I didn’t know her, but I did; her passing connects me to the sadness of having loved and lost someone she seems to represent.
I didn’t know her, but I did; her passing connects me to the sadness of having loved and lost someone she seems to represent.
Language is a method of communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in an agreed upon structure.
A group of scholarly Englishmen once got together and agreed that a fury little creature that wags its tail and goes “arf, arf!” is a dog. “From henceforth,” one of the esteemed Englishmen had said, “everyone must call this critter a dog.”
A group of scholarly Frenchmen wrongly agreed that a dog should be called a “chien.” Not even close! A chien, as we all know, is that bony structure below our mouths. And here England and France, while right next door to one another, could not agree on a clear and simple word such as dog.
On the planet, Bufadu, everyone happily speaks the same language, which they call “language.” There has never been but one, or so the people of Fraidland have always assumed. They also assumed they were the only people on the planet, just as the people living on the mythological continent of Methania, on the opposite side of Bufadu, believed.
Like Britain and France, two unique languages evolved on the two oblivious land masses of Bufadu. But by some outrageous chance, the two continents came up with precisely the same vocabulary, the exact same set of words. However, a group of scholarly Methanians once got together and agreed that a wooden vessel that floats upon water should be called a “town.” So, what became of the word, “boat?” Boat, as defined in the Methanian dictionary is: a greater or additional amount or degree. What we here on Earth might refer to as “more.”
When creating Fender’s language (Methanian) I swapped words based upon their length (rhythm and aesthetics), with little or no regard to their meaning. I figured the concept was already bordering on too complicated. Taking meaning into account added unnecessary complications.
I had to create a dictionary with two sets of translations, based on who is speaking. Fender sees a boat; he says, “town.” When Evelyn says the word, boat, Fender hears, “more.”
When Fender sees a face, he says, “wind.” When Evelyn uses the word, face, Fender hears “high.” Face means: of great vertical extent… or what Evelyn might refer to as “high.”
Can you see the logic behind my using two different translations for the same word? If you are one of those who require congruency and order in your gibberish, I am providing you the use of my translator. CLICK HERE: alien dictionary
It’s been a week now since our ‘rendezvous’.
Sneaking around requires some discretion, plus a trick or two—a ploy, a ruse. So, yes, we met, but not being one to kiss and tell…
I hadn’t seen O in over twelve years. So, we’re like, what, over twelve years older than we were? This was a huge concern for O, who was so certain I’d take one look at her, see she was now a decrepit old hag, or whatever, and tear out of the Motel 66 parking lot never to be heard from again. Was I harboring reservations about her advanced age? I wasn’t … not at all. I did admittedly add twelve years to my mental image of how I remembered her, and, even so, the picture I painted was still looking pretty good to me.
Another concern of O’s was that she’d be disfunctionally nervous at first. “We need to have a clear itinerary from the get go,” she said. “We need structure.”
So we came up with a step by step, detailed plan. We would first take our luggage and groceries up to the room, step in, then quickly out—for lunch and a drink, then a long walk in the park. And if that wasn’t enough to calm her, then, well, we’d go see a movie, and then another.
I left my house at 7:30, headed east on I-70, feeling good, cheerful, a bit excited—a four hour drive to the motel. As I got to within a half-hour of the place, it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve committed myself to a blind date—for three days and nights. What the fuck was I thinking?
I couldn’t find an answer to the question, so I drove on. I would have anyway … no matter what. We’d agreed to arrive at the same time, to avoid the torture of waiting for the world to end in a motel parking lot. Actually, I agreed to arrive first.
“If you’re not there when I get there,” she said, “I’ll turn around and head home… no ifs, ands, or buts.”
So I got there ten minutes early, checked in, took my stuff up to the room, then, with one minute left before her expected arrival, I went back out to my car to watch for her. Twenty-nine minutes later, I spotted a vehicle with West Virginia plates pulling in. I was warned beforehand not to approach her too enthusiastically, so I gave her a call to see if she might want to chat over the phone for a while before leaving her car—talk away some of the nervousness—ease into our meeting.
“Hi,” I said as gently and sweetly as I could manage.
“Are you going to help me get all this shit up to the room or just sit there and watch?” she said.
I clapped my phone shut, hopped from my car and stepped over to hers. She was bent over her back seat dragging her luggage toward the car door. She turned, gave me a brief, nervous glance, and then turned back to what she was doing.
OMG! Wow! Just like that! I remembered what it was that I had, all those years before, been drawn to, fascinated by, and frightened of. It was her, just as beautiful as I remembered. This woman really rocked my world—rattled my foundation.
I tingled with excitement as the elevator door closed before us—just O and I in a tiny six by six-foot box… alone… breathing, deep nervous breaths. (Elevator? OK, so maybe it wasn’t Motel 66.)
We put our stuff away, then threw each other quick glances.
“Do you want to go to lunch now?” I said.
“I’m not hungry,” she replied.
“I’m not either.” I looked down at the king-sized bed. Our bed. “Do you just want to sit and talk for a while?”
She glanced from me to the bed and back to me. “No.”
“Yes.” She lowered her butt to the bed, so close to the edge, it’s debatable whether she was really on it or not.
I scooted up to the middle of the backboard, piled a couple of pillows against it, and leaned back.
She took a deep breath, fidgeted, then suddenly got back to her feet. “Let’s go do something.”
“Do you want to go for a walk?” I offered.
“What do you want to do?” she asked.
“Hold you,” I said.
She took a deep breath, then, a long moment later, let it go. “OK.”
(A composite story, created from the first two chapters of my novel, The Other Mr. Bax.)
Saturday, the twenty-fifth of September, Dana had gone to her mother’s house to help make pizzas. Roland walked the bike-path alone.
To his right was a small backyard orchard where hornets and bees busied themselves feeding off rotting windfalls. A stray gust of wind sent a cloud of leaves fluttering down from the trees. The autumn air carried hints of compost, mildew, burning leaves, and cider. Glancing toward the trees, to his right, Roland drew in a deep breath; the memory of a young girl running off toward the back entrance of a school building skipped along the edge of his mind. She seemed to have arrived on the scent of the wind, on the air’s coolness, its dryness, encouraged by the light, teased by the colors of the leaves, a particular brightness, the crispness of autumn, the season of love and loss. He scanned the scene before him as if he might catch a glimpse of her, but then stopped—the memory vanished, leaving not so much as a trace of her.
Another fall had arrived. A cold, dark winter would inevitably follow. Every year, about this time, these memories resurfaced. But these weren’t the same leaves he’d kicked through in the autumn of ‘63. And it wasn’t the same wind that then whispered through the branches of maples and elms lining the streets of the small, rural, Hoosier community he grew up in. Perhaps the catalyst for these memories was really nothing in particular, but a combination of many things.
Roland’s eyes shifted as he followed the carousel of distant events turning in his mind. A low vibration, like a hum, a moan, left his throat. The memories—most at best were vague, though some were as vivid as the day before: a farmhouse, his grandpa and grandma, the interior of a school bus, swings on a playground, Joyce Rubens—a mix of pain and disappointment, of wanting, and moments of joy. The key events were easy to recall—the big moments, the thrills. But the spaces in between, the ordinary everyday spaces, were hidden—lost among a million insignificant breaths.
An eddy of air shuffled leaves around the smooth asphalt surface of the path—a sound like TV static; they swirled about his feet, skittering like paper butterflies, and then quieted. He targeted a particularly crisp-looking leaf, crushing it beneath his foot.
He recalled the farmhouse his parents had rented on Mud Dauber Road, a night in the summer of 1961—he and his big brother, Keith, his sister, Kate, and baby brother, Brian, all lying on a pile of blankets spread out in the grass of the backyard, scanning the crystal-clear, moonless sky in search of a rare satellite or shooting star—those last few days before school.
Accustomed to a life of freedom, Roland was ill-prepared for its sudden denial once the classroom door shut on that first day. He was slower than most, adjusting to the rigid structure, but, like a broken pony, he came to accept it. The girl who sat at the desk directly in front of him unwittingly helped. She was far more interesting than the teacher squawking at the front of the classroom. Her name was Rebecca—the only name he could now recall from his first-grade class. His memory failed to produce even his teacher’s name—only Rebecca, only her first name, no face, only the braid of brown hair that persistently hung down her back.
But then, the following year, while wandering the playground during recess, a girl Roland had not noticed before caught his eye.
He wandered off across the playground, to the opposite end, where two sets of swings patiently grazed like giant stick-figure horses with children swinging from their stirrups. Of the twelve swings, six per set, only one was available, and sitting in the swing to the left of it was Kathy Goodman, a girl he saw nearly every day—her desk being directly behind his. The other girl, the one to the right of the vacant swing, he’d not seen before.
Selma Elementary had twelve classrooms, two for each grade level, one through six, and allowed each level, one at a time, onto the playground. Roland was pretty well acquainted with the faces from the other class, but not this girl’s; he would not have forgotten hers. Framed by a pair of blond pigtails, hers was an exceptionally symmetrical face, painfully sweet, the epitome of innocence. He was instantly infatuated.
At first, he maintained an inconspicuous distance—the unknown girl, seemingly off in a world of her own, pumping her swing even higher—but then, finding it impossible to keep his eyes from her, he moved closer. The swing to her right remained motionless and empty, as though waiting in reserve for someone else. He hesitated. More than anything, he wanted to stare. He wanted to sear a picture of her onto the back of his mind, something he could possess. He fantasized having the power to stop time, imagined himself standing before her, invisible, where he might satisfy this thing, this urge to look and get closer yet—examine her eyes, her cheeks, her hair, her nose, her lips, and perhaps determine just what it was that compelled him to want this.
She caught him. He turned away—quick and obvious.
His reticent peeks, like smelling but not tasting, only fueled his hunger the more. Again he glanced her way; the swing to her right miraculously had not yet been claimed. It was now or never, he realized. He quickly scraped together enough courage to approach the empty swing, and sat. Then, pushing back as far as the chains would allow, he lifted his feet and began pumping. After a couple of self-conscious passes, he turned toward the girl flying by, an arm’s length away, swallowed, and with a most concise greeting, which nonetheless managed to feel unnatural and rushed, he split the universe in two. “Hi.”
The little girl threw a glance his way as she swung by. Did she hear? She may have returned his greeting, and the surrounding pandemonium interfered. Trusting that he somehow missed her response, he waited until she made another pass, swinging by from behind.
“Are you new here?” he said.
The girl leaned back, her legs stretched out before her, an elfish smile on her upside-down face, pigtails flapping to either side of it. She gave a reply, which could easily have meant “What’s it to you?” Roland, however, took it as an affirmative.
He pumped his swing to the same height as hers, finding himself as far out of sync as possible, her backside coming as he was going, and vice versa.
“What’s your name?” he asked, as they again scissored past each other.
He began dragging his feet, kicking up sand and dust with each pass. Bringing himself to a stop, he twisted his seat around, positioning himself to face her. From the toes of his shoes, he pushed himself back and forth, studying her through casual glances as she flew by—Joyce Rubens—back and forth.
These are nice words, don’t you agree?
Do you crave hearing them?
Do you feel compelled to say them?
I have puzzled over love my whole life. Perhaps this is a mystery we all share.
Recently, I met a woman. Well, it’s more like I re-met her after having not seen or heard from her in over a decade. In the few weeks since, I’ve experienced a familiar symptom: a ticklish pressure building up inside my chest and a compulsion to say (or write) those words. Should I say it? I love you?
I’ve given this a lot of thought and have decided against telling her how I feel. I mean, not like that, anyway—not a weak and worn, ‘I love you.’ I asked myself, is ‘I love you’ what I hoped to hear in reply? I love you? Yes, I wanted that, while at the same time I didn’t, I don’t.
I think I’ve had more than my fair share of romance. I’ve said ‘I love you’ a million times over—always ‘in love’ with someone. I would say it as though it might possibly convey the excitement, uncertainty, and anticipation crackling like thunder inside of me, like ‘I love you’ might transfer some of that energy to the person I loved and ease the crazy pressure. I’d say it as though I’d never said it before, like it was something unique and special—like a first kiss.
Say it again? Why? It’s just three words. Anyone can say I love you. Saying it would inevitably become a habit or even an addiction, and the words would in time lose their meaning. They’d become a substitute for the real thing. These three words are so often said out of a sense of obligation. That, to me, is sad. They’re often expected, craved—and sometimes requested, or even demanded. Everyone says I love you. It can mean a lot and it can mean nothing at all. Three words.
How much effort goes into writing three short words? None. They total eight letters for crying out loud!. Peck, peck, peck, peck … peck, peck, peck, peck … done. That’s how I feel? That, My Dear, is the laziest way of expressing admiration and respect and interest and joy and… No! I am not going to convey the baffling complexities of how I feel, and then hope to satisfy your curiosity with a cop-out eight letters!
No, I will push it to twelve.
I like you a lot.