We remained in the cramped room our family had rented for most of that year. Repeatedly we got word that our admittance papers had finally come in, but it was always a false alarm; there was always some technicality that got in the way, and it was always "Everything will be cleared up very soon." I had begun to get used to our poor accommodations, which scared me more. I wanted so much to live in America, to be an American, to have an American job, to be someone like I could never be in Nicaragua, and moreso here in Mexico. On one very fateful day I went out as usual to find work for the day, and there was Zelma... and Her...
It was Saturday and I was, for the first time, woken up too early, my body having eased out of jet lag and my mind reeling from the sheer ecstasy of the night before. Today, I had been told, I would have the opportunity to sell my body for $15/hr., which is more than I make sometimes in a year, putting aside those occasions where I am hired by my own subconscious as the executioner of love, for which I am paid in self-loathing and Pez, both of which make for nice anniversary presents. So I got in the back of this car, see, a car with Zelma and She in the front, with Zelma driving ("Just don't talk to her and she'll drive just fine," I had been warned). The car kept stalling, which was not her fault (I think), and this was good, as it kept us from picking up enough speed to smash into anything. Ordinarily a drive with Zelma would have taken place in her pick-'em-up-truck with at least two small dogs and one larger one jumping all over the hapless occupants, the driving controls, and the greater part of human sensibility, but said truck had (un)fortunately been totaled only the day before, with no serious injuries absorbed by anyone except God, who, being omnipresent, had been right between the truck and its target (a semi) at the moment of impact. What had provoked the truck to such an attack is beyond Human Understanding (i.e. I don't know); it undoubtedly had its own story: perhaps years of mishandling and mad occupation had at last driven it to strike out, heedless of the well-being of itself, its occupants, its target, or that Divine Guilty Bystander who seemed as oblivious as the rest of us... serves Him right, I say, the multifarious British Colombian bastard.
It has come to my attention that I don't know how to characterize worth squat, so there's no way in hell I can convey how Our behavior in that peril, Our constant passing back and forth of a simple thermos of coffee, My hands slowly toying with Her hair or resting on Her shoulders as I attempted a full body-lock on the seat in front of me. I can't make you see through this the constant and strong flow of energy between us, the effortless and comfortable fit of ego against ego, the tenderness and concern, and, yes, the CHEMISTRY. Oh, well.
So we didn't die (yet), though we did get lost a couple times, and eventually made our way across the mighty city of strip-malls to a place that looked approximately like the one we had started out from. It had that aura of Zelma ownership on it; it had DOGS. We didn't actually see these DOGS, as they were (so I was told) very wild, and would beat us if they had the chance, so they stayed all day inside the house with its single human resident, a woman much older than Zelma who didn't drive at all.
The house... yes, the house... well, should have been burned down to collect insurance. This house was much less bitchin' cool than the cottage I helped put insulation on, and much smaller as well. I could have built it out of a single largish set of Lincoln Logs(TM); I could have lifted it given proper leverage. This latter fact was reassuring, as my work occurred primarily under it, digging out a basement, and were it not for a few very large strategically-placed supports, the house would be falling in just about the right spot to squish us flat. We were digging so that a foundation could be laid, the old one having completely rotted away, so as to make the Damaged house somewhat less highly unsafe, or at least within federal and state building regulations. A match would have done the trick better.
The day began fairly enjoyably, with Her face (and whole body for that matter) hovering nearby as I entered into various machine-like rhythms of digging, making a trench around the house big enough to hide in with anti-aircraft guns (which I did not do). By afternoon I had dirt in every orifice of my body (the crunching between the teeth was funky to say the least), back pains to no end, several small bumps on my head from smashing it on the beams lining the bottom of the house, and the eternal echo of many DOGS performing unearthly rituals a foot above my head. I was also getting increasingly annoyed at the presence of the one older flannel-clad guy who was undoubtedly being paid but seemed to have no other function than to stand around and smoke, occasionally stopping for a moment to glare disapprovingly at the quality of my work. But ya heard no grousing from me, nope, because it was money, I was with my Beloved, and I was doing a proud American job.
This description is accurate only if applied to the many moments before six o'clock, an hour and a half after the "foreman" (who did not wear flannel, but nonetheless knew as little about what we were doing as we did) cheerfully predicted that we'd be done within the hour, whereas as far as I could see we weren't even close. The act of either hefting dirt up nine feet to the surface or tediously weaving through the various supports to get to a sort of underground dirt-conveyor belt that ended up burping half the dirt back into our hole anyway got a bit tiresome. The Popeye routine was getting old; I was forced to drift confusingly through different bits of flashbacks, presented for your amusements to deepen the exposition and allow me to dote.
Time it was to romanticize on the goodly days, to record them in thought and data-base to keep them from slipping to the four winds. Yes, it's very hard to divide them from the present, as the whole thing has been for the most part one wash of goodness (yes, with me this includes occasionally wanting to be dead), but they are at least less recent, and so more easily romanticizable (should this prove necessary). It was in the first many days of the second phase in Our relationship, the phase in which we realized that we could do things socially besides running around in the woods until group heart attack ensued. This realization opened up a world of inadvertently romantic possibilities, and though in those days she was still very shy about making eye contact, the connection from head to head (and elsewhere) grew strong and leafy, blooming every hour or so everlastingly.
Please excuse that barf-o-rific image; it won't happen again. So... I remember going on long walks around the campus, Me sometimes carrying some bit of tree I had just pulled off, carefully stripping off all the leaves, the stray twigs, shortening it to the proper length, and presenting it pristine and perfect to Her to cherish forever and ever. I remember diving headfirst into the pesticide-ridden grass next to Her like it was a deep blue lake, only not deep, blue, or a lake. I remember sitting on a see-saw with her to see who was heavier (it was a tie; I am a very skinny boy), playing trust games as to who would let who clump to the ground first. I remember similarly loitering on a near-by swing set, talking about how we both got bullied in junior high, about various conceptions of God (the kindly gent vs. the biggest ball of nothin' encompassing us little nothin's and happy to be so), about her home town, about what is ideal in love, what is required, and what we periodically settle for.
I remember trying to get to the highest spot possible to see... well, the rest of the world, I guess: entering a building we weren't supposed to be in, up an elevator that would take us up to the high, forbidden floors but wouldn't open its door without a key, up some back stairs past the "DO NOT ENTER" signs and the ventilation shafts, through some skanky crawl-space to the final door, which was jammed, but which I rammed through anyway... to the roof, above the CRUD. We could see almost... well, maybe a block. Okay, so we weren't really that far up, but it felt, God, it felt...
I remember Her swinging on a tire, with Me pushing at first, her propellant, but then standing aboard with Her, well-balanced with my legs against Her back... our first lengthy physical contact that I can recall. I remember Her impressions injected into my consciousness, reading Her mind...
...This happened quite a bit... Her housemates didn't pay the phone bill so it was cut off, but She wasn't... on more than two occasions I would, of my own accord, decide to walk the block to Her place to say hello and find Her meeting me half-way, set out with the same idea as my own. This tendency was reflected over and through most of our dealings, but only came out in a manner tangible enough to be seriously scoffed at through a simple parlor trick...
We sat on the grass in a great University courtyard. I laid the cards out in front of Her and lay back on the grass, watching the cottonwood drift and trying to capture it using more inappropriate ocean imagery. She held up cards one by one so that She could see them and I couldn't, and told me to guess whether they were red or black. She would then place it in the piles corresponding to my guesses, and lo! at the end all my guesses had been correct. "I can send to some people," She said, "but you have to be open to me." I was.
All right, I admit that while writing this section I have had my most beloved, cheese-dippy music going, the kind that made its way into my subconscious sometime shortly after puberty and before maturity (so to speak). I admit that right now I feel like writing Her name in the sky, regardless of the havoc that might perform on the aerial ecosystem, or at least writing Her name in this manuscript. I admit that I long to kiss her long, slow, and many times. You may yak if you wish, and believe you me I am plenty embarrassed thinking of the various people that know me reading this, but dammit I love the Girl... [pause for fifteen minutes staring at nothing directly after writing this]... [and another six minutes after then]... and the ink grows lighter on the page as I write, and the mind slowly shuts down, leaves this Earth.
So it was as I shoveled dirt beneath a cabin in Alaska. The only refuge from work is romance, and the only refuge for the romantically-destroyed is work. Those in crummy standing on both counts may visit the zoo, which will at least make them tired enough to SLEEP. (Note: Use the expression "zoo tired" to refer to any experience comparable to the horrible "No, I don't want to walk another five blocks in the blazing heat to see the goddamn monkey-house dammit" feeling that all parents and field-trip-goers understand.) The end of said work-day, our weasely way of stopping work well before 9:00pm when the project actually got done (proving that Zelma had more stamina than either of Us combined) constituted Our first almost-fight, as I in my Damaged-by-work state could not be properly sensitive to her apprehensions about abandoning her admirable employers to finish the job themselves, and borrowing Zelma's car to get home, and She in similar Damage and apprehension could not fully engage my back-pain, and so procrastinated endlessly before actually arranging Our departure. The fact that We made so much of this later, that we took so much pleasure in working things out and forgiving each other I take as a good, if repulsively cutesy, sign.
|© 1993 Mark A. Linsenmayer||[ Contents ]|