business side of the auction house. Instead, he designs and helps create the spaces where the art is showcased for auction.

“Is it true?” Rodney asks. “Did you lose the Nightjars’ painting?”

“First, it’s not the Nightjars’ painting. It’s Kitomi Ito’s. Second, how the hell did you find out so fast?”

“Honey, rumor is the lifeblood of this entire industry,” Rodney says. “And it spreads through these halls faster than the flu.” He hes­itates. “Or coronavirus, as it may be.”

“Well, I didn’t lose the Toulouse-Lautrec. Kitomi just wants things to settle down first.”

Rodney folds his arms. “You think that’s happening anytime soon? The mayor declared a state of emergency yesterday.”

“Finn said there are only nineteen cases in the city,” I tell him.

Rodney looks at me like I’ve just said I still believe in Santa, with a mixture of disbelief and pity. “You can have one of my rolls of toilet paper,” he says.

For the first time, I look behind him. There are six different shades of gold paint rolled onto the walls. “Which do you like?” he asks.

I point to one stripe in the middle. “Really?” he says, squinting.

“What’s it for?”

“A display of medieval manuscripts. Private sale.”

“Then that one,” I say, nodding at the stripe beside it. Which looks exactly the same. “Come up to Sant Ambroeus with me,” I beg. It’s the café at the top of Sotheby’s, and there is a prosciutto and moz­zarella sandwich there that might erase the look on Eva’s face from my mind.

“Can’t. It’s popcorn for me today.”

The break room has free microwave popcorn, and on busy days, that’s lunch. “Rodney,” I hear myself say, “I’m screwed.”

He settles his hands on my shoulders, spinning me and walking me toward the opposite wall, where a mirrored panel is left over from the previous installation. “What do you see?”

I look at my hair, which has always been too red for my taste, and my eyes, steel blue. My lipstick has worn off. My skin is a ghostly winter white. And there’s a weird stain on the collar of my blouse. “I see someone who can kiss her promotion goodbye.”

“Funny,” Rodney says, “because I see someone who is going on vacation tomorrow and who should have zero fucks left to give about Kitomi Ito or Eva St. Clerck or Sotheby’s. Think about tropical drinks and paradise and playing doctor with your boyfriend—”

“Real doctors don’t do that—”

“—and snorkeling with Gila monsters—”

“Marine iguanas.”

“Whatever.” Rodney squeezes me from behind, meeting my gaze in the mirror. “Diana, by the time you get back here in two weeks, everyone will have moved on to another scandal.” He smirks at me. “Now go buy some SPF 50 and get out of here.”

I laugh as Rodney picks up a paint roller and smoothly covers all the gold stripes with the one I picked. Once, he told me that an auc­tion house wall can have a foot of paint on it, because they are re­painted constantly.

As I close the door behind me, I wonder what color this room first was, and if anyone here even remembers.

To get to Hastings-on-Hudson, a commuter town north of the city, you can take Metro-North from Grand Central. So for the second time today, I head to Midtown.

This time, though, I visit the main concourse of the building and position myself directly underneath the piece of sky I painted with my father, letting my gaze run over the backward zodiac and the freckles of stars that blush across the arch of the ceiling. Craning my neck back, I stare until I’m dizzy, until I can almost hear my father’s voice again.

It’s been four years since he died, and the only way I can garner the courage to visit my mother is to come here first, as if his memory gives me protective immunity.

I am not entirely sure why I’m going to see her. It’s not like she asked for me. And it’s not like this is part of any routine. I haven’t been to visit in three months, actually.

Maybe that’s why I’m going.

The Greens is an assisted living facility walkable from the train station in Hastings-on-Hudson—which is one of the reasons I picked it, when my mother reappeared out of the blue after years of radio silence. And, naturally, she didn’t show up oozing maternal warmth. She was a problem that needed to be solved.

The building is made out of brick and fits into a community that looks like it was cut and pasted from New England. Trees line the street, and there’s a library next door. Cobblestones arch in a widen­ing circle from the front door. It isn’t until you are buzzed in through the locked door and see the color-coded hallways and the photo­graphs on the residents’ apartment doors that you realize it’s a mem­ory care facility.

I sign in and walk past a woman shuffling into the bright art room, filled with all sorts of paints and clay and crafts. As far as I know, my mother has never participated.

They do all kinds of things here to make it easier for the occu­pants. Doorways meant to be entered by the residents have bright yellow frames they cannot miss; rooms for staff or storage blend into the walls, painted over with murals of bookshelves or greenery. Since all the apartment doors look similar, there’s a large photo on each one that has meaning to the person who lives there: a family member, a special location, a beloved pet. In my mother’s case, it’s one of her own most famous photographs—a refugee who’s come by raft from Cuba, carrying the limp body of his dehydrated son in his arms. It’s grotesque and grim and the pain radiates from the image. In other words, exactly the kind of photo for which Hannah O’Toole was known.

There is a punch code that opens the secure unit on both sides of the door. (The keypad on the inside is always surrounded by a small zombie clot of residents trying to peer over your shoulder to see the numbers and presumably the path to freedom.) The individual rooms aren’t locked. When I let myself into my mother’s room, the space is neat and uncluttered. The television is on—the television is always on—tuned to a game show. My mother sits on the couch with her hands in her lap, like she’s at a cotillion waiting to be asked to dance.

She is younger than most of the residents here. There’s one skunk streak of white in her black hair, but it’s been there since I was little. She doesn’t really look much different from the way she did when I was a girl, except for her stillness. My mother was always in motion—talking animatedly with her hands, turning at the next question, ad­justing the lens of a camera, hieing away from us to some corner of the globe to capture a revolution or a natural disaster.

Beyond her is the screened porch, the reason that I picked The Greens. I thought that someone who’d spent so much of her life outdoors would hate the confinement of a memory care facility. The screened porch was safe, because there was no egress from it, but it allowed a view. Granted, it was only a strip of lawn and beyond that a parking lot, but it was something.

It costs a shitload of money to keep my mother here. When she showed up on my doorstep, in the company of two police officers who found her wandering around Central Park in a bathrobe, I hadn’t even known she was back in the city. They found my address in her wallet, torn from the corner of an old Christmas card enve­lope. Ma’am, one of the officers had asked me, do you know this woman?

I recognized her, of course. But I didn’t know her at all.

When it became clear that my mother had dementia, Finn asked me what I was going to do. Nothing, I told him. She had barely been involved in taking care of me when I was young; why was I obligated to take care of her now? I remember seeing the look on his face when he realized that for me, maybe, love was a quid pro quo. I didn’t want to ever see that expression again on Finn, but I also knew my limita­tions, and I didn’t have the resources to become the caretaker for someone with early-onset Alzheimer’s. So I did my due diligence, talking to her neurologist and getting pamphlets from different fa­cilities. The Greens was the best of the lot, but it was expensive. In the end, I packed up my mother’s apartment, Sotheby’s auctioned off the photographs from her walls, and the result was an annuity that could pay for her new residence.

I did not miss the irony of the fact that the parent I missed des­perately was the one who was no longer in the world, while the par­ent I could take or leave was inextricably tied to me for the long haul.

Now, I paste a smile on my face and sit down next to my mother on the couch. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve come to visit since installing her here, but I very clearly remember the directions of the staff: act like she knows you, and even if she doesn’t remember, she will likely follow the social cues and treat you like a friend. The first time I’d come, when she asked who I was and I said Your daughter, she had become so agitated that she’d bolted away, fallen over a chair, and cut her forehead.

“Who’s winning Wheel of Fortune?” I ask, settling in as if I’m a regular visitor.

Her eyes dart toward me. There’s a flicker of confusion, like a sput­tering pilot light, before she smooths it away. “The lady in the pink shirt,” my mother says. Her brows draw together, as she tries to place me. “Are you—”

“The last time I was here, it was warm outside,” I interrupt, offer­ing the clue that this isn’t the first time I’ve visited. “It’s pretty warm out today. Should we open the slider?”

She nods, and I walk toward the entrance to the screened porch. The latch that locks it from the inside is open. “You’re supposed to keep this fastened,” I remind her. I don’t have to worry about her wandering off—but it still makes me nervous to have the sliding door unlocked.

“Are we going somewhere?” she asks, when a gust of fresh air blows into the living room.

“Not today,” I tell her. “But I’m taking a trip tomorrow. To the Galápagos.”

“I’ve been there,” my mother says, lighting up as a thread of mem­ory catches. “There’s a tortoise. Lonesome George. He’s the last of his whole species. Imagine being the last of anything in the whole world.”

For some reason, my throat thickens with tears. “He died,” I say.

My mother tilts her head. “Who?”

“Lonesome George.”

“Who’s George?” she asks, and she narrows her eyes. “Who are you?”

That sentence, it wounds me.

I don’t know why it hurts so much when my mother forgets me these days, though, when she never actually knew me at all.

When Finn comes home from the hospital, I am in bed under the covers wearing my favorite flannel shirt and sweatpants, with my laptop balanced on my legs. Today has just flattened me. Finn sits down beside me, leaning against the headboard. His golden hair is wet, which means he’s showered before coming home from New York–Presbyterian, where he is a resident in the surgery department, but he’s wearing scrubs that show off the curves of his biceps and the constellation of freckles on his arms. He glances at the screen, and then at the empty pint of ice cream nestled beside me. “Wow,” he says. “Out of Africa . . . and butter pecan? That’s, like, the big guns.”

I lean my head on his shoulder. “I had the shittiest day.”

“No, I did,” Finn replies.

“I lost a painting,” I tell him.

“I lost a patient.”

I groan. “You win. You always win. No one ever dies of an art emergency.”

“No, I mean I lost a patient. Elderly woman with LBD wandered off before I could get her in for gallbladder surgery.”

“Little black dress?”

A smile tugs at Finn’s mouth. “Lewy body dementia.”

This makes me think, naturally, of my mother.

“Did you find her?”

“Security did,” Finn says. “She was on the labor and delivery floor.”

I wonder what it was that made her go there—some internal GPS error, or the kite tail of a memory so far in the clouds you can barely see it.

“Then I do win,” I say, and I give him an abbreviated version of my meeting with Kitomi Ito.

“Okay,” Finn says, “in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a di­saster. You can still get promoted to specialist, when she eventually decides to sell.”

What I love most about Finn (well, all right, one of the things I love most about Finn) is that he understands that I have a detailed design for my future. He does, too, for his own. Most important, mine and his overlap: successful careers, then two kids, then a re­stored farmhouse upstate. An Audi TT. A purebred English springer spaniel, but also a rescued mutt. A period where we live abroad for six months. A bank account with enough padding that we don’t have to worry if we need to get snow tires or pay for a new roof. A position on a board at a homeless shelter or a hospital or cancer charity, that in some way makes the world a better place. An accomplishment that makes someone remember my name.

(I had thought that Kitomi Ito’s auction might do that.)

If marriage is a yoke meant to keep two people moving in tandem, then my parents were oxen who each pulled in a different direction, and I was caught squarely in the middle. I never understood how you could march down an aisle with someone and not realize that you want totally different futures. My father dreamed of a family; to him art was a means of providing for me. My mother dreamed of art; to her a family was a distraction. I am all for love. But there is no pas­sion so consuming that it can bridge a gap like that.

Life happens when you least expect it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blueprint in your back pocket. To that end, while a good number of our friends are still racking up expensive degrees or swip­ing left or figuring out what sparks joy, Finn and I have plans. But we don’t only have the same general timeline for our lives, we also have the same dreams, as if we’re dipping into the same bucket list: Run a marathon. Know how to tell a good cabernet from a bad one. Watch every film in the IMDb top 250. Volunteer at the Iditarod. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail. See tulip fields in the Netherlands. Learn how to surf. See the northern lights. Retire by age fifty. Visit every UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We’re starting with the Galápagos. It’s a hellishly expensive trip for two millennials in New York; the cost of the flights alone is exor­bitant. But we’ve been saving up for four years, and thanks to a deal I found online, we managed to fit a trip into our budget—one that has us based on a single island, rather than the more expensive island-hopping cruises.

And somewhere on a lava-sand beach, Finn will drop to one knee and I will fall into the ocean of his eyes and say yes, let’s start the rest of our lives.

Although I have a schedule for my life that I have not deviated from, I’m treading water, waiting for the next milestone. I have a job, but not a promotion. I have a boyfriend, but not a family. It’s like when Finn is playing one of his videogames and he can’t quite level up. I’ve visualized, I’ve manifested, I’ve tried to speak it into the uni­verse. Finn is right. I will not let a little hiccup like Kitomi’s uncer­tainty derail me.

Derail us.

Finn kisses the top of my head. “I’m sorry you lost your painting.”

“I’m sorry you lost your patient.”

He has been idly tangling his fingers with mine. “She was cough­ing,” he murmurs.

“I thought she was there for her gallbladder.”

“She was. But she was coughing. Everyone could hear it. And I . . .” He looks up at me, ashamed. “I was scared.”

I squeeze Finn’s hand. “You thought she had Covid?”

“Yeah.” He shakes his head. “So instead of going into her room, I checked on two other patients first. And I guess she got sick of wait­ing . . . and walked off.” He grimaces. “She has a smoker’s cough, and a gallbladder that needs to be removed, and instead of thinking of her health I was thinking of mine.”

“You can’t blame yourself for that.”

“Can’t I? I took an oath. It’s like being a fireman and saying it’s too hot to go into a burning building.”

“I thought there were only nineteen cases in the city.”

“Today,” Finn stresses. “But my attending put the fear of God into us, saying that the emergency department will be swamped by Mon­day. I spent an hour memorizing how to put on PPE properly.”

“Thank God we’re going on vacation,” I say. “I feel like we both need the break.”

Finn doesn’t answer.

“I can’t wait till we’re on a beach and everything feels a million miles away.”


“Finn,” I say.

He pulls away so that he can look me in the eye. “Diana,” he says, “you should still go.”

That night, after Finn has fallen into a restless sleep, I wake up with a headache. After I find some aspirin, I slip into the living room and open my laptop. Finn’s attending at the hospital made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that taking time off at this moment would be greatly discouraged. That they were going to need all hands on deck, imme­diately.

It’s not that I don’t believe him, but I think of the deserted train station, and it doesn’t make sense. If anything, the city looks empty—not full of sick people.

My eyes jump from headline to headline: State of emergency de­clared by de Blasio.

The mayor expects a thousand cases in New York City by next week.

The NBA and NHL have canceled their seasons.

The Met has closed to all in-person visits.

Outside, the horizon is starting to blush. I can hear the rumble of a car. It feels like an ordinary Saturday in the city. Except, apparently, we are standing in the eye of the storm.

Once when I was small my father and I went with my mother to shoot pictures of the drought in the Midwest, and we got caught in a tornado. The sky had gone yellow, like an old bruise, and we took refuge in the basement of the B&B, pressed up against boxes marked as Christmas decorations and table linens. My mother had stayed on ground level with her camera. When the wind stopped shrieking and she stepped outside, I followed. She didn’t seem surprised to see me there.

There was no sound—no humans, no cars, and oddly, not a single bird or insect. It was like we stood beneath a bell jar.

Is it over? I asked.

Yes, she said. And no.

Now, I don’t realize Finn is standing behind me until I feel his hands on my shoulders. “It’s better this way,” he says.

“To go on vacation by myself?”

“For you to be in a place where I won’t worry about you,” Finn says. “I don’t know what I might wind up bringing home from the hospital. I don’t even know if I’ll be coming home from the hospital.”

“They keep saying it’ll be over in two weeks.” They, I think. The news anchors, who are parroting the press secretary, who is parroting the president.

“Yeah, I know. But that’s not what my attending’s saying.”

I think about the subway station today. About Times Square, de­void of tourists. I’m not supposed to hoard Lysol or buy N95 masks. I’ve seen the numbers in France, in Italy, but those casualties were the elderly. I’m all for taking precautions, but I also know I am young and healthy. It is hard to know what to believe. Whom to believe.

If the pandemic still feels distant from Manhattan, it will probably seem nonexistent on an archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

“What if you run out of toilet paper?” I say.

I can hear the smile in his voice. “That’s what you’re worried about?” He squeezes my shoulders. “I promise I will steal rolls from the hos­pital if fights start breaking out in the bodegas.”

It feels wrong, so wrong, to go without Finn; it feels even more wrong to think about bringing a friend along as a substitute—not that I know anyone who could leave for two weeks with zero advance notice anyway. But there is also a practicality to his suggestion that sinks its claws into me. I already have the vacation time blocked off. I know we can get a credit on Finn’s airfare, but the fine print on our amazing travel deal was no refunds, period. I tell myself that it would be stupid to lose that much money, especially when the thought of showing up for work on Monday makes my head throb harder. I think of Rodney telling me to snorkel with the iguanas.

“I’ll send pictures,” I vow. “So many you’ll have to get a better data plan.”

Finn bends down until I can feel his lips in the curve of my neck. “Have enough fun for both of us,” he says.

Suddenly I am gripped by a fear so strong that it propels me out of my chair and into Finn’s arms. “You’ll be here, when I get back,” I state, because I cannot bear the thought of that sentence being a question.

“Diana,” he says, smiling. “You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”

I honestly do not remember getting to the Galápagos.

I have the Ambien to blame for that, I suppose. I took it as soon as I got on the flight. I remember packing, and how at the last min­ute I took my guidebooks out of my carry-on and put them in my luggage. I remember checking three times that I had my passport. I remember Finn getting paged back to the hospital, and how he kissed me goodbye and said, “Victoria Falls.”

“You’ve already forgotten my name,” I joked.

“No, that’s the next UNESCO site we visit. Except, for that one, I go to Zimbabwe and you stay here. Fair’s fair.”

“Deal,” I promised, because I knew he wouldn’t leave me behind.

After that it is all bits and pieces: the crazy bustle of the airport, as if it is holiday season and not a random weekend in March; the bot­tle of water I buy and finish on the flight and the People magazine I never crack open; the jolt of the wheels that whips me out of a dream state full of facts I’d read about my destination. Still logy, I stumble through the unfamiliar airport in Guayaquil, where I will stay one night on mainland Ecuador before my connecting flight to the Ga­lápagos.

I remember only two things about landing: that the airline has lost my luggage, and that someone checks my temperature before letting me into Ecuador.

I don’t have enough Spanish or bandwidth to explain that my flight for the islands leaves early tomorrow, but surely this has hap­pened before. I fill out a report at baggage claim, but based on the number of people who are doing the same thing, I don’t have high hopes for being reunited with my bag in time. Wistfully I think of the guidebooks I packed in there. Well, that’s all right. I’ll be discov­ering places firsthand; I don’t need to read about them anymore. I have the essentials in my tote—toothpaste and toothbrush, phone charger, a bathing suit I packed in case this very thing happened. I’ll come back to the airport in the morning and fly to Baltra on Santa Cruz Island in the Galápagos, then take a bus to the ferry to Isabela Island, where I’ll stay for two weeks. Hopefully my bag will catch up with me at some point.

After I shower, I braid my hair, connect to the shitty hotel Wi-Fi, and try to FaceTime Finn. He doesn’t answer, and then a few min­utes later, my phone starts to ring. When his face swims onto the screen, it is hidden behind a face shield, and he’s wearing a surgical mask. “You made it,” he says.

“I did,” I tell him. “My suitcase, though, wasn’t as lucky.”

“Wow. You mean, not only did I give up a vacation in paradise . . . I also gave up a vacation where you’ll be walking around naked?”

I smile. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.” Suddenly I feel very tired, and very isolated. “I miss you,” I say.

The sound of an ambulance siren swells through the speaker. Finn’s eyes cut to the left. “I have to go.”

“Are you seeing it yet?” I ask. “The virus?”

His eyes meet mine, and behind the Plexiglas shield I notice the faint circles underneath them. It’s ten p.m. While I’ve been asleep on a plane, I realize, Finn has not left the hospital for twelve hours. “It’s all I’m seeing,” he says, and then the line goes dead.

The next morning, my flight to Santa Cruz goes off without a hitch. But there is a sea lion between me and the ferry to my final destina­tion.

It sprawls across the dock in the sunshine, a slug of muscle, whis­kers twitching. I edge closer toward it with my camera, thinking I can send a picture to Finn, but the minute I’m within striking dis­tance its head and shoulders swoop upward and its eyes fix on me.

I run, leaping over its tail as it lets out a yawp and a roar, and I nearly drop my phone.

My heart’s still pounding when I reach the boat. I glance over my shoulder, certain that the beast is right on my heels, but the sea lion is immobile again, splayed on the bleached boardwalk like a lazy dog.

There are only two ferries a day to Isabela Island, but the after­noon trip isn’t as crowded as I expect it to be. In fact, there’s only me and two other passengers. In broken Spanish, I ask the man who helps me board if I am on the right boat, and get a sharp nod. I take a seat outside. And then, suddenly, we’re afloat and Santa Cruz Is­land starts to get smaller and smaller.

The Galápagos are a collection of islands flung into the ocean like a handful of gems on velvet. They look, I imagine, the way the world did when it was newly born—mountains too fresh to gentle into slopes, mist spitting in valleys, volcanoes unraveling the seam of the sky. Some are still spiky with lava. Some are surrounded by water that’s a dozy turquoise, some by a dramatic froth of waves. Some, like Isabela, are inhabited. Others are accessible solely by boat, and home only to the bizarre collection of creatures that have evolved there.

For two hours on the ferry I am sprayed, jerked, and yanked through choppy waters. One of the passengers, who looks to be a college kid backpacking around, is an unsettling shade of green. The other is a girl with the smooth brown skin of a local. She seems young—maybe twelve or thirteen?—and she is wearing a school uni­form: a knit polo shirt with a school crest embroidered over the heart and a pair of black pants. In spite of the heat, she is also sporting a long-sleeved sweatshirt. Her shoulders are hunched, arms clutching a duffel; her eyes are red. Everything about her says: Leave me alone.

I keep my eyes on the horizon of the water and try not to throw up. I mentally compose a text to Finn: Remember the time we took the ferry from Bar Harbor to Nova Scotia for your roommate’s wedding and everyone on board got sick?

The ferry does not, as it turns out, go all the way to Isabela. It stops at a mooring, and then the backpacker, the girl, and I share a water taxi the final leg of the journey—a short distance to Puerto Villamil. I am squinting at the sugar-sand beach and palm trees when the backpacker beside me laughs with delight. “Dude!” he says. He grabs my sleeve and points. Swimming beside the boat is a tiny penguin.

As we get closer, the mass of land differentiates into individual sensations: hot gusts of wind and hooting pelicans; a man climbing a coconut tree and tossing the nuts down to a boy; a marine iguana, blinking its yellow dinosaur eye. Sidling up to the dock, I think that this could not be any more different from New York City. It feels tropical and timeless, lazy, remote. It feels like a place where no one has ever heard of a pandemic.

But then I realize that there is a horde of people waiting to secure the services of the water taxi. They have the sunburned look of tour­ists who are already refitting themselves into the mindset of home, shoving and yelling over each other. One man holds out a fistful of cash, waving it at our driver, who looks overwhelmed. “What’s going on?” I ask.

“La isla está cerrando,” he says.

Cerrando, I think, rummaging through my limited Spanish vo­cabulary.

“I don’t understand,” I say.

The young girl is silent, staring at the dock ahead. The backpacker looks at me, and then at the crowd. He speaks in Spanish to our taxi driver, who responds in a stream of words I don’t know.

“The island’s closing,” he says.

How does an island close?

“They’re locking down for two weeks,” the boy continues. “Be­cause of the virus.” He nods at all the people waiting on the dock. “They’re all trying to get back to Santa Cruz.”

The girl shuts her eyes, as if she doesn’t want to see any of them.

I can’t imagine how all these people are going to fit on the small ferry. The taxi driver asks a question in Spanish.

“He wants to know if we want to go back,” the boy says, glancing in the direction of the ferry, still moored a distance away. “That’s the last boat off-island.”

I do not like it when plans change.

I think of Finn, telling me to leave New York City. I think of the paid-in-full room waiting for me within walking distance of these docks. If the island is locking down for two weeks, then they must be assuming that’s how long it will take for the virus to be controlled. I could spend those two weeks fighting with this angry mob to get a seat on a flight back to New York, and hole up in our apartment while Finn works.

The boy tells the driver something in Spanish, then turns to me. “I told him you’ll probably want to go back.”


He shrugs. “Because you look like someone who plays it safe.”

Something about that smarts. Just because there’s a small glitch doesn’t mean I can’t adapt. “Well, actually, you’re wrong. I’m staying.”

The backpacker’s brows rise. “For real? Shit,” he says, with grudg­ing admiration.

“Well, what are you going to do?” I ask the kid.

“Go back,” he says. “I’ve already been in the Galápagos for a week.”

“I haven’t,” I reply, as if I need an excuse.

“Suit yourself,” he says.

Two minutes later, the girl and I get off the water taxi onto Isabela Island. The knot of anxious travelers parts and flows around us like a current as they hurry to board the small boat. I smile at the girl shyly, but she doesn’t respond. After a while I realize she isn’t by my side anymore. I glance back and see her sitting on a wooden bench near the pier, her duffel beside her, wiping tears off her face.

Just then, the water taxi pulls away from the dock.

Suddenly it hits me: in an effort to seem more chill than I actually am, I have just stranded myself on an island.

I have never really traveled on my own. When I was little I went on location with my father when he went to restore works of art—at museums in Los Angeles, Florence, Fontainebleau. When I was in college, my roommates and I spent spring break in the Bahamas. I spent one summer with friends, working in Canada. I’ve flown to Los Angeles and Seattle with Eva to schmooze potential clients and evaluate pieces of art for auction. With Finn, I’ve driven to Acadia National Park; I’ve flown to Miami for a long weekend, and I was his plus-one at a wedding in Colorado. I’ve met women who stubbornly insist on traveling by themselves to the most remote places, as if bel­ligerent self-sufficiency is even more Instagrammable than foreign landmarks. But that’s not who I am. I like having someone share the same memories as me. I like knowing that when I turn to Finn and say, Remember that time on Cadillac Mountain . . . I do not even have to finish the sentence.

You are on an adventure, I remind myself.

After all, my mother used to do this effortlessly, in places that were far less civilized.

When I look back at the pier again, the girl is gone.

I slide my carry-on tote onto my shoulder and walk away from the docks. The town’s small buildings are jumbled like a puzzle: brick walls with a thatched roof, a brightly painted pink stucco, a wooden breezeway with a bar/restaurant sign above it. They are all differ­ent; the only thing they have in common is that the doors are firmly shut.

La isla está cerrando.

Land iguanas wriggle across the sand street, the only signs of life.

I pass a farmacia and a store and several hostales. This is the only road; it stands to figure that if I stay on it, I will find my hotel.

I keep walking until I spot the boy I saw from the boat who has been catching the coconuts. “Hola,” I say, smiling. I gesture up and down the road. “Casa del Cielo . . . ?”

There is a light thud as the man who has been in the coconut tree drops down behind me. “Casa del Cielo,” he repeats. “El hotel no está lejos, pero no están abiertos.”

I smile at him, all teeth. “Gracias,” I say, even though I have no clue what he said. I wonder what the hell I was thinking, coming to a country where I do not speak the language.

Oh. Right. I was thinking that I was coming with Finn, who does.

With a little polite wave, I continue in the direction he’s pointed. I have gone only a few hundred yards when I see a faded wooden sign, carved with the name of the hotel.

I reach the front door just as someone is exiting. She is an old woman, her face so creased with wrinkles that it looks like linen; her black eyes are bright. She calls back to someone still inside the build­ing, who answers in Spanish. She is wearing a cotton dress with the logo of the hotel over the left breast. She smiles at me and disappears around the side of the building.

Immediately following her comes another woman—younger, with a rope of hair down her back. She is holding a set of keys, and starts locking the door behind her.

Which seems really strange, for a hotel.

Discúlpame,” I say. “Is this Casa del Cielo?”

She cranes her neck, as if to look at the roof, and nods. “Estamos cerrados,” she says, and she looks at me. “Closed,” she adds.

I blink. Maybe this is a siesta kind of thing; maybe all businesses on the island close at (I glance at my watch) . . . 4:30.

She gives the door a sharp tug and starts walking away. Panicked, I run after her, calling for her to wait. She turns, and I rummage in my tote until I find the printed confirmation from the hotel; proof of my two weeks, paid in advance.

She takes the piece of paper from me and scans it. When she speaks again, it is a river of Spanish, and I recognize only a single word: coronavirus.

“When will you be open again?” I ask.

Then she hunches her shoulders, the universal sign for You are shit out of luck.

She gets on a bike and pedals away, leaving me in front of a run-down hotel that has charged me in advance for a room they won’t give me, in a country where I don’t speak the language, on an island where I am stranded for two weeks with little more than a tooth­brush.

I wander behind the hotel, which backs up to the ocean. The sky is bruised and tender. Marine iguanas scuttle out of my way as I sit down on an outcropping of lava and take out my phone to call Finn.

But there’s no signal.

I bury my face in my hands.

This is not how I travel. I have hotel reservations and guidebooks and airline mileage accounts. I triple-check to make sure I have my license and passport. I organize. The thought of wandering aimlessly through a town and rolling up to a hotel and asking if there are va­cancies makes me sick to my stomach.

My mother had once been in Sri Lanka photographing water buf­falo on a beach when a tsunami hit. The elephants, she said, ran for the hills before any of us even realized what was coming. Flamingos moved to higher ground. Dogs refused to go outside. When everything else is run­ning in one direction, she said, it’s usually for a reason.

At the touch of a hand on my shoulder, I jump. The old woman who exited the hotel is now standing behind me. When she smiles, mostly toothless, her lips curl around her gums into her mouth. “Ven conmigo,” she says, and when I don’t move, she reaches out a bony hand and pulls me to my feet.

She holds on to me as if I am a toddler, leading me further down the sandy street of Puerto Villamil. It is not wise, I know, to allow myself to be dragged somewhere by a stranger. But she hardly fits the profile of a serial killer; and I am out of options. Numbly, I follow her past the locked shops and closed restaurants and silent bars, which give way to small, neat dwellings. Some are fancier than others, hid­ing behind low stucco walls with gates. Others have bicycles rusting against them. Some have yards made of crushed seashells.

The woman turns toward one little house. It is square and made of concrete, painted pale yellow. It has a small porch made out of wood, and wrapped around the legs of its columns are vines thick with a riot of flowers. Instead of climbing the steps, though, she takes me around the back of the house, which slopes down toward the water. There is a courtyard with a metal café table and a rope hammock, some potted plants, and a break in the knee-high wall that leads di­rectly onto the beach. The waves are spreading rumors down the shore.

When I turn around, the old woman has stepped through a slid­ing glass door and is waving me closer. I walk into a tiny apartment that looks both lived in and not. There is furniture: a worn, ugly brown plaid couch and a driftwood coffee table, scattered rag throw rugs. There is a rickety table big enough for two, with a blushing conch shell in the center holding down a stack of paper napkins. There’s a refrigerator and an oven and a stove. But there are no books on the shelves, no food in the open cupboards, no art on the walls.

“You,” she says, the English sharp on her tongue, “stay.”

I can’t help it, my eyes fill with tears. “Thank you,” I say. “I can pay you. Dolares.”

She shrugs, as if it is absolutely normal for a stranger to offer up a home for a displaced traveler, and money is beside the point. Then again, maybe on Isabela, it is. She smiles and pats her own chest. “Abuela,” she says.

I smile back at her. “Diana,” I reply.

The apartment is a little mystery. There is a twin mattress, and I hunt down sheets in a linen closet. Buried in the back beneath the towels are three T-shirts, soft and faded—one with a flag I do not recognize, another with a black cat, a third with the logo of a company over the breast. That same logo is on a box of oversize promotional postcards that I find in a box—easily several hundred of them. g2 tours, sur­rounded by pictures of a volcano and a tortoise and a rocky beach and a beady-eyed blue-footed booby. In a pitted armoire in the bedroom I find a pair of flip-flops that are too big for me, and a mask and snor­kel. In the bathroom, there is a half-empty tube of toothpaste in a drawer and a bottle of generic ibuprofen. The refrigerator has a few random condiments—mustard, Tabasco—but nothing I can eat.

It is that which drives me out of the relative comfort and safety of the apartment. When my stomach growls so loud I can’t ignore it anymore, I decide to go in search of food and a decent cellphone signal. I peel off the shirt I’ve been wearing for two days and change into the tee with the logo, knotting it at my waist. Then I exit the sliding glass door, and find myself standing at the edge of the world.

The ocean is flirting with the shore, rushing over it and then re­treating. A movement draws my attention as a ragged outcropping of rock suddenly animates—not lava rock, as it turns out, but a tangle of marine iguanas that slide into the waves, diving down. I try to fol­low their trajectory but I lose sight of them when the water gets deep. I shade my eyes with my hand, and try to pick out another is­land on the horizon, but I can see only an indistinct blur where sea meets sky. I can totally understand how a captain might have charted that point, and believed he could sail over the edge.

I suddenly feel very, very far away from my real life.

It seems like I’m the only person on the beach, but then gradually I notice someone running far in the distance, and if I concentrate, I can hear the whoop of children playing somewhere. When I turn back to the house, upstairs, there is a silhouette of someone—Abuela, I assume—behind a pale curtain.

I could go up there, and mime hunger, and Abuela would likely sit me down and cook me a meal. But it feels rude, especially since she has already given me shelter. I also know, because I just walked through town, that all the businesses are shuttered. Maybe there’s a restaurant or a market in the opposite direction? So I channel my inner Elizabeth Gilbert/Amelia Earhart/Sally Ride and strike out into the unknown.

The only road out of town winds past cacti and tangled brush and brackish water. Flamingos blush, walking on water, the cursive loops of their necks forming secret messages as they dive for shrimp. At certain points the road narrows and is edged with black stones. At others, it is littered with fallen leaves. Everything is green and red and orange; it is like stepping into a Gauguin. My phone has only one bar the entire time.

Finn will freak out if he doesn’t hear from me. On some rational level he knows that there is limited Wi-Fi in the Galápagos. I liter­ally told him on the phone, yesterday, before we were cut off. Plus, the guidebooks all mention it as a caveat and say your best bet is spotty service at your hotel . . . or suggest turning off your phone, and simply enjoying your vacation. To Finn and me, that sounded like heaven. But that was when we thought we would be together inside this bubble of solitude.

If it were the other way around—if he were the one who was stuck somewhere without cell service—I would be worried. I console my­self with a pep talk: he knows I landed safely; it has been only a day; I will figure out a way to reach him tomorrow.

By the time I’ve walked for twenty minutes, it’s nearly sunset. The jaunty arms of the cacti re-form in the low light into strangers fol­lowing me; when iguanas scissor in front of me I jump. I should turn around before it’s too dark for me to find my way back. I am about to resign myself to going to bed hungry when I see a little shed further up the road. I squint, but I can’t quite make out the sign.

By the time I can read it, I know that it’s not a restaurant or a convenience store. centro de crianza de tortugas gigantes. There is a translation in English—giant tortoise breeding center—and just to be extra clear, a picture of a tortoise hatching from an egg.

There is no gate, so I wander into the open-air courtyard. The main building is closed up for the night (or longer?), but a horseshoe of enclosures surrounds me. Each pen is gated by a concrete wall that is a few feet high—certainly big enough for me to lean over, but too high for the tortoises to escape.

I approach one wall and find myself face-to-face with a prehistoric-looking tortoise. Its slitted eyes stare at me as it moves closer on padded feet and stretches its neck up from the hump of its shell. I look at its flat head and dinosaur skin, the black ridges of its toes, its Voldemort nose. It opens its mouth and sticks out a spear of tongue.

Delighted, I lean down on my elbows and watch it turn away, lop­ing across the dusty ground toward another tortoise in the distance. With lumbering underwater movements, it crawls up the shell of the second tortoise, anchoring her so they can mate. The male I’ve been watching curves his neck toward his partner, tendons stretching. His thick arms look like they are covered in chain mail. He grunts, the only sound he’ll make in his life.

“You go, buddy,” I murmur, and I turn away to give them privacy.

In the other enclosures are hundreds of tortoises of varying sizes. They look, heaped, like a collection of army helmets. Some sleep, some are surprisingly limber. Others seem world-weary, as they crawl out of a puddle electric green with algae, or maneuver stalks of food into their mouths. Even the smallest ones remind me of old men, with the wrinkled skin of their throats and bald pates.

In one of the enclosures, a few of the tortoises are chewing on apples. The apples are small and green and seem to have fallen from a tree beyond the concrete pen. I watch the reptiles use their power­ful jaws to grind.

My stomach rumbles, and I glance at the tree.

I’m not the kind of person who eats berries off random trees; I’m a New Yorker, for God’s sake, and most of nature looks like a hazard to me. But if the tortoises are eating these, then they have to be safe, right?

I can’t quite reach the fruit. The branches that hang into the pen have already been stripped by the greedy tortoises, so I find myself climbing onto the little wall to grasp an apple.


I turn, almost toppling into the tortoise pen with surprise. The dark has settled like a net, casting shadows, so I can’t see who’s calling to me. I hesitate, and then turn back to the apple tree.

My fingers have just brushed against the skin of the apple when I am yanked off the wall and lose my balance, then find myself sprawled on the dusty ground with a man looming over me. He is yelling in Spanish, and I cannot see his face in the dark. He leans down and grabs my wrist.

I wonder why I assumed it was safe to wander an unfamiliar island by myself.

I wonder if I escaped a pandemic at home only to get attacked here.

I start fighting. When I land a good punch in his ribs, he grunts, and holds me tighter.

“Don’t hurt me,” I cry out. “Please.”

He twists my wrist, and for the first time I feel the burn in my fingertips where they brushed against the skin of the apple. They are blistered and red.

“Too late,” he says in perfect English. “You already did that your­self.”

Wish You Were Here
by by Jodi Picoult

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 1984818430
  • ISBN-13: 9781984818430