I FELT THE BEACONS

He looked at her and looking felt the unbelievable relief of one who has suddenly recovered from a black disease. Is it possible, he asked himself, that this is she and my heart has not stopped beating?

She had come down the stairs into the little bar as she had always come and sitting there at the usual table, his heart pounding with terror, he had looked up to see her draw near as she had often drawn near to him in dreams. For the first split-second of looking he saw only her legs, but he would have known those lovely, nervous, race-horse legs anywhere in the world ("They're like a chorus girl's," she had used to say with her terribly intimate smile that was both happy and shy because he knew her legs so well.) And since she seemed to come down the stairs with such slowness in that half a minute of time, her legs were one separate impression from her face. He saw her face and it was impossible to believe that something which had lived so long only in his heart was outside too and that this was she coming down into the little café where they had always met.

Amazedly, like Pygmalion when the statue he had dreamed began to move, he watched her descend the steps with the slowness of centuries and the speed of light. She paused, looking out over the café as she had always done, and he saw her tighten the lids round her huge, near- sighted eyes to focus them better that she might find him there among the other men in the room. And when he saw this gesture that was only hers and that he had loved with all the rest of her so blindly, his nerves tightened, waiting for the stab of pain that was sure to follow. And then he knew with the most terrible relief that he was well again, that in these two years the fever had left his blood, and, suddenly, so great was the joy of his discovery, he was close to tears sitting there at the little table where he had waited for her with dry-eyed anguish so many unforgettable hours.

She had seen him now and her eyes widened again and on her lips

____________________
An earlier version of this essay appeared in Esquire ( July 1936), pp. 51-52, 198-201.

-51-

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