I met her on the shore one day. It was Fall and the days were retreating. But when our eyes met an eclipse took place—the Sun and Moon introduced each other for the first time.
"Why are you standing there, endlessly staring across the water?"
"I didn't think anyone noticed."
I don't know why I bothered. She was in my path as I went to the reading spot, a narrow sect of concrete on the edge of land and water.
"Besides," she said, "Why do you ask? I've seen you here before and you do the same thing." She stood there looking at me, her eyes like a ghost to another world.
"Maybe you want company."
She broke her stare, then looked at my feet. "I see you have a problem matching your socks."
"Not really—I do it because some days I don't give a shit about anything."
"It's how I bring my life into balance."
"By mixing your socks?" she said.
I could've explained but I didn't care to. Besides, the way she dressed gave her no advantage. She had on tight brown slacks—designer stuff, but topped it with a loose-fitting T-shirt. Not so loose that I couldn't see her nipples like rose buds pushing through a white sheet.
"Have it your way," I said, and turned to walk off.
I turned, looked and said, "are you?"
"Look, I was trying to be nice. You look like you're on the edge. Don't you know anyone?"
"Like people who take from you 'till they find someone else?"
A dog barked and a few blackbirds lifted from the tree nearby.
"Look, I don't know who took what. All I know is I'm here and you're there." It was the most honest thing I could say, existentialism. It answered nothing, and perhaps said everything.
"What makes you think you're any different?" she said.
"One wish, anything you like," I said.
"What do you mean."
"Precisely what I said. Think of one wish, knowing it'll come true."
"Can I wish for three more wishes?"
"No, just think about one —the ultimate wish if you knew for sure it would be granted."
She stalled. A minute went by. "I'll let you know in a few days," she said.
"I want to stop seeing you."
"But why, we've barely begun?"
"Because I've met someone else."
"But I thought... "
"I'm sorry, it has to be this way."
Mark said goodbye. And he knew there was no hope of conjugal visit down the road. She had met someone else.
Marina packed and moved into a small studio on Melrose. The front of the building looked out on a beautiful tree-lined boulevard. But her place was on the fourth floor--backside, and had an electric transformer hanging on a pole in the alley. It was just a place to sleep. It made no difference.
A call from Mark, wanting to know for sure. "Of what," she thought. How could he possibly understand. He didn't know when they were together, how could he possibly understand where she needed to go with herself.
"I'll never find anyone else like you," said Mark.
How many times had this happened. "You will, Mark. It's not meant to be. Try to accept it so both of us can move on." The telephone clicked and the curtains closed on the final scene of Mark.
After a fitful sleep the sun rose and she crawled off the mattress that lay in the center of the room. "The benefits of a studio," she thought. "where practically everything could be reached from the bed." Shower, juice, jeans, and shirt taken from the floor. One look at the transformer hanging outside, then she left, walking down the
"So, how'd it go."
"Fine, the usual."
"What's usual about ending things?"
"I should’ve known better, this time."
No more questions. I didn't care about her past. And I was beginning to care less about my own. The wind shifted and caressed us like Spirit rushing to a revival. Two strangers preparing for the same journey.
"I think time is place," she said.
"Explain," I asked.
"Each moment is different. And each place is set in time. So when the moment changes, so does the place. Nothing stays the same. It's impossible to visit the same place and have the same experience."
"But how does that relate to people?" I asked.
"You can't fall in love with what is, only what can be.
"Is that why you're with me?"
"I don't know. I just know I don't love what was...
Winter came and we embraced it, certainly enough to satisfy the interest of the friends we had. The part they ask about, however innocent, yet still the only thing they seemed to care about.
"I want to know why you're with me," she said abruptly.
"The death daggar," I thought. A no-win situation.
"Look, I like you a lot," I said.
"That's it, you like me a lot?" she asked.
I knew she wanted more, I knew. But I wasn't going to lay it out till I knew she was in the river. Too many failures, too much time getting over what should've been. It's not going to happen again, I told myself.
"Look, I like you very much," I said.
She turned around and walked off. I couldn't blame her. I did care. More than she knew. So I paid the penalty and spent the rest of the day wandering—not aimlessly, but doing routine without purpose. And made it to
evening before the depth of it set in.
"I'm sorry," the first words out of my mouth.
"You have to tell me," she said.
"Tell you what?" I asked.
"Don't be stupid," she said.
"I didn't do it," smiling shyly.
"Then who did?"
Both of us looked out the window and saw two socks hanging on the rusty brown transformer. One red, the other gray.
"It’s a Christmas tree," I said.
She laughed. We pulled to each other and it felt like the first time, though it wasn't. It was a different moment, and that changed everything.
A cab blew his horn—the rooster call to the cacophony that would continue all day. The smell started with the dumpster being upended into the goliath truck squeezed in the alley. The aura was always there, but the truck signaled attention and the mind took cue.
Two gay guys walking a dog in front of us on the sidewalk. A homeless woman crouched in a doorway. Girls in uniform walking to school. We passed a synagogue on the left with the Star of David above yellow oak doors.
"Give me a cup of Anywhere coffee," I said to the clerk.
"And I'll have tea—Jasmine" said Marina.
The fire roared in the pit and the place was filled with men wearing trendy attire. Too cold for tables outside, just stools around the inside, patrons taking their place, shuffling papers and looking cool.
"Why do you have to go," asked Marina.
"It's only a week. I'll call. I tried to get out of it but couldn't."
"But what if you didn't?"
"I might be out on the street next review. And I'm not ready for that just yet," I said.
"I hate it."
"I know. I don't relish the thought of a motel. When I get back we'll talk more about our plans--okay?"
"How’s the drawing coming along," I asked.
"Sold a few sketches to that shop I told you about. The one with the creep who looks at me through his dark glasses."
"Stay with it. You're good. And you need to do what you like.
"Come on, let's walk down to the museum district. It'll do us good," I said. "And maybe some inspiration for the next sketch."
He was not what I expected. He never was. And he treated me the same way. If I made him wait, he made me wait. He wasn't rude, he just insisted on going to the level I was on. It was frustrating. Like nature that would not be bridled.
The next few days I stayed busy, and the nightly phone call reminded me of red silk stretched during the day.
"Yes, yes...I'm okay. I miss you."
I hated it, the apartness. The lack of simple touch, and willed it to be over. I knew I was stronger than him, but it didn't matter who was strong, only the duration. And I cried for the first time.
"It's unknown why her eyes exude such confidence," said the curator as I looked at the Mona Lisa. "Thousands have looked and wondered...only she knows what it means."
A trip to the Field Museum had the same results. "This specimen is the oldest one on record," said the plaque. "That's good to know," I thought. "As if a thousand years meant anything in the scheme of things."
Living in the land of ghosts. Another day and I would return home.
On matters of love. I knew I loved her. But when I focused on her completely, I fell out of love with creation at large. There had to be another way. Perhaps, to fall in love with life itself. Then allow life to present itself in full splendor. Including Marina.
Another TV show I wasn't interested in. Click, click, and off. The business aspect of the trip went well. But here I am. Alone. I can only say that I owned the aloneness, completely.
"Fine, I'll take the sketch with the stick pushing up through the mud," said Marina. It was the ugliest damn thing I'd seen. But I wanted it—to remind me to stay clear of anything that resembled it.
Back to Melrose. And the ritual that kept me busy. It started with the mail. Then adjusting the levelor blinds to bring sunshine in. Now I know why my single friends had "tics." Quarky behavior they couldn't resist. It was the mind reaching for routine when novel was absent. The wanting of freshness and new, even succumbing to seeing the old through colored glass of wine, or anything else that presented a different hue.
Gray sky and winter set. A time of form and structure. The stem that holds the flower. The part not often seen in love.
A call from girlfriend Caitlan and news about her lesbian love. I adjusted the blinds one more time while I listened to her.
"I'm glad you met someone," I said. "But I don't understand."
"About what," said Caitlan.
"The part you mentioned earlier, about not liking yourself. Why?" I asked. "You're a beautiful person."
"I just can't smile at myself. I know, It's stupid," she said.
How weird I thought. The ancient stories, of falling in love with oneself while peering into a pool of water. The self-centered part. And the opposite—not able to look at all. Perhaps able to see oneself only in the beauty of another curvacious form. Beauty and love. The connection. And the madness.
"Caitlan, how does she feel about you? I asked.
"Fine. We're in love."
"With each other, or the part of you reflected in her?"
"Screw you. What difference does it make? What the hell do you know," she said.
"I'm sorry. You're right, what difference does it make."
More tense words like fire shared in a basket.
"Yes, next week. I'll set a reminder. The usual place. It'll be nice to see you," I said. "We'll get caught up on
I couldn't help but think of the difference it made. The stories of staring into water and smiling. Of fighting dragons. And the story that is seldom told. Or lived.
Back to the stick pushing out of the mud. I detested it. I am the anti- of whatever is.
The wheels touched down and I lunged forward in the seat. After pushing past the crowd I made it to the baggage area then grabbed the first cab in line. An hour later I was back at Melrose. She had insisted on meeting me at O'Hare. But I wanted the journey—both the start and the end to be something I could forget. Not wanting even her shadow in it.
"Keep the change," as the cab door slammed shut. I pushed the glass entry door inward with my foot then past the mailboxes set in the wall. Into the elevator and black oval 4, pressing it three times before the door shut. Only a few seconds more. I walked down the hall and heard Voglio Restare Cosi from Bocelli coming from the door. Sadness and beauty. She knew, and she waited as I asked.
The door opened. And day turned to dream with darkness ending. Two souls pressed. First to know self, then pressed to know each other. My wish—the one, it was this.
Slowly outer wrapping dropped. Face held tender, hand pushing gently through stranded hair. Love tone music rose and fell to a candle lit vision braided in air. Blue satin sheets on flesh held tight, a sail pulling gently into the night. Her beauty was the highest form, despising not a lower orm. Two branches on the tree of life entwined and thrust into ancient fire. Of passion steeped in love deep sorrow, song that reached both high and hollow.
The wish, where nothing else could follow…