This heathen’s spending another Sunday morning at the cafe where coffee is doing its thing: gently nudging me awake with a warm hug and some sweet hand-holding.
I’m sitting in my chair at Red Cat — hearing the French family from last week speaking beautifully to one other, the four of them seated at the round table in front of me; watching the elegant woman in the brown leather chair to my right, with her suede brown boots and yellow-and-gray polka dot scarf, reading a novel on her iPad; and passively listening to the customers around the wall’s corner placing their orders, the baristas behind the bar calling out those orders, and the magical coffee machine whirring in the background for all of us.
I’m remembering sitting on a park bench a few days ago; leaning forward with my elbows resting on my knees and my hands clasped underneath my chin, observing the pond water swishing and swirling around in front of me. I counted three ducks swimming that day — finally, three — and when I did, I cried with relief.
After a few moments, I heard a little girl’s voice calling out from behind me, so I turned around with red eyes and she asked: “What are you looking at?” Two, three times… she kept on asking. I could hear her question clearly, but I was wearing headphones, so I just smiled as her parents – each of them grasping one of her tiny hands – ushered her quickly forward. She cried out in protest.
“I’m watching the universe coming alive and dying over and over again,” I answered myself. “But to her, I would have said: The water! The ducks! It’s all very beautiful, isn’t it?”
A few weeks prior, I had spent my Saturday afternoon chatting with a remarkable guy at the same park (yes — the guy was Audio; sigh), and on the way back to my car, I had passed by two ducks waddling through the grass.
“Hey, guys — where’s your friend?” I wondered after them, as for years now, there’s always been the trio — three inseparable duck friends who I always spot wandering around the park together. I began to feel worry creeping in, so I ducked into my car and headed home, deliberately (and literally) leaving the matter behind me.
But last week, another weekend rolled around and I was studying Spanish at the park (at a table near the pond) when those two ducks came into view. Again, just two of them.
A police officer (one of the guards who routinely strolls the park) walked past me, and when he did, I almost flagged him down to ask about the third one: Do you know where s/he went? Any idea what happened? I’m really starting to worry…
But I decided that he probably didn’t know or care, and that I probably didn’t want to know, anyways, so I reeled my grief in and then held it there as I continued to practice verb conjugations. Incidentally, I’m now reading, writing, and speaking in three tenses.
But like I said — the third duck finally returned to view a few days ago. It was a happy ending (for now).
I watched a bluegrass band (another trio) from Montgomery perform at an art festival yesterday; they sang about wearing purple flip flops, visiting different states, and worshiping the dirt. It’s funny — bluegrass isn’t one of my preferred genres (not even in the slightest slightest), but there’s just something about live music and the sense of community latent in it that makes any flavor of sound appealing.
I also spoke with different artists yesterday: a bearded guy had his painter girlfriend take a picture of his German Shepherd tattoo and mine; a skinny girl from Portland sold me a clay necklace she’d made — a creek side leaf from Oregon etched into its surface — and wished me safe travels there next month; and a tall and lanky guy named Jim handed me a delicate pair of mixed molten earrings. “These are the tiniest ones I’ve ever made,” he said, laughing. I put them on this morning.
A girl wearing lots of jewelry complimented my tattoos in the grocery store yesterday afternoon and I felt like running away from her. Instead, I complimented her jewelry and then said goodbye immediately afterwards.
I drank a white russian to loosen up at a bar before performing last week — sang three songs while feeling like a ghost; perfectly invisible, and wonderfully untethered. I didn’t even know that I was breathing. The crowd, composed of many other musicians, cheered enthusiastically. I played inside of the saloon, but noticed Audio walk outside right as I began to play; he complimented my sound later on and then played a mostly silent game of pool with me. One of our only exchanges:
“Hitting that triangle of balls is called breaking the cue, right?” I asked. The phrase, while unfamiliar, just intuitively sounded right — like I’d somehow picked up some cool pool lingo in passing.
“No,” he shook his head, smiling. But he never did say what it was called.
I just can’t figure him out.
And then I passed by a special man this morning. He was sitting on a bench at the park; somewhat near the trio, and fidgeting with his shoes. When I saw him, I felt my blood turning pulpy and flowing thicker, ambling through my veins like the train clattering across the tracks, to my right.
“HI!” he greeted me loudly, offering a brilliant smile.
“Hi!” I replied, smiling back at him.
“How are you?” he asked quickly.
“I’m good — you?”
“You look nice!” he answered happily.
I laughed. “And so do you! Enjoy your day!”
And then I walked away quickly, trapping grief in my throat.
I thought of my brother Bobby again moments later when I passed by a bright red Doctor Pepper truck. I asked the maintenance man to take a picture of me in front of the truck, and then I deleted it. He’s been gone for nearly five years now. I often wish that I could talk with him… his presence was always so stabilizing. It’s like you knew exactly who you were when you sat down with him; you could clearly see and feel your darkest parts and your best parts. Everything just became so weirdly apparent and tangible. And you knew exactly who he was, too, because it never occurred to him that he could or should hide…
Meanwhile, I believe that we all waste inane amounts of time building walls and fashioning masks and then burn up even more of our energy and hours choosing when to hide behind either (or both). Bobby lived so much more authentically. He was always 1000% transparent. He’d only smile if he was happy or humored — that classic, toothy grin was never affected. Alternatively, he’d yell – really loudly – if you hurt his feelings or angered him. And then, my favorite, he’d simply pass the phone off to somebody else (anybody else) in the room mid-sentence if he was done with a conversation, cutting your question or story short with a monotoned and slowly drawn: “Alright — bye, sister babe…”
And when he’d give you one of those awkward and shaky arm-crushing side hugs, you knew that he loved you so, so much. He was so open. So goddamn trustworthy.
And when you remember a soul so radiant and flawless and true, you miss having somebody so real around, because you re-realize (it dawned on you before; we just easily forget the things we hate knowing) how fucking fake the rest of us are with each other — pretending to like who and what we don’t, and then absurdly concealing how strongly we actually feel about someone or something with light shrugs and small smiles and powerful words that we keep to ourselves.
A Month Ago
“Is it weird that I’ve made friends with this hole in my hand?” I asked Charlie.
“Good. Because I just feel such an affinity for it — like, I feel so whole with a hole in my hand,” I sighed. “I hope it never, ever heals.”
But is has. The blood dried up within a day and then the soft flesh knitted itself back together in a few more. And as per usual, I keep on wishin’ that somebody would wanna HOLD my hand, dang it! 🙂
I used to get so secretly excited when I’d return home from visiting my old best friend in Connecticut, because I knew that – having been gone for two weeks – my mom was going to hug me when she saw me in the airport. It was one of maybe two or three hugs I’d get from her all year, and I looked forward to it with that nervous dread you feel when something is awkwardly unfamiliar but happily-anticipated. And for the record, I’m not upset about it — the lack of hugs in my young life; we just weren’t a touchy-feely family, growing up.
But when friends in middle school started hugging me and grabbing my hands with theirs, they seemed to slice right through the first layer of me — creating weak trickles of blood and revealing soft skin. And those same hugs that cut zig zags into me became the very hugs that healed me, and then, I began to crave them. Like burritos.
And in the world of hugging and hand-holding, I’ve discovered that there are simply no arms and no hands quite like those of a companion. What I miss most about being in a relationship is 1. the physical warmth and 2. the emotional intimacy. But you can just disregard the 1 and 2, because it’s a genuine 50-50.
I used to watch my Holland Lop rabbits snuggle up beside each other, their overlapping fluffiness turning them into this one gigantic puff of rabbit (with two heads); while they had all the space in the world to occupy, Panda absolutely insisted on existing right at Hiro’s side, sleeping or awake. And nowadays, I watch my German Shepherds interact similarly; Tycho will walk across the room to go sit on my other German Shepherd Silo’s back — and it’s a total nonevent; she does it so she can just sit there, in very close proximity to him, and look around the room — and then in the evenings, I often catch her falling asleep with her paw resting on his. And I get it. I totally get it. Sidebar: Why was it always Panda and Tycho – the gals – reaching out for affection? Why were Hiro and Silo such emotionally-clueless IDIOTS? 🙂
And now that the hole in my hand has healed, I’m just waiting for somebody to want to hold it.
Somebody other than the three guys who’ve flirted with me in the past week — it’s nice to know that I’m not actually invisible, I guess, but jeez; A. too old, B. too young, and C. too BOLD. Why can’t Audio just get it together?!