He finds her lying on his land again. Some feet behind her is the wheelchair, and he imagines her fumbling attempts to stand, to walk, her collapse in the tawny, treeless field. The aliens have various names for her disability. They have names for everything.
She is still young, thin-framed and hollow-cheeked. She was once beautiful, a youthful Elizabeth Taylor with cropped hair and sparkling eyes.
Her voice is flat. "It was the aliens who brought me here. They always kidnap and abandon me." She purses her lips.
"They always do, don’t they?" he says.
He slips his sinewy arms around and under her, then lifts. She rests her head against his chest, tells him that he is still strong, that he could probably carry her all the way back home. The moist air frizzes her hair, makes her breathe harder. Hints of orange scent the air.
"No," he says, "these days, I run out of breath so quickly."
He eases her down into the wheelchair, pushes her along a narrow dirt path.
She tells him to stop, that she will be fine--she will find her way home.
He stops, stares out at the open field, then stands before her.
She mumbles, as she sometimes does, about her life spent watching soap operas where the beautiful people never die inside glass bubbles. She talks about the little Work-From-Home jobs she has--stringing colored beads together, or breaking her fingernails, or mailing envelopes to people she will never meet.
The man looks up. Dark clouds roll across the sky.
"You better go," he says, "it’s going to rain."
She takes his hand, brings it to her cheek.
"I keep telling them," she says, "not to bring me back here. But they don’t want me. Even though I’m one of them." She drops his hand.
"You’re not," he says.
"Oh, I am," she says. "It’s a fact. I live my life according to facts. There is the fact that you were once my teacher. Your wife, you said, was no longer beautiful to you. There was the fact that I could once walk. But now I'm an alien. And they don't want me."
She smiles up at him.
"You once loved me," she whispers.
"I’m ugly," he says, "an ugly old man."
"No," she says, "it’s just that you can’t see me anymore. Not like you once did. I can no longer walk, and you can't see."
With lips soft, he kisses her forehead.
"Some people don’t believe in aliens," she says, "but how else do you explain being stranded on your own planet?"
He no longer has a car or a wife. The aliens took them away.
He watches, frowning, remembering her practice chord drills on the piano. The drills never amounted to anything.
After grabbing the wheels of her chair, turning them, she propels herself a few yards in the distance. She stops, turns and yells, I BELIEVE IN ALIENS!
Inside the kitchen, he listens to the deep thrusts of thunder. He hopes she will make it home in time.
published 10 October 2012