The video looks old and grainy, but the voice reaches out: Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.
The triangle is one of the basic shapes of the universe, noted for its strength, its unbreakable nature. Buckminster Fuller built a dome from them for the ’67 Expo, but it burned in ’76. The outer skin is gone now. Sunshine, rain and pigeons travel through its bones.
Triangles are also dangerous. If you carve one of flint, it becomes an arrowhead, an instrument of injury or death, Cupid’s weapon of choice.
If you shape one from wood and leave one end open, it becomes a boomerang.
In a bright new video, a young man stands on an old stone balcony with his beautiful bride. Every day he looks more like his father, who stood there with his beautiful bride thirty years before. He kisses his new wife once once. The crowd cheers.
He kisses her again. Perhaps remembering his parents, he signals no more.
Two is enough. He knows from experience that three is not a lucky number in love.
Category Archives: Kim Hutchinson
Welcome back. You still awake after that last tune? Well, then, you must have a lot on your mind.
There’s a saying around here: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It will change. Let’s hope so. This is the coldest spring in years. By now, people are usually basking themselves and playing on the beach, and as far as the eye can reach, it’s boobs, balls and babies.
But today it was grey and gas and food prices are skyrocketing and nobody was outside except a couple of dead-eyed street kids and their Rottweiler. Everyone’s hiding, waiting for the next cold front to come in across the water, a wall of angry weather advancing like a runaway freight train, kicking up waves and kicking over trees and anything that isn’t bolted down, waiting for the future, hoping that when it’s over they can climb out of the wreckage one more time.
Legends say that this place is where God put her hand down when she was making the world. It could be paradise, but nobody’s gonna let that happen.
So many places could be paradise. It doesn’t take much.
But for now, let’s take a little vacation. Just close your eyes and put yourself on a warm beach. Feel the sun on your face? There, that’s better. And here’s a classic feel-good tune from the sunny 60s to keep you there for a while, The Girl from Ipanema.
Sleep tight, my worried lovelies. Try to stay warm.
A young contessa stumbled across a bridge to a land of wonder, where the colors of the land and sky were deeper, the water sparkled brighter, and the horizon went on forever.
It was a land of all sky.
A troll lived beneath the bridge. He saw she was pretty and clever, if not always contessa-like, but she would make a fine trophy. And, she could spin clouds into gold.
For a troll, cloud spinning is a dealmaker.
The troll threw a sparkle of sunlight in her eyes so she thought she saw a duke or a prince. In truth, what she saw was a reflection of her.
She was lost.
The troll put her to work spinning while he collected more trophies. Soon her shoulders hurt and she was lonely in the dark shack, but there was never enough gold for the troll.
When she tried to leave, he chained her about her waist.
The troll hated all things, but for a motivated troll a victim can be too compliant, so he hated her, his own creation, especially.
After awhile, she was still beautiful, but when she looked in the mirror she didn’t recognize herself. She was haggard and sad and angry.
Now, she was reflecting him.
Moon after moon, she tried to look at the troll with love. He stared back in hate. Finally, the poison in the air grew so thick that it blew up the little troll house by the bridge.
Spot the Chihuahua was born blind. The kids called him Spot because they thought it was funny and, well, he wouldn’t know any better, would he?
You would think that a tiny blind dog would be on the timid side, but not Spot. He confronted Dobermans and Great Danes without hesitation, just a little confusion as to why their prime sniffing area was so high off the ground. He chased squirrels halfway up trees, following their scent and footfalls, and he wouldn’t let Mr. Kane, the cranky old neighbor, anywhere near the yard, even to return a lost ball or Frisbee.
When it came to catching flying discs, he was the block champ. Nobody could figure out how he did it, but he would leap four feet in the air to catch one and never missed. He was never happier than when he was trotting up with a teeth-marked neon-colored circle of plastic in his mouth. Blue ones were his favorite. We could never figure out why.
Maybe that’s why he developed a fondness for chasing cars, something to do with the Frisbees. It was always the left rear wheel he was after. A couple of times, we found him blocks away, shaking and barking in rage and frustration at the left rear wheel of a parked car.
Spot weighed less than ten pounds, but he just couldn’t see the point of being afraid of anything. I’m glad he never saw it coming, the second car.
“Boy, run home.” A child looks up to see a majestic warrior, a Shawnee chief with hazel eyes. “The soldiers are coming. There is war and you might get hurt.”
Weary of weariness, devoid of dreams, the buckskinned hope of many nations stands near a millstream with his hand on the head a white pony.
A stamp of his foot had shaken the earth and united scores of thousands. The power of his voice had moved men who did not understand his tongue.
His cause was finished. The tides of war and time had turned. His alliance was splintering. His one great love, a woman who had taught him of Shakespeare, the Bible, and Alexander the Great, had married, refusing him because he would not adopt the manners of her people, the conquerors, because he would not—could not—deny his own people or himself.
He could see the future. His ancient way of life would soon be gone. “My body will remain on the field,” he has told his warriors.
He is the first to see the enemy approach, the first to leap on his horse to meet them.
As he gallops to his death, he stops to toss a sack of flour at the door of a farmhouse, saving a family of homesteaders from starvation.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a fault.
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘safe,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘safe’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’!”
“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all. Words have a temper, some of them—particularly verbs—adjectives you can do anything with—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability!”
“Would you tell me, please, what that means?
“Now you talk like a reasonable child. I meant by ‘impenetrability’ that we’ve had enough of that subject.”
“But does ‘safe’ mean free from harm?”
“It means that it’s generally regarded as meeting the legal standard of safety by the current panel of experts upon evidence published and compiled by the industry in question, but the standard changes depending on conditions and the ability of said industry to meet it.”
“That’s an awful lot for one word to mean,” Alice began, but she didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence, for a heavy crash shook the forest from end to end.
Win the new iPad 2!
That blond stepping on the elevator, she just smiled at the other guy.
She won’t smile at me, won’t even look my way. All she sees is black.
Keep it cool, under control. Don’t let her see your insides. If she did look, she’d just see an animal.
Look away. Listen to your tunes. Leave the bitch alone.
The chicks in here are crazy. That girl just grabbed my ass.
If only you weren’t married. She sways on her spikes, pretending to be drunk. I know she’s holding her first drink. She’s young, too young. But she doesn’t care.
Now she’s shimmying to the beat. Her short skirt floats up, her shirt plunges low. Dance with me.
Keep your eyes straight ahead, your beer in your hand. Tell her you don’t dance. Go home. Never come back.
Wham! The trap of the sink over my head nearly splits my skull. I pull myself out from under the cabinet.
She’s in the doorway, her teddy bear p.j.’s covered with juice.
Take a deep breath. She’s only two. Keep a lid on it.
Remind yourself that you wanted this.
I got the big job! she announces. She’s almost jumping up and down.
I’m happy for her. I really am.
That’s wonderful! I say as soon as I’m sure she won’t hear my fear. I smile. Let’s go out and celebrate.
Pick up your keys. Don’t look ahead, conjure trouble. Just love her. Maybe she’ll stay.
A half-truth is a whole lie. Yiddish proverb
Just Another Word For
So, I saw a car just like yours, she says, parked behind that nurse’s house. On the corner.
Must be a coincidence, he says, turning away. The car just looked like mine.
Rage and danger bubble under his words.
So did the license plate, she thinks, but she dare not say.
She dare not.
An Everyday Story
A boy rounds a corner on his way to work and stands waiting for a light. Across the street, he sees a pretty girl.
Later that day, she’s in the elevator. He says hello. She smiles.
A few years later, now a harried married man, he leaves for work every day at 8:14.
Today, he leaves at 8:05.
He stops for coffee at the same place as always. He bumps into an old girlfriend; he hasn’t seen her in years. They chat, and he finds out that she’s divorced and lonely.
A decade later, he’s a middle-aged man. His youngest daughter, ten years from her sisters, the apple of his eye, brings home a new friend, a little boy.
He knows the friend’s mother. We dated in high school, he tells the boy.
But he’s startled. The boy looks a lot like he did at that age.
What a coincidence, says his wife, avoiding his eye.
The bankers and businessmen appeared on television wearing thousand-dollar haircuts and sackcloth. Their faces were grim.
The money’s gone, some proclaimed. It won’t be coming back said others.
The money’s gone! cried the people. What shall we do? Citizens began to wring their hands and point fingers at one another.
A few people asked Where did it go? These voices were drowned out by weeping and wailing and by shrieks of fear.
We have to replace it, the politicians announced.
Where will the new money come from? asked many. We must mortgage the future, replied the bankers and businessmen. It’s the only way.
Confused, the people agreed. The losses piled up: credit, livelihoods, homes, families, communities, societies, hope.
Debt spread like a virus, bringing the ills of poverty. The sickened people paid and paid until there was nothing left to sell but their freedom.
In the beginning, there is a word, a word of power.
The first appearance is by inspiration; it arises like magic in the mind of one with an open heart. The inspired one, the keeper of the word, passes it to a few who follow. The followers pass the word to a few more, and they pass it on, and on it goes.
The word represents an idea that changes everything: societies, languages, customs, individual lives. It spreads like a virus, morphing from language to language, growing in strength and followers.
A simple word creates a revolution.
Finally, the keeper, the one who first thought and spoke the word, dies. Those who remain behind must try to understand and honor the word of power. As time passes, some with less open hearts begin to fear it and try to contain it through interpretation and law. Others carve it in gold and ivory and place it on display, then bow to it without understanding.
Dark hearts misconstrue it, to harness the power for their own purposes.
Generations later, the word is laden with analysis and decoration, but almost devoid of meaning. Its message grows weak. The word’s power becomes hidden behind clouds of confusion and cooptation.
But like the sun, the word of power is always there, strong and shining, behind the clouds, waiting for us to hear it, to know it, waiting for another open heart to appear.
The word waits to begin again.
If Wishes Were Horses
The train was late; it gave her more time to fight the tears.
Towns passed the window. People. Families. Homes. She’d left hers behind again.
Tomorrow, she would be a professional, forcing her smile to rise above her heavy heart.
She closed her eyes and wished it were the last time.
“This is why I came here,” says the man from Montreal. He points to a Facebook photo of a woman from Missouri. “We thought the border could be our place, but…
His eyes are red. He falls asleep as soon as the train starts to move. His fingers caress the keyboard.
The thing about a border town is, it’s all about trade. Markets and positions. Proximity. Rules. How to comply. How to avoid them.
I don’t dance because I’m kinky or anything. I’m saving up for school. I’ll start next year, maybe. I’ve got the grades. An MBA should be a breeze.
With my experience, I can teach those academic types who live over near the bridge about the market. I live down by the tunnel with two other dancers. Same street. During the day, we entertain company from the other side. Some days it’s downtown boyz and others it’s Bloomfield Hills types. You know, prep schools and shit.
When I start school, I won’t do day parties anymore. I’ll make less, but I’ll be okay. The rent’s cheap, and the tips for dancing are good. It’s all good. Nothing but sunshine ahead. Next year, everything changes. Time to get serious, stop playing around. It makes me tired, anyway. Like I’m a little tired right now, when I need to sparkle tonight. Got to shi-ine! The customers like it when you shine, and they tip big when you give them what they want.
Pass that pipe, will you?
Fat, lazy snowflakes drifted down, dusting the street like icing sugar. One store window projected a warm glow onto the grey street. Over the window, the sign read Joffrey Russ, Fur Designer. Another read Retirement Sale.
It was a small concession, thought Russ as he looked out. He wasn’t retiring, just giving in. Forty-five earlier, downtown had been full of furriers and upscale shops. Now, his neighbors were a bohemian coffee shop and an Ethiopian restaurant.
Things had changed. In the game of social politics known as fashion, people no longer wore animal skins that were artistically shaped and colored. Instead, they dyed and pierced their own skin.
That was the difference between a man and a fox, he thought while fluffing the display. A fox is always a fox, from one scrounging, sniffing moment to the next. He changes when forced by lack of food, water or habitat. Man often changes because of boredom or because he’s following a notion of progress. A professional woman walked by wearing shoes reminiscent of a child’s patent leather dress-ups and a faux fur coat.
He’d ridden the fickle wave to success and a good life. He would not be bitter about the end of the season. He’d always marveled at the endless variety and characteristics of the skins he worked with, and he now felt the same admiration for his fellow humans.
Today, he thought, would be a good day to order Ethiopian food for lunch.
For 22 years, they rode the same bus. He was the man with the winter Fedora, the one who always dressed neatly, wore polished shoes and spoke with a nineteenth-century flourish. She was a bookkeeper; she appreciated tidiness. She also read romances, so she liked that he had a little flair.
They exchanged pleasantries and smiles. He knew that her name was Eloise and that she lived on King Street. His name was Abe; he came and went at the 20th Street stop.
On Fridays, they talked of their weekend plans. He liked to follow the tall ships and attend military tattoos. She liked museums and open-air concerts.
For a year and a half, he mentioned a wife. When he stopped mentioning, Eloise didn’t ask.
Last Friday night, Abe almost missed the bus home. He had to run to catch it, which made him breathe a little too hard as he passed by without noticing her. She thought she smelled a whiff of drink. He rode at the back, standing up. As he exited, he turned on the step and called out “Good-bye, old bus! Farewell, fellow commuters. I’ve retired today.”
She watched as he walked a little unsteadily down the sidewalk, the darkness closing in on both of them.
A woman stands on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the lake of legends. She stares at the distant island, a black hole of tales resting on a bed of crystals, a place from which stories did not escape.
The woman seems neither very young nor very old. She is not tall or short, thin or fat, nothing to distinguish her except that she is bent, weighted down.
She tries to let go of her thoughts. Thoughts, she tells herself, are just emotions with stories attached. Let go of the story and know the emotion. Stop thinking and feel.
She remembers her grandmother’s house, drawers full of newspaper clippings tied up with string, collected stories, stories that had nothing to do with her grandmother or anyone else she knew, but clung to as if they held answers.
She wondered how many others had stood on this spot since the ancient ones, the original inhabitants, had discovered the seven islands that mirrored the Seven Sisters.
The woman placed a small wooden raft on the water. On top was a plain manila envelope stuffed with history, documents, photographs, love letters and momentos. She lingers, hesitating, then lights a homemade fuse and sets the little raft adrift on the outgoing tide.
The flames grow bright as the small flatboat of stories floats off on its journey to the crystal island.
The woman watches, hearing the voices of all who stood there before her rise, then fade away.
Once upon a time, a traveler came upon a quiet cul-de-sac. His name was Joe, and he was an average working man. He had a pronounced scar on his cheek, a mark of experience. Joe liked this pretty place, and decided to stay.
At first, no one spoke to him. When he began to garden, the neighbors started to take interest. He admired their begonias and petunias, they admired his. Everyone was happy and at peace.
Slowly, the wind began to shift. He heard whispers on it: Improper. Wildflowers. Weeds. Joe knew this was what people often do, but it made him sad. He loved his neighbors’ gardens. One neighbor planted crystals between flowers to better reflect his mind as he viewed them. Another planted flowers of different shapes, but the same color and scent. Others wove in statues and animals and whimsy.
He knew they all planted the same way, from seeds and cuttings lovingly tended with bare hands, and that Nature loved wild things—diversity—most of all. She abhorred refinement. Sometimes, she punished purity with weakened genes. He didn’t care where flowers came from or what they were called, only that they were beautiful, only that each was true to itself.
“Must’ve been spontaneous combustion,” laughed a neighbor. The others turned their faces away.
Joe picked up his spade and turned the scorched earth, replanting
“If a tree falls…”
He didn’t want to have this conversation, not tonight, not for the hundredth time since this morning. He stamped his freezing feet against the sidewalk.
The muzak played Hark, the Herald Angles Sing. For some reason, it pissed him off.
“…does it make a sound?”
Once his brother got onto something—a question, a catchphrase, a snatch of song lyric—he clung to it, repeating it again and again and again until it rung in your head like a bomb had gone off between your ears.
“Spare change?” he asked the couple heading into the cineplex. They glanced at his brother, saw something was wrong with him, then at him, noting his dirty and disheveled state, judging them to be human flotsam in milliseconds. They passed without a word, not even a head-shake.
“So does it?”
“No, it doesn’t.” He sighed and lit a butt he’d found under a park bench. “It makes sound waves. Someone has to hear it for it to become a sound.”
A man with a black bar in his ear walked by, talking to someone somewhere else, maybe across the world.
The man didn’t hear him.
I wish I had told you this story. When you died, there were so many things left unsaid.
There is much that feels like someone else’s life. So much time was wasted waiting for my life to begin.
Waking hours were sleepwalking. Reality only pierced the fog in my dreams.
About a year before you died, I dreamt I was standing alone on a dark corner under a streetlamp. There was nothing as far as the eye could see.
A bus pulled up. He was driving. He waved angrily for me to hurry and embark.
Reluctantly, I got on and sat beside him. The seats behind us rose in a theatre formation. They were empty. The house lights were on.
He drove down the deserted freeway like a maniac. The billboards flashed rolling computer codes. We passed too quickly to be able to read them.
I knew I was on the wrong bus, but jumping off was a death sentence. I was afraid, but by then I was used to that.
That’s where the dream ended, barreling down a dark freeway on an empty bus, trapped with a driver full of anger and hate, no signs to guide the way.
I woke up next to him. I never told you. Anything.
The contrast can be summed up in a sip.
Country coffee never changes, long burnt and bitter, consumed with tense smiles and ritual conversations, customs of conformity and stagnation.
Urban coffee, consumed in conversation and not, flavored and not, sweet or strong or both, is vibrant, tasting richly of ideas, growth and hope.
One sunny morning, a big-bellied ball of yellow fur surveyed a yard full of prospective adopters and ran straight to one.
She’d been chosen.
The breeder called the craziest pup in the litter Climbing Ivy. He tried to pull a switch with two other pups, but she knew. The pup was ADD riddled with far too much energy; she understood. She’d loved many dogs, but this one loved her.
The dog loved to run, never happier than free-flying down a laneway, and swim, paddling with so much heart that her chest lifted above the water.
A second’s inattention during training, and the pup shot off. The leash snapped. So did the ring finger on her left hand. Her wedding band had to be cut apart.
They were inseparable. The dog waited all day until the computer went off, then her day began. In a dark, miserable life, the dog was her bright spot, the only love she knew.
When she had to leave, she had nowhere to go; at least the dog would be cared for where she was. Sunlight streamed through the kitchen window. The dog stood staring at her, whimpering and confused.
Walking away was her last act of love.
Remembering, her left hand throbbed. It had never healed properly, leaving drawn, tight tendons clinging together. The palm was a mountain range, the life and heart lines unreadable, a lasting imprint of the truest heart she had ever known, still aching.
She gets all the press, the young one, the second wife.
Perhaps the poor girl deserves it, in a way. He ruined her life.
Oh Adam, taste this.
She could just imagine.
Not that she missed him, or the garden. All she’d wanted was a partner, someone to share the pleasures, the creativity, the discoveries. All he’d wanted was a supplicant.
She’d even tried to teach him to fuck properly, to please a woman, to share.
It takes too long, he’d whined, with you on top.
Yet, his story was the very foundation of the world, at the root of everything people thought, said and did. Meanwhile, hers could fit on the back of a postcard.
History’s built on the tale of a poster child for immaturity and his adolescent bride.
Some say it’s a tale of warning. Others say it’s about growing up, leaving helplessness behind.
But there’s always more than one version. The truth is in the center, the points of view like points on a compass or map. Sanctifying just one, excluding all others, is a sin of omission passed from father to son. Decisions are made, societies organized, lives destroyed or lost.
What we worship is telling and often sad, yet it’s a choice. We can choose again, choose better.
We can change the world from flat to round.
It’s that easy, and that difficult.
It’s not too late.
The canon thundered, too close, sending a shock through the crowd. The children began to sing an anthem.
Tears formed behind her sunglasses. It was the first time she had attended.
She’d grown up with soldiers, and learned the difference young. The ones who talked of glory, honor, manhood, they didn’t know. The ones who knew—the tail gunners, EOD men, lieutenants who’d led young men to die—they kept silent.
They could not tell her why; the experience was untranslatable.
As she grew, she learned of the business of war and its vast, unspeakable corruption. She discovered that the soldiers knew of it, too. The ones who talked defended the corrupt, the others stayed silent.
Confused and disheartened, she turned away.
Then one day, she found herself in danger. Everyone deserted her, everyone but the soldiers. Silently, they protected and cared for her, showed her the meaning of duty, honor, loyalty, even love.
To most people, these were just words, but not to them.
Men fight wars for this, you know. Her lover said this quietly one night, while looking at the stars and holding her.
Suddenly, she understood. It had nothing to do with a flag. It never had. Words and symbols may have power, but in understanding truth, they were weak and insufficient.
Most times, words were unnecessary.
The canon boomed again. Her tears fell. The crowd sang together.
A week ago he’d learned over lunch that he was losing his favorite project.
It was the place he had a chance to shine. He loved touring the country with two crates of laptops in tow, teaching the intellectually less fortunate how to perform the calculations to properly install the manufacturer’s equipment, saving the company warranty costs. He loved the tight airplane seats, bad hotels, dim meeting rooms and greasy food, even some of the less fortunate students, in his own way.
He paraded at the front of the rooms, demi-godlike, flipping calculations off the top of his head, dazzling them with his speed and accuracy.
But his roadshow had become too expensive. Travel costs, said the boss.
Now he sat across from this trim woman in a well-cut skirt, brandishing her big-city resume and promising to make his show, his baby, transportable and accessible.
Suddenly, he felt the weight of the extra hundred pounds on his average frame, the itch of the red rash on his hand, the psychological sting of his cheap plaid shirt and bad haircut.
The woman smiled at him sincerely. I know how you feel, she seemed to say. We can work together.
He almost let himself feel kindly, even cooperative, but just for a second. Then he caught a reflection of himself in her eyes. He didn’t like what he saw, an ordinary man.
He brushed a stray hair from his forehead and leveled his gaze.
It was on.
She stood by the rescued greyhounds at the outdoor market, petting the dogs and talking to the lovely young woman with the beaming smile standing next to her.
“You have to meet someone.” The young woman reached into her jacket. A furry white head with two bright eyes and a pointed nose peeked out. The rat nuzzled against her owner’s sweater and dove back into safety and warmth, leaving only hindquarters and a long tail on display.
“You have the most interesting pets!” she said with sincerity, even though rodents were usually one of her least favorite forms of wildlife.
“She’s a domestic white rat.”
“Two words I’ve never used in a sentence.”
“Domestic and rat?” the young woman laughed.
She liked this young woman. They’d met two weeks earlier, when the young woman had been walking her pet chicken on a pink ribbon leash.
The rat peeked out again. She had to admit, it was cute. And clean. Not what you’d expect.
The young woman told her about the rat’s affectionate nature and intelligence, and how easy it was to litter train. Her husband smiled and punctuated her story with supportive comments.
As she listened, she noticed the glow on the young woman’s face, how happy she and her husband seemed to be. She thought of all the religions and texts and sermons and self-help books in the world, and she wondered if the real message in them might be just to love everything, even the rats.
|“The grass enjoyed it when the wind blew.”|
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In the fifteenth year, she developed a stammer. It happened all at once, at the front door.
One of his high school buddies, the one with no chin, tried to kiss her. But it wasn’t just a kiss. Chinless had hated her since that weekend at the cottage years ago, the one when he’d drunk for three days and nights straight and slapped his eleven month old daughter twenty feet into a wall.
He hated her because he’d done the slapping in front of her, the new wife, the city girl. The outsider.
She’d nearly fainted.
For a decade and a half, he and another buddy had been constantly on her, on the attack, tearing her to pieces after the second beer every Saturday night because she knew. Because they could.
Because her husband let them, liked it, even.
That day, he decided to kiss her, whether she liked it or not.
She pulled back. He locked his hands on her arms, possessing, insisting. Forcing.
She struggled free. Wiping her mouth, she escaped to the kitchen.
He followed, dogging her, backing her into the counter to block another escape, making conversation too loud, so loud that everyone else stopped talking, his face an inch from hers.
She began to shake.
The rest of the evening, and whenever she got frightened from then on, she stammered.
No one called the night you died.
I dreamt of you. You were but a shadow, yet the whisper of you gave me peace.
You called on Polymynhia. She sat in a paneled room, near the grate. She plucked at her lyre, composing, her countenance too earnest.
The fire crackled. Light spilled from a high window. Her crisp satin gown was bedecked with egg-sized rubies and sapphires.
She was so alone.
I stood behind you, so close as to be tacked to your frock coat, peering over your shoulder, the same way you used to look over mine to show me something.
Look, was all you used to say. I looked. I never knew what you wanted me to see.
Now I saw she was your muse. You were her hero, her captain.
As sure of yourself as ever, you stepped forward, bowed with heart-stirring grace. She looked up into your eyes. She rose and pulled off her veil, a happy bride shaking back her blond curls.
She was yours. You were hers. Apart, you were both incomplete.
She didn’t see me.
Closing her eyes, she stretched up on tiptoe, touched her lips to the center of your ghostly forehead.
Her kiss ignited. I felt it, too. Attached to your shadow, I was a part of you. A flare of blue-white starlight enveloped us all.
This time, I saw.
The starlight faded. The flames glowed. The sun shone.
You laughed. Polymynhia smiled.
The ruby above her heart sparkled.
He’d kept the parking space open. She used it most often, whenever she and her husband, an old drinking buddy, came to visit.
When he saw her that day, he knew. Her hipbones were fins on a ’58 Caddy, her eyes death black. He was shocked, but not surprised. Her husband had always mistreated women. A soldier’s daughter, she had carried on.
Had he known, he might have killed.
He’d been captured somehow the first time he met her. That first night, he’d watched her undress, her image unknowingly reflected in a window.
Over the years, they had become good friends. She trusted him. That day, all she wanted was to park her car and run to a distant city.
Suddenly a lieutenant again, he did the right thing. He stopped her.
At first, she wanted to run from everything, from protection, even love. He stood guard, held her hand as she stood, taking baby steps towards living again.
One evening, he kissed her. She kissed back tenderly, piercing his armoured heart.
He swallowed his fear. For months, every time she left, he worried she wouldn’t return.
He’d lived through the Tet unarmed; he would survive this. The years past had been the quiet before the battle, a long, restless wait, for what he had not known.
Now, she laughs again. He loves the sound. Just to touch her gives him joy. He walks home more quickly at night.
She comes to him.
She arrives early. The movers are there. The truck is already packed.
He sits on the porch, smoking and talking with the movers. Where are you going? he asks them.
They only know the city.
She walks through the house she’d bought for them years ago. The filth and the stench of mould nearly make her retch. Dead fleas line the windowsills, the dressers, the floors.
The dog, her dog, is nowhere to be found.
In the walled garden, a shaft of sunlight illuminates the young rosebush at the base of the birdbath. It glows a cheery pale pink. They are the first roses to have survived a winter.
The sight is ironically beautiful.
He watches from the porch as she follows the truck out of the driveway.
She turns onto the road and doesn’t look back.
“Hello?” he inquired politely.
A dial tone was the only response. It had been so long since the telephone had rung, he’d forgotten the sound. Undaunted, he picked it up every few minutes and asked: “Hello?”
One of these days or nights, someone would be there.
Yesterday, she dazzled. Professionally brilliant, she sprinkled starlight and success over the meeting.
Twice they cut her contract.
This morning, she woke to the banshee: “Individuals must get up early and put in a full day’s work in this economy!”
She smashed the button, breaking the radio. Where? she raged. Where?
The sun is bouncin’ off the pavement already. Not much traffic on the street, but the stream of customers is steady.
Been here for hours, days, can’t remember. Can’t remember much. Not sure why I’d want to.
Fat Iggy’s here with his shopping cart. He calls it a silver chariot. It’s full of green plastic bags and bottles and garbage he collects, but when he’s high, it probably looks like a BMW.
We talk about nothin’. Just makin’ sounds. He passes me money. I pass him product. That’s all either of us care about.
Some business bitch in four hundred dollar shoes walks by. I bang into her shoulder, hard, just to let her know it’s my corner.
Her head doesn’t turn. She doesn’t flinch. Iggy and I don’t exist.
Her phone rings Lady Gaga.
It’s my fuckin’ corner.
In the green morning
I wanted to be a heart.
Ditty of First Desire
Federico Garcia Lorca
The clock glares, red-faced and angry.
I roll away in search of a new position, trying to feel my way to deep mystery, but dreams elude me.
When I was a child, I walked in my sleep. As an adult, I slept while awake. I walked, talked, ate, worked, unaware of my surroundings, unable or unwilling to see reality.
I tried different beds. They were too hard or too soft.
Alone, I always felt the pea.
Now I pray for the rolling crash of thunder, plead for a blessed sleep. I crave the joy of waking to the clean scent of a fresh world.
It’s not to be. Not today. Not tomorrow. Or next week.
I shift my pillow and picture a distant green morning.
She was a forward-motion girl. She never bothered to learn to walk as a baby. Instead, she stood up and ran.
Her thoughts began with “I can’t wait/stand/continue…” at least ten times a day. The rest of the time, she mentally hurried others along.
Now, life was all waiting. There was nothing else she could do, imprisoned by words on paper, a process playing out.
She was stuck in limboland while her fate was being decided. She wasn’t scared anymore, but she was tired.
Waiting is exhausting.
Maybe life was nothing but waiting. Hers had seemed to be.
Waiting for the first day of school. A driver’s license. A new job. A letter or an email to arrive. Approval.
Waiting for love.
Waiting for “go,” then running until “stop,” or until she collapsed, exhausted.
Maybe the problem was language. The French pass time. The English spend or kill it.
Yesterday, while waiting, she listened to an old man’s story about his youngest grandchild. His son and daughter-in-law had given up, stopped hoping for a miracle. Then, a pregnant young woman working in a dollar store had asked: “Do you know anyone who wants a baby?”
Maybe the trick was to stop waiting.
One dinner party, two couples, three bottles of wine.
A moonbeam shone on the balcony. They felt a slight shifting under their chairs and heard a quiet scraping sound, then the apartment slid out from the building and lifted away.
They floated over the city, looking at the lights and the people below. Only a Labrador on a leash noticed them.
The apartment sailed skyward over suburbs and across faraway open fields.
As they reached the heavens, the hostess opened the French doors to let the stars pass through the rooms. The light twinkled off the mirrors and glass tables.
On the balcony, the host discovered that he could captain their journey with sweeping gestures and gentle words.
“Port,” he said, leaning into the breeze with an orchestral flourish.
The cat curled up in a wicker chaise.
The host steered them to the glowing white surface of the moon. Landing on the shore of Lake Oka at the foot of the Havarti Hills, they cavorted and played for hours, sculpting, tasting, making moon angels.
When they grew tired and had eaten their fill, they crawled back over the balcony railing, laughing like children.
“Up,” said the host, and they drifted home on a tractor beam of light.
Back in the building, safely stowed, they tried to make plans for a flight the very next evening, but they couldn’t agree on a destination.
The women wished for Venus and the men wanted Mars.
The day she moved in, he developed a rash in an unmentionable place. The sex stopped then and there.
Later, he started breaking out in hives when she kissed him. That led to a lot of awkward flinching. Soon, kissing stopped, too.
In fact, everything stopped: ear nibbling, hand-holding, backrubs, footsies. You name it, it was off the list.
“You might as well face it,” he joked, “I’m allergic to love.”
For years, they sat on opposite sides of the TV room. She sprawled out on the couch, and he flopped in his easy chair, snoring by the second act of the movie.
Last Friday, she woke up at five and he wasn’t in bed. On her way to the bathroom, she passed the den, where he sat in front of his big 22-inch computer monitor. The size was a point of pride. He mentioned it often.
On the screen, a familiar woman’s face was contorted in orgasm.
He turned, stuffing his erection back in his gym pants. “It’s just a porn video,” he said, “It’s nothing.”
She knew better. She always had. She’d seen the breakouts, blotches and blistering skin.
An hour later, she came out of the bedroom with her packed bags. This time, all she could feel was sorry.
A Pinocchio-sized zit had popped up on his nose.
When she left, his computer was still turned on.