We Met At Night in Silence…
Another thing I hope for when I hope.
I went to the One to listen to some blues guitar & to get out of the cold night & to watch the ladies dancing. The beautiful sexy ladies of all shapes & sizes & colors & ways. And looked out for anyone I might know. Didn’t see any familiar faces tonight. There seemed to be a group in town staying at the Toll House practically next door.
Being tired—getting over the last of a cold—I put on a half-smile, not wanting to appear totally unfriendly, & avoided giving off or receiving direct lascivious looks promising performances & pleasures that the flesh is heir to. Needs must be met. That’s only natural & healthy. But there was also shame & guilt holding over, no matter how forceful the worthy erotic intentions of the emancipated adult, so the faster the gyrations the more violently those old shadowy puritan spirits were exorcised & dispatched.
I ordered a Coca-Cola. The place was probably more crowded than I’d seen it for a long while. Usually the crowds came with the warm & hot weather & the cool of the evenings when the mountains went dark quickly as the sun went down. But this was winter. Cold to freezing. Black ice & flurries up the hill & in town weren’t unheard of. By & large it had so far been a relatively mild season. The rains came & that was good. The Lexington filled closer to the brim its waters to be distributed throughout the valley, quickening its streams.
I stayed at the One for a few songs, standing room only. My back & legs were holding up but I was a bit uncomfortable due to my old injuries & the residual pains that never really went away even when I took a fair amount of pain-killers. Although there were extended periods of time—perhaps 30 minutes to an hour—when pain subsided & elation replaced ordinary flat consciousness. Suddenly I knew exactly where I stood.
There was a bench at the Los Gatos P.O. across the street. One of my familiar haunts. A place to rest while waiting for rides or to otherwise connect. To which I made a beeline, backpack—with laptop books jackknife in sheath scissors clippers water some canned & tinned food crackers earth-friendly eating utensils change of clothes underwear socks soap toothpaste first-aid supplies, passport wallet US Merchant Seaman’s Document & other items, etc.—strapped securely behind me. When I traveled down the mountain for the day I never really knew where I’d end up or what the day would bring, so I came to life prepared; hoping for the best, sending out those love-vibes which whether they found their mark or not was an affirmative act I couldn’t allow the heart to ignore.
This would not happen tonight. But I hoped that in some future sometime before the sloughing off of mortal coils it might.
I’d be sitting at the bench. Staring into the night. Friends had seen me at particular places. She knew where I hung out, what cafes & clubs, what parks street-corners…I sat silent. Music wafted across the night from the One across the road.
I wasn’t startled. Few things did that to me anymore. And what I fantasized often eventually did come to pass in some saving shape or wayward form.
She appeared. She’d been immanent all along. Perhaps had observed me for some time. I knew she asked after me. I just found it so hard to deal with things. Not her fault. Nobody’s fault. This unusual shakiness on my part had to do with things & events having nothing to do with her. Unaccountably imprinted stagefright making its uncalled visitation from a past of doubts & fears. My courage these days was either automatic or non-existent. I still had to work at it. No Siegfried I, no matter how much I wanted to be. How could I be worthy then of this Brunhilde in my midst? An old story.
She stood before me. I just wanted to bury my face in her belly. Smell her delta loam. Kiss her covered abdomen & wet her clothes with my tears. I wanted her to hold me, caress my head, console me. I was grateful beyond my ability to express. But she knew. There was nothing I could say or do at that moment by which she would have been taken off guard. She knew almost all I had suffered. Perhaps needlessly. (Even so there was beauty produced from that pain the experience of which I would exchange for nothing.) Taking a lighthearted remark like a serious kick to the solar plexus.
Tears welled u[p in her own eyes. When I first laid eyes on her she was crying. Actors were often perplexed by their confluence of confusing emotions. I wanted to, needed to help her. That had been my first instinct. It was only after a number of weeks of working as her sound-man at the Saratoga café that I realized how much I was in love with her. There’d been not exactly a vision—I wouldn’t know exactly what that was—but rather the emergence of an image of generational expanse, passionate togetherness, collaboration, & if not extreme perpetual happiness then a contentment
She was holy. She is sacred to me still. That kind of thing can be frightening for a younger person not prepared to be worshiped by an older man held in thrall to her inner & outward beauty. One might critique that such pedestals were patently unfair. That all we are, are people. But that is not all we are. Who can define us?
Her voice enticed the ear. It was like no other voice. It sounded familiar as if I’d heard it all my life from a great memorial distance. Her smile made the heart melt. She seduced the world. She needed it. She added to it. Made it all the larger & more exciting. She seduced my soul. I became her property without noticing how my autonomy had been gladly expunged. I’d give my life. All my seed was hers. All others were ruined for me.
In a supposedly cynical age like ours how could such romantic idealism persist? I’d been around. I knew the realities of land sea & air. I knew the aromas of flesh & sex. I’d tasted woman & loved her for it.
--Please sit down next to me.
--You didn’t have to ask. I was going to anyway.
She sat. Her scent was intoxicating. Better than pain-killer. But also potentially pain-inducing.
--I won’t ask why you finally came to me. I’m just so happy you did.
--You never came to me.
--In time. I always planned to visit you.
--It never would’ve happened. The longer the time that passed the greater the gap & we know what happens then. People lose each other.
--I didn’t know whether you ever really wanted me to come around.
--What did I tell you? I asked you to come see me, didn’t I?
--Yes. But please please let’s not do this. I don’t want to make you angry at me. If I could’ve come to you I would have. I just couldn’t.
We were both silent. I didn’t know what I was thinking but that was okay. It didn’t matter.
--We don’t have to say anything. Its just so great that you came here tonight. I don’t really have any right to expect this. Its been so long a time. Almost a year.
--The better part.
--Are you happy?
--I’m okay. Are you happy?
--Without you I’m nothing.
--That’s not fair to put that kind of thing on me.
--Of course its not fair. I’m not trying to be fair. I’m trying to pierce your heart. As always.
--I understand. I’m sorry I told you what I did. I wasn’t trying to hurt you.
--You just didn’t know your own strength.
We laughed together.
--I know I can win you if I can keep making you laugh like that.”
I expected her to tell me she was with somebody now, or being pursued by half-a-dozen wild-eyed admirers. A woman like her was always in demand.
--That said. I really don’t want to crowd you.
--I’ve heard that one before. How many times did you use that on me?
--I meant it. I always wanted to seduce & abduct you. But softly. To keep you & hold you exclusively, not against your will, but in keeping with it. I’d be your sole audience. But I know how absurd that is. I’m not generally a jealous kind of guy. I’ve no rights on you or anybody but myself. But I wanted you so much. I became flustered. I was cool. I shut up. But you saw right through it. You went to my poetry & emails & that was just more evidence. Then you confronted me…
--Like I said, I didn’t realize how hard you’d take it. I never intended anything to damage you. Just maybe…I was scared, okay?
--I haven’t had an easy life despite what you might think. Pretty girl from a Midwest family. Normal. Reasonably well off. Well educated. Talented. Pretty. Sexy even, like you told me.
--Did you act that smile you gave me when I said that, to be polite; I know how nice you people are—just don’t mess with them, they used to be berserkers…
--We still are when wronged.
--I never meant to wrong you or disrespect you. I wrote you that you’re entitled to all kindness & courtesy & that I’d try not to behave like a horse’s ass. Or did I elicit that response spontaneously? Were you excited by my having said such a thing? Was it too crude? Too puppy dog? You don’t have to answer that. You’re not under oath. I’d never…
--I was scared, that’s all. I’m not a child despite what you might think. I’m over 30 & as you might yourself remember, there’s plenty of accumulated experience by that time. Baggage. Damage.
--I love you. I can’t help it. Never ever tell me how I feel about you ever again. And if you walk away tonight & we never see one another again, please, I beg of you & I’m not afraid of begging you. Or humiliated by it. I have to share my heart with you. But …never tell me how I feel. That’s something no one knows about but me.
--I’m sorry. Like I said, I was afraid & was pushing back a little. But it wasn’t a slap in the face. It was a tickle under your chin. A pinch on the cheek. You were adorable…
--Then why? Why didn’t you just take me home? That was the trajectory. We were supposed to go out. I was going to ply you with martinis, tell you I wanted to sleep with you & go from there…
--Was there something wrong with that?
--Too fast. It was all happening too fast & there were other things going on in my life that had nothing to do with you—just like there are, were things going on with you that had nothing or little to do with me…
--I tried unloving you. I did okay for a long time. The more I forgot about you, didn’t look at your pictures, hear your voice. The longer I stayed away the better it was. But how long could I fool myself? I needed you. I need you now.
--You have me for now. I’m here.
--I know. I’m being an idiot again. I’m just going to leave it all up to you.
--Again, that’s unfair.
--I want you to rule me…I’m still the man but sometimes I don’t want to be expected to be in control. You’re strong, vital. So what’s wrong with that?
--Nothing. Nothing. I have to admit I was always attracted & interested in you. I didn’t want you to just disappear. That’s why I kept asking you back.
--Toying with my gray bearded emotions…? But that’s okay. I didn’t mind that at all. I just needed things to’ve worked out the way I wanted & needed them to. If I had a chance at happiness. Life is so short. We go back into the dark all too soon.
She looked like she was going to cry. I suspected she cried a lot. And while I didn’t want to be the cause of any unhappiness on her part, I’d make her cry if that would work for me.
--I need you to read my mind. But since we can’t just read my hand. Please take it. We need to touch. To feel each others heat.
I wanted to tell her I loved her so much. But didn’t want to sound maudlin. I never stopped being in love with her but how many times could I say it without making her want to throw up?
--I don’t want to hear about how much in love with me you are. I need you to show it. Patiently. That’s all I meant back then. I was testing you. Maybe I was torturing you but I swear I never meant it like that. I’m not perfect.
--Neither am I.
--We’re not perfect.
--How does it go? “We’re neither pure nor wise nor good. We’ll do the best we know. We’ll build our house & chop our wood & make our garden grow…?” Bernstein’s & Sondheim’s Candide.
--“And we will try before we die to make some sense of life…”
--O life. Its so terribly wonderful, isn’t it?
Silence. Silence. Both sitting staring straight ahead. I turned & gazed but she was turned away. When she turned to look at me again I saw the tears. And she saw mine. We laughed & cried at the same time. Laughing at ourselves. Crying for each other?
--At least we can…still feel, that is…
Silence. Silence. Silence.
--In a little while I want you to get up & walk away.
--I don’t want you to but this is just an idea of how we either get out of it, end it, or continue somehow. Start building something new between us. Less confusing.
--You want me to get up & go now…?
--No. Not yet. But soon. Because otherwise all this is going to hurt way, way too much. Both of us.
--You get up & walk away but I’ll be watching you. Longing for you. Watching. And as you go maybe 10 or 20 paces away you think about what you want & go with your instincts as far as us making a life together. Do you think it possible?
--Yes. I do. But this isn’t all about me.
--You’re right, of course.
--And if it’s the end, you keep walking. You don’t turn around. No goodbyes.
--And what do I do if I don’t want to end it?
--Then you turn around, & smile & come back here to me. And we’ll cut a swath in this wasteland…”
She takes my hand. It is warm
--Yeah. But I’m alright.
She takes the hand & puts it between her legs. She’s wearing jeans tonight. Not the more usual skirt. She has on a lovely dark brown leather jacket with a white wool fringe. Her shortish swept blond hair contrasts with the dark animal skin.
[to be continued]
* Note: Background music by which to read the above work in progress:
From the album "Revelator" 2011.Studio version of the song.
Court and Spark written by Joni Mitchell
Norah Jones: vocals
Herbie Hancock: piano