Monday, November 05, 2007


Recently, I passed through a town between the Big Woods and Nowheresville, to pay my respects to a friend of my mother's. I had a lovely time, which considering that this was during the period where I was fending off the Black Dog with all that remained of my strength, was saying something. And I got an invitation to return for a 70th birthday she was throwing for her eldest son. How could I say "no"?

The plot thickens. Another good friend of my mother's, who spent much of her married life in the same town, recently passed away, and my mother announced that she was going down for the funeral the day after the birthday dinner. She was bringing my daughter for me to pick up, as it made no sense for her to take her back and have her come visit me...

It all worked out fine. The only slightly sticky thing is that neither of them had been invited to the birthday, which I had actually thought she might have been, so I now had two events happening on a weekend before a looming deadline, and they would put me so close to the Goat that I decided to go spend some time with him before heading back through Birthday-Funeral-ville to pick up my daughter on Monday, and didn't really feel like I could tell anyone about the events that weekend that didn't involve them. This web was getting more tangled all the time...

The birthday party was very nice, although some of the conversation did drive me a little wild. The Birthday Boy was in fine fettle, and his mother thought my little contribution [an acrostic poem, what else?] was lovely. I knew I liked her for a reason... It is the only 70th birthday party I have ever been to thrown by the Birthday Boy's mother. Kind of makes you think...

Then a late-night passing-like-ships-in-the-night with my very nice hosts [also not invited, but going to the funeral the following day]. Then the funeral. I hadn't known the Dear Departed that well, but she had been a figure in my life from my earliest memories, and I couldn't help thinking that it must have been pretty hard for my mother and her sole surviving brother [who was there with his wife, several years his senior] to pay their respects to someone so clearly and closely their contemporary. What undid me, though, was the same thing that had upset me at my friend Bill's funeral: the solemn intonation of what a wonderful husband and father [in this case, wife and mother] the deceased had been. I was struck again by the unlikelihood of anyone getting up to say that at my funeral --
Isis would be there, surely, and no one would be able to bring that particular little white lie across their lips with her sitting there...

Then, I realized, or rather remembered, that the D.D. had struggled with periodic disabling depression all her life, and had in fact been hospitalized for a year when her children were small. It had always been one of those things that made her one of "them," and now I realized to my shock that it was what made her one of "us". I couldn't have been more bowled over if she had turned out to have been gay. In any case, I was in tears in no time at all. THEN they had us sing the Navy hymn "Eternal Father, strong to save," which features the refrain:

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

which completely undid me: having been "at sea" for most of the last two years, and certainly "in peril" for much of that time, and having often used the figure of being on a very small raft in the midst of a raging sea as an illustration of how my mood disorder felt from the inside, I just dissolved. My daughter gave me reassuring pats on the back, and generally made me aware that she is a better human being than I am.
She did not take off after the funeral to go visit her lover, leaving her mother and daughter to fend for themselves, which is what I did. No points being earned here.

The Goat could see that something was wrong, and he was wonderfully cordial and cosseting and sweet. Dinner was fabulous, the wine was terrific, and we got up late enough the next day to make a "day's work" out of loading the winter's firewood into the basement. Then we cleaned up his "barn" [more of an overscale version of his outhouse, really] and hung a ladder under the eaves along with all the outdoor shower kettles and pots, pans, and buckets. Leftovers for an early dinner, and then off to his other place at school. Or at least, that was the plan.

We both had our cars there. I had to go get gas, so I left a little earlier, and he was going to go straight through and open the house and turn on the heat...

Man proposes; God disposes: near the border of town, on this first night of non-daylight-savings darkness, I came to a horrific accident, or what appeared to be one. There were already lots of people milling about, so I wasn't sure whether I should stop or not -- no cops or firetrucks yet, but enough people to make me think that a person who is useless in a crisis might be the last thing anybody needed. So after some hesitation, I crept past the car which had had its front end and hood ripped off, through what might have been glass or gasoline, and on to the gas station, where I suddenly realized that the car behind me was not in fact the Goat, but someone in a similar truck; this one had a Leer truck-cap over the bed, which the Goat would "never do"...

I got to his place on the school campus and found it pitch dark. No one there. Had I misunderstood him? Were we meant to meet somewhere else? I found the key [you know those plastic rocks that never look like anything else but plastic rocks to hide keys in?], opened the house, turned the heat and lights on, and sat down in my jacket to read while I waited for him to show up. It got warmer inside and darker outside, and I really began to worry. Then I heard his steps on the porch stairs and felt a silly grin spread on my face.

It didn't last long. He looked awful. I jumped up and asked him what was wrong. It came out slowly. First he said he was fine, which he visible wasn't; his voice shook and caught. By the time he had arrived at the accident, the road was closed. He had carefully turned around and come over by the back roads, but halfway "home" it hit him that the driver of one of the cars in the accident could have been...
me. And he had driven away from it... And he didn't relax until he saw the porch light on at his place.

I was as shaken as he was. I held him and repeated his name. This was the guy whose heart I had once suspected didn't exist, and the thought that I might have come to harm had visibly undone him. I will draw a veil on the rest of the evening, for though we both had work to do, it was a profound moment. It was as if we stood naked in front of each other for the very first time, and in a profoundly new and terrible way. I suppose I had been jumping up and down, proclaiming my vulnerability for months, but this was something new.

Something terrifyingly new. A bridge has been crossed. We are in this deep, both of us, and there is no longer any going back. Everything else that happened this weekend suddenly shrank into perspective, and I still can't shake the feeling that it makes absolutely no sense for me to be anywhere else but with him. Not here, no matter how many good things have come of my life in Nowheresville. There is only one future.

God may indeed dispose otherwise at any point, but I feel that I have been given the kind of "sign" that people are always asking God for: there is no sign like the catch in your lover's voice when, even knowing his fear was groundless, he remained in the grip of his fear for your life.

Here's hoping I come to deserve what I have been given.
My track record is not great, so far.

Hang in there, all.
It's one hell of a life if you get out there and
live it.
The catch: there's no safety net, and there are always people in the tent hoping someone will fall...


I thought to follow, but came first and found
Your breakfast plate from early yesterday,
A house unheated, dark as my long ride,
And all your things, which echoed back your absence.

So I turned the heat on, moved around
To turn on lights, and put the plate away,
And found again that feeling I denied
So long, beyond the talk of slots and tabs.

To see your house, where I first ran aground,
So bare, I wondered if I'd lost my way,
To stand here all alone, dark too inside,
Deserted by my wit and gift of gab.

Then you came up the porch stairs and came in,
I smiled and felt it spread into a grin.


No grin. Your face is drawn, begins to work.
I start up thinking I don't know what might
Have happened that you come so late and drawn,
You say you're fine, but your voice catches, halts.

I call your name, I'm in your arms, my smirk
Wiped clean away, and then I see your plight:
The accident that I drove by you saw,
Not knowing if I might have been at fault,

Or just involved. I feel like such a jerk
For wondering where you were, to see the fright
Etched in your face makes me feel every flaw.
I cling, repeat your name, then like a bolt --

It hits me that here my perennial doubt
Of whether, how you love, has been stamped out.


I left the office shortly after noon,
Bought groceries and got home at 1 pm,
Brought in my luggage, and the weekend's mail,
Found both traps sprung, and two big mice quite dead.

The first, but not the last -- you know the tune.
I want much more of you, and less of them.
Just seven hours after I set sail,
My heart's already aching, as I've said.

I can't forget your worry, and won't soon;
To see you shaken shook me, and the memory
Will help me to behave, sweet male,
To walk in your fond footsteps, in your stead.

Sweet man, whose heart's existence I once doubted --
You shame me, for my lack of faith's been "outed."


It wasn't long ago we ate our toast,
And drank our tea, and had to part our ways;
But I've had time enough to think of what
You've come to mean to me, and shown me, too.

The thing that is most present to me, most
Profoundly moving is the way today's
Farewell recalled the night before -- I stutter
Just recalling how I felt for you.

You dropped your head against me and some ghost
Of your distress and my response, some haze
Of wild emotion hit me in the gut,
Where your sweet head was resting. What to do?

There's no caress can hope to make you see
How much your gentle love has meant to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment