Here’s my wedding ring. Driving the truck back from my three hour sojourn beneath cloud scudding chill, perched wet-assed on the Indian blanket I’d lain down to keep the seat dry. Feeling the salt licking my thighs, aching testicles, shrunken cock, I stared down at that damned mute cell phone, wanting to just hurl it out the window, and rolled the silver band around my finger, holding it up to the gray mist passing by. Here it is. Take it, fuckers. Take it back. You have everything else.

The last time I called you, afterwards I bought a book and drove to that cloud-scudded beach to swim and soak those aching testicles. Nantucket town-McHistory trying too hard. Driving the town loop, those front-end-eating cobblestones, tanned beauties in power-flounce mode, the rich and the nearly-rich, sniffing out other rich and nearly rich. Like dogs they like to sniff each other’s checkbooks. Fuck strolling. I don’t stroll, not alone anyway. With you I can stroll, but right now I need a new book. Distractions sometimes work. Literary amnesia. Plinking on the old banjo. Bad movies, good movies. Swimming by myself. Doing most things by myself. Distractions, the real ones that come with the absolute money-back guarantee, are hard to come by these days. Sleeping is the only cure, and that can only last for so long. You’d agree. Waking ruins a perfectly good dream.

The last time I called you. What was it? One o’clock? That town loop, before the book, which do not have the stomach to mention; Okay…fifteen dollars for a whiny memoir about a young technophobic woman who buys a sailboat with her young husband and whines across the Pacific, missing this and missing that, (cafe lattes, phone calls to her mother, Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, dumb sit-coms, endless hot showers, a bed that doesn’t rock) when in reality she never should have married the man, never should have cast her lines off, never should have said a word back.

I call you. Sitting in the truck, before the book expedition. I’m having one of those… I begin. One of what? you ask. Panic attacks, I say, never having uttered those words to another human being. Silence, then…you offer the best first aid anyone could when their best loved one calls with the news the sky is falling, the ground collapsing, the air unbreathable. Describe it, you say. But I can offer you only dried bones, a partial telling, a demi-explanation. I hate my weakness at full disclosure. A lawyer is a fool that has himself as a client,or something like that I hate this. I want our times together to sing arias, crave primary colors and breathe in sweet atmospheres, or at the very least entertain. Not this…pathetic psycho-drool, cowardly lion cringe. I want to make you laugh, make you homesick for my attentions. I want you to always want to turn the page. You say I do, and tell me to shut up and say what I mean. Instead I do the Chicken Little bit, cower and whistle half-truths to my one—true—darling. The gristle, feathers, and blooded gore of my Grand Canyon-scale depression are left on the killing floor. Why is it so hard? It’s like my inner publicity agent is censoring my interviews, picking my scripts, choosing my movies.

Five hours have gone by since we talked. You were writing. I’m so proud of you right now. Stuck in that ridiculously ill-fitting sober house in Malden, my tawny Rapunzel of your stuffy attic room with no desk, nowhere to really get down to business, and still you write. It’s a hard slog, I know, spilling your brutal curriculum vitae behind the blinking judgment of the laptop cursor, but still you write. Weekends without us you write. I want to help, but two mad-crazy birds of reason, like syphilitic seagulls, yawp back. The first: Geography sucks. You’re not in the next room, banging your fist in frustration when the words are born the hard way, Caesarian like fat babies torn from skinny women. Malden is, hmm, let’s see, two towns north of Boston. Sixty odd, and they are fucking odd to me the oceanic pony-boy, miles north, and that’s not even counting the thirty sea miles it takes just to get on the highway. The second reason: I cannot help you because you do not ask me to. Not really. It’s a private road you’re on, writing down the bones, divining ancient secrets, injuries, picking old scabs and scars. It’s all you. Just you and the midwife. For now anyway.

Dead seagull on the beach. A big male, mottled and brown, his dessicated corpse warped around a tangle of surf flotsam. Sticks and bones. Clorox bottles, driftweed like sushi skin detritus, serpentine sea-grass tendrils. Look at that, said a little boy in a $50 Nantucket Red shirt. His smaller brother, in a one size smaller, (that’s $100 already) ran up beside him. The mother, taut and grim as only an overpriced vacation can make an imported Stepford Jersey girl, quietly shouted, (hmmm, yes, it was a quiet shout) don’t go near that. It’s dead. I know it’s dead, the kid said, backing away, then he glanced across at me, lying twenty feet away on our bear blanket, snug against a crumbling yellow-dirt bluff, book to the sky, practicing healing whatever it is rampaging around inside my body. The dead bird didn’t bother either one of us. Shit happens, a lot more than the good stuff. I felt proud of him for getting the joke so young. The fifth noble truth, an avian punchline: When you fly, sometimes you fall. Ask Icarus. With a mother like that, though, I doubt he’ll do much flying.

I wade into the surf to pee. Great, leaping, frothy combers wallops me chest-height like some water-crazed linebacker. A tumbling stone nicks my foot. The out-rushing liquid tonnage is like the whooshing inhalation of the Neptune King. A rip-tide beneath, like some powerful, aquatic footnote, gentle but infinitely patient, waves me, literally, past the breaker rows. How easy it would be to wade further than I’ve ever dared. Let myself go. Forget the drifting, drowning girl I’ve felt guilt over since I was ten. Like the float of tidal plankton, barely sentient, ego-stripped and empty. No fight. No fuss. My lifelong fear of drowning finally conquered in the most apropos, eloquent, and final way. I root around my interior crannies for the old familiars: gratitude, fear, cold, pain, the divinely automatic eloquence of love for you. It feels good to pee, proving, for now, that life still has inestimable value, despite the mystery ache in my loins, the medical enigma I cannot afford to unravel, and the salty fathoms only fifty yards off that could end all yammering queries, the randomized intrusion of panic attacks that find me dialing your number a dozen times a day just to stammer my transparent (to you) denials, “I’m okay. I’m fine.”

Suddenly, post-epiphany, I am cold; a great, bone-filling chill pours into me like a waitress filling an ice-water glass. The ocean spits me ashore and the time has come to leave. The red-shirts kids are vanished like two flightless dodos ponying back up the broken mantle of sand to the parking lot. Clucking parents follow in their wake rattling car keys, flip phones, Blackberries; clutching their totem bodyguards against the natural world. I am an uncomfortable blur; don’t even bother folding the bear blanket, or spill the gravel from my rubber-sole swimmer’s shoes. I think about you, trying to shape confession from this discomfort. A memory swoops out of nowhere. How once, in the throes of desperate longing for us I took all your pictures down, my Pippin gallery, simply because the sight of all that beauty I cannot have this moment was too overwhelming. They all went into the closet—ridiculous I know—like some Kodachrome time-out, and then, hours later, after a great call from you, and the tumult had subsided, back they came. My treasures. An insane, pointless punishment,like most of your years in jail. Those pictures are like my children until you come home, like your boxes of prison papers, your silk pajamas, your winter clothes. Over the bed, those velvety nudes I took on our honeymoon weekend. The big Mother Courage promo shot. The black and white profile your first boyfriend took of you at sixteen or so, pensive and mysterious as a gypsy prayer, those soft short curls kissing your naked shoulders. Down it came, back it went. Framed scraps of artwork you’ve sent. Birthday cards. A crazy-mad war game of pure desire, like a bright penny I’ve found but can never spend. But then it passes. Today I come home from the swim. You finish typing, glance at the phone, seconds before I call. Life goes on. Like John Sebastian once sang, For the great relief of having you to talk to. The tightrope twins, fingertips reaching, reaching, edging closer to the middle, fighting the wire sag, ignoring the eyes of all those yokels below, silently chewing their cotton candy and popped corn, dumbly hoping for what should be impossible, for gravity to fail.

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