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9 Nine

    Sometimes Will is Napoleon in my head. He conquers one part, one memory, one hemisphere, and from there, he launches his next attack.

    If I had been around more, back then.

    But we hadn't wanted him. We'd wanted our moment to last and last.

    Keats brought me a bowl of oatmeal, and from that day, there was no one else in our world.

    Will met us from time to time, in dozens of maybe-clean cafes, in dozens of cities. If we knew he would be within a few hours' flight of wherever we were, we made sure to see him.

    But if Will hadn't been around, Keats and I wouldn't have noticed it much.

    We went to every continent, even bought passage on a science ship and spent a week chasing penguins and doing night dives into the clear waters of Antarctica-impossibly cold to the scientists, but not dangerous to us, and beautiful, beautiful in the white moonlight.

    We hiked in the Andes. We went deep-sea fishing. We went on safari.

    And from time to time, Keats whispered, "Tell me more about Inez."

    And I would laugh and shake my head.

    I spent hours kissing Keats. He was talented, with excellent technique. Kissing him was addictive. Since the first time, I never wanted to stop. If I'd met him in my earlier life, our lips would've chapped, our jaws grown sore, and I still wouldn't have thought of stopping.

    A maid would knock on the hotel room door in Auckland or Madrid or Lima, and I would yell, "Come back later," or "Más adelante!" So I could kiss him for a few more minutes.

    Keats would only laugh and pull me closer.

    I never knew someone who laughed as much as him, not in an annoying way, not at things that weren't funny, though he often found things funny that other people didn't, sometimes that I didn't. It was a lovely laugh, strong and low, never loud, never jarring. Sometimes I tickled him awake to hear it, a lullaby that would send me off to dreams. His laugh would fade into a growl; he would roll over and go back to sleep, too, most of the time. Other times, he would bite me awake and we'd make love there, whether it was midday and the light pierced cracks in our dark curtains or midnight and our sounds were the only sounds.

    But I was wrong when I said that he laughed more than anyone I ever knew. That was early Keats. Later Keats, Keats in those last years, laughed little, and every laugh seemed to drop off at the end, as though he were afraid that if he kept laughing, the sound would turn crazy at the end.

    I tried not to be funny in those last years.
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