Gone, but not forgotten.
Love You, forvever.
Missing Someone gone.
The Love is forever.
Gone, but not forgotten.
Love You, forvever.
Missing Someone gone.
The Love is forever.
I didn’t know I was quirky. I look enough like a certain kind of person, you know, to pass for normal. I’ve done my best all my life, to be that. Normal. And all I ever wanted, was a normal life.
It never was. Normal. I never was, either. I’m not sure what I think normal is anymore. I just never hit the mark.
Yet, the way I look, seem, speak, allows me to go and be where I want. At first glance, I am a certain kind of person, woman. I am well spoken, polite, pretty, and have a professional approach, while keeping things to the warm side. I am approachable. I make a point of fitting in, putting people at ease, and not startling them with any jarring differentness on my part. I like to be easy to be around. It opens many doors, affords me opportunity, makes me a friend if you want one. It’s not calculated, just the way I navigate the world. While I do seem to wear my heart on my sleeve, I don’t wear all of me there. I like the freedom of not deciding for you who I am to you, but letting you decide how much you want to know me. It’s ok with me if you like me only knowing a part of me. It’s not like it’s wrong. It’s just kind of up to you. In a way, I don’t want to limit myself.
I am accepted places I have a purpose in being. I don’t have a driving need to be accepted anywhere that requires me being idiosyncratic. For sure, I’ve done my best to downplay any weirdness of me. It makes people uncomfortable. It makes people put labels on you.
Here’s the thing. My differentness, it’s not hidden. It’s just not front and center. I don’t like to lead with it, make it enter the room before I do. It’s like a woman’s hair entering the room before she does. It’s all anyone will focus on, remember about you. There’s a little more to me than my “quirks”. Finding the common ground gives me the opportunity to get to know you, get something done, let you get to know me, before you get a picture gelled about just what I am; a picture made because I painted it for you. Like the woman with the hair walking into the room.
All that said, I wonder where and when my “quirkiness” has become apparent, when I’ve learned to be quiet about it. This week, I heard it on two separate occasions. Quirky. Different. Pioneering. Visionary. Various elaborations on that theme.
It was said like a compliment, a recognition of something good. Inside I cringed, just a little bit. I could only think of all the years I worked so hard to just fit in, lay low, not make myself a target and not be a challenge to anyone lest I offend them.
And not paint myself into a role I don’t want.
Another part of me heard the affection and admiration, the statement of appreciation in it that I did or had something “different” and that that was good.
Here’s some of what Merriam-Webster online says about “quirky”:
bizarre, bizarro, cranky, crazy, curious, eccentric, erratic, far-out, funky, funny, kinky, kooky (also kookie), offbeat, off-kilter, off-the-wall, outlandish, out-of-the-way, outré, peculiar, quaint, queer, queerish, quirky, remarkable, rum [chiefly British], screwy, spaced-out, strange, wacky (also whacky), way-out, weird, weirdo, wild
aberrant, abnormal, addlepated, flaky; extraordinary, fantastic (also fantastical), freak, freakish, freaky, phantasmagoric (or phantasmagorical), phenomenal; atypical, rare, singular, uncommon, uncustomary, unique, unusual, unwonted; conspicuous, notable, noticeable, outstanding, prominent, salient, striking; atrocious, outrageous, shocking; crotchety, idiosyncratic, nonconformist, nonmainstream, out-there, unconventional, unorthodox; baffling, bewildering, confounding, mystifying, perplexing, puzzling
I’m not sure how I feel about this….
About the only thing that makes me feel ok about it is when I read this-
average, commonplace, everyday, garden, normal, ordinary, prosaic, routine, run-of-the-mill, standard, typical, unexceptional, unremarkable, usual, workaday; conformist, conservative, conventional; expected, familiar, knee-jerk, predictable; common, customary, frequent, habitual, regular, wonted
I guess I’ll take being the opposite of those…
A good friend once told me “If I were you, I’d wear it like a fucking CROWN.”
He was speaking about my “differentness.”
I couldn’t have thought of anything that sounded more uncomfortable.
Maybe I’ve changed.
I still don’t want to wear it like a crown. Not literally. I like my freedom, even if it doesn’t seem like freedom to some people. I still want to be able to move through the world wherever I see fit, for me, without assigning a label or a character to myself by being “different.” I’m not in a box. I sure don’t want anyone putting me in one based on a picture I gave them.
But yeah, maybe I’ve changed. A little.
How about you? If you’ve ever been considered “different”, and it wasn’t what you were trying to be, did it feel good? Or did you say, “I’m not sure how I feel about this…”?
Maybe you had the alarm go off inside you, the one that said “Beware! They’re on to you. Now you’re in for it!” Maybe you worried that you might be cast in a role; “The Different One.” It happens; it happened to me, long ago. I wanted some room to be, whatever. No one wants to play the same part, over and over, like there’s nothing else. They call that typecasting in the movies, and it’s kind of a dead end. People need to name things, and they’ll name you too, sometimes.
Quirky. It was said affectionately, admiringly. But that little cringe was there when I heard it. The small voice inside that warned, so long ago, “Don’t be different.”
The words begin while I sleep. Sometimes the volume climbs until I cannot turn away, until I wake, scared and breathless. If I can’t trick the voices into silence first. If I can’t hear them coming before they get too loud. If I don’t have time to turn up the music and color I might be dreaming just then. This is why they catch me in my sleep. They have time to slither in, to make me look, to hear, to get my attention, before I know to tell them, “Be gone.”
Once I awake, they win, and they climb in speed and in their insistence to be heard, their sheer numbers, all saying something different, all demanding attention, and yet all saying some version of the same thing. Yammering, a cacophony of warnings, reprimands, condemnations. Be afraid, they tell me. It’s all up to you, they say; only you can fix all this.
But I cannot.
I sit with shaking hands then, and I pray. I call to the God I know, in all his glory, to put his covering on me and every single thing I see, touch, know, hold. I ask to see what is real, for my eyes to be healed from the pictures the voices conjure, pictures that are not true, but made to convince me I am lost, alone, crippled forever.
I ask for forgiveness for doubting, for hiding, for hating my truths, for buckling in the face of those voices and the world itself that tells me I am wrong. Wrong to believe, wrong to love, wrong to follow my dreams and my heart and my soul. Forgiveness for believing the torment, the words of the voices and the world.
It is only a torment when I stop believing the real truth, when I doubt.
I am not crazy. I don’t really think there are voices that tell me what to do, that tell me I am doomed, defective, unworthy; that tell me there’s no point in going on because the same things will always happen and I know I cannot bear a lifetime of that. They tell me that too; that I could never stand up to a lifetime of what I’ve already seen.
Everything they say, has a piece of truth in it. That’s the hard part, the reason I hear it at all. The voices; I know they are a part of me, the doorways to my brain and heart and soul that anything and anyone can use to crush me.
Everybody knows that the best lies, insults, threats, always have a little bit of the truth to them, even if they’re mostly lies. That would still make them lies. We, I, don’t have to listen. But it’s awful hard sometimes.
So, I thank him, for the power to say, “No.” I will not listen, I will not be defeated, I will not give in, give up, give out, and I will not be denied. And I swear, he hears me, he restores me, when I think I cannot go on again. He lifts me, when I think I will just lay down, and stop getting up. He heals my eyes, and I see the red tailed hawk that crosses my path each time I am here again; the night hunting owl, that shows herself, the recognition in the stranger’s eyes, the coincidence of the same song being played, almost uninterrupted, all the places I go. A seemingly meaningless thing, just for me. I see, I hear. I say, “Yes.” and I thank him. My heart soars, and I am grateful to feel, to know.
The things I see, hear, they are a blessing. Or are they a burden, a curse? They seem invisible, silent; only I know. They are undeniable, deafening, only I can decide. Blessing, or curse? But I can never say they don’t exist.
Posted in In Their Words, Musings, Prose, tagged Doc Rini, forgiveness, Grief, In Memoriam, Love, memories, Music, Passion, pedal steel guitar, Personal Journey on September 24, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
“I want to leave something behind when I go.
So they’ll know I was here.” -Darryl “Doc” Rini
The Palomino Club 1987
Billie Jo wore my boots that night, the black and blue Tony Llama’s. Because they went with the dress. I know that’s right, because she borrowed the dress from me, too.
For some reason the three of us were in the parking lot, between two parked cars. Her boyfriend held up a beach towel and played look out. I was a lot more nervous than she was; she was never very shy at all.
They had dressing rooms, didn’t they? I’m sure they did. But for some reason we were out there. Then she was in my dress and we swapped boots and earrings and she was ready to go.
Billie Jo was a coworker and a friend; that’s why I was there. Oh, and I like music. I liked Billie Jo’s voice and I liked her. But I never liked “Country”, to say it nicely. At this point I was unaware there was such a thing I could ever like. I plead ignorance. I was still learning that good music is good music, period.
So I simply went to see my friend play, and hang out at The Palomino. And, yeah, there was that outfit.
Billie Jo played and sang and growled and purred, and it was a good show with a good crowd. Whatever my taste in music, I could appreciate her talent and I enjoyed myself enough. It wasn’t until the last song her band played that I began to see things a bit differently.
Truthfully, I can’t remember what the song was at all, though it may have been one of Billie Jo’s originals. It was a driving, rockin’ number that made me think of fast trains, and if I’d have had someone with me or been a little less shy back then, I’d have been on the dance floor. But things got even better when the steel player took over the song and made it his own.
She’d already introduced the players a few numbers back, and it was Darryl “Doc” Rini on pedal steel guitar who was now setting his instrument on fire. I had never seen anyone play like that before, and I fully expected to see something combust, or melt. I couldn’t do anything but sit still and watch until he was finished several minutes later, awash with sweat. And then I was still absorbing it.
I’d seen plenty of players give their all to playing, and I love to watch people do whatever they do well, when they really love what they do. But Doc had that extra something so many wish to have. Passion. And the ability to make you have it too. He gave that passion a voice, and the voice came through the steel. Until those moments, I’d had no idea anyone could do that playing Country Western music.
I was pretty close to the stage, and I tried to watch the finger picks he wore, but they flew and his hands were just a blur. For all I knew his hands were performing some feverish and ancient magic ritual. He was sweating more than I thought was possible for someone sitting down. Of course, he was working hard and likely in some kind of altered state. I was transfixed. I realized my mouth was open.
He’d seemed to teeter just on the edge of losing control, and you know, he never did lose it. Not a stumble. I imagined smoke rising from the steel when he finished that solo. I tasted ashes, and still he played on. I thought about the fire hose on the wall, and I know that’s corny. I wondered how many people were in the club. It seemed like there were suddenly a lot more people, and it was awful hot in there with all the bodies. Things felt dangerous, and I was looking towards the front door, wishing for air.
Before I can think about how to get there, his face is before me, words falling from his lips. Cowboys and bikers, tourists and squealing girls all making sounds like a boiling soup of noise; my head is ringing from his long train-robbing solo. It sounds like stampedes in my head and I can’t hear a word he says, but his eyes are a piercing blue and they bore down into my soul like deep water pouring into me, and I don’t look away like I usually do. I admit, I can be cold that way, and who has not been approached in a bar and it’s really nothing special. And then there’s that look again like fire and blue water together, so I smile, and say “Pardon?” and dip my head a little closer. I still can’t hear. The third time my ear ends up just about where his lips are and I know this voice is the smoothest thing I could ever feel at all and I feel the heat of it when he says in one easy breath, like it’s the first time “You’re a very pretty girl”. When I look up, those eyes look the same as they did, no different, and I see what I later will forget. The same thing I saw when I watched him play.
One day I’ll look back and remember it was never really gone, just hidden lest he burn himself up on normal days.
We’ve had fun, no doubt. I can’t really say how long it’ll last, because it won’t really end in the usual sense. I’ll just go and do other things after a time. I’m living the five minutes of my life where I just won’t be pinned down. At the same time, I do have a way of getting my back up about a guy not telling me how he feels about me. I figure he’s had enough time to know, and he knows how to speak.
But that really isn’t his language, at least not yet. He speaks through the steel, and sometimes, through his eyes. Whatever the reason, I’ll wander off finally.
While we are here, he makes me laugh. He has a wicked sense of humor that covers nearly everything from his coworkers to the five or six leaks in this Hollywood Hills roof. I know he has a deformed and less than prestigious car that he never complains about but gives a pet name to that cracks me up, every time.
While we are here, he plays the steel for me when I can get him to, in this place in the Hills that leaks rainwater on the bed. He doesn’t like an audience when he practices, when he pushes himself, perhaps because it’s the only time he doesn’t feel in control. But he does let me be one, sometimes. I enjoy it even more than watching him perform. I get to see the real thing.
While we are here, I will tell him the one thing I know, that he was born to play that pedal steel, and is really here to be heard. I believe this of him more than I believe most things, and I tell him so whenever I can.
He looks like a young John Heard with a smile like the Cat that ate the Canary. A hiccup easily missed that floats out a feather here and there. I sit in the bed watching The Headbangers Ball on the TV until the feathers stop and the snoring starts, and wonder just what it is we have in common. And I know there’s only one thing, and it’s something neither one of us can name or even see. We’re both watching the sky and the dark and the strings for it, but it is elusive and multicolored. And while it makes you dance like bullets when it’s aimed at your feet, it hides in alleys when you ask it yourself, to dance.
What I’ve fallen in love with is the theme music to our story. And it will always take me there, just like this. It will forever make me know exactly who this man is, just like the first time. But I’ll stop listening, because it’s time to go. In too many years to remember why, I’ll finally remember what it sounded like when it became a part of me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Billie Jo, but like I imagined, she isn’t hard to find. She looks the same with that long blond hair and the quick smile and she’s playing and singing wherever she lands. I’m glad to see her, but she says “Doc’s got cancer.”
I don’t know this, and wonder why I don’t. “It’s in his brain.”
She asks me to call him and I am surprised when she says, “I really think you should.” Should I really?
Here’s where things start to get hard for me, where I stop knowing how to tell the rest of the story, the end of the story. Because there really isn’t one.
He’d had brain surgery and been recovering a while. He has me helpless within minutes with his humor that is so Darryl-nothing sacred, completely irreverent, yet steeped in a touching and self-effacing insight that is crystal clear. I cry tears of laughter, and of sympathy. But mostly we laugh.
His immediate recovery from surgery was brutal I think, and was graced with what he referred to as a male Nurse Ratchet. Nurse Ratchet reportedly thrust a mirror into Darryl’s hands right out the gate and said, “You might as well get used to it.” With a shaved and swollen head full of staples, he said he wasn’t ready. I myself might need to get used to the thought of it for a day or two before looking, but Darryl did look, and his first sight of himself brought Frankenstein’s monster to mind.
At least this is the story he told me, and I laughed ‘til I cried, and then just cried.
Later, I received beautiful letters from him, revealing the Darryl I never knew. I don’t know what ever happened to those letters, but I wish I had them now. I’d known Doc in his day, but Darryl was someone I only suspected, now and then when I heard him play.
Not so very long ago I learned Darryl was gone by “the late-‘80’s”. I don’t know why I ever imagined maybe he wasn’t. I’ve not known of many brain cancer survivors that have lived a long time. And it had been a long time. I suppose I hoped, and didn’t want to think about the obvious too much. I’d shut a door and moved to another planet; I couldn’t, wouldn’t keep the connection I had with him. And I suppose once I’d seen those letters he wrote, I could have never again seen him as that smooth talker in snakeskin boots who’d run me over in The Palomino. I knew more. I loved him more as a friend than I ever could have as a lover. And that was far more dangerous than some man in snakeskin boots. So I stepped far to the side. And we just slipped away.
A while back I happened across the wonderful Garrison Elliott [also known as Bert], who knew Doc well. Upon hearing from me, Bert very graciously sent me everything he had of Doc on recording, including his own music. Not only am I pleased to become acquainted with the talented and kind Bert, but I will always be grateful to him for giving me a part of Doc that will never die. He cannot know what a gift he gave me.
When I received those tracks, it took me a while to play them. I guess I knew I would be with the “real” Darryl again, even if only in spirit. And since I never got to say goodbye, I wasn’t sure if I was ready.
The music made me cry. I was totally unprepared. I didn’t know I cared that much, or that I would know the sound of him so quickly, like he was in the room with me. I listened for a long time, cried, laughed, and clapped my hands. I even heard him talking in a bantering intro, and I cracked up like I always did. He was something else, and that’s when I really remembered why I’d liked him so much in the first place.
Bert thought so much of Doc’s playing, he salvaged original tracks by Doc on steel from the ‘80’s, and has given us the simply beautiful “Rainy Day Serenade” to which Bert gave his perfect and restrained vocal. In my opinion, it is a stunning tribute to the subtlety and passion Doc was capable of. This is not the firestorm of picking I remember and know, but the song is a quiet beauty.
“I want to leave something behind when I go.
So they’ll know I was here.” Darryl really did say those words. And yes, the second part always came out funny, I don’t know why. Even though you knew he meant it. And he did.
Thank you Bert.
“Darryl was deep as the sea.”-Garrison Elliott
I began writing this a few years ago. Before the time I began to say I was stuck and couldn’t write, that I had something to say and couldn’t say it, couldn’t string my thoughts together, and far before the time of just not having time to write.
I could not finish it.
The truth is, I didn’t know what the ending was. The “ending” was something I didn’t know, and didn’t wish to face, and was an ending much more difficult to deal with than the simple ending of a relationship. That had been easy. I walked away. While I didn’t really know that he was gone, I didn’t need to have an end.
The real ending came from Bert. He had what Doc left behind, so we’d know he was here. The ending is that he’s still here after all. He left his music with us, and our memories. He was The Doctor, after all.
Rest in peace, Darryl.
Till death do us part.
But what if one parts before then?
Do you die, so you can make it right? So you don’t have to break a vow?
Life goes on—that’s the brutal fact you just can never get around, not alive anyway. It did for me, no matter how long I grieved. It went on around me, while I felt dead. I wanted to be dead. Still, it went on.
I lived, and found out one can’t live and not be alive. Least I can’t. So, I began to live, tired of dying.
I didn’t replace you. I found a new life, a new love. Something more than what I was missing, and finally I didn’t miss it anymore. I didn’t miss you. I didn’t want what I’d had.
What I had missed was what I’d thought we’d had, cruelly ripped away from me with a scar put in it’s place. A scar everyone could see. A scar of ugly self hate, slow to heal at all, festering with the delusion that I was deserving of the abuse you gave. But what we really had was just a chapter in a story—your story, made up along the way to fit your needs. Your needs, disguised as ours. You lied about that more than anything else, and you lied about almost everything.
You left me with a sawed off stump, my amputated ego hanging by shreds of aching skin.
In the words of an old song we’ve both heard, “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog” the way you treated me.
The magnitude of raw hurt I felt for years may have made it difficult for me to trust again, to really love and give myself to anyone. But it didn’t mean I wouldn’t, eventually. I did.
Till death do us part.
But you see, that died; I died, who you were to me died. I grieved, died, lost another chunk of myself here and there as time went on—the old rotting illusion of our marriage would shrivel and fall away, just drop off in chunks whenever I least expected. New little deaths, over and over. And by the time they finally all fell off I was so sick of the disease of them that I wanted them to go, even while it was still painful to let them go. And it usually was. Pieces of my identity went along. My belief system went along. My hope went along. And my ability to fall in love went along as well. So I imagined.
But know something here; I wasn’t really dead. Only pieces and parts of me, the pieces that you could still touch, the pieces you’d told me were me. Well, they’re not me.
I’ve spent some time backtracking, walking parallels of paths I took after you left me broken and bleeding. I didn’t set out to follow these old times, more they came to me, and called me out. Only after the fact can I see that they did so because I was finally ready to give all of myself to someone. It was necessary to see where I’d been since you changed how I saw love. And it was shocking how many wrong turns I made just trying to distance myself from what happened. Just trying to heal.
I visited those old spaces, places, loves, and found quickly that whatever stray parts of me were still laying about lost fit handily in a basket, nothing more than I could carry, although the basket seemed really large at the time. Later when I picked up the basket, it felt small and looked hardly a thing to hold so much woe, yet it was the same basket. And it was easily set down.
Finally one day all those stray, misshapen, fallen apart pieces, they were all gone. The little basket was just empty. I felt naked, and surprisingly light. Uncertain, too young to be the age that I am, I stepped up to my life. And love was waiting for me. I didn’t know I was waiting for it too. Sometimes we have to die a little, in order to really live. Life goes on. Life begins anew.
There are blank spots. Certainly I don’t remember everything. The memories I do have are sometimes murky, shadowed. And some are sharp as broken glass. The sharpest ones I live with, like I lived with the sliver of Coke bottle near my wrist for so many years; not visible, not painful, but just “there” where it shouldn’t be. Considering trying to get out.
One day, so many years a part of me, the sliver decided to leave my body, or at least begin to. Now that might have been a little painful. There was some swelling, and eventually, a bit of a point emerged. I think it freaked me out more than anything. Glass put there by an event so very long past, and now so unreal, I could not get comfortable with the hard evidence of what might otherwise seem easy to deny, or at least ignore, and pretend to forget.
The time came when the sliver protuded enough that it had to come out. I was able to extract it with tweezers, still imagining it might be something besides what it was. Glass. Glass that could only be there by the force that put it there.
The sliver was long, sharp, and clean as a whistle. I had perfect vision then and took a good long look at it. I marveled at the way it had suvived in my flesh in one piece for so many years, and at it’s size. Just huge. It was really impressive. I turned it over several times, pondered it’s origin, and then saved it somewhere now long lost to me. I know eventually I disposed of it. I knew it would be too ironic to find it poked into myself again by forgetting where I’d hidden it. Just because I needed to look at it for a while, didn’t mean I had a wish to hang onto it. So away it went.
A quart sized Coca Cola bottle; they used to make them that way; all glass, and heavy. The bottoms were thick.
I never saw it coming, and don’t remember raising my hand to my head to protect it, and yet I did just that. The part of my hand injured showed such. It didn’t happen some other way. But I never saw it and I never felt a thing. And then again, maybe the memory is just gone or never was there at all. Shock can make things that way.
Another sliver has considered now moving, perhaps is even ready for the tweezers. For all I know it has just passed clean out of me, I don’t really know. But for so long it was “just there”. If I ever spoke of it I did in monotone, matter of fact. I would at least register the look on another’s face and note either horror or disbelief and occasional simple confusion. I learned to say nothing. I suppose not everyone shrugs off the news that someone they know has survived a terror, and most don’t want to know. For most people, it’s only interesting in the movies.
I don’t remember everything. The memories I do have are sometimes murky, shadowed. And some are sharp as broken glass. The sharpest ones I live with, like I lived with the sliver. Not painful, just “there”. The murky ones, they’re the ones that bring the shadows. I didn’t think they had slivers, until now. I can’t see them when they come out, “long, sharp, and clean as a whistle.” But I feel them moving, emerging. Why does it sometimes take so long? When I no longer need to remember, why is it time now? Truly, I am okay. I don’t care if I ever remember more, and don’t really want to. If a sliver is fine where it is, why try to dig it out? I put myself through all that long ago, and finally understood that it’s okay if I can’t remember, it’s ok to live with a sliver. If the sliver’s a problem, it will let you know…and may just emerge on it’s own when it’s ready.
After all this time, I guess another piece of glass must leave me.
Posted in Fiction, Musings, tagged addiction, Beauty, betrayal, Broken Spirit, Darkness, fear, heartache, heartbreak, Hope, Horror, Love, Passion, Personal Journey, predator, redemption, Secrets, shadows, Sorrow, terror, Waiting on May 16, 2011 | 2 Comments »
You see now. I didn’t know it would be like this. Who in their right mind would have ever taken it on had they known?
I didn’t know the thing would follow me here. I thought I was safe from its nose, always sniffing the wind and watching for movement, any movement. I hid in plain sight and moved slowly, so as not to call attention. After awhile, it had been so long I assumed I was forgotten. Wouldn’t you have? Years went by and the signs all pointed to the same thing-I was safe. No longer a hunted thing, of no particular interest to the one who watched.
What would you have done? I couldn’t stop living forever.
Man, was I wrong. Of course I was wrong. These things don’t forget, they never just quit. That would be like losing and one thing’s for sure, winning is everything. I’d given up the idea of that long ago, had settled for survival, but then I’d gotten tired of that and reached for something more.
I guess I forgot myself and who I’d been. I bought into the idea that freedom was my birthright, once I’d had a good taste of it myself. And you know, it is. But dance with the Devil just once, and you might have a hard time ever convincing him and his ilk that you are your own, ever again. They wait.
I’d danced to that darkness once, alone I thought, but of course I was not alone when my eyes opened in that dark. The thing was right there beside me, his hand sliding up my dress. It reminds me now of the one time I fell asleep at the wheel and eyes open, drove clear off the road. I guess I’d have to say I wasn’t really asleep, but in a kind of hypnosis. Leaving the road, I willed myself back at the last moment, but found it hard to resist the sweet slide to oblivion. Like the overwhelming urge to sleep, the drift insisted that I just let go.
The dance was the same-a demand to let go and just drift where it took me. Kind of hard to explain now, but if you know what I mean then there’s no need anyway. Once you’ve felt it you need no description. The only sane reaction is to jerk yourself away before being swallowed by a tree or embankment or the devastation of a car wreck. Sometimes there’s no going back fast enough, and it’s too late. Me, I’d just get the willies whenever I thought about how close I’d come.
Ah, but enough of my mixed up analogies. The point is, I got away with my life and after the heart-pounding stopped I was really careful for a while. A long while, in fact. Eventually I got braver and took some risks. I wasn’t such a secret. I let the world in. I bought a business and one day had a business card and then I was on TV and everybody knew my name. Well, I know it wasn’t everyone, so what could the harm be? No one was watching anymore, right?
Besides, the name wasn’t quite the same name then, and who watched the local news channel but local people?
It started with the one I called Cowboy. He materialized beside me in the quiet part of the day, and left me the sound of spurs though he wore no boots. Afterwards, I went about my business, focused on the work, and tried not to think about it too much.
A month or so later, when I’d nearly forgotten, I found myself in conversation with a young man who wore mirrored shades like that other. A different guy altogether, so I’d thought. At some point I realized he’d just stopped talking altogether and was staring deep into my eyes. I felt a lurch in my stomach and a chill when I knew I’d stared right back. Not out of any kind of man-woman thing on my part, but like a rabbit stays still when finally cornered, staring at certain death. The young man breathed in time with me, then smiled wide and showed a pointed tooth. I almost fell backward and wanted to run but could not.
“You have a nice day now, Ma’am” was all he said then, not breaking eye contact, and slowly backed up before turning away and showing me that he walked on hooves.
Was I imagining this? Had my mind finally broken? I most certainly had done some damage to myself somewhere, what with the life I’d once led. Maybe I’d finally lost my grasp on reality.
But I knew it wasn’t true. Things were insane, this was insane, but it was real. I was going to have to deal with it; somehow I was going to have to find a way to not go crazy.
I did what I did the first time. I went back to work. I smiled, made money, looked like I was supposed to look. I looked good. At least good enough to look like I belonged where I was.
Summer came. I’d always liked summer best. Everything’s more relaxed and I’m not cold all the time. I like driving, and I like to put the window down. I didn’t miss the bad weather. I’d been out looking for treasures and trying to keep cool, and my guard was down, like before.
He wasn’t there when I pulled into that gas station. And I know the sound of a Harley Davidson as well as I know anything. But then he was there, astride the big hog, across the drive from me. He was next to the gas pump, though I knew he wouldn’t get any gas. And he was grinning.
His voice came across silky smooth and honeyed in my ear, while he still sat grinning across from me without saying a word.
“Yes” I smiled. Why was I smiling? I knew it was wrong, but I was scared so I smiled. Girls are dumb that way.
“Why don’t you get out of that truck and come have a seat? We’ll go for a ride.” The warmth dripped off him in waves.
“No thank you” I whispered. The sound of his voice filled my head. His lips hadn’t moved but for the smile. I looked towards the highway and stared, cold all over though it was at least 100 degrees. Maybe I could just drive away and not get stopped for taking the gas nozzle with me. It was taking forever.
Now he was in my face, still on the silent bike. His face was in my window. How had he gotten so close?
“Just get on.” Grinning. A tiny fleck of saliva at the corner of his smile.
I don’t know if I said no, if I whispered it, screamed it, or only thought it. It didn’t matter; he could hear me and he could smell my fear. Still his smile could melt butter.
This time I’d said it aloud and I wasn’t smiling; I’d said it strong.
He tilted his head like a beguiling child might, all charm and wistfulness, even looked a little hurt, and said “Well Honey, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Yeah, I do” my mind spoke. And like that, he was in my ear again, only this time it hurt, each word like a blow; “Get. On. The fucking bike.” I turned towards the right, the passenger side, the side my ear was hurting on, and he said there from the seat, “Last chance.”
I didn’t know what it meant, what last chance I drove away from, but I watched him ride off away from me too, heard the bike’s roar, at the same time he spoke from the passenger seat. A tail brushed the gearshift and I flailed at it in terror, a live snaking thing that didn’t belong there. And then there was nothing there at all, no one beside me now. And no one was watching and no one had seen a thing. I could hear the bike circling the block and wondered if he would come back for me. I knew no one would think a thing if he came back and cornered me, not in this neighborhood. But I also knew he didn’t have the need; he’d made his point. He’d find me.
So, you see. I would never have started this had I known it would come. I really did believe I was safe. I’d survived the dance and got really strong but I never guessed at what didn’t get undone. And I knew I had to stop waiting, it was crazy to keep waiting when that shit had all stopped for so long. It was time to start living again. What I didn’t know was that IT waits, and can outwait me.
I’m sorry I dragged you into this. I really wish I could pretend it wasn’t happening, but I’d be lying. Maybe if we stood together I’d have a chance, but I wouldn’t blame you if you split. Knowing what I know, I would.
Then again, you haven’t left me yet. Maybe it’ll get tired of chasing me after all. And maybe, just maybe, Ill be stronger than I think.
Posted in Fiction, tagged Apparition, Beauty, Cowboys, Darkness, Devil, Green Manalishi, Love, Personal Journey, Peter Green, predator, Scars, shadows, Soul, Spook, Temptation, Trickery on May 28, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
Afterwards I was never quite sure how he got in.
I mean, I know how he got in, but I never saw him enter. I was alone, and then suddenly I was not, and he there at my elbow. Too close, too swiftly, like an spook. He seemed to change location without need of walking. Not there, then there. Close and almost overlapping, but strangely at a distance.
He had a definite physique, in fact I noticed because it seemed made of hard sinew, and that was clear despite the long sleeves and collar buttoned up tight. But I had a strange sensation of water or vapor as he stood near, and something else I couldn’t put my finger on; something that fogged my mind and called to mind a Peter Green song, Green Manalishi. Absurd. This guy was a cowboy.
He had the graceful stride and seat of a horseman, and a very slight bowlegged stance. He wasn’t wearing boots, and why would he be? He wasn’t on a horse, just shopping, just looking. I could tell at a glance anyway. The man had it in his blood, not his boots. He would not be scraped off easy, if he had a mind not to be.
In a million years I could not tell you what his face looked like, yet I would know him again, without knowing why. I think I’ve known of him all my life and this moment was just proof of it. He knew me too, although he never admitted it. Just kept playing that tune in my head, and talking, talking, until I wasn’t sure what he was saying.
There was one moment where I was clear, and it only came because I realized that what he’d said was a plea. Words, lists, delivered so matter-of-factly, nonchalantly even, with a Devil May Care tone, which is what waved the red flag.
He was working me! Intoning a code so subtly ingrained on me in another life, one I’d long left behind, but one he had certainly not forgotten. He’d been only waiting, biding time. And the time was now.
I jerked my head back towards his voice and saw a shimmer. The dark glasses had never come off, obscuring information I needed to stay present and in myself. They met his cheekbones and never moved or shifted but seemed part of his face. The longer I looked, the more they seemed the face itself, until I realized there was no face at all. I sucked in my breath, mouthing a scream.
Suddenly the focus snapped and he was just a cowboy again. What had I been thinking? He was talking again, using actual human words, and even laughed once. I shook away the cold I felt, then realized that no, I was actually hot, my skin prickly from the heat. I thought of the desert, and of fire. I saw him lick his lip, curling it. He was so very polite, but I imagined a fang there.
For just a moment he had made me feel sorry for him, had moved me to tears with his litany of woes. He’d almost made me touch him in some blind need to comfort, to ease the agonized hunger, the need he brought. Need that would never be filled, no matter who touched him.
I closed my eyes, telling myself my own name, remembering.
“Goddamn, are you listening?”
“No” I thought, opening them. And he was gone. I never saw him leave. And I know it’s funny, but I heard his spurs across the room.
“We’re not fancy people.” she said. Opened the door wide to me while following my gaze to the yard.
The “yard” was dirt, mud proper. Chickens pecked and scratched, played their chicken dramas out with one another. Somewhere I could hear a goat in the mix, and that seemed fitting.
“Looks like home.” I replied with a smile.
“Come on in and sit down a while. I’ve got the coffee on.” And she looked me in the eye, plain faced and spoken. I knew already that I liked her.
We must have talked for an hour before I got down to looking at the things I came there for. Red glass she wanted to part with. I saw no need, but pulled each piece from its box anyhow, barely checking. I knew it was all as she’d said—perfect. I’d already paid her and wouldn’t have changed my mind. After all, she’d provided high quality pictures and had described each piece in detail.
She’d left the price to me. That was a new concept and one I did not wish to abuse. She’d contacted me and I wanted to play this right. I’d paid her a fair price, even told her she could get more if she chose to sell them herself, piece by piece.
It had been a long drive. I gratefully took the cup of steaming brew and cradled my hands around it, almost burning them. My bones were cold. It was one of those damp to the soul, chilly Northwest days, gray and close. Her home was a little haven on the muddy lane.
There were birds in cages that sang a storm when she spoke to them, pictures of family everywhere, and two very happy small dogs that fell in love with me at first sight. My guess was they did so with everyone, but I chose to take it personally. For the moment, I was the best and most exciting thing they had ever seen.
The coffee was not the deep and dark strain I live on, but a poorer woman’s coffee, a store brand that came in a can. I took another sip and thought she’d maybe put some magic in it, because it hit the spot so well—just what I needed. The chill left me and we communed over the simple drink, ten years between us and we worlds apart, yet strangely akin.
As I touched the red glass my eye wandered throughout the kitchen where we sat at a plain wood table. There in a glass front cabinet I saw her treasures, mostly worth far less than the pieces I inspected. And I knew she didn’t care, that these were the stories of her life and of her children’s. Mementos and gifts, each somehow connected to a special time or person. The red glass would have been beautiful displayed in the cabinet—the only place available for “fancy” things. But it was useless to her there. She already had everyday dishes to eat from, and she kept that display only for her most loved things. Red glass was better suited for cash to buy gas, gas that would go to the septic truck they worked with. They were struggling like everybody, and times were tough. Work comes first.
Still, I don’t think it bothered her at all to sell the glass. It was just “things”.
I learned a lot about Mary while I was there. She had a husband who seemed a good man, whose first thoughts were to carry my boxes and load them for me. She had a young daughter who minded her Mama, at least in front of company. And another, grown daughter who couldn’t meet me that day due to a flare of her illness. I learned that the illness had taken the daughters father, two uncles and a grandfather, and that it caused organ failure and stroke. Daughter was thirty years old and had suffered two strokes already. She was in bed today.
I listened to this information, seeing there was no self pity, no drama in the telling, but a matter of fact accounting of why the otherwise unthinkable was occurring—an offspring of hers not greeting company.
I learned that my new friend had been married for years to another man, an alcoholic who hit her often, until she summoned the courage and conviction to leave.
I saw that she was happy, but humble, and found myself admiring of her gentle spirit, her absolute lack of bitterness.
Her mother arrived with mail in hand, a daily tradition they kept regardless of all else. “Mother brings the mail everyday, and then we have dinner.”
Mother was on oxygen, but moved and observed like a bird, her quick movements belying her age and condition. She engaged me in a story of yet more glass, glass she’d collected one piece at a time, lifetimes ago, by filling up her gas tank. One free piece per fill up. She still had it all. I knew she was eager to show it to me, and she lived on the same lot as Mary, but I resisted the impulse to ask to see it.
It was time to go and I knew I shouldn’t draw it out any longer. Dark was coming, and these people needed dinner. So did I and so did the animals back home.
Mary stood and she told me, “I’m a hugging person. I hope you don’t mind.” and she put her soft arms around me. She was silent, feeling, holding the part of me that saw her and knew who she was. She did not let go, but stood this way for a time. I knew she smiled, though I couldn’t see her face. When I finally could, she said, “I hope to see you again.” Looked me in the eye, plain faced and spoken.
I went on then, drove through the wet and the falling night, drove to my own humble home. When I finally got there, I saw the smoke rising from the flue, the golden light of the window. I heard the dogs barking, then saw the biggest one wagging furiously on the porch like I’d been gone a week. For another moment, I am the best and most exciting thing ever seen.
I am wearing my favorite coat, the one that makes me look like a rock star and never fails to bring comments, even strangers touches. I hang the coat in the closet and pull off my favorite vintage boots. One arm into my old Carhartt, I see my thundering, bumbling four legged children heading my way, mud and slobber flying, and I pull on the beat up boots I live in before they can get to me. They are not respecters of go to town clothes.
I clap my hands and call my big girl Bubba, because it’s funny, and the boy I tell a little rhyme to with his name in every line. He always seems to get a real kick out of this. They fawn and lean and wap their tails on my legs ‘til it hurts too much and I have to send them away. They leave their spit on my pants, but it’s time to change anyway.
There is a smile in this house, and food that is hot on my favorite plate. Here are my own treasures, my most loved things, and the ones who know me. Here are my stories, my secrets, my promises, and here are the things I won’t part with. Here are my flannel pajamas, the cookie jar I won’t sell for seven hundred dollars, the chipped china bowl on the shelf with a story no one knows but me. Here is the man who believes in me, even while not understanding me, and here is the land he’s fought to keep for us, covered in dips and puddles and mud. Here are the oversized dogs who love us, protect us and drool on us, and their oversized beds, cluttering up the floor. And here is the deal—the red glass is not for me either, but a means to an end. My treasures.
I see the mud on my boots, and I know if I ever build a house, there will be no carpets. Just nice wood floors, the kind you can clean. Grinning, I see muddy paws and rawhide bones, happy dogs.
We’re not fancy people.