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The Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Tunnel

Driving to you, through the subterranean maw that bisects Boston, I balance my camera on the steering wheel and close my eyes,  like an ant scuttling under an elephant. When the tunnel is lit, on our way back from the Cape to your 10 pm curfew, it’s like a surreal descent into the sparkling caverns of Oz. Then, popping out the opposite end, the violet floodlights,  illuminating the leggy, webbed majesty of the Zakim Bridge.


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Don’t move, I say. The sunlight, like a mermaid’s crown, perches for a shutter’s second on top of your salt-curled auburn mane.

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Revere Beach, a June morning’s walkabout to find a friendly beach. We drive like lost amnesiacs, roll past cracked and weedy sidewalks, brown-skinned poverty, hookers blinking through cocaine-lids. A damp, wispy fog, prowling on those little cat’s feet, shrouds the morning dog-walkers; the tower across the street, like some mossy Spanish mission, conceals a humorless State Police barracks. The acrid stink of aviation, like bird droppings from nearby Logan, fills the nostrils, and the unsaid wish is to never return.

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The Merman cometh. Like Don Quixote tracking down truth, I am a sea-seeking missile. If the human body is 75% liquid, then mine is an anchorage on which my waterlogged organs are moored.

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Earthbound dodo spreads his wings and dreams of flight. In a shutter’s breath, I will be submarine, tasting the North Shore brine, paddling past a floating obstacle course of trash barge flotsam. A true oceanic ascetic, I like my waters unsullied by medical waste, burger boxes and grass clippings.

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Hey, look at that! I laugh. We both stare out the window of the Newburyport Starbucks, where the free WiFi costs five bucks, and giggle at the grim punchline. Today, after getting kicked out of Sally’s Place, you are homeless for half a day. After a million calls to the parole trolls, housing negotiations as delicate as Versailles peace talks, we will drive south to another port of call on your endless parole voyage. Clean Slate, in Malden, a sober house you don’t need in a town you’d never choose. Parole acts like the schoolyard bully, not getting it, not getting you, just punching and punching until the tears come. The sign says it all:  Stop liberty!

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This picture reminds me of Tinkerbelle spreading pixie dust love around the joint. Another weekend passes, this time a sandy condo overlooking the surf on Salisbury Beach. The night before, I call you, panicked and exhausted. I have checked into a dark and empty white box with a great view but no bedding, pillows, or bath towels. The next morning, at dawn, when I pick you up, you have raided the Basement of Lost Things,  stuff abandoned by women lugged back to jail, or just plain sick and tired of the cure. Like an archeologist of cuddle, you’ve gone to the dungeon, plundered everything we need to make our sterile box a home. This is how we do it. Arrivals and departures. Grocery bags, suitcases, books and bathing suits; small gifts we offer like sacrificial khachkis to poor, befuddled Eros. Still no overnights for us, only midnight highway jaunts, dawn dips and marathon drives; slogging a hundred mile round-trips twice a day to fetch and return you to my arms.

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Like Virginia Wolff, tapping away the chapters in her underthings.

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Prom dress in Newburyport window. An item on our weekend ‘List” that never got crossed out. The plan: hijack the store, flounce for me my own private runway show of strawberry and pistachio crinoline, spaghetti straps and pasteboard tiaras.

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Pure va-va-voom, before the lights go dim. This tiny dress of sheer leafy crepe ‘really gots a hold on me’.

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Bed and breakfast, Newburyport. Dresser, with paper flowers and oval mirror. Historical site of the infamous ‘Burning Bureau’ affair. Our last stolen overnights were sequestered here, like a vamped-up version of Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang.  For $75 we got Cinderella’s bed, pink walls, lace doilies, ghosts of ancient cadaverous Civil Warriors, a tiny refrigerator that dispensed diet soda on the honor system. You took the bus, arrived first, made up the room, and greeted me like a horny, lonely fisherman’s wife.

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Liz, your true fairie Godmother, who completely gets our love, could care less about the marriage part, lends us her delightful Newburyport village house when she highways forth out of town to mend a loneliness itch. She has a garland of friends strung out across New England. If wishes were horses, may a stampede of wild and winnying broncs fill her cozy kitchen.

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My love and her crow; a sunny parlor window facing out to Liz’s world.

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A graveyard tree, slung sideways, its black etchings of branch caught this violet mote, like a balloon in aborted drift.

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Mussel Man, Newburyport yard. We pulled over and I handed you the camera. Someone’s laconic sense of the weird. Pushing a FIintstone lawnmower, shell-legs, shell-arms, shell-face, enigmatic and eternal, tending to Saturday chores.

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Bad picture, gorgious gams. Your lower half, making a wintry lunch in Newburyport, in our three hundred year old No-tell-Motel.

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Cameras are funny. Here is you, captured in mid-flight, in the tiny kitchen-slash-living room of our Salisbury Beach cabinette. A dozen 1950s summer shacks, painted shit-brown, strung together on Rt 1A, at pre-Memorial Day rates–$65 a night. The cost of long distance love. Why, I keep asking, is this all happening? Why can’t you just come home to me? We should give the Parole Board a bill when this is all over.

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North End, Boston at dawn. After a solitary night in a borrowed bedroom, I am waiting for you by the T stop, snapping random pics of the strange urban landscape, wary of night denizons still lurking. The previous evening, after escorting you to your subway platform, strolling back, two drunks lurched up behind me. Let’s call them Stagger and Spittle. Stagger asks me where North Station is. Face all cauliflower bruised like some half-pint Rocky Balboa. North Station? I have no idea. There’s a T stop behind you, I try and sound helpful. These kids may carry some concealed man-sticker, or feel the urge to hurt. Spittle looks vaguely American Indian, olive-skinned,  pissed off by some ancient tribal slight. They stand there, rocking back on shaky heels. A block away, in the off-season Boston Garden, they are dressing the hardwood for a skateboarding tournament. Ironic, I think. You’re stuck in a Malden sober house, straight as a deacon for over five years, and these hockey pucks are loose on the street. I point again. Keep it simple. The T, I say. Walk back and ask the ticket lady. Stagger, clearly the Alpha alky, gazes hard into my face, as if sniffing for some distant conflagration. Or fear. Thanks man, he grins, showing a fight-broke, yellowed picket fence. They both turn, with shocking grace, and shuffle away.

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The Gemini Club. Boston North End again. Three fly-speckled windows, a geriatric air-conditioner, one door-covered by meat-wrapping paper. The twin devil’s head logo is creepy-evocative. I tried peeking inside, imagining hoarse old letcher laughter, kiddie porn, white slavery. Who knows? Maybe they raise money for faraway orphans. The stink of bad cigars, sidewalk piss, midnight vomit makes me doubt it.

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Salisbury Beach condo. The next morning, an offshore storm blew in marching rows of whitecap soldiers. Swimmers tossed like dolls on a trampoline, an enormous log rolling in the shallow roil, like some slick-heavy leviathan. We kept the sliders open the entire time, listening to the  whispered chanting of the surf.

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DIng, dong, ding…These three mirrors were a running joke to us. Each condo living room had an identical set, an immigrant’s decorating touch as ubiquitous as pink flamingos and plastic tulips.

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Ahhhem…Plastic tulips.

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This is how I always remember our partings. Letting go, a kiss, one hand waving, me always in a hurry, your footprints silently disappearing back into the uncertain mist.

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