Her family had left her behind. She felt aimless and completely alone. She was bored.
Jose was always on the computer designing his game and Justine was gearing up for the fall season of soccer. Even if the girl hadn’t had the distraction to keep them apart Myrah didn’t know if she could have maintained a relationship with her. Sadly, they were from two different worlds. The girl had spent too many years of growing up around Jack. It had turned her into a tomboy.
For his part, her husband had more work than he could handle in building the Forbidden City for the Japanese. He left early in the morning and came home late at night. Even on the weekends he went out to check on his crew and oversee the drafting of permits to be submitted to the city.
True, Jill was still around but here lately the girl had become distracted. She spent her mornings attending the astronomy course she was taking at the local community college and during the evenings she prayed with Sanjay and the rest of the foreigners from NASA. The only reason that she was here now was because she still relied on Myrah to drive her places and this was where the builder’s wife had wanted to stop on the way back from her school.
“You should have bought that jacket.” The builder’s wife said turning back around.
“I have a good jacket.” Jill muttered, flipping a page.
“You don’t see one for that price very often.”
“That’s what you said the last time.”
Jokingly, Myrah often referred to the prayer sessions as terrorist meetings. Even though she’d never seen one, the remark stuck her as being both appropriate and funny. After all, they were disruptive to the order of things.
Jack was the one that had told the women about them. He was the one who’d taken Jill to see them.
“I could kill Jack for ruining his jacket.” She continued. “That was a good jacket.”
“Freaking wet cement!” Myrah exclaimed. “Shouldn’t he have people who can lift those bags for him? Don’t even get me started on him letting Jose help out. That boy has no place at a construction site.”
“He seems to enjoy it.” Jill said absently.
Since Jack would often finish up his day by checking on the Forbidden City both Jill and her son would ride along with him. As her husband talked to his foreman and showed the boy what was needed to manage a construction site Jill crept across the parking lot towards the Taj Mahal.
The girl didn’t wear a head-scarf nor did she claim to understand the faith. Instead, she said that it was the experience that she enjoyed. The peace of bowing towards the sun. The feeling of private contemplation. The uninterrupted moment of reverence.
“Who do you think will be able to sell first?” Myrah prodded. “Tara or Kinkaid.”
Again Jill shrugged. “Kinkaid’s on the corner.” She sighed. “He’s got a bigger property.”
“I hope it’s him.”
Like Tara, the older man had also put his house up for sale. Soon after he’d been found Kinkaid had moved in with the woman that he now called his wife. He’d never dropped the English accent and he still didn’t acknowledge any recollection of his old self. Instead, he complained about the spaciousness of his home saying that it was too much work for such a small family as his own to maintain.
Never mind the fact that he had lived there alone for almost 7 years, he now said that he wanted a cottage near the coast. The word cottage had set off Myrah into a rage.
“Cottage?” She’d said to her husband one night as they lay in bed. “What the hell is that crap?”
“It’s a small house.” Markoff answered flipping through a trade magazine which featured some of his work.
“I know what it means.” His wife seethed. “It’s the word that really sets me off.”
Try as she might Myrah had never been able to make peace with her neighbors change in personality. At first, the builder’s wife had been as supportive as she could possibly make herself be towards Kinkaid but soon that grew too frustrating for her to bear.
Myrah had threatened to sue him if he didn’t reimburse her family for the back mortgage. She did this just to see if it would get a reaction. When that didn’t work, she told the searchers to go ahead and hold a candlelight vigil for the man that they’d been looking for if they still wanted one. She even went to it.
It had been rainy that night. Together they had all stood in the field around where NASA had roped off the New Years day meteor. They sang songs and hugged one another. Myrah had even declared to a fat woman who was holding a picture of Kinkaid that the man was dead to her in his current form.
“I want him to move.” She continued, spitting the words as if they’d left a bad taste in her mouth. “He’s too freaky now to live next to anymore. I hate that wife of his”
Jill sighed. “Honestly, I don’t care.”
The builder’s wife leaned back in her seat. She tried not to take offense.
Their amnesiac neighbor seemed completely oblivious to all the trouble that he’d caused everyone. He went about his life and doted on the woman that he’d married. He complained about the snake in his stomach and said that the prayers of everyone were welcome.
Myrah didn’t pray for him.
All through the memorials and threats of lawsuits, he had never been hostile to her or any of the rest of them. In time he had even paid the builder what he owed and settled up with the bondsman. If anything in his new form he was more agreeable than ever. He didn’t have late night drinking parties and he didn’t punch people randomly on the arm. Instead, he came out and said hi. He checked his mail. He pushed his glasses up on his nose and chatted with the archeologists about their work. He was transformed.
Everything had changed.
Myrah looked over at Jill as the girl sat studying and felt a tinge of envy. How could she be so focused? She’d left her husband. She had no place to live of her own.
Every evening both she and the scientist from NASA would kneel in the courtyard at the center of the Taj Mahal. As the shoppers passed and the men sang praises, Jill meditated within sight of Professor Grey’s newly opened dress shop. Her father-in-law watched her from the windows of his store.
No one knew what Thom was up to anymore. The man hadn’t been seen in months and he was almost never talked about. He was like the memory of a neighbor that they’d once had and Jill didn’t even seem to care.
Myrah wanted to ask her about him but instead she bit her lip.
The ammunition boxes that his company produced were still there. They could be seen being used in wars but for all intents and purposes he was just the invisible hand of the market that produced them. Once Jill had moved on, her husband had become lost in the system; a victim of a kind of suicidal cloister just like Dan and Tara.
Kinkaid’s wife stayed mostly to herself as well but Myrah wasn’t complaining about that. The woman had been the subject of an investigation as to why she’d never sought help for his condition but without him making any charges against her there could be no arrest. It was criminal the way that she got to benefit from his amnesia.
In her rage, Myrah had for a short time sought to file the charges herself against the woman but her husband had dissuaded her from actually doing so. Markoff claimed that he was sure that the man would get back to his normal old self in time. If he didn’t, he shrugged, then at least he wasn’t causing trouble. The archeologist from the state seemed to appreciate that.
Oddly both he and Kinkaid could now be found chatting regularly on the street outside. In an ironic twist of fate his one time tormentor had become his friend. In fact, there was a cabal of older men which consisted of The Tower Shooter, the archeologist, and Kinkaid the amnesiac neighbor. They had somehow formed a kind of social circle that could hold lengthy curbside discussions about anything and everything for hours on end.
For his part, even Thom Grey’s father had changed. The man was slowly coming into his own. True to his word, he had opened up a dress shop in the Taj Mahal and that was where he spent most of his days. He hadn’t moved out yet but when he was around he seemed less creepy and more neighborly. Myrah had once visited him for alterations and said that he didn’t come across as a murderer anymore. To her, he was just a tailor now.
Thinking this over, she drummed her fingers on the table and watched as the lunchtime crowd passed by. She could hear the thundering explosions of a preview for an action movie being played out on the ceiling behind her. Somewhere nearby a child was screaming.
She debated on whether or not to buy a pair of pants that she’d seen earlier. They were too long but she could easily take them down to the Tower Shooters shop and get them hemmed. Maybe she would ride along with Jack and Jill and see the evening prayers for herself.