Author’s Note: The following is a bit on the personal side, and contains some slightly mature elements, but I decided to share it because love is so important in these times of so much hate.
Overdue Christmas lights still burn in the night next door
Bluish-white tantrum twinkles like stars splattered against the pitch
Another year flows behind us like an endless river
Another month, another week, another day, another hour
trailing off like vapor from an airplane
slowly dissipating like a wound
swallowed like a slug of water or wine or pennyroyal dreams
“Read some Kerouac
and it put me on the track …”
Wishing I could burn a little brighter now
Wishing the broken heart road
wasn’t so bitter and rutted.
Then there’s them shivers.
Those nervous shivers of love and loneliness, and then there we were, eating coleslaw and catfish right next to a big clean window, and then all these people pouring in — regular folk in caps and orange jackets and I heard the talk about motorcars and hunting and other mad things of the world.
I looked at her from across the table. I had known her for two years but there’s still times I get nervous. I demand too much perfection from myself when it comes to matters of love. I have all these thoughts and feelings and sins and regrets all flowing around inside me like cold streams — sometimes hard to uncork my emotions. Other times I just fly without any sense of personal censorship. I’m abridged one day, the next day I’m at full volume. It’s not only my burden, but the burden of everyone orbiting my sun. It’s a scar of guilt that never fades, an unwelcome skin I can never shed.
We went back to my apartment and played around on the couch a little bit. We tried to watch a movie, but they all sucked. I’d turn to look at her after about 20 minutes in and say, “Do you think this is kind of stupid?” She would agree, even if she didn’t.
We did that three different times. Then we gave up on that, discussed the meaning of the word feckless, and then she disappeared to the bedroom.
I found her there naked in my bed and I was totally surprised by that because just the day before she hated my guts, in theory, I guess. I have a tendency to go off on selfish rants — my head gets all hot and chuggin’ — like a muscled-up train — and I do and say things that would break anyone’s heart. I heard Pat Benatar bitching in my head the day before — some siren song from hell, but maybe really more like my own conscience kicking me in the balls.
Anyways, there she was like I said, naked in my bed, waiting for me. I stripped down too and crawled in under the covers. We embraced, held each other. The warmth was amazing. Everything else that followed was amazing. It’s always amazing with this one. Two years straight and it still feels like the very first time I touched her. We drifted off clutching each other tight. Then we turned to sleep, our asses touching, the warmth of her back like a campfire. I listened to her breathe as I looked up at the purple stars of pretend.
She always helps herself to my frozen waffles in the morning. We have hot tea and look out at the wayward cats on the patio. She still looks beautiful. I feel like I look beat up. We work hard on interjecting joy into the worried spaces of our lives. We can laugh and love amidst our troubles. It’s hard, but it helps, I hope. I can see her fall into the worry. She instantly knows when my mind slips. We love through the damage of whatever disorder of the day I am.
We drove to the city, that city being Nashville, and got some sandwiches. There was football on the TV. The joint wasn’t very busy and I’m pretty sure I said something inappropriate about asses. I always do lately. We’ve breached that gap, her and I — her being the one with the beautiful Sonic Ocean Water blue eyes across the table from me. I watch her eat and her mind is grinding, and I love her all the same, all over again, every day, even when it hurts. We always come back to each other.
“There’s no scoreboard,” she says.
We drove over to a big bookstore, and I went the wrong way. I got confused. I’m new here. I don’t know where I’m going — but I don’t drive into cement abutments like I did in Amarillo where some god blowtorched my mind daily. That entire town was like a cement abutment. The bookstore was busy. It was packed with chatting birds and owls. It’s a big store filled with aisles and aisles of books. I could spend all day there. I get lost in the shelves and the spines and the titles. It’s sort of our place of peace and solace — in times of love, in times of fear, in times of worry. In times of me under the volcano.
“Mam,” I called out loudly to her in the literature section, like she was some stranger in my way, to make people wonder — “What the hell is going on? Is he some kind of jerk?”
Wit and comic relief bubbling over like pea soup slowly coming to a boil on the stove. I ebb and flow. I’m like the ocean. I rise and fall and crash and then calmly lie there, yet ever unsettled. She’s like a river. She’s strong when it rains and moves forward with purpose because she has to be, even when she can’t be, or is too tired to be. She flows around the bends and over the stones. We meet in the end at the estuary under heaven. We flow into each other. Our waters mix and make one. Hands locked, we tangle in love.
We drove out of the city after buying five books. I missed the exit to our town on the outer limits because I was all jived up by her beautiful face and a black Camaro steaming by. I had to go 10 more miles and then we were in town, and we went to the grocery store that I don’t really like. I may have kissed her in the car. Her lips were cool and wet. My heart pounds when they stick to me.
“I love you,” she reminded me.
She’s a bandage to my wounds.
We went in for pot pies and pizzas and the other things she had on her list. I wandered off a few times. I saw her in her red coat from a distance. I saw her talking to a woman I didn’t know. I don’t know anyone here. She knows everyone. I’m the stranger. I have no name here. I’m unrecognizable. But she sees me. She sees me like an X-ray. She knows my ins and outs, she knows my heartbreaks and faults. She’s my angel in the frozen-food aisle. She’s my lover at the dairy doors. She’s my princess in the meat department.
We load up the car in the cold and I already miss her because I know she has to leave to go home. But it was a good weekend after all. I cherish those good weekends. We break, we mend, we carry on. That’s us. That’s always been us. It would never be the same with anyone else. I would have been knifed already. I guess in some ways I was. But none of that matters anymore. Love begins and ends with her. We kissed again in the cold.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
She clutched me at some point during this day, shook me a bit.
“Know that I love you,” she said. YOU.”
That one struck a chord. Then I fade.