At midnight, I turn another page, and, there, in your careful, schoolgirl’s cursive, is The List. I think of all our lists; the growing curriculum vitae we have shared so greedily to get to know one another. But this one is the mother of all burned-out, ten-miles-of-bad-road lists. When they arrested you, everything got preempted, everything, like some hideous alien abduction. Here, in neatly organized columns, the minutiae of what you left behind, the wreckage of a life interrupted, beginning, in large, block letters at the top, with an apology to R., (even then your droll humor shines through), for sending him the Sorry I Hate This Part List. Suddenly I am gazing across the chasm of your unexplored past. The list. Your stuff. Everything precious, mundane, all the detritus, needful things, furnishings, farmer’s quilts, chipped china and forget-me-nots, everything great and small that got lost that day your wild and beautiful wings fell to the hard, hard ground.

***

The Sorry I Hate This Part List

Upstairs: Bedroom (You had crossed out the word ‘Ours’, added: Yours)

mattress and bed,

bureau, bedside table,

lamps (2), rugs (2),

Pillows, whichever are mine, down comforters (2), duvets are yours.

Quilt bedspread

Downstairs

Couch

Rocking chair

Kitchen table and some of its chairs, (2?)

Couch pillows

(here you crossed out: “All planters, all planters. I’ve collected them…, then, as a second thought, added-“Fuck it. If they’re plants keep em.”)

Vases

Cookbooks

Little stuff like porcelain birds and dumb toys

Art framed and photos framed that are mine.

China, Glasses, Most, many of the mugs. Bowls, Utensils, my pans and cooking gear.

(Here you add, an emphatic plea for fairness-“You know what’s mine-So do I. Make sure it’s there, please. It means a lot.”)

***

The List goes on for two pages. I suspect a subtext, and need to ask you how you felt at that moment about another woman in R’s life, the mythical ‘she’ you’d never seen but still effectively haunted your loneliest hours. What did it mean, the image of another woman sleeping naked and sated under your down comforter, her tousled hair resting on one or both of your two pillows, whichever ones they were, and sitting in your rocking chair listening to R. play his beloved Steinway? How that must have been, while you literally counted the minutes of each hour and prayed for sleep to take you far away from the boredom, the terrors, the unanswered question where your future should have been. It’s the same question that always comes when the thread is broken, when the bond is shattered and we wish upon the means to make it through the night. In these letters, the list exists an afterthought, a poignant, visceral shudder. I am listening to the voice of the woman I love plead her case to the man who no longer chooses to hear. A simple list of everyday necessities, to reclaim and regain, but what lies beneath, that’s where it becomes a primal scream; of fear, loathing, inadequacy. Never good enough. You hear it in your father’s voice, in F’s silent rebuke as she lifts another mussel to her lips, in the District Attorney’s coldly ham-handed, fictional accountings of your crimes against humility.

I can’t help wondering if R. remembered to water your plants, or appreciated the gift. I am also glad he chose to stop loving you. Not glad for what was then-it was torturous and cruel what he did, turning you into the cops, as you said, with more callousness than he would exile an incorrigible pet to the pound. No, not that, just glad for what is now. Because in the now, my darling, there is us, and here we are, ready, willing, but not quite able.

***

Sunday morning, 6:30 at the Andirons Ski Lodge, West Dover, Vermont. Listening to an amazing, improbable duet between the feminist agitprop diva Ani DiFranco and a wise, gray lion, the gravel-voiced folk icon, Utah Philips. A sort of talking blues /folk-rap soliloquy called The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere. It reminds me of a conversation I had the other day, at a stone-littered bend in the West River, outside of Brattleboro, with a genial, picnicking couple. They were sitting in drying swimsuits, watching their kids hurl themselves from large granite outcropping into the deepest end of the placid lagoon formed by the lowest ebb of the summer river. I tested the waters, found it exhilarating, clear, clean and tangy, but strangely void of alkalinity. The West River is not the Atlantic Ocean, where I swim twice a day, and one wonders if it ever dreams of the distant sea.

One of the kids, the tallest of the three, her son, (the woman is visiting from Seattle; he’s a Vermonter), brought over a hefty gray specimen to examine. “Its quartz,” said the man, rolling his finger along the warm, striated flank with a practiced motion. “Break it open, and you’ve got nature’s jewelry.” As the boy wandered off, spent the next twenty minutes bashing the stone against the rubble floor of the riverbank, the man and I found ourselves musing on the giant boulders across the lagoon, how the timeless, glacial snowplow had once carved a wild and featureless swath between the pine tree hills and what a long memory they must have. Utah Philips defiantly sings of going outside, bringing in a rock that is a million times older than the oldest song you know, and dropping it on your foot. Reality wakeup call. I remember once hearing that islands are really just ancient mountaintops, and how that strangely comforted me, because I once believed that what you see is what has always been. Now I know. Things change. Your life changed, and it will change again. You and me, like random quartz discards, glacial till thrown clear by some greater power. On the surface, rocks like any other rocks, dull and uninspired. But cleave us open, and you will be dazzled.

***

Monday morning, middle August, my first day back from Vermont, the land of tall pine, open roads, fifty dollar motel rooms, two dollar coffees. Driving home was a bittersweet exodus back to the working world. Unpaid bills, unfinished business, the hanging chads of my existence. Worst of all, the biorhythms are balky and unpredictable; plagued by a heightened state of hunger that began last Wednesday night, when you called to warn me of my visit ban. Now sleep comes at a steep price, and I struggle into the wee hours, writing, pondering, fretting over a future I cannot quite see. This low-grade sleep deprivation prompts dumb, rookie mistakes, like driving off from the ski lodge my last morning with my wallet on the bedside table. Only after a mad dash back sleepy Rt 100, five miles that seemed like fifty, tracking down the Salvadorian chambermaid, who’d already tucked it into her cleaning cart, did I breathe again.

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