Outside the back door was a path of seven broken pieces of concrete, set in the damp weedy hillside, leading nowhere. A dedicated explorer might have been able to continue from the last stone down the hill to Hollywood Boulevard but it would have meant climbing wire topped fences and negotiating rubbish filled ditches. Lisa kept the door to the path and the little wild yard it led to double locked.
Almost the first thing Sam did when he arrived was to open it. He had gotten up from the kitchen table, while she was explaining to him about her job, and worked the double bolt until it unlatched. "There."
She looked up from her coffee, confused.
"I took a class in anthropology -- well, I took most of a class anyway - about what happened to the Indians -- the smallpox, the food, all that -- " He stood in the doorway, looking out at the broken path, the tangle of brush and the trees that marked the edge of the apartment building's property. He was so tall, his arms and legs so long that when he stretched he filled the doorway and touched the ceiling above it. "But the thing I most remember is that they didn't have back doors to their houses. No escape." He put his hands in the pockets of his baggy jeans and sauntered back to the table. "If the bad guys come to your front door, you need a way out, right?"
She looked up at him. It seemed as if he was flirting with her and for a moment, she understood he was thinking of himself as possibly a bad guy. She smiled.
He took one hand from its pocket and touched the top of her head. "So."
She felt her breath catch and her heart race. What did it mean? She was no more sure than she had ever been about the meaning of his touch or his words. He never came right out and said anything to her. She thought it was because feelings were so hard to put into words. She thought he was afraid of the words. She leaned her head against his palm. She tried, "I missed you."
He sighed, a big, deep sigh that filled his skinny chest, expanded his ribs under his t-shirt. "Well, I'm here now."
She stood up and put her arms around him. When she raised her face, he kissed her but the kiss was not as tender as the hand on her head had been. Instead, it seemed somehow dutiful, as if he were following directions. When it ended, she rested her head against his chest and listened to his heart beat. Here. In her apartment, at her table, in her bed. The exact thing she had prayed for. Here. It wasn't that she thought he wanted to pull away or even to escape out that door. It was, as she had explained to Helen, something stranger than that. When he put his arms around her, he always seemed sad. As if they were greeting each other at some sad but necessary gathering.