I suppose it was foolish of me to assume I could sever the East from my life so simply. To the modest traveler, New York doesn't just linger in your peripheral background; it consumes you like a ravaging beast and you are regurgitated with a residual sense of clarity clinging to your original regard. I returned to the Middle West, determined I wouldn't succumb to such a scenario but I am often quick to disappoint myself. I say this with little mustered arrogance but I experienced New York in a way others may either pity me or relish for.
I intended to continue my business endeavors but my new setting scarcely resembled the bustling atmosphere of financial service endowment in the country's most economically flourishing dystopia. I found the Middle West devoid of color in the air; no less a fading grey to the vibrant reds and yellows that had blinded my perception permanently. It became a bizarre mental habit, walking down drab Minnesota streets glancing upon each elderly passerby who had unknowingly only lived half their life. I remained a reserved and honest man, but heedless of my father's advice I tended to presume my judgements pettily. One Thursday morning in a local cafe I overheard a man of about sixty lovingly chatting to his wife about Armstrong and Beiderbecke while she gazed out the bay window sipping steaming coffee. After about an hour, his wife later excused herself, left the cafe promptly and entered a young man's stone grey coupe brandishing a black and gold plate. I remembered my father again that day.
I saw Daisy for the last time on an overcast Tuesday in the middle of May. My lowly apartment was in considerable shambles undergoing some reconstruction in the kitchen when I heard a knock at the adjoining door which I distinctly remember being open widely. I was expecting my landlord to oversee the project at a later point in the day but I thought not to dwell on the oddity. I excused the two tilers crouching below me and approached the door frame, mentally rehearsing a personal agenda. To my left and dismay, I found the figure standing in the hallway to be the woman I had suppressed from my mind for the last eight months.
The first thing I noticed was the way she stood against the wall. The flaking wallpaper of the corridor was caressed against her back adhering to her fair skin of which she took no notice. Daisy stood in a way that reminded me horribly of Miss Baker, casually and without regard for her surroundings yet preserved a hint of modesty. I remember observing her apparel, compelled to think it looked unusually tame. She wore a sky satin dress with a simple snow-white boa around her shoulders, ruffling it slightly as to nod subtly to the uncomfort that was plastered across her face. Her eyes were somber and lackluster, her mouth agape as she lifted her head but not a whisp dared to escape. We stood in silence and I saw the hall window near us begin to shift from a medium grey to coal, preparing for the looming rainstorm. I had no desire to fracture the barrier that had accumulated for eight months, yet Daisy finally persisted.
"Hello Nick." She paused and looked longingly at my figure. "You've missed me."
I almost chuckled. Her voice was rich with fake sympathy and unadulterated monotony. It may have been my skewed perception of her at the time that eluded myself from any emotional value in her speech, but I refused to inquire such a case. I had no time to indulge in any mindless arguments as I shook my head incredulously and turned to leave.
"Now see here Nick," she continued. I noticed she'd never assume to ask for forgiveness. "I haven't got all day to watch you wallow." I stopped and briefly considered her a moment while remaining faced away.
"Why didn't you call?" I finally asked, shifting my position towards her. Daisy shuffled her feet on the carpet, prolonging the stillness that clasped her delicate mouth. The insignificant patter of raindrops on the adjacent glass pane seemed to steal her gaze and train of thought. She stared as if longing to embody the droplets of inanimacy and triviality. Her voice acquired a slight tremor, as she spoke.
"Tom sanctioned a little bungalow a ways upstate. You saw him Nick, all hot-faced. The madman." Daisy clutched some of the crumbling wallpaper and rubbed it in her hand letting the crumbs fall hopelessly to the floor. She bowed her head and appeared to be quivering. "You take me for a fool."
Tom Buchanan ignited a small flare inside of me that I would have preferred to quench but let quietly simmer. It occurred to me then that Daisy might have been familiar with the events of her peculiar admirer's fate.
"Gatsby's dead, Daisy. He's gone."
She didn't look up from her hand holding the remaining dusty crumbs. Her bright dress began to dull alongside the fading light from the darkening window as the rain commenced a more rapid descent. It felt like an eternity had passed in the time it took for her to respond.
"You know," I repeated, sharply incredulous. "Is that all?"
"Oh please, this isn't necessary. Perhaps we should get some air."
"Why are you here Daisy?" The flare grew warmer, but not for Tom. "You chose Tom. There's nothing left for you."
"Don't blame me for Gatsby!" Suddenly all of her composure shattered and she rose from her lean, imploring not to combust into a wake of tears. I found the melodrama rather excessive. "And do not blame Tom either."
She didn't know. She didn't know the lengths to which Gatsby had strained his heart. She didn't know the leagues upon which he failed to bound. She hadn't grasped the scene of the sparkling pool that swallowed Mr. Jay Gatsby and Mr. George Wilson's lives by the facilitation of her husband. That's what it was, fabricated lies spun by Tom to revive her perfect paradise of a world again, as if God had simply blown her worries away. The bitter irony tasted sweet on my tongue. Daisy knew nothing, and suddenly her brittle excuse of a pedestal crumbled beneath her, but only I had the ability to witness the marvel of it. An irritating part of me wanted nothing more desperate than to cure her depressive state of being, and I forced myself to withhold my yearning to tell her all that I knew. Anything I may have uttered would have been shunned away in confusion or may have welcomed her to hysteria. Daisy was a miserable wife who imagined a world with a dead man, while living with a miserable husband who imagined a world with a dead woman. I had no right to intervene and make both party's lives twice the living hell they already were.
"I think we're done here," I told her with hollow determination. I backed away to reenter my room but I slowed my pace upon reaching the wooden arch. I turned to Daisy who remained entranced in a plight of sorrow in that moment seeming to regain the lost opacity she had lost all those years ago. I decided to ask her the one thing I had left.
"Was it worth it? Was anything you'd ever done for Gatsby worth a dime to you?" She reached up to dab her eyes with a light cloth but only a cloud of rose blush appeared upon contact. The rain began to pound and cry on the window like a lost child pleading for warmth and security from the embrace of his mother. Once again, Daisy and I stood in silence, but it was a silence accompanied by the audience of persistent springtime weather that seemed to mitigate the stiffness that had strangled the air just moments ago.
"The world without Gatsby is like a world without the stars. Without beauty. Without purpose. Without worth. You can hate me all you wish, I deserve it." The translucent stranger before me bowed her head for the third time. "I relished every second with him, oh I did! But Gatsby's a man of the past, and any man such as yourself knows you can't repeat the past." Daisy fluffed her boa and sauntered towards the opposite side of the hall and touched the rusted exterior door with her fragile fingers. "I'm quite sorry we couldn't have met on more pleasant terms." I remained stagnant by my room entrance as she began to open the door to exit.
"It's pouring," I reminded. Slowly she brought her head up and smiled for the first and only time that evening.
"That's quite alright, Nick. Don't worry about me so much."
The door closed behind her and I could hear the distant sound of automobiles approaching the building over the inexhaustible rain. I stepped into my apartment and oversaw the anarchy that was my kitchen. After a shower, I decided to crack a new book I bought on contemporary bond business. I never saw Daisy again.