Broken Love Vessel Detective

soviet building

It was queer when he had doubled back that her front door was ajar. And it was just as queer that her back door was open. He’d noticed earlier in the day, when he was moving out his last belongings, that the back door’s screen he’d put in had been swapped out for the glass. And he had thought to himself that it must have taken a man, or at least a man’s strength, to have done that. But, after all, she wasn’t weak, and really, she was quite capable. Anyway, he had thought that this might be the last moment ever to make up—to make what had gone down the tubes work out.

He had had a thought some months prior that the two of them ought to quit all this nonsense, she with her very lovely and very expensive diamond engagement ring, and he with his unvoiced uncertainty over the whole marriage thing. After all, he knew he loved her, and she loved him. And the error, the mistake was to keep putting it off, their marriage, somewhere beyond the offing even, into the unforeseeable future.

This putting off and putting off until the putting off that wasn’t even talked about, wasn’t even mentioned, created tiny little cracks in their vessel, the one that had contained all their love. And one day, any vessel, no matter how large and no matter how strong, once it has too many ripples in it, once it has too many cracks, it will crack into pieces. And if that should ever occur, all the love that two people have been pouring in—even though some of it was always trickling away—will be completely lost.

So he had doubled back. He meant to repair their love, the cracks in the vessel that were large now and from her side of it, at any rate, all the love there was gushing out already. He had wanted to tell her that where he had been short on strength before, even though he was quite mighty, he could himself be a bigger and a stronger container, and that, even though he had wounded her by turning away, he had come back, stronger and more capable than ever. And he had wanted to tell her that he could contain their love forever, and that the vessel they held would last them their whole lives. And before she had sealed away all hope for this, while her voice was still soft when she spoke to him, he wanted to tell her, and plan on their being married together when they had returned to the rocky coast of Maine next summer for their fifth time, and by this she would know for sure with all certainty that he would love her forever and never leave her. This is what he had learned about his truest feelings when, woefully, he had turned away two months before from her to think and feel it all, all alone by himself.

Before she had come downstairs, while he had rapped on the glass door, and opened it just enough to call her name, he heard her voice upstairs, which seemed to have a comfortable and easygoing song to it, a voice he had known. But when she descended she screamed and screamed a bloody kind of murder, “No! No! No! Leave me alone! Leave me alone! Leave me alone!” She ran from her house and ran into her car, screaming and screaming so loud the entire block and all the families living on it must have certainly heard. (Though through the shingles of her home the neighbors must have heard her raging sobbing suicidal cries for years already, however muffled they had been by plaster and brick.) But he paid the embarrassment of neighbors no mind. He begged her on his knees, repeatedly, “Please! Please! Please!” until another man directly behind him told him he had called the police.

This silly ploy meant nothing to the man, for her fiancé, or her ex-fiancé, by a handful of weeks, hadn’t done a thing worth police notice. That “the police were on their way” was like a line that someone who learns how to live by TV would say to someone about life. But lo, she ran into a parked BMW parked along the street side in front of her house. No, the man behind him, he wasn’t a concerned neighbor. A short, bald-headed, tight-shirted man with good upper body muscle declined to identify himself, and he ventured to give the ex-fiancé some calm enough mano a mano advice, though the ex-fiancé was thinking that he’d heard this same type once before in xXx or, as they say, “Triple X,” as it were, but surely this was no Zander Cage and no Vin Diesel. And the woman and her latest noble and protective hero, the grand part that he himself had once played, they drove off together in $85,000 of fine German automobile.

It blew to pieces their lost engagement. And all the flowers he had sent her that afternoon, she’d thrown three dozen roses into the trash. That is very sad. All that beauty gone to waste. Even the flowers he’d picked for her from his garden, too. Even sadder. They were all there. It was all very sad. Finally, he had understood her. “I want to die! I want to die! I want to die!”—he had heard this screaming, crying voice from her for years, a cry so shrill and harsh and loud the words themselves would scratch their way through ten silent pages of paper. And he had wished to save her from herself. But nobody ever does, so heads up, hermano, ‘cause I was there for years with that feeling, bro. And you, you know that, silly boy! Yes, all her strange messages she had sent him of late, why, none of these had sounded like her at all: “I understand your intent,” or “Leave it alone,” or “I cannot go back there.” These strange new flattened locutions that had never once before over their years together come out of her mouth, or were ever delivered from the tapping of her fingertips, they all meant the same exact thing.

It would appear that for some time now, she had been deceiving him (just, as he had remembered, she’d likewise deceived him over a man in her madness when they had first met), or was double-crossing him, or’d dropped him like a hot potato without a clue, or was palming him off with all sorts of obfuscatory lines about how very badly he had “hurt her” and how she “didn’t trust” him anymore as soon as he himself had said—mirroring her own fraught line which she had threatened him with again and again for a good eight months since New Year’s (against which he protested and pleaded she did not do)—“Let’s take a break.” And that was why, he understood, feeling sunken beneath his own broken shadow, that for her there was nothing to “work out” with him, as he begged her on the floor in her garage on his knees. She was off to six o’clock dinner with some shaved-headed toughie with a flashy car and the wrong sort of accent for a rich person who’d threatened to have him arrested over a spat between two cracked lovers that was about as much his business as saving a little piece of yellowed wax falling out of a stranger’s ear.

Parcheesi Picture Postcard

cactus mountains

She played a game of Parcheesi by a certain set of rules that were her rules but not all of them. And beside the swimming pool, he played with her for years. One day, after he had proposed his taking a little swim, she promptly then decided to fold the board game up. As he had come back dripping and looking for his towel, he was surprised to see their time for playing had been declared over. She wept and told him about the rules he hadn’t played by, and he was loath to say, “My dearest love, but these are not all the rules the game is, in fact, played by.” He could hear that in her mind she was making up her heart. He could see she was creating for herself a Parcheesi picture. He dried himself off completely and refused to disagree. Who was he to decide another’s rules? He was nobody to rule that. And, besides, it would have done no good; it would have neither advanced nor prolonged their poolside game. Still, he was quite disconsolate. Parcheesi, with its little, brightly colored wooden pawns whose tips felt just a little too small for his hands, and the same went for the dice, was certainly his favorite. The sound of luck tumbling in the knocking cardboard shakers was something he would always remember. Swimming laps now back and forth will help forgetfulness.

Purple Mountain Wood Stove

mountains arizona

Already, my wood stove is burning. I stacked the cords myself. I fear six cords of wood may not be enough. Winter is long and full of deep snow. I had once had another pair of hands to help me. But they are gone. That was a time I do not regret, and have not seen that in a while, a life like that when the tandem knocking of each piece of wood laid against the growing long stack our wordless work kept the coldness of winter out. And I get on, je me débrouille, because I now must. That is the way with things, with spiders nested in the corners of bathroom shower stalls, soldiers stationed on a foreign front, or men and women somewhere listening to an easy-going book as they commute back and forth between their city office buildings and glass-lit evening houses lit up and down the streets. In any case, I’m not sure there’s enough wood to sustain me before the tubers in the ground have all grown (or rotted). I had better scour the deadfall with my saw and ax soon. The meager fronds of the ferns are already yellowing. The bears are circling wider and wider in these searching final days before they disappear until May. Cries of geese overhead, these are common. How with my jolly heart and glad-eyed ways I became myself here to be living at the foothills of the Rockies, it is no mystery to tell at all. It is only to be remarked upon, I think, that unexpectedly I made myself saddened by all the passing of everything that I had known and all there was standing once before such great purple majesty.

Carrier Pigeons Fly Back

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Once before I had had a lover. And I used to send her notes by the only carrier pigeons left alive on Earth. And she used to write me notes back herself, flown across the river dividing us. At times my language had been haughty and grim. Mostly, however, it was pleasant and nimble and full of grace. For I am mostly pleasant, nimble, and full of grace. The river over which these precious birds once flew was fast-flowing and dangerous, especially during the storms of late summer. To this end, I flew her a note that said, “Let us write each other no more, lest our meaning drown.” And by this I meant that until the whitecaps and the tall waves upon the raging river abated, we should cease our correspondence. This last missive of mine, I learned, once the river was calm and smooth again, was understood quite differently by her. The bird whose note from her I read delivered this: she took me and my meaning quite abruptly and altogether harshly. In short, her note revealed she pictured me to be a hard and dark and embittered man. For some time after this, the pigeons flew across the river back and forth. All our meaning, whatever it had been, was completely wasted now. The last carrier pigeon alive has drowned. My final note I’ve got, I’m rolling that back and forth between my fingertips now. As there is no way ever to send it, to ever get across my sorrow and my love for her, my words are just as soon drawn upon the blowing sands of Arabia as one whose name is writ upon water.

Sweet Longing From Afar

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Forgive me that I am sweet and lonely by myself. And all your treasures forsaken. The boots I got were perfect. And their silver buckles shine brightly. I am filled with many thanks. For now I am living in the meadow. My distractions here are few. And alone I am become a burbling brook almost. Once an uncle showed me an ice cold spring into which a bandit was shot and died. “Right there,” said Uncle John pointing with the handle of his pipe smoking, at the head of it where the clear spring water came up out of the ground. And as a small boy I thought with some disgust and wonder, since this water was the source of all our drinking, had I drunk this bandit’s blood? When tempted by my uncle (and my own boyish desires), I had stuck my hand into the clear spring water, which looked so pure I saw the sandy bottom seven or eight feet down as though it were only inches, and just as fast pulled my burning fingers and palm out in terrible pain. It was that icy, that cold. I know now better that I drank the blood of that bandit, and of the Christ, and of the Buddha, and of another never-to-be-named one, too, along with the drinking water. We eat their dust. We breathe and drink and eat them all. That is just the way it is here on Earth, where everything in time is so commingled, not completely unlike a misty cloud of playfully dancing gnats which seem to be such a bother to us but really are not so terrible. If one day you are passing by this sunny valley on your journey, and can see from afar my smoke curling away from the rooftop of my little cabin, please remember that you are welcome to sleep and rest yourself warmly here overnight.

Morning Waves Swell Again

morning waves swell

It had been a danger to look at, and read, the words of a lost love so early in the morning. After all, they usually began—mornings—still black so early. Then, at that time, before time even felt counted, the window was as black as night, and even the fog could not be seen, which was often the first thing visible. Ideas and feelings all loose and unformed and inchoate stirred from his bedside, and really only the whisk of his beloved cat’s tail passing his foot was a little reminder of being quite alive. He’d begin there. To hear the yearning and longing and sorrow and even the gratitude of another decent human being, like seeing a bright, starry pinprick in a lightless universe before the universe itself had become awake, before the heavens were stretched open before the coming brightening day, the sudden human influence upon another human being cannot be underrated. It made him miss things he did not want to any longer miss any longer, love what he could not bear himself anymore to love anymore, and to tend to another he had wished in his darkened little world to be loath to tend to again, as he once did love and tend to her before.

Lovely Broken Flowers And Grass

lovely broken flowers and grasswildflowers 2

When you looked back at the whole thing, the whole thing was kind of funny—clown-like funny. Borges funny. A cartographer’s map taking over all the world and everything in it funny and becoming the world funny. That kind. Now, to begin with, because there still are these things—‘beginnings’—he had been in the Emergency Ward of the hospital having suffered an injury to his groin. He had lain there moaning and groaning with his hands cupped over his groin, which is funny in its own right. At least funny to readers though not perhaps, or not outwardly so, to hospital staff. Not until later on when they were smoking their cigarettes at the corner of the hospital grounds right next to the “out of bounds” NO SMOKING line that had been painted there, and which was pretty much ignored except to stamp out smoked cigarettes with the heels directly on it or with the twisting sideways back and forth of shoes’ toes there funny when they could talk about it freely then. And she, well, there was nothing funny about her at all. She had been burned badly in a car wreck and her survival itself was said to be a miracle. “The fact that she even survived,” a resident intern had said, “is a miracle.” So: the man with the pulled groin, who was an amateur pole-vaulter and whose ambitions were to become a professional, to someday join the Olympics, had suffered an injury; and the woman she was a victim of a car wreck, an event over which she could have had no real control.

I will skip entirely the middle, the meeting at the hospital, and the long drawn out affair of their recuperation and the salubrious intentions, especially those which the man had for the woman during their live-in relationship. Not that hers were any less, or well-meaning. Simply that the severity of her injuries required greater care and greater attention. Soon afterwards, after their meeting, the man, albeit with a limp, was practicing again. He leapt higher and higher. He was determined to become a World Professional. And the woman, whose injuries hindered some of her ability to talk as easily as she might, supported his efforts to all conceivable ends, even pouring into the man’s ambitions and aspirations her own resources. And the man, he was no less kind, laying upon the woman poultices and rubbing her flesh with lotions and bathing her body in oils and smearing on unguents that would make her better, however much he withstood, as much as it was possible, her howls of pain, and her near constant bouts of recurring anguish.

“I am completely behind you,” the woman told the man as he successfully flopped over the horizontal bar and cleared a height of over five meters onto a thickly cushioned mat, which she herself had bought for him, as he crashed into her little green backyard. He was deeply appreciative of her, and felt great love for her, however partially disfigured her own crash had still left her. He vowed truthfully that he would stay with her forever. “I will never leave you,” he told her with his heart.

I will skip, too, the end of this somewhat clownish little tale of this now tattered and neglected world, only to relate that they both adequately recovered. The man he was lost track of at some point, and some contend he is teaching competitive pole-vaulting at several of a number of nationwide high school gyms. The woman is again pretty and healthy and only upon closer inspection can one detect that in her past there had ever been what newspapers reporting on the scene at the time had written about for several days in their columns as a ‘tragic accident.’ I can’t really say that everything was fair between them but can maintain with an upper lip that doesn’t quiver that nothing they did was wrong.

‘Blame It On A Simple Twist Of Fate’

He knew she did not want a scholar. He knew she didn’t want one who could quote Thucydides and Marx. He knew, too, that even though his conversations were aptly (and ironically) peppered with this and that funny reference to George’s declension in Albee’s great Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, she didn’t want that either. He knew that what he was for many women might not be enough, that as a pianist, he was a hack. Not good enough there, oh well. Then off she went (some other) with another who held concerts at Lincoln Center. He spent so much time with his fingers in the dirt, plucking tomatoes he had tied up with strips of old bedsheets, that he did not have hours enough to understand her growing pains. He could not abide her learning curve (which admittedly was very long, and very steep.) Like J. Alfred’s hair parted behind, his patience was as thin as his time became brief. His mind’s harvest became all-consuming, and his heart’s willingness unforgiving. He became the inverse of the man he once had been. And as I looked at the lengths of heavy timber dropped off at the backside of my yard, I could feel the aching in my wrists to come, the splitting season about to begin. Above all else, I had to do this—chop wood—lest I be cold and also alone throughout the many lonely months of the days soon approaching winter.

Leonardo’s Perfect Woman

quarry

Nothing had prepared her for the break of day. This is when dawn comes. The darkness of night is broken by the sun coming over the rooftops of neighboring houses. That is how people live. And she herself lived in a house over whose roof the sun must always break. She turned to her side but nothing but a row of pillows, one two three, lined up together, was there. This effigy. “Well,” she would have said this morning, “I am relieved to be without you.” After all, she knew that her nocturnal troubles, the ones that stirred her awake at 2 or 3 in the morning when he had been sleeping beside her, they had to have troubled him, in return. And his being troubled troubled her mind more. This day, however, she could stretch in her bed alone as she pleased. Had she wished, she could have kicked the line of pillows. Anywhere. Even that felt good. And another thing she had noticed: she wasn’t wearing earplugs. The birds outside hiding in the ivy and bricks were making their usual break of day racket. I don’t have to block you out anymore, all your easy restfulness, she thought to herself lying in her soft bed on her back. So, the plugs weren’t about the birds singing, after all, not exactly, or not completely, at any rate. Peggy knew she was feeling good about herself. She even had the temerity to wonder why Leonardo da Vinci had inscribed an outstretched man within a circle rather than a perfect woman.

Lost Sanctuary

eagle sanctuary

They had been driving to the Eagle Sanctuary for the umpteenth time together. “Look at this!” she said, pulling out from under her legs a very long hair, much longer than her hair was. Driving, looking ahead, glancing over her way he said to her, “It’s gray.” That settled it. Had it been black. Or had it been red. Or had it been, like hers, yellow even. It was the length that got him. “It must belong to one of your gray-haired girlfriends,” she replied. Keeping it just as nonchalant as a driver behind a wheel must, with an aplomb of inflectionless indifference he answered, “I don’t date gray-haired women.” And that really settled it. It was over. But he was surprised later on at how slow he had been. What if that hair had actually been yellow? His wife had cut her hair to half its current length only six months prior. It was completely conceivable that clinging to the underside of the car’s front passenger seat where she almost always sat it had been hers, awaiting her pulling it out someday. What if it hadn’t actually been gray? Why hadn’t he just said, “It’s probably an old one of yours”? And ended it there. He hadn’t in fact been snooping or sleeping around, nor, for that matter had she.

But there come times in some relationships when the obscene, the irrelevant, and the inconclusive surface and take their demonic places in the forefront of our too, too human drama. These forces become like ancient characters, like actors who play them (instead of us) who once wore giant wooden masks over their heads bellowing out their lines on stage to an audience who knew exactly what was going to happen next, at each step of the ensuing tragedy already known, already unfolding before them. And the worst thing about such tragedy, even when it is exalted by the hero’s own self-knowledge at the end amidst the total ruin of everything else once loved and dear to him, is that the entire terrible story is completely known beforehand, before anybody sits down in their seats or the benches, and there’s nothing you can do about a terrible storyline that is already written. And little in human life is worse when, like these very actors on stage, we perform just like them in the arena of our own domestic lives the same, a performance now which, too, must also end, and yet it ends with the real destruction of everything about us that was once precious, dear itself, and cherished.

She, for her part, had wanted to spice things up between them. She had pulled out from one of her drawers, that had always been her drawers and not his drawers, and for years now he had not ever once gone into a single one of them, a little black book which she had long kept there. Once, some years prior, she had pulled it out of there before one evening. And he had commented to her, over her abridged edition of it, “I threw out a beautiful copy of the entire Kama Sutra one time,” and with that, her little popular Barnes & Noble edition had been put to the side. But here it was again. He flipped through the pages, saying nothing, as she, too, having placed it on their bedside table had not said anything about it to him. It was just there. He did not say to her, “Look at this!” over the shiny stains of oils or some lotion that had very long ago made the top corner of the black matte cover remain to this day glossy. But he knew also that just as he had not at first conceived that the blond hair under her car seat three months ago had been hers when they were driving out to see the eagles soaring as was their custom on Saturday, he knew in his mind like Hippolytus, but could not feel it in his heart, that her bringing back out again this little black book on lovemaking and intimacy was done so only out of her sincere effort to connect with him. He could not feel or imagine that, any more than she could have witnessed the long blond hair in their car when they were driving out to the sanctuary together as her own.