Never Mind

What do I tell my children?  What do I tell my aging parents, honest in that they
Do not envy me.

Advertisements

How can I convey to you the heaviness of my heart?

I’m sure you’ve felt it, experienced the physical weight of sadness.

That sudden drop which suspends inside.

Lead within the quasi-weightlessness of water.

Water, wrapped in flesh, encased in a mind that cannot lift the eyes to see the horizon.

Just take the moment of temporary lightness, the mire of reality is unfair.

No one can help me, so I look to the earth for inspiration

I look to words for hope

I look to art for some sign of sympathy.

Never mind.

The earth has become paved over with concrete without thought to next week.

The words are glossed over by Freudian overtones that mankind craves.

Art has become not the object but the person who renders nothing but style.

What do I tell my children?  What do I tell my aging parents, honest in that they do not envy me?

How do I keep from mourning the family given and then taken?

The lessons have stopped and I am now atop the tiny dynasty learning faith.

And even that the world insists gets in the way.

Never mind.

Into Safety

Maybe some see already that her calm life was sailing blissfully into an evil maelstrom. 

Since being alone, she has been extremely busy.

She knew a woman, friends of hers, who were the same.  Extremely busy.  They sat down after work and read historical romances or went to movies by themselves.  They lived in the city, in small apartments that didn’t cost a fortune and rode the bus to the L and the L into the city proper and didn’t complain about the early rise because they didn’t have to drive in “all that traffic.”

She was like them, just like them an introvert with a busy schedule.  She joined a knit club with other introverts, men and women alike who told her where the best coffee shops were and the best nookish bookstores.  They would go out together and drink sherry once in a while just to compare notes.

After a long while of learning how to be alone; she liked it.  She liked her satellite friends who would be coming running if there was some sort of catastrophe, like a lost cat, or a pregnant sister.  They came because the catastrophes were few and far between and usually always brief.

Like all contentment however it slips past without any sounding alarm.  One evening rather than a predictable romance, she read “Jane Eyre.” Harmless enough and her friends encouraged her in the classics.  But the classic are dangerous books.  Why?  Because of the questions they pose.  The questions weren’t harmful by themselves:

“Who was president when Jane Eyre loved Edward Fairfax Rochester?”

“How old was the United States when Mr. Darcy proposed to Elizabeth?”

“What did Freud have to say about Wuthering Heights?”

Well okay, the last one wasn’t so much a question that has much bearing on her journey but if one has some time on their hands it could make quite a dissertation.

Maybe some see already that her calm life was sailing blissfully into an evil maelstrom.  Could she have made an effort to stop?  Sure, and she did but questions beget questions.  If it was the best of times how could it be the worst?   That made no sense, on the quiet bus ride into work.    Besides if any sort of enlightenment ushers in the guillotine then perhaps we should take a closer look at the crusades.

If that makes no sense just know, the more she dug into her questions the deeper into history she sank.

Until she found him blinking up at her from the dark tunnel of conflicting sources and original sources.  The wind was howling a city of Chicago winter storm when their eyes met over thick tombs that the librarians twittered and fussed about whenever they were requested.

Her heart sank.  She had been trapped, for there he was running his fingers through his hair and with a perplexed look on his face.  She understood, the Enlightenment was sinking into anything but and that was a hard lesson.

She imagined him several times during her work day.  What if he appreciated German opera more than Italian?  What if he liked to travel to see the very place where Antoinette died and she simply wanted to take a visual tour.  What if he preferred French to Portuguese?  What happens to a man who thinks that Dickens actually wrote anything worth reading besides the “Pickwick Papers”? What if he preferred Adams over Jefferson, what then?

Her heart pound in her ears, when she realized that he would speak to her, talk to her and the quiet smiles and bumping into each other in the history sections, were done.

What happened to those nice quiet nights knitting and reading alone in snow driven Chicago?

Before he opened his mouth or give her the warm smile she had shared with him for many weeks her heart felt suddenly leaden.  She couldn’t do it again.  She couldn’t.  It wasn’t the quiet, it was the burden.  Life was too good to complicate it with true love.

She ducked quickly into the medieval histories of the Spanish.  She heard his footsteps slow and imagined his surprised face.  He walked slowly passed her and into Ancient Greece.

Read It Twice

Yes, he was going to reread a novel, that was a start.

He woke up one morning with the idea that premarital sex was indeed wrong.  What would his life have been if getting a woman into his bed also included signing an oath in front of clergy and family that he was committed to just one woman?

The idea was outrageous, but he did feel guilt, on this particular morning, when he realized that premarital sex was the only type of sex he had ever had.  So, the startling conclusion awoke with him that morning which prompted obvious questions.  If premarital sex had not been so easy if condemns and birth control had not been so readily available what would committed sex have been like?

He wasn’t a moralist but if a sane man couldn’t think of another reality what was the world coming to?

So, he stretched deep and felt his muscles tense and then release.  He concentrated on the thick, cool sheet that draped neatly about him and encased his king-sized bed then thought of the different lovers he had known.  There was one who would want to curl up next to him and talk until they both fell asleep.  Another who insisted on watching him fall asleep and yet another who curled up by herself and didn’t want to be touched which made his heart hurt even to think of it all these years after.  There were those who were loud and those who even cried and one or two who had the sexiest moan he had ever heard.  Each had their own diabolic quality.

Each had their own diabolical fault as well.   A clinging lover was simply too much.  By the very nature of the act, you had to put some distance between yourself and your lover for at least a few minutes.  Wanting to fall asleep in a quasi-pool of love wasn’t something he was willing to face night after night.  He also didn’t want someone watching him sleep.  He felt that she was gloating over him, that she somehow felt smug after another strong climax.  It was creepy.  Then there was the one who curled up by herself.  She looked so small and helpless over there on the other side of his large bed.  He couldn’t remember falling asleep that night, and with a pang, he remembered that she wasn’t there the next morning.  His one and only one-night stand.

All the rest hung around for a month or two.  There was one who lasted a year.  They had met at a New Year’s Eve party and parted at the very next New Year’s Eve party.

He sat up suddenly with an idea.  Committed sex would be like reading the same good book over and over.  He had read a few novels but had never read one over and over.    It would be like reading one of the great novels of Sir Walter Scott.  Think of the discoveries; the lines he’d read over, the nuance of sound and cadence that escaped him with the first reading.  It would be like knowing what to expect and discovering he had read over or misread something for years.

Yes, he was going to reread a novel, that was a start.

“What are you thinking about?”

She walked in with nothing but his shirt on and a copy of East of Eden in her hand.  He realized that his idea had come from his latest partner in “this is getting too easy.”  She was a lit student and had the strongest thighs he could remember on a woman.

“Is that novel any good, would you read it twice?”

“I never do anything twice.”  Her smile was diabolical.

Reading

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.  I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

I know as I scribble away in my garret room (garret because it’s true even in the 21st century, women suffer financially from divorce and I have two behind me, divorces not marriages), that the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen are probably mere pawns in the battle for my psyche.

I also realize that perhaps the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen would have had less infamous influence if Sigmund Freud had died in obscurity but he didn’t.  Actually, men don’t do they?

The veil split too late before my eyes that these women were writing fairy tales.  You have no idea my suffering.  The artist even bohemian atmosphere around me closing in, the impending July thunderstorm and my single paned window looking out on a back alley, opened wide for the storm to enter in.  I had stripped down to nothing, my skin absorbing the heat and humidity of summer, even prickling in the anticipation of cold wind, thunder riddled, coming my way.  Sense and Sensibility was open before me and the margins, where I had penned notes over the decades of reading the novel, consoled my loneliness.

Yes, Colonel Brandon, even though he wore flannel waistcoats (or something flannel) was a true knight and our young heroine would embrace his calmness, his intellect, his nonexistence?

His fiction?

Shit!

The storm had not hit, there was time and I knew to keep up my own self-induce façade I had to bring out the big guns.  Villette?  No, Jane Eyre.  Rochester must pave his road to hell and with single-minded passion. Would such a man really have brains enough to covet a mousy little governess over an accomplished coquette?

The storm hit with such a vengeance I jumped and the rain hit my clammy skin like so many needles and the blue-white lightning split the skies before me and I saw the face of God.

Don’t believe me, I don’t care.

He was there beard and all – the Father and in my despair, He did what only a loving, encompassing parent could do, He drove the lesson home.

“I told Adam anything but one thing – he took the one thing.”

“I told Abraham he’d have a son in good time but he had to help it along.”

“David had any woman he wanted, freely but he took the one that didn’t belong to him.

I raised my arms in an appeal to stop, and He did.  The storm passed with a shudder and I sat in my garret room cold and damp.  The pages of my books, both Austen’s and Bronte’s were damp with rain but not tears.

I’ve not evolved, I have adapted however to reality.

 

Soulless

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

Do you ever wonder about the life of the inside of…anything? I do not believe in soulless objects…people perhaps.

Think about it, the empty inside of a pristine-upon-the surface oil tanker. Think of the viscosity pour or pump of that liquid gunk rising within that tanker. The very weight and wetness pushing up and off the flakes of rust and paint so that it floated upon the surface of refined and refined and refined again flammable liquid that had stayed hidden in the earth for so long.

Now hidden in ribs of rusting buoyance.

For my part, I wonder about the inside of houses. Any house, the bright, well lit, well-manicured house and the tumble down, slowly overgrown lumber rot of a house are equally compelling. The most interesting are the estate sale homes. Small, demure little signs with bold black letters “estate sale,” that denotes its lost occupant.

I wander in, and there are usually two types of people within; the embarrassed or the angry. The angry follow me around and complain about those who have bullied in before me “thinking that I’m here to barter with them.” I nod and frown and keep on wandering. The embarrassed hardly say a thing and are usually related to the ghosts that expose themselves in the used books, used utensils, used furniture and used clothing.

Flakes of paint and rust that float to the surface of pumped or poured in money that seems embarrassed to be exchanged for moments of history.

It was a little ranch style, slab house with a picture window looking out upon a postage stamp front yard. There was a small, stone walkway that started midpoint of the single lane driveway which tried to wend its way to the front door but only managed to curve slightly and stop. The evergreen bushes, trimmed into square, squat, little sentries and stood in decorative service to the bright white front door.

I made my way along the small street gutter and up the driveway and over the stone pavers to the front door. An embarrassed person met me and smiled down upon the floor. Though the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint was prevalent, I could sense the smell of old, forgotten and wonder. Wonder, from the walls, the dustless furniture, and the minimalist counter tops, if God had forgotten her.

Her, this I knew because the embarrassed person who met me was female and sad and either a daughter or granddaughter of now an estate sale house.

“The antique clock that was over the fireplace was that sold?”
“Yesterday.”

“You didn’t want it?”

The embarrassed woman eyes widened, she opened her lips to ask me a question, hesitated and then simply shook her head. I turned away and looked around the small living room with the small fireplace which opened into a kitchen-dining room, that in its turn lead to the outside and a small fenced yard.

“What happened to the dog?”

“On a waiting list for adoption.”

“Yes, but where is he?”

“With a small animal rescue family.”

“Funny, she didn’t have his future provided for – she loved that dog.”

“Did you know my grandmother?” The answer was angry, so I understood that she was to have taken the dog.

“No.”

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

“Hello?” I heard the woman’s footsteps hesitantly walk down the hall. I heard her hesitant step at each door and then her rapid retreat. I heard the front door open, and I thought of meeting her there but suddenly felt too tired to do so.

“Someone’s here. I told you I didn’t want to be here alone.” Her voice whined into her phone. Silence. “She knows about the dog.” More silence. “No, she walked into this house and down the hall and disappeared. I’m telling you, she disappeared, there was no way she could have gotten by me.

 

She Still Loves You, Sir Walter Scott

“The only thing I’m saying is that if you want a good example, for your class, of what an oxymoron is, use ‘nice guy.’” She felt that sinking, suffocating sensation that she always felt when around him and wondered why she wasn’t home reading.

He was seven years younger than her; tall, slender, with large amber brown eyes, and a wooly but trimmed beard. They were employed together by the Jefferson County School System. She taught freshman English as a way and means to write literary prose on her fall, winter, and summer breaks (when she was in elementary school those breaks had titles such as Halloween, Christmas and thanked God, it’s summer vacation). He taught fourth-grade with a concentration in Mathematics. They were aware of each other or rather she was aware of him because he always sat in the front row of the Teacher’s Union meetings. She sat in the back and graded papers that lead her to seek professional help.

That’s where they met. He was walking out of his therapy session with Dr. Monroe while she was walking in, deep in thought and wanting to purge the sick feeling of guilt she felt for reading Ivanhoe for the fourth time in three years. She was startled by the fourth-grade teacher’s appearance, and he smiled at her.

“Do I know you?”

She blinked and felt her nose begin to itch and the inevitable wetness that sidetracks all social discourse. Frantically she looked in her purse for a tissue, “Um no, sorry,” she sniffed. He took a tissue from the box on the receptionist desk and handed it to her. She took it gratefully and spoke over the fourth-grade teacher’s shoulder, to the receptionist. “Sorry I’m late, will she still see me?”

“Yes, Ms. Miller.”

She turned back to him who had stayed and was apparently looking her up and down. “You know,” he said, “I think you look familiar.”

“I teach at Jefferson High. Freshman English. I’ve noticed you at the Teacher’s Union Meetings.”

“Ahh, because I sit up front.” He smiled and adjusted his backpack across his shoulders. “Will you be at the freshman basketball game tonight?” She looked at him as if he had grown three heads, “No. I don’t care for basketball.” She turned around and walked toward the Doctor’s office door.

“Wait one minute Ms. Miller; Doctor is not quite ready.” She huffed at the strident demand of the receptionist. She turned, the fourth-grade teacher was still standing there. She wondered if the ‘Doctor,’ wasn’t recouping from some wild tryst with the young man in front of her.

“I teach fourth grade, with a concentration in mathematics.”

“Yes, you’ve mentioned that in the meetings.”

“And you’ve remembered.”

She felt herself reddening slightly. She wasn’t sure if he was referring to her age and therefore her weakening faculty of mind or if he thought that he had made an impression on her. So, she only smiled without meaning it and said, ‘yes,’ in a long drawn out breath.

Her rudeness didn’t seem to cause any self-examination regarding his manners. “Well, we should have coffee together sometime and compare notes.”

“Ms. Miller, the Doctor is ready for you.”

“Sure, we should do that.”

She didn’t realize that she had committed herself. On the afternoon, just before the long winter break (that would be spent preparing, for the principal and three vice principals another plan for teaching freshman English and a dissertation on why grades were so low), she looked up to see him standing at her classroom door.

“Hi!”

“Hello.”

Did you receive my emails?”

She thought for a moment that she would feign complete ignorance and check her spam, but she was too tired and only said: “Yes, I did.” Annoyed at having to confess her remissness she thought wildly of asking him why he didn’t ask for her kerchief or go gallantly out in her name to right wrongs.

“Didn’t want to answer me huh?” He looked a bit crestfallen, and guilt crept along her neck and wisped about her ankles in a cold little chill.

“No, I didn’t. I’ve been kind of busy.”

“Yeah, the rumor is that you really do try and teach Freshman English. That must be burdensome. Why don’t you let me buy you a cup of coffee? We can go to the teacher’s lounge…”

“No.” her disdain was evident in one word, and she rose from her desk as if she was rising to command Nelson’s ship Victory.

“Excellent then let’s go over to a nice little coffee shop I know.”

She looked outside, the clouds were low, and it had begun to snow in earnest. She felt tired and longed for her little apartment uptown above the yoga center. The landlord had made a deal with her on the rent three years ago, because of the late hours and the weird music that came up from the old furnace vents. She didn’t mind because she kept her classical music plugged in and the heat low – it helped her write.

“Why don’t you come to my apartment and I’ll make us coffee.” She was hoping he would refuse, but he readily agreed.

They had coffee. He left in time for her to order a medium plain pizza with cheese in which she ate three-quarters and then made herself sick. Something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager and had fallen in love with Sir Walter Scott of Waverly fame. She tested transcendentalism in hopes of eventually uniting with her writing icon which sent her parents running back to their Catholic faith.

She was looking at him now wondering what and who a ‘nice guy,’ really was and if he had married someone else and was tripping over kids and wondering what happened to her.

“Do you think we should start a relationship?” he asked.

“What?” She shook her head; she wondered if she had been falling asleep.

“I spoke to Dr. Monroe about the two of us, and he said an older woman (not too much older, mind you) might be a good experience for me.”

“An experience.” She said, deadpan and weary.

“You never know,” he said shyly and smiled, “it might last.”

She took a deep breath, letting herself for a moment breathe in his perceived freedom and open minded aura and felt within her throat and lungs the sharp pain deception.

“’Nice guy,’ young man, is not an oxymoron. I’m too old to be your girlfriend is not an oxymoron, and I’m not going back to that shrink who agrees with you that everyone on has a commodity status…”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I didn’t…”

“You didn’t ask me out for a cup of coffee so that you could lose your virginity, I know. You are so predictable you know, despite being told all your life that you are unique.

“So is Sir Walter Scott,” he said hotly.

“No, we just haven’t come up with anything original since. We’ve only managed to redefine words, concepts, and morals to appease our insecurities. We’ve done it until we’ve come up with a human like you, who believes there is no such thing as an oxymoron. You don’t, you know, you don’t even know enough to be honestly self-deprecating.”

He sat and stared at her for a moment. She could see he was struggling. He stood, “Well, I’ll just take care of this bill and when you feel like you can speak to me with some respect, let me know.”

She gave him no reply while he hesitated and then left. She ordered another strong coffee and felt cold. Perhaps a priest would understand her love for a dead novelist and poet better than a psychologist. Sipping her coffee and watching the fourth-grade teacher walk away.

 

Black and White Photographs

I see you in black and white. I see you against a tall and narrow wood framed house; the type built in the 1920s and 30s; narrow windows, narrow doors with the prairie grass growing right up to the field stone foundation.

I see you in black and white. I see you against a tall and narrow wood framed house; the type built in the 1920s and 30s; narrow windows, narrow doors with the prairie grass growing right up to the field stone foundation.   I picture you standing in front of the house my grandfather and grandmother were married in.  I see you in black and white; the monochrome that hides the fact that the shirt you wear is one hundred percent cotton and the pants are not pants but trousers and the smile you have on your is sort of shy because a camera was an odd thing and the word itself was still associated with an actual room in some parts of the world.

I see you in black and white because I so desperately want to. I want to stand there next to you in front of a small house with quarter paned windows that settlers on the prairie would have thought folly.  In the dead of winter with no wind breaks, perhaps they are folly.

I want you there, our bare feet wedged against each other, and our skin the only heat we feel in the back bedroom, while the winter wind howls around our house.  I want your hands in my hair telling me it’s okay, that I’ll be okay as we lock into each other in the making of another generation.

In my reality, however, I see in shades just less than Technicolor. I walk to work and I breathe into my thick, ninety percent cotton scarf, just the right shade of pewter blue; it matches my eyes and I get a few stares or two.

I have an ego.

I wash out the scarf once a week in my studio apartment, washing away the faded but expensive perfume and I wash away my own respirations while walking to work during cold January days in Chicago.

A car backfires and people scuttle for cover and then we wonder at the thought that we pay taxes to send young people to die for others, and we die on the streets unprotected.

That’s when I see you in black and white.

I took down all of my art work, I don’t believe in it anymore, and had the walls painted stark white. The landlord didn’t care, I pay my rent on time and he can see that I’m here with no intention of leaving.  I hated to, but I painted my walls with dusty looking flat paint – the kind my grandparents used.

You know, I dated a guy that works at the Art Institute of Chicago. No, he wasn’t a prig or overly anxious.  Don’t be alarmed but I was in it so he’d help my hang my old black and white photos.

He asked me why the frames. He knew a guy who could take my photos, enlarge them and really make them look like museum pieces.  No, I told him, the old photos needed frames.  A frame, like the frame of a house, was and is to me foundational.  The world crumbles without a frame of some sort to give it shape, personality, security.

He looked at me hard and then asked if I’d come to bed. Somehow I’d moved him and he was serious during sex. He telephones every once and awhile but the photos are all hung in their black and white glory so I don’t return his calls.

What time I have alone I think of you standing there next to me within the picture frame. The wind is caught in our photograph. You can see it in the background, pushing our hair out and away from our faces, moving the creases in your trousers just off center and wrapping my skirt around my legs. The wind never leaves the prairie, it cleans the air that surrounds us.

I walked the old farm with my grandfather once. He was glad to be back in North Dakota. We walked and he showed me how to make gum from the heads of wheat and pointed out where great-grandfather’s farm house used to stand – the barn was still there. I was thirteen and that was the only time that year I forgot about myself, my chemically suppressed acne and the flabby bulge around my midsection that the pediatrician explained to my mother was caused by my “eating problem.”

I didn’t lose my virginity until I was twenty-five. I’ve told that to no one until I told you. Okay, that’s a lie I tell anyone I’m intimate with, you’re the only one who didn’t joke about how long it took me.

By twenty-three I swore I’d be celibate for the rest of my life.  I met a man in the library, we were what you might call “nodding acquaintances.”  He would read in the library, not just browse the books and take them home.

He was twenty-three years older than me, married and with three children.  I learned these facts much later.  For a year we would meet at the library, walk to my place and fuck. It was intense and I don’t think he noticed that first time I was a virgin. I cried when he left but the next week I couldn’t wait to see him. I felt that way for a year, a drive that never culminated in “I love you.”

He invited me to a dinner party. I was introduced to his wife and he smiled while we shook hands.  He then started to introduce me to his friends and I could tell suddenly that I was being assessed. When I went to the open bar for a glass of sherry and stood off by myself his friends came up to me one by one. They were nice, asked me for my number, said they appreciated someone clean, considerate, that they’d take care of me.

I, of course, am very careful but I do invite a few in, outside their circle. I keep my daytime job but I make sure they pay any out of pocket medical.  There are some evenings I look forward to with the select group, but not too often.  I still feel at times that need, that drive, I felt at first. Yes, I know, they may grow tired of me but they are growing older, I think, sooner than me.

One night, the heaviest of them was working hard, sweating profusely, his hair, shock white, hanging in his face moved to the rhythm of what he was doing and my Technicolor vision suddenly went black and white.  I was struck with the thought of you, whoever you are, having a bad day on the farm, coming home to me, pushing up my thin cotton dress, holding me down on the sturdy kitchen table – just like this guy was doing – but I was on the prairie, where it mattered, where it worked.

One of them asked me, just the other day if it didn’t bother me to have all these old black and white pictures looking at me while we “played.”  “No,” I said, pulling at his tie, “I’m working to return to the wind and wide open spaces my grandfather was glad to see.”  He told me I was good at my work.

Actually, I wonder if I’ll ever feel the wind again.