She brought over a thick, multi-layered sandwich, a huge mug of coffee, a calories-rich cream-laden yellow cake, and a family size sack of chips. Yes, sack not bag. It wasn’t so clear which finger held what, but somehow she wiggled her way through the truck drivers noisily slurping their soup or munching their steak and fries, excused herself several times after bumping someone’s spoon away from his mouth, and finally reached my table, laid it all down with a thump, and sat on the chair across from me. I had never seen her in my life.
I looked around, several empty tables were still available around the place, the waitresses hastily mopping after the parting customers ready for the ever oncoming wave. It was busy lunch time, the buzzing highway a never ending supply of hungry bellies, yet it seemed the place never filled up. The food wasn’t the greatest but it was, well, nourishing and I kept coming back whenever I was in the neighborhood. Which was about twice a year and for several days, certainly not their most loyal customer. And now wondering what was it that I did wrong this time to be bothered by this female, who certainly singled me out from all the diners, and decided to make my table her place of choice and the chair in front of me her place of residence for the next... whatever it took for her or me to finish our meal.
“Hi,” she said, smiling, “Britney,” and she offered me her hand.
“Hi, Jordan,” I answered politely, shaking her hand. It was a strong handshake, feminine yet assertive, the skin rough, the fingers short and powerful, the touch warm and pleasant.
“I know,” she answered back, adding a pleasant smile to a pleasantly round face and took a deep bite into her sandwich. I did not act surprised, though I felt a bit annoyed at this response, and continued digging my own way into my choice of food. “Aren’t you going to ask me how I know?” she asked further, somehow keeping a certain grace around the act of talking with a mouth overflowing with bread and vegetables and ketchup.
“I guess I don’t have to, if to judge by the introduction,” I smiled in spite of myself, my full mouth a suitable response to hers. “You are going to tell me anyway.” I wasn’t curious in the least, I learned fast enough to accept the casualty with which most Americans approached friends or strangers, and this was just another fixing nail in an already proven theory. I was in no hurry, my meeting at the publishing house a full two hours away and I was only at about half an hour’s drive distance.
I finished my main dish before her and asked the waitress for another beer. The various local brands did not get me overly enthusiastic, but then I was not a great drinker either. So I accepted another big glass from the undefined sort the house tap was delivering, took a sip to down the leftovers of the sticky stuff in my throat, and waited politely for her to talk. At least I did not have to wait for her to finish the cake as well. She brought her bag up on the table, opened it and pulled out a thin book. Now, this was a surprise. I recognized the book immediately, the first edition of my first collection of poetry issued two years ago, now I was on my fifth collection and the least I expected was for someone to pull out this “antique” on me. I admit, though, it did warm my heart and my regard softened as well.
“I see...” I mumbled, this time embarrassed, pulling the book towards me and looking at my picture on the back cover. Not a grand picture but sufficient to be recognized by, if someone really insisted. I opened it at the first page, where I usually signed them in the few signing sessions my editor organized with a few small shops, took out a pen and was getting ready to write a dedication. “To Britney?”
“No, rather not...” she surprised me, pulling gently and firmly the book back towards her, yet leaving it on the table. “I have all of them, you know. But I carry with me this one only, all the time.” I remained with my hand holding the pen in the air, looking for something else to do with it... “Sorry, I think I embarrassed you. It is not a dedication I was looking for. It is an answer to a question which bothers me since the moment I bought this book and read it. Read it more than once, I have to say.” She lowered her eyes to the book, then raised them back and it was for the first time I paid attention the green glint shining in them. “And now that I can ask it I don’t find the heart to do it, maybe because I never expected this occasion to ever arise. I am sorry to have bothered you.” A bit of blush was mounting into her cheeks. “I am afraid I have made an ass of myself. Please excuse me. You are a good writer, of a certain kind, you know? I don’t know if to say I hope you know it or I hope you don’t.” She picked the book, dropped it in her bag and stood up. “I am glad to have met you, Jordan.”
“Wait a second,” I said, feeling it was my turn to feel like an ass for unclear reasons, and I refused her offered hand. “I think I behaved in kind of an obtuse way and I wish to apologize for it. I am not used to strange women approaching me, and you may have found my behavior a bit strange. Sorry, I am not into enthusiasm but neither am I into insulting my admirers.” A smile was creeping up into her blush. “Maybe we can start again? Jordan, how are you?” I extended my hand, standing up to face her and feeling like a stand up comedian on his first stage show ready for any reaction, from standing ovation to stinking eggs. It was neither. She took a notebook from her bag, or purse, I never knew the difference between the two, shoved it into my extended hand and laughed shortly, something between angelic and devilish.
“I may be fine, I don’t know. Maybe. You can finish my cake if you wish.” She went to the waitress, paid, and left without looking back. I watched through the window as she entered a van, reversed it expertly between two long trailers and took off into whatever unknown directions strange women take off into. It was almost like the start of a new poem.
“Miss, can I pay, please?” I called the waitress which was serving us.
“No need, the lady just paid for you,” she said, and started clearing the table.
I sat down, feeling strangely detached, took another sip from my glass and then opened the notebook. For a few moments feeling terribly disappointed, as if some magic visited me for a few seconds and then simply evaporated... so after all just another crackpot chasing dreams of fame and glory wishing her poetry admired by a pseudo professional on her way to the hall of fame... were my first thoughts as I leafed through the pages, seeing the dense irregular writing arranged in blocks of identifiable single poems, and not reading even one word beyond merely getting the impressions on my retina. Then, finally curiosity getting the upper hand over disappointment, I read the first poem.
“Sir, sir, are you ok?...” I jumped at the touch on my shoulder, and the waitress jumped back, shrieking then laughing. I did not feel the time passing. I looked bewildered at the clock on the wall... shit... no way to make thirty miles in fifteen minutes. I phoned the publisher apologizing for the delay, killing a relative in the process and blaming the many phone calls I had to make related to the matter, and rushed out to my car. I wasn’t as famous as allowing myself to insult a friendly editor slash publisher, and I was glad he was understanding and allowing me the benefit of doubt. Well, maybe it augured well to the reality of how he was seeing me versus the stories he was telling me how he was seeing me and my chances.
I had to be careful and think about driving while driving, which I hated, I drive instinctively and if I think I am prone to errors. All those poems I read in that strange lady’s notebook, and I was only half way through it, there was something about them which gripped me from the first one and simply would not let go. Actually more than just something. There was a voice there which was not mine but so close to mine, there were messages there which sounded like questions to which my own poems were answers, there were answers to questions, and then there were those which simply seemed to have been molded in the shape of my mind’s way of thinking and now were resting asleep inside all those convolutions my brain was cursed with, and refused to get out. I was not one to believe in this kind of coincidence, yet... I had to admit, this notebook in my breast’s pocket was starting to burn a hole into the cotton on its way to my skin.
I shook my head trying to concentrate on the meeting ahead, knowing what meager were my chances to succeed in the endeavor.
It cost me one hundred bucks plus taxes to get her phone number (they refused to identify the address claiming it was illegal) through a local detectives’ agency, claiming scratches to my rental car. I placed the scratches there myself in case they checked it, which they did, and they took my personal details as well just for security. Which was ok with me. All I had was her license plate number, there were no identification traces of any kind in the notebook, and I wondered how did she leave it with me and then just took off knowing she would lose all this work. Maybe she had it all stored on a computer? I doubted, maybe a part of it but certainly not all.
The voice which answered me was young and my first impulse was to lay the phone down. I didn’t. The voice called ...mommy, for you... and let the phone waiting in limbo till a mature, recognizable voice said...
“Hello, this is Britney...”
“Hi, this is Jordan, do you mind me calling your house?”
The silence at the other end of the phone was thick, almost oppressive. I felt butterflies playing havoc in my stomach as she distributed some remote voiced commands, seemingly to a child, then returned her attention to me. Her voice was not stressed in any way, a shade of curiosity penetrating it nevertheless.
“This is fine, how did you find me?”
“This is one question I can answer easily. I have one hundred questions to you which you may or may not be able to answer. Would it be possible to meet... again?” I felt ridiculous, inexplicably gauche in my manner, and almost hoping for a negative answer so I could slam the phone and run away. She disappointed... did she?... my expectations by accepting to meet the next day at the same place, same time. “Same food?” I asked, trying to ease my own mind and sounding silly to my own ears.
“Fine with me, I hope you liked the cake. This time I am going to eat it myself.”
“And you will allow me to pay...”
“Of course. You may even try to write me a poem...” and before I could respond she closed the line.
I was there before her, waiting impatiently was probably the right way of describing my state of mind and I did not try to explain it to myself. I was ready though to absorb a lot of impressions from this meeting. Funny, I could not even begin to describe how I moved from complete indifference to a state of complete and unexplained internal agitation. Probably the famous storm in a glass of water I told myself unoriginally, knowing myself to be wrong once I saw her enter the place. This time I followed her all the way to my desk, my regard distorted to the extreme by the poems I read, by an imagination in overdrive, by a poem I wrote... I never took this kind of challenges seriously, what happened now? She wasn’t a beauty, she was nice, she wasn’t sculptured, she was well proportioned, she wasn’t smiling, she was radiating...
We kissed lightly on the cheek and placed the order.
“I have one hundred questions.”
“I have one. I mean I have a hundred too, but I have one. Do I make sense?”
“Perfectly. And this is probably not the question,” I answered. I waited for the waitress to put the drinks on the table, before continuing. “I read your notebook. All of it. Your style is completely different to mine. Yet if I had to write the feminine side of my poems, I would have written them the way you wrote it.”
“Did it make sense to you?”
“It did, too much actually.” I smiled, to hide my embarrassment. “I had sometimes the impression that it was some kind of dialogue, sometimes complementing, sometimes contradicting, but always related. May I ask you something, which you may find a bit offensive but it is not?”
“Did you always read one of my poems before writing one of yours?”
“Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. And sometimes it seemed like you were peeking above my shoulder and answering my writes. Which of course I have no way of proving to you.” She sipped on her iced tea gigantic glass, and placed it back on the table next to my gigantic glass of beer. The glass clinked dully. “I admit, I was reading a poem of yours, then after a few days something would pop into my head and I would put it on paper, almost never at home. That’s why I kept carrying this notebook with me. Yet sometimes things would pop in my head and I would jot them down, and only later I would find in your book a poem complementing mine. Weird, no?” It was her turn to smile, slipping into a short laughter. “I did not read your book in one go. I was sipping it in, slowly.”
“Like champagne?” I tried, making an effort to sound nonchalant and to keep myself from swallowing my saliva too obviously.
“No, more like a warm morning sun on a cold winter day,” she answered with no hesitation.
The food arrived and we started munching slowly, two strangers friends from the begin of time. I caught her once fixing me with a questioning gaze, which she averted immediately. I dared...
“Are you married?”
“Yes, two kids, a boy and a girl, nine and twelve. It was my girl who answered your phone. And you?”
“Same, I mean married. I have two boys, both now out of home.”
“And I guess your profession is not poet...” short laughter...”...or you’d look much more emaciated, I would say.” I joined in the laughter, choking slightly on my beer.
“No, actually I work for an electronics company in Europe, I manage a services team. Writing is just a hobby.”
“And love, is love a hobby too?”
The blast, the question out of nowhere, the sudden electricity in the air, I expected at any moment lightning to jump from those eyes that suddenly fixed their gaze on mine and awaited an answer the way... well, if to judge by the intensity of the regard - the way a dying man awaits salvation. My goodness...
“Is this your one question?” I asked back, more so to gain time than to know.
“No, but it is leading to it.” The fingers around her glass tense, white...
“No, love is not a hobby.” The fingers relaxed, the facial muscles relaxed. “I love my wife, in a way. Those poems are not about her. Are you sure you want to know?”
We found ourselves sitting in her car, given the luxury of not having to look at each other when we did not feel like it, and yet able to turn our heads from time to time and catch the other’s eye when it seemed appropriate.
“I was thirsty for love, and I could not define it, something raging in my mind, screaming to be let out and burn the world and me with it, I was not looking for it, just thirsty for it. It found me, or so I thought. It was short, sharp, beautiful and left me with the pain of disappointment. I started writing. I defined my world, its borders, its limits, its shapes and colors, and I started writing about it. I defined the colors of my rainbows - seventeen of them, I defined the colors of my love - red and green and freckled, I defined the sounds - birds I could not pronounce their names, I defined the fragrances and the flowers - lilac, rose, daisy... And I fell in love. I was lost in love.”
I looked her way, a lower lip trembling, a sparkle crawling down her cheek, lip, chin, falling into her lap. She barely could murmur, there was pain there...
“So all of your poems were... a farce? Inflated words to a non existent entity, empty, imagination bare of essence and fabric? And I fell in love with this farce?”
Of all the reactions this was the one I never expected. The words fell in love did not register immediately. The tears now flowing freely, her left hand took hold of the door’s handle ready to jump out... out of where?... to where?... The fingers of my left hand circled around her arm above the elbow and held it in a powerful grip.
“Wait...” I tried to whisper but hearing it more like a shout, “...wait!” She let go of the door’s handle and shook my fingers away, looking surprised at the five marks left on her skin, then looking back at me. There were also other blue marks there, not mine. The question in her eyes burning more than ever, the need to know devastating.
“Why did you hold me?” she asked.
“Because I owe you the answer to your one question.”
“You don’t know my question.”
“But I know the answer,” I said. I reached into my pocket and picked up a piece of paper and unfolded it. I touched with two fingers the point on her arm where I grabbed her, brought them to my lips and whispered “...mezzuzah...”.
“What was that?” she asked, surprised.
“Love exists, dear Britney. Yes, love exists. It was not a farce what I lived, what I sensed, what I wrote about. It was reality, my reality. The one to come. The one I was looking for. I guess it just found me.” It was getting dusky. I turned on the little overhead light in the car and I started reading aloud.
Love poetry, I said.
Poetry, not story? she pouted her lips,
Pulling her hand away from mine,
Closing her eyes
Retreating to her side of the car.
Poetry is short,
Words hiding meanings
In obscure phrases.
Story is rich,
Has a beginning, an end, a content...
Story is real.
Poetry is sunrise, I said
Short, devastating fire,
Poetry is sunset, I said
Short moments of glory,
Dreams easily forgotten,
Promises made in obscure phrases
The music of words richer than earliest of morning trills.
Story is real,
Poetry is eternal.
She opened her eyes, hesitatingly,
Sliding back to my side of the car,
Head on my shoulder,
Arm around me.
And I am?... she finally asked
Almost afraid to be right.
I kissed the top of her head.
You are wrong... I said and she sighed happily.
Sunrise, sunset, dreams, promises, music...
You are poetry,
I finished reading and folded back the sheet. Her eyes stayed closed. I was afraid I had just shattered her world.
“I did not mean it seriously...” she murmured, lying.
“I did...” I answered.
She picked the paper from my hand, placed it between her notebook’s pages and dropped it on the chair in the rear. Then she touched my elbow with two fingers, brought them to her lips and whispered “...mezzuzah... whatever it means...”, giggling at the static sharp spark sound her fingers made when touching my flesh.
“We just met... sparks already...”
I had three more days in the states. We met every day, same place, same time, not same food. We did not discuss our private lives, just poetry, aspirations, dreams. We challenged each other for short poems and graded them, we changed the world and found better options than the human one, we spoke of past relationships, past loves, past disappointments. We did not touch beyond the peck on the cheek when meeting and when parting. She did not accompany me to the airport on the day I left, I did not insist. Were we afraid of something we found, something we knew and we did not want to share, express? Were we afraid of a certain finality attached to the sounds of a parting plane?
“Are you back in six months?” Her voice soft, her face pale.
“Yes, probably, depends on the publisher but it looks like this will become a standard for me for the coming years. Maybe one day I will become famous and then I will not have to entertain my public with signature sessions anymore.” My smile weak.
“Am I your public?” The question open, clear.
“No. My inspiration. I didn’t know. Now I do.” The answer open, clear. “Why don’t you allow me to sign your book, Britney?”
“Because then you will not have to meet me again.” The blush deep. She leaned over the table, kissed me lightly on the lips, then picked up her bag and rushed out to the car. I followed it till thick dampness covered my field of view.
I returned to work in an absent minded state of mind. Till this visit to the states I kept myself in an indifferent phase with relation to the world, my abstract mind tangled on its own plane in unending searches for absolution from the pains of life, while my practical mind was keeping busy with the usual acts of work, acts of duties, acts of family. Returning found this status quo imbalanced, tilting out of control into a new dimension unavailable - or rather unknown - to me till then, the stale dimension which sickly sweet kitsch writers flood their writes with and tend to call amongst others - soul; and which, till now, I tended to sidestep. It was beneath me. Now it was... absorbing me?
It happened overnight. One day I was a sane being. The next I became obsessed, though the word does wrong to what I was feeling inside. Was the real term... in love? I shivered, remembering the pain and almost disaster my previous incursion into the in love dimension had brought over me. But once I sifted through all other options it seemed that this was the only one left over. Could it be after just a few days? Or maybe it was not just a few days, the last week just acting as the culmination of a lifetime... was it a lifetime? I asked myself... of wait?
We kept communicating by email, at the beginning just reminding ourselves of the hours spent together and the questions left unanswered. Short mails, about once a week. Then it slid into personal lives, childhood, the emails getting intimate, longer, more frequent. My poetry writing style changed progressively as well, I surprised myself by seeing sunshine suddenly there where once had been mostly clouds and shadows. I alternated rhyme, free style, prose, I think that creativity suddenly surged in me, broke down dams and started flowing into my hand. In my poems, I was happy, in my poems, I was a man in love, in my poems, I made love to her.
I remember hesitating seriously before sending her my first erotic write. There were hints in her own poems, which she was - rarely though - sending me. Until that first one we still kept a certain distance. We were friends, we moved from acquaintances to good friends and then to intimate friends. We knew a lot about each other’s spouses, my overly dependent one, her occasionally violent one, we knew a lot about each other’s children, health, we started exchanging what if‘s. I don’t know how or why I dared going this way, risking a complete shut down versus gaining a complete melt down, both roads were open and the risk, from my perspective, was huge. Still, I dared. I knew what I wanted to say if she accepted it, I did not know what I was going to say if she rejected it.
Roving robins perching lightly on my fingers taut and thin
Chirping gaily as they watch me picking freckles from your skin
Huddling later in amazement as I touch a giving breast
And the colors of desire wake up glows descending west...
In my chest awakens fire
Stolen from your broken nail
As it raped my silent lyre
Letting songs of passion sail...
I dared further, I wrote
At a sign the flock’s dispersing, trilling echoes linger aft
As my fingers’ deft desire in your flesh the glory graft,
Color streaming through your body waits for dawn’s igniting spark
As your back is slowly plying into love’s alluring arc...
Gleans my fingernail its duty
From beneath your bleeding skin,
Trails of love’s eternal beauty
Merging pain in tender sin...
Ramming flesh assails your castle past your ramparts’ folding walls
Pouring barrel loads of fire down the screaming tensing halls
Sowing future’s waiting morrows with a plea beyond the urge
And while silence falls enchanted, robins from your lips emerge...
I waited. She did not answer right away. I knew she would. She answered.
In my belly seeds be blooming,
In my song a rhyme divine,
As a life I will be grooming
All of yours, and all of mine...
I was quiet for a full week, did not happen earlier on, yet I knew it had to happen now, I knew I had to decide to say it and I wanted to say it after all hesitation was eradicated from my system, conscious or subconscious, real or imaginary. I wanted it crisp, clear, no hidden meaning, no dark corner. I calculated carefully the time, building up the chance that it would be her to a maximum possible, then dialed her home number. It rang three times before the receiver was picked up. It was her.
“I love you,” I said, and let the receiver gently down.
Three months later I landed again at the - by now familiar - bustling airport. The burly immigration officer was for once nice and did not ask me to empty all my pockets, inclusive the hidden ones (which I didn’t have but they insisted); the Beagle dogs of the department of agriculture did not bother me (I vacuum cleaned all my pockets from any crumbs leftovers, lesson learned); and my luggage for once did not get lost.
She was waiting there, past the automated doors, a small bouquet of flowers... I was surprised to see a mix of roses and daisies and lilac, must have cost her a small fortune... in one hand, a Foo-Foo soda bottle in the other, hundreds of people pushing past her yet she was planted there as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. I came straight to her, smelled the flowers and laid them on my suitcase, took a Foo-Foo sip and laid it next to the flowers, and then I kissed her. I never kissed a woman before. True, I never kissed a woman before, not like that. I thought I did, I claimed I did, I did not. I felt hunger rising in me from ancestral times, from primitive ancestors and bleeding battles and stranded sailors and laden slaves, I felt searing passion riding my nervous system and pouring from my mouth straight down her throat, I bit hard into her lip and felt her biting back and for a few unidentified moments we were isolated from the throngs and the world and the universe. I gave up my hold reluctantly, as she picked up the flowers and the soda and I picked up the suitcase, and never let go of her hand for a single second even as she was driving, even as I was signing the registration papers for the hotel, even as I clicked the door shut behind us and took my revenge on the time which passed from the moment we left the airport till the moment I could kiss her again.
We hardly got rid of our clothes, we made love again and again and again, alone in a world of scratches and bites and screams and desires and unquenched love and unquenched love and unquenched love... our only partners the sweat and the torn bed sheets.
“You have a birthmark, heart shaped, here to the left of your forehead, close to the hair line...” she said, finishing inspecting my body inch by square inch for the third time. “Didn’t see it before.”
“Not because it was not there,” I answered, laughing and biting her inspecting finger. “It’s in the family, on my father’s side, with all his siblings and their descendants. Funny, isn’t it? My kids have it too, and all my cousins on this side.”
“Are they all poets too?”, she asked picking up one of her new notebooks and wearing that dreamy expression I knew preceded to her jotting something down.
“No, I guess this is not where the poetry hides in my body.”
“I know where poetry hides in your body,” she said, dropping her notebook suddenly then clambering upon me and kissing my left nipple. I knew what this act was supposed to precede.
“This is where you hide...” I said, kissing her lightly, “...you are my poetry,” I added, kissing her savagely.
This time she did accompany me to the airport. And on parting she looked small, lost, my tunnel vision placing her at the end of an inverted telescope and my breath dying with each step taking me away from her. Until I turned a corner and she was not there anymore.
We were on emails again. After a few passionate outbursts close to my return home, we moved back into the routine pattern, not that the routine was anything less than passionate. But it was daily, more than once daily, still... daily. And daily is called in dictionaries routine. That routine could be so painful we learned it on our own skins.
It happened about three months later, more or less. Of sudden. There were no warning signs, no clouds, the messages still burning the wires they were running through, both ways. I had just sent her my latest poem, waiting impatiently for her words of appreciation, of being impressed, and even though at times they were a bit exaggerated I knew she loved those poems. We invented a lovers language, she used to say, let’s keep the dictionary growing. I did my best to contribute to the dictionary’s bulk. She contributed diligently her part. Then one day it stopped. The flow. Died.
I waited a few day’s, a bit stressed but it was more the longing for her which ate at my insides rather than any kind of worry. Then after three dry days and an empty mailbox the worry became real. I tried several follow up emails to my unanswered poem, then tried another email address she once gave me, one she used mainly for other activities like purchasing on line or similar non-personal uses. No result.
In two weeks I was frantic. I suddenly realized that I had no way to access her if something happened to her, and accident, a family problem, I knew she was in some incapacity to contact me because otherwise... she would... wouldn’t she? I killed immediately any thoughts of games, or affairs, or lovers, not after what happened between us, I refused to think this way even though the green little devil was getting hyper active in my mind and started sticking his nose deeper and deeper, irrelevant how many times I cut this nose.
I did not have even her address, my goodness, and when after a month I despaired to the point of risking ringing her house, I got an automated answering machine claiming the number was disconnected. I felt part of a bad practical joke or being sucked unknowingly into an emerging twilight zone. All I had in my hand was a roadside restaurant we used to eat in and a car plate number... I rang up my editor and begged him for a personal favor, all expenses on me, to trace the car plate to the address. His answer depressed me even further, the car plate had been scrapped and its records erased. So that short of being an FBI agent, I had no chance of finding anything more.
The depression started finally showing up in my personal life. I found it impossible to keep it inside anymore. I turned into a zombie, which was not big news at home where my wife had learned to live with my moods for years now. However at work I risked getting fired and finally succeeded to settle into a field support role where all I needed to do was repair machines and have as little as possible interaction with people. I stopped eating regularly which seemed to add to my waist line, in three months - by the time I was supposed to go for my periodical visit to the states, I turned into a broken human. If human was the right word.
I took a last trip to the states. I visited my publisher just as a matter of formality, it was clear to both of us that in my present state of mind and by the way I looked I better not do any signing parties. Contact me when you feel better, he called after me, and it looked to me as if he felt all of a sudden relieved to see me out of his office. I spent most of the time in the roadside restaurant, sitting close to the window and watching outside. I had my laptop with me but nothing meaningful was coming out from under my hands. A few badly written dark poems was all that resulted. The rest - I just counted cars. And hours. And empty nights. Finally I flew back to Europe knowing I would never return this side of the world. My love affair with America was over, better keep my dark mind the old side of the ocean.
My last poem.
Your skin will remember
What you did forget
And scream with the urge of repaying its debt,
Remember will glints in the desert it knows
When fingertips ripped it from death’s reaching claws.
Your lips will unbury
What your wish to hide
The trial by fire through blistering pride,
Unbury beneath aging layers of mud
The lingering traces of passion and blood.
Your heart will uncover
What once you have known
And carved is with silver through marrow and bone,
Uncover a love which refuses to die
When emerald teardrops each sunset you cry.
I sent it to her unresponding mailbox. One never knows.
Three years. Emptiness. So pure you could not even weigh it.
My mailbox was so deserted, I stopped getting even junk mail. I was opening it about once a month, more like a reflex of checking up on my sanity rather than any other reason, making sure it was pristine clean, smiling knowledgeably to myself in appreciation of my great wisdom and foresight powers, then closing it. I was certainly on the sane side of the borderline separating those from those, but not by much. I thought I could hold on this way indefinitely, as long as nothing shattered the delicate balance.
I grew a beard, sick of getting up for a shave each morning, I brought home my salary and entrusted it fully to my wife, I needed nothing except occasionally a glass of beer and long silent evenings on my balcony. I liked especially to sit there in the rain, forgetting life, forgetting time, counting teardrops... oops, why did I say it this way?... raindrops is what I meant. I tried to pick up smoking, then gave it up in disgust. If to die then better with a 9mm hole in my head rather than as a stinking cadaver on some hospital bed with all kinds of tubes penetrating my body at all kinds of angles. The 9mm highway was one I inspected more than once - its smoothness, its unpredictability, its unwavering promise. I tried to evaluate statistically my success chances by rigorously following up in writing the final position of the drum after one healthy roll per day, till that one time when I knew it would have been the last entry. Then I found that I was not selfish enough to leave behind a clean one holed dead body, and that I shall unfortunately keep dragging around the living multi-holed one, oozing its life through so many nails and screws and arrowheads holes... My mind was clearly in an uncontrolled state, and I locked the revolver away and never took it out again.
I opened my mailbox. There was one message there, and I frowned. If a junk mailer found his way again to my door I would personally go wherever he was and blow his brains to smithereens, I promised myself, then pushed on the button open.
“My love. I know what you went through. I went through the same. Forgive me, I know you can. If you are still coming to the states, you can call me at this cell number, it is always with me. I did not see any new books of you lately, are you still writing? I published my first book, it was out half a year ago. It is called Birthmark. I love you.”
It was the first time she said I love you. I ordered the book through Amazon, ordered my ticket when the book arrived and flew over.
I took the table we used upon a time. The place did not change much since the last time I visited, the waitresses were new and some items on the menu were replaced by new dishes. Except for that it looked like I had fallen through a hole in time to... when was it?... three, four years ago?
I saw her parking her new van not far away from the window I was sitting at. She got out, two youngsters - a boy and a girl, probably her kids, got out as well and she gave them some money seeing them off to the nearby mall. Then she unlocked a toddler from a kid’s safety chair in the back, took her by the hand and entered the place. She knew where to find me. She looked... thin, a few age lines showing around her mouth, pale dark lines under her eyes uncleverly hidden by pinkish powder, she looked beautiful. I made a huge effort to stay calm, not to break down, not to cry, she made me promise all these things on the phone. I knew I was dying inside. I smiled.
She smiled back, seating the little girl on a children’s adapted chair and sat next to her, facing me.
“You don’t look good,” she said, her manner calm, her eyes like trapped ferrets in a cage.
“I know, I don’t have to. You look great,” I answered.
“Thanks, I have to.”
I kept eyeing the kid, now busy on sipping iceless lemonade - so much like her. Those green eyes, the flaming red hair falling over her eyes, the few freckles at the tip of her nose. Missing my life, feeling sorry on missing my life, not jealous, not envious, just flooded with sudden self pity at the famous could have been’s...
“I see you have been keeping busy,” I tried a lame joke, not able to hide the pain in my voice yet passing a test in self control with honors. “What is her name?” I asked, waiting patiently for the waitress to place the order on the table and go away. “Almost like the old days...” I tried joking further, pointing at the food, then at the waitress.
“Jordaine...” she said.
It did not penetrate straight away. I was busy in some metaphysical thinking spheres before the word finally registered. Then it hit. Like a sledge hammer.
“Jordaine...” she repeated, softly this time, kissing the little ball of fire on the head.
I tried three times, each time the shiver so uncontrollable that I had to pull my hand back. On the fourth time she helped steady my hand, her fingers warm on my skin, as I pushed the lock of hair hanging above the girl’s left eye out of way. The stain was there, unmistakable, heart shaped, a few freckles disturbing its maddening uniformity, then disappeared again as the discontent kid shook her head in disapproval of me making all those rearrangements to her hair.
“I am sorry...” I managed saying.
“I am not...” she said.
She pulled out the book from her purse, by now educated into knowing this was a purse, opened it at the first page and handed me a pen. The book looked well worn out, stained, several pages falling out of the seam.
“Please sign it. Then I will know you do not hate me.”
I signed it. I love you.
Then I pulled out my own copy of her book, seeing the glint in her eye, and opened it in front of her.
“Please sign it. Then I will know you loved me.”
She signed it. I love you.