The Borrower

Author’s Note: I would jump at the chance to be immortal. But there is a price to pay for everything, of course — even if you aren’t the one who has to pay it.

            Two hundred thirty-two years was a long time to live, anyone could tell you that. The teller would have no real frame of reference, though, not having lived two hundred thirty-two years himself. And even if he had, long was such a subjective term. Some tortoises regularly lived over a hundred years. To them two hundred thirty-two wouldn’t seem like such a great achievement. There were trees known to be upwards of a thousand years old. At two hundred thirty-two they would have been pre-pubescent saplings. And many sporing plants, those that reproduced by cloning themselves and casting their essence out on the wind, had essentially lived for eons, simply regrowing themselves time and time again, the same now as they had ever been.

            Today, turning two hundred thirty-two, Anson Glover didn’t feel like he’d been around all that long. Of course, strictly speaking, Anson Glover had only come into existence seventeen years earlier. Before that he he’d been Jason Cartwright. Before that, Mason Jackson, and Charlie Bright, and so many others. And, first of all, William Reed, son and sole heir of Mr. and Mrs. Halloway Reed, British expatriates and revolutionary First Family of Virginia.

            But all of those people he had been had ceased to exist, each in their own tragic way, out of necessity. And though all of those men had in actuality simply slipped away to start again somewhere else, as someone else, they each died and were mourned in the minds and hearts of those who had loved them. It was brutal and painful for both him and his families, but it was also more easily dealt with than the truth.

            To lose a husband or father or long-lost son returned was one thing — a mercifully final thing. But to live with the knowledge that that husband or father or son would never grow older than he was, would never know the infirmity of old age or disease or death, to know that your husband or father or son would see you to your grave, though you lived a hundred years, and would never change or know what it was to face what all other living creatures must ultimately face? To never be able to truly understand why it was so or why it couldn’t be so for them, too? That was far more cruel than simply to lose that husband or father or son in a terrible tragedy that, for all its terribleness, boiled down to a simple fact of life — that everyone must die sometime, even the most beloved.

            So each of Anson Glover’s previous incarnations had perished in the eyes of the world only to rise again from the ashes of his demise somewhere far away with a new name and life story.

            Thankfully, that would not have to happen to Anson Glover himself. The time had certainly come for him to disappear, and for another man, a man by the name of Travis Sessions — an artist, perhaps — to stroll into a town, unnoticed, and settle down for a new start in life. But Anson was a man without attachments. Anson had never found his long-lost parents or fallen in love and married or helped bring children into the world. He was a consummate and successful bachelor — handsome, wealthy, refined and remarkably, almost unbelievably, youthful in appearance for a man turning forty-seven years old.

            So it was time to go, though this time he would simply pack up and go, disappearing into the night unexpectedly, perhaps even a little mysteriously, but not completely unbelievably given his carefree personality and charmingly unpredictable disposition.

            It would be whispered that he had run off with a woman, or on some exotic extended vacation, or in pursuit of the ultimate opportunity to redouble his millions yet again. But Anson would easily be forgotten by his many acquaintances and only slightly less easily by his few real friends. They would wonder but move on and finally give up whatever hope they held onto of ever seeing the whimsical Mr. Glover again.

            But before all that, before Travis Sessions would be born, Anson would celebrate for one last night. He would celebrate his birthday quietly, in the company of the stunningly beautiful and elegant Chasey DeVoe.

            They would dine in finest fashion and dance and stroll along the beach in the smog-filtered moonlight. They would laugh and kiss and make love for long, sensual, passionate hours. And he would leave her like he’d left countless others before her whose path he had happened to cross, because of the way that he saw her and everyone else, because of the secret to his existence and the fuel of his quest to be older than the trees.

            He would kiss her, then borrow from the halo around her that only he could see, the halo that was her life, her longevity, made tangible by some wondrous gift given first to William Reed and passed down and down and down until it had been inherited by Anson Glover. He would borrow from her a few minutes of her life, no more than five in her case, for she was as beautiful and tender in her heart as she was to his eye.

            Then Anson Glover would quietly walk out the door and he would catch a cab to the train station. And somewhere along the way, as the cab slipped softly through the morning mist, Anson Glover would wisp away.

            At the station, a man named Travis Sessions would board a train bound for Key West, or thereabouts, to start anew, leaving behind a life he would rarely talk about with the friends or lovers or family he would find, a life that he would make up as needed until Travis’ time came like Anson’s and Jason’s and all the others that had come before him.

            And some fifty years down the road, after Travis had given way to James and James had given way to Dylan and Dylan was just beginning to get his feet wet in the behind the scenes political quagmire of a corrupt Chicago dynasty, Chasey DeVoe would quietly close her age-wearied eyes for the last time, dying in the bed of her husband of forty years mere moments before she would have told him, for the last time, how much she’d loved and respected and appreciated him all along, but for that rare and wonderful evening she’d spent in the arms of Anson Glover, and the few precious moments he’d taken away with him, so many years before.

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