Dead

Intuition.  Bohemians, outsiders, cherish intuition.  That insight, that awareness, that…knowing.  I knew when I saw him.  I knew I loved him.  He wasn’t shy of the other women in the gallery and he wasn’t disdainful.  He was watching people look at art which was so evocative.  He saw me and I forced myself not to turn away.  I wanted him to know that I was staring.  Staring right at him.

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Intuition.  Bohemians, outsiders, cherish intuition.  That insight, that awareness, that… knowing.  I realized when I looked at him that loved him.  His mannerisms did not indicate shyness regarding the other women in the gallery nor did his features let slip any thoughts of disdain.  The man watched people look at art, his obvious curiosity regarding other people’s reactions filled me with a longing hard to suppress, even harder to hide. Noticing my stare or rather acknowledging my star by turning toward me, for I felt certain he knew I had been staring for some time, he smiled slightly.   I willed myself not to turn away from his gaze. I felt a desire to challenge him in some manner yet I wanted to run.

“So how often does he brush his teeth in a day do you suppose?”

My mother’s voice.  My dead mother’s voice.  She died seven years ago, but she has never left me.  I loved my mother and I love my mother but her interference at the moment I was staring at the man who intrigued me flustered me to near tears.  My shoulders tensed, waiting for my mother’s voice to sound in my ears again.  I wanted, needed, the deep background music of love to sweep over me as I looked at this tall, slender man, dressed in a somber dark suit.  I needed a moment without questions.  I wanted to plead with my mother.

“I suppose he reads in the bathroom.  He looks the intellectual type…”

“Mother,” I hissed and stepped away from no one.  A few people looked my way.  Did he notice me talking to myself?  I took a deep breath willing my shoulders down and imagining my face serene and unhampered by anything but the art surrounding me.  I wandered in an aimless relaxed manner, at least I hoped I was wandering in an aimless relaxed manner.  I was urging the tall slender man to approach me.  I wanted to him to compel him to approach me.

“Well, he is a tall drink of water, isn’t he?  Your father was so short, God bless him.  He would provide the tall gene our family so needs.  Your kids would come up to his navel.  Wouldn’t matter if you had girls.”

I whirled around infuriated with my mother.  She was dead.  Dead.  She needed to get out of my head.  I stomped back to my chair the man of my dreams forgotten and grabbed my hand knitted alpaca wrap.  Swinging it around my head and letting it float gently down upon my shoulders, closing my eyes and breathing deeply as the light but ever warming shawl gently floated down upon my shoulders I willed some calmness into my body; leaving was my best option.

“You haven’t even looked at the exhibit.”

I didn’t turn around, anger and frustration bristled out in rudeness.  “I know,” I said, defeated and humiliated.  “A friend of mine is the artist.”  I suddenly had no strength to explain.  My voice tightened in a sobbing disappointment.  I had so looked forward to the evening.  Great, I was going to cry over my dead mother’s assessment of an attractive man; she always brought men down to mud level.

“I suppose your mother is a little jealous of anyone who connects mentally with you.”

“She’s not a bad person,” I said quickly and in defense of my mother.  “She worries about me.” I felt a sudden chill.  Turning I was face to face with a light blue silk shirt neatly sheathed by a dark suit.  He stood before me, his expression kind but his features set and his skin an icy hue.

“Hmm.  Yes.  Most mothers worry and not without reason.  Your mother worries you will do something rash.”

“She’s been dead seven years,” I said gazing up at him, his bright blue eyes clear and without judgment.

“Your wrap is beautiful.  Did you make it yourself?”

I nodded

“Did your mother teach you to knit?”

“Yes,” I said quietly.

“Have a glass of wine with me and let’s walk the gallery. Your friend will want to know why you don’t walk the gallery. We can’t explain your dead mother.”

“How do you know about my mother?”

“Intuition,” he smiled down at me, handed me a glass of red wine, his hand was blue-ice cold yet lovely.  “Intuition is ingrained in bohemians and outsiders, we cherish the ability.”

Immortal Spaniels

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Maudlin music and less than red linen made for soft people she felt, yes felt, which was beyond knew and just before faith –

In oneself.

Her red was of the blackish kind and her curtains blocked out the sunlight and opened to the rain of days- she was content.

She knew that was it.  She knew.  The world bloomed red in small startling places and she searches for the sear and pucker of it in the dead of winter

This proved effective to draw her attention away from the doggish way he looked upon her.  He had a spaniel that she liked and wished was hers

But he wasn’t.

They were well sheltered within the stonewalled cottages that were between a farm house and just shy of a manor house — and the walls encompassed them and there they lived.

Her looking for scarlet and he looking at her.

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Magicians were not allowed through the gates and witches could fly over but the breeze was constant and she could not tempt fate with this or that bauble of love.

A nod, not even a sur name offered when they met upon the cobbled street, she always with her eye on the corner of a stone building looking for red.

What could he do?  Learn to dance?  Pray for drought? He walked the dog and they spied her over the scarlet rose of autumn.  Embolden he walked to the place and bent his head to smell the flower.

He looked back up to see her gazing out upon the horizon.

“Stay,” he said, “and the dog will dance until you see the famous scarlet sunset.”

She stayed and as the sun played out the light of evening he whirled her round and the dog barked and gamboled about their feet.

And the scarlet of sunset reflected against the once stone walls of their lives.

If I Entered Hell

My Beatrice would be a monk with whom I would never confess I was in love with

If I became the female self of Dante

I would hope that Hans Rookmaaker would be my Virgil.

Hell then would be a circular art gallery, a gradual, seven story spiral ending in an ice box.

And within the ice box perhaps Monet, paint brush in hand.

Frozen in the act of painting light, a perplexed look on his face.

“Where is the sensation?” — his eyes would ask; sensation being the only reality of life

for him.

I would ask my guide if I should tell him that he is dead — and my guild would shake his head,

no.

‘Monet lives at last, he feels the cold of his encased death.’

And my guide would pity me, and take me to my Beatrice — a monk who writes the classics and beautifies the deep well walls of knowledge.

There I would stay never saying I was deeply in love with him.

 

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

 

Accidents

he sat stony-eyed not acknowledging Carlos at all.  “Darla will have a glass of the house wine,” I said hastily fearing she would do something unconventional. 

“I have one question.” She looked at me with something between dread and vexation which merged and culminated in a purely “Darla-like” expression.

“I know, I know but really just one question,” I pleaded.  Darla leaned back and gave me a slight nod.  Taking that as permission I blurted it out, “What happened to men?”

Her pale skin blanched to a sudden milky gray and her beautiful sculptured lips turned a leaden color her smile conveyed a sort of evil satisfaction.  “Nothing, they’ve always been that way, you’ve just noticed.  That’s what I hate about optimists.”

Darla’s voice sounded as if she were down a deep echoing well.

Carlos, our usual waiter, was walking up to our table.  I could tell he was having a bad day because his usually pristine and pressed black trousers were splattered with something shiny from the knee down.  His small white apron had a washed out yellow looking blob almost dead center.  I felt myself turn red because the stain was dead center so I hoped whatever hit him hadn’t been painful.

“Stop blushing you idiot,” Darla whispered, “and stop looking at his crotch.”

Darla was never very nice.  I looked away and tried to compose myself.

Carlos came up to me and didn’t smile.  “How are you today?” he asked and I knew he didn’t care to know.

“I’ll just have a cup of coffee and whatever pie you have today,” I said squinting up at him.  He had managed to stand just where the sun was painful when looking up.  I though perhaps he should have been an international spy or an assassin rather than a waiter.  I looked over at Darla, blinking heavily.  She sat stony-eyed not acknowledging Carlos at all.  “Darla will have a glass of the house wine,” I said hastily fearing she would do something unconventional.

Carlos walked away not letting me know what sort of pie to expect.

“You see?” said Darla.  He’s a man and a typical one.  He has had a bad day, splattering grease on his pants…

“Trousers…”

“His pants when emptying the garbage at home before he came to work.  While at work some clumsy American tourist like you…

“Expatriate, I live here,”

“Tourist spills their orange juice in a projectile fashion because they saw a spider on the table so naturally, he’s a total shit to you.”

“Oh I know men are moody and take out all their frustrations on women, I was just wondering what happened to them physically.”

Darla lifted her eyebrows to me in question.

I looked about at the street, narrow hipped men with billowing shirts and long hair.  “They are all different colors and heights but all look the same.”

“Perhaps you are simply become cured of obsessing over them,” Darla said.

Carlos reappeared, his face looking like it was carved in oak.  He placed my coffee and blueberry pie in front of me and Darla’s wine in the center of the table. “Will that be all?” I could tell Carlos didn’t want to be standing next to the table. Darla stretched out her long gray hand and pulled the wine to her side of the table.  Carols blanched visibly.

“She is here today?” asked Carlos.

“She sees you, Carlos.  I’m sorry for that, truly.  I’m sorry too about the clumsy American tourist.”

I was sorry too, Darla was relentless and very good in causing accidents.

It’s Not Difficult

You can enter my mind through my heart

Just so you know, staying up late is not good for me, I’m a morning person.

Weary, I’ve stepped out on to my high tower ledge and found the big dipper just overhead;

Close but not touchable.

So, I point the momentum North and ride the will to survive into the icy cold.

The bay is rocky smooth, Superior ice blue and now I feel safe away from you.

Odd, I don’t fear the scythe-man and am terrified of you.

A vulnerability is impossible to live with.

The levitation is sudden, the atmosphere heavy, ripping down my body as I move up

No nest is a temptation from this lofty spot where I see the seas spin deep frothing white.

The ghosts step along the streets their staffs diamond willows that no one but a few knows exists.

Sit down across from me and answer my questions

Answer me

Love is what you’re best at, that is obvious while I ponder the ideology of believing in death

And not God.  So answer me, what has the world come to?

To each their own, to each their own.

To the west, to the east what was once frozen has dropped upon my front door and taken

The Limberlost

No, no she has simply gone deep as the stars have gone just out of reach

Don’t be afraid, I won’t ask any questions you can answer

You can get into my mind through my heart.

Please answer my question.  It’s not difficult.

 

Photo by Alfonso Ninguno on Unsplash

Love’s Trouble For Me

She’s beautiful too.  Clean.  Her hair is always glossy and she doesn’t fan out on the makeup; a little liner, when I’m in town she puts on a little mascara, a little lip gloss.  I can still see a few freckles across her nose.  So sweet, so dedicated. 

I, of course, worried after I fell in love that I would lose my edge.  Edge is everything in my business.  Love blunts every edge; I don’t care who you are.  It’s cruel if I don’t stay sharp, razor sharp.  If I take a swipe at someone and my edge has been blunted, well let’s face it they suffer.  If I’m not hampered by the preoccupations of love, that swipe is painless, goes without a hitch, you’re dead before your mind can reach even the idea of pain.

Yes, I’m a professional.

I was in love once before, years ago when I was young.  I mean, you know love.  I can’t help what I am, I can’t.  She didn’t understand and she moved to Milwaukee.  I was devastated.  I think that disappointment was what gave me my edge.  I wanted to hate her, I really did but I couldn’t.  Years later I had a job in that area and I looked her up.  She was still fine and she seemed happy.  I said hello and she seemed edgy, a little scared but okay.  Next thing I know she’s in Green Bay, then she’s in St Paul and divorced.  I called her a year later, you know just to check on her, make sure she was okay.  She was in Seattle.  I point blank asked her if she wanted me to look up her ex-husband and she said no.  She was emphatic about it, so I didn’t and I won’t.  She’s in Tokyo now, seems to be doing alright.

I met my new lease on life during an emergency room visit in Chicago.  One of those big hospitals.  I had run into a little bit of a problem in New Albany, thought I was okay but started running a fever while vacationing in Chicago.  I love that city; Chicago.  Anyway, I met Alice there.

Alice is tough as nails and hates her name so I call her Honey and Babe and things like that.  She’s an ER nurse and man, some of the stories she tells makes my skin crawl.  I mean she’s seen shotgun wounds, and people beaten to a pulp.  Then there are the car accidents and the scum of the earth who hurt their kids.  I was in tears one night; I don’t know how she stays sane.

She’s beautiful too.  Clean.  Her hair is always glossy and she doesn’t fan out on the makeup; a little liner, when I’m in town she puts on a little mascara, a little lip gloss.  I can still see a few freckles across her nose.  So sweet, so dedicated.

I, of course, tell her I have no family.  I’m not an idiot, I keep her well protected.  I am human; some may doubt that but I am very human.  She loves to read old novels and I’m starting to understand why.  I like The Portrait of Dorian Gray and The Invisible Man – man can you imagine how I can relate?

 

 

Old Things

or perhaps she was thinking of a long term lover who knew her moods and who knew she didn’t do well on rainy days.

She stood there without a coat and really, she needed one.  It was cold outside – not bitter mind you, but a wet cold.  The mist was chilling and when the bleak sun rays intermediately slipped from behind the heavy clouds, the light reflected coldly in the dripping moisture that clung to the bare tree limbs.  The sluggish, he’d almost say lazy rain semi-solidified upon the winter brittle tree limbs and bushes, pulling the branches down toward the ground. So he stood there and watched her and pondered; why would she be without a coat in the middle of the semi-freeze?

So he continued to watch, intrigued, despite his concern regarding her lack of forethought. He enjoyed watching women. She looked down at her feet and studied her brown, nondescript shoes with more solemn attention than they deserved.  She glanced up and he realized that oddly enough she smiled, in a sort of tired accepting fashion, at the long and bleak trail of the empty railroad tracks. He frowned in returned and glanced about for the person who must be teasing her — certainly someone must be — or perhaps she was thinking of someone.  A young child that acted out to perhaps cheer her on dreary afternoons or perhaps she was thinking of a long term lover who knew her moods and who knew she didn’t do well on rainy days. He peered about certain someone must have caused that Mona Lisa smile but the train depot was empty outside of her and him.

He kept his distance, tactically checked his chin for any roughness; a sign that he wasn’t careful enough this morning while shaving but found his chin faultless.  He didn’t understand the rage today to allow so much stubble on a man’s chin.  It was nothing new, chin stubble.  He remembered his grandfather, from the old country, German to the core, going a day or two without shaving, especially during harvest time.  However, no matter how tired the man was he wouldn’t go out socially without a good shave. Why young men thought that going about in public with what he reasoned was a harvester’s beard made them sexier or more intriguing to women, was beyond him.

He glanced over at the young woman again who was now just inside the depot, standing alone by the door. She was staring right at him. She ducked her head, embarrassed to be caught in the act of obvious assessment. Though she looked away, he tried to give the woman a half smile and a nod. Wasn’t he doing the same? Looking her over? He just didn’t get caught – he wasn’t embarrassed.

What was there to be embarrassed about? A sixty-something, thick glasses, his tie too wide for present style dictates, his sports coat was a good fifteen years old, not quite navy blue and his khaki pants were ironed – taboo. He knew when he reached his destination he would be the only man there, young, old or otherwise with a plaid shirt. He knew he looked neat in appearance which of course would make him appear fastidious and unattractive.

He took out his well ironed, white, cotton, ’kerchief and wiped lightly at his nose to hide a smile. He had no idea why he thought it was funny to appear as a fussy old man but suddenly it was funny.

“Excuse me?” Her voice was soft and he could tell it took a lot for her to approach him.

“Yes?”

“No one is at the ticket counter.” She turned to look at the vacant counter to confirm the obvious. He knew Mr. Mullins would be in the back making tea and spreading too much mayonnaise on his hard salami sandwich; a fact that he had to push out of his mind quickly for fear his disgust for Mr. Mullins and all things sandwich would show upon his face – and she would certainly misinterpret that. “I was wondering – do the trains run on time?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I do hope you are not trying to make a connection in the city.”

She smiled, almost it seemed in relief. “No, actually I’m not. I was just here to get away for awhile. I’m in no hurry to get back.”

“Ahh, you live there then.”

Her face became suddenly still, void of animation, and almost pasty. “Well, I work there.”

He could only nod, not knowing really how to take her odd reply. He wondered suddenly, with dread, if she was going to start telling him her life story. How she was alone in the world, working for next to nothing for a man who had everything and existing in a small garret apartment in a rather run down part of town.

But he felt his shoulders relax for she simply turned away and walked back to stare out of the window, watching the mist gather into pools of muddy water upon the sidewalk and along the tired tracks that never varied in direction since the day they were laid to accommodate the so few who used public transportation.

He looked about at the depot, not changed since sometime in the 1970s – and at that the only change was disconcerting. The railway had thought it best to do away with the long time wooden benches and replace them with spoon-like fiberglass seats that not even the most agile of hoodlums could slouch into a workable, relaxing sit-down. Most in the small town were outraged at the change and so the renovations stopped – the wood and glass of the depot were saved for prosperity. The benches? Most were saved and had places of honor in homes around the small town; his own front entrance sported a sanded down renovated bench – it glowed in shining glory there under soft lamps and amid walking sticks and umbrellas. Of course, no one sat on it any longer. Good company just wiped their feet and kept on toward his large living room – forgetting about the bench altogether.

Of course, there were the Smiths. They wanted two of the benches and insisted that the carvings and the overall wear and tear of the benches made them pieces of art. He snorted aloud at the memory. Checking himself, he glanced over at the young woman to see if he had offended her at all with his noise of disdain, obviously not, she didn’t even look in his direction.

Works of art indeed. He knew they had no intention of cleaning up the wooden benches while their copious amount of children and now grandchildren still charged about their house as if they were aboard Vice Admiral Halsey’s Enterprise, during the battle of Midway…

“I’m sorry to bother you again…”

He stood abruptly and she took a step back. He tried to smile but he knew that his attempt at trying to look friendly only made him come off as condescending so he tried to frown just a little as if the next words out of her mouth would tilt the world.

To his delight, she fought a genuine smile. “I was wondering, just how late does the train arrive? I thought of going over to the café for some coffee…”

He interrupted her. “OH, I’m afraid it maybe a little late for that. I think the train is nearly here. ”He was swelled with his own good luck. Mr. Mullins had come around the depot and was standing on the sodden wooden planks outside. He must have been notified that at last the errant train into town was coming ‘round the bend.

She turned following his glance past her. She flushed slightly and said “Oh. Well, I guess that’s what I get.”

He wasn’t quite sure how to respond to her – what sort of retribution had she received? He had only stated a fact and it certainly wasn’t an inconvenience to let her know the train was imminent; as a matter of fact the timing of the situation was wonderful, it reminded him of a Sherlock Holmes story but for the life of him he couldn’t remember the title.

She turned and seemed to wander away from him, rather than walk in any one direction. He cocked his head slightly; a habit his last lover found particularly annoying. He smiled to himself and wondered what that eminent and profound woman was doing with herself lately.

He heard the clatter of the slowing train and the low warning whistle. He filled his lungs, suddenly exuberant with the thought of the two-hour train ride, and a day and night in the city.  He had some shopping to do, then a late supper with one of his long time sorority friends. They planned to meet at their club, and though the dress code was a nuisance, he was looking forward to the all-male company the club offered. He liked women but only in small doses.

He turned and she was standing in the rain, huddled was more like it. He was instantly annoyed. Why on earth didn’t she stay in the station until the train had stopped and was ready for passengers? He shook his head but determined, he grabbed his umbrella and headed in her direction. He walked up to her and extended his deep, black umbrella over her.

“You could have stayed in the station…” she was obviously crying. “What on earth is wrong?”

“I don’t want to go.” Her voice was strained and hiccuped out her words. He wanted to run. Hand her the damned umbrella and run. She was young, probably sentimental and had heartbreaking thoughts of never seeing this tiny, little, quiet, peaceful, peering, scrutinizing, gossiping, town again.

“My dear young lady, I’ve lived here all of my life, you’re better off in the city and facing the heartbreak of leaving this antique encrusted little tourist town once a year on vacation rather than being tethered to it and all its gossiping politics for the rest of your life.” He heard Mr. Mullins clucking in the background and it was all he could do to keep from turning on the old man and glaring him into his grave. He turned back to the young woman, “What’s your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Mine’s Abraham, how do you do?”

And for the first time in his life, he saw a romantic glimmer of hope for she smiled through her tears, “I’ve always wanted someone to say that to me,” she said softly “but I don’t think your name is really Abraham.”

He looked hard at the simple, almost gray woman before him, young, her eyes red from crying and she needed a tissue for her nose. Her hair curled under the misting rain and the little bit of makeup she wore was blotted on her face. “My name is Nathaniel Barrett and I am the proverbial “Philadelphia Lawyer,” which has allowed me to retire early and work on only what interests me in the world of high finance. I hate romantic books, antique dealers, and the crushing academic weight of “women’s studies.”

“I’m Sarah Lewis, I’m a poet and essayist. I majored in women’s studies and I love anything old.”

He stood staring at her as the train spewed exhaust and clanked contently to a stop He smiled at the young woman without thinking how he must appear; “Pleased to meet you,” he said.

 

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash