A writer is a person who writes. We write, do we not.
How is it that in the course of our lives, we leave an entire universe behind and make a quantum leap into another.
Were we pushed?
No matter. We are somehow in a Christ-like state, the time where he could not be touched, for he was entering another dimension.
Hank Williams: A false goodbye, a life is shattered.
Strange, this Chapter Thirteen of my LIGHT OVER NEWMARKET
I was very fidgety on the train. It seemed that I had been on this train making this border trip forever. Like being in a dream. Val and I had only made this very same trip a few days ago. Now it's me solo. Back on the same train, the same border trip. Anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, these were the demons that were driving me.
The trip was a blur. An overnight one. I found I couldn't sleep in the seat I'd been assigned to. (I couldn't afford an antique Pullman this time because I simply hadn't the money). As it was, I was striking out almost blind, with only enought money in my pocket to get me to about Dallas-Fort Worth.
I had been in such a rush to go, just go, just to strike out for Toronto and get to Loren before she was in that bastard's power, sexual power, no small thing when a a woman switches men. Or men switch women? I was still young enough to trust my insticts, my mottoes, my certainties. Motion in itself was life and I was sure moving.
Recent flahbacks came, like the ubiquitous prickly pears out the train window.
Oh, life in the new dimension had been good. We were the most famous couple in old Manuel Hidalgo. What was it that I had seen and felt, when new girlfriend Valerie and I were actors together in the Instituto theatre? I had surprised myself by having become as good an actor as Valerie had been an actress. Something I didn't know about her past life?
We had been involved in a comedy skit and I recall memorizing my lines again and again, no matter how much initial anxiety and pain I was beginning to feel as I fought back the fight-or-flight rushes of my separation from Loren. Valerie had a quick and facile memory; I needed to be more surefooted. I had read and reread entire lines of the script, committing it all to memory, not just once, but several times, learning and re-learning so that I could not only keep up to Valerie but to surpass her. I was not yet forty. No woman, no other person could show me in a bad light. I could not be intellectually outperformed. Maybe Valerie had gotten it right on that railway platform. "The key to you is your ego. Simple. Simple!
And all that time I thought she had the brains of a hairdresser...
My foray into acting was still fresh in my mind.
During and up to the time of the dress rehearsal, I had in my now anxious state the intimation that my life was in danger. I wasn't given much to clairvoyant imaginings, but the conviction had been there. Your life in danger. And then the sudden focusing in my mind on my mother and my father. Who are you, Dmytro? Who are you Paraskeva? I had to, at the age of 39, fully apprehend who my mother and father were. I was not Irish, like my friends. I had only seen myself that way for most of my life. Most everybody around me was Irish-Canadian. But I was not. I was some sort of carbon-copy Irishman and not a very good one at that.
Small matter really. I was now on a train bound somewhere to north Texas, with about fifty dollars in my pocket, and some of the money already froittered on cokes and cigarettes.
Toward evening, I was becoming more and more fidgety; I couldn't sit still. I went back to the tiny cubicle at the far end of the car that served as a bar and had four Corona de Barils. Self-medication. I had to calm down.
Back in my seat, I tried to sleep, but sleep wouldn't come, only more fidgetiness and more anxiety. The nerve of that woman! Telling me goodbye out-of-hand, ending it just like that after ten years of marriage. And all in such a nice unsentimental tone, not even an echo of our married years together. Bitch. Insensitive woman. She was completly in the wrong.
Early the next day, with the train clacking through the immemorable adobe hamlets, and, finally the outskirts of Monterrey, I was more agitated and upset than ever, not having slept a wink. I had been so since Loren's letter, the maddening insomnia, the endless need to smoke, to drink, drink anything, coffee or beer, all of those substances combining to drive me even deeper into a sate of near-panic and woe.
A customs man boarded the train. He was checking tourist visas and passports. He came up to me and asked to see my passport and my tourist visa. I produced both. The mustachioned official, who spoke perfect English and had the trained eye of the experienced border guard, said out of his tin soldier's moustache and crips uniform: "I will have to keep your passport, for examination, Senor."
Panic. At no time are you to surrender your passport to enyone unless its only for perusal. The official wanted to take it out of hand.
"I can't let you do that. You can't walk away with my passport..Look, it says so right here."
"I do not care what it says on your passport. I will take it now, I will keep it and you will keep your mouth shut while I'm examining. Go to your section of the car and wait. We will be in the dining car."
A familiar need to void my bowels came upon me. Jesus. They will keep my passport; they will throw me in some dingy jail. I'll be dungeoned and forgotten. I remembered the stories of those who had been imprisoned in Tijuana, the large central pissoir in the open cell, the feces, the lack of food, the brutality of the guards. Gad.
I went to the washroom cubicle and had a good look at myself. A passable looking man, fairly well dressed, but the hair, the hair. It was hanging to almost my shoulders, silvery blond, scraggly, unkempt. I looked like a hippie who had somehow gotten himself a Salvation Army worsted suit that happened to fit. You look like a fugitive!
Back to my seat now, worried about the fact that I may not get to Toronto at all, let alone solve what I had to solve with Loren.
Back came the customs official. I decided to be firm, that I would demand my passport back on pain of incarceration or worse. Visor- cap trundled up to me. I opened my mouth, but was flagged by the blue-black book the senior official was holding in his hand. "Your passport, Senor."
I got off the train at Nuevo Laredo and took a taxi for the border crossing.
The first place I ordered the taxi driver to go was the duty free liquor store where I purchased the biggest bottle of Tequila that I could find. This was serious business. I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't getting through the nights. The tequila would help me. It had always helped in the past.
Across the border, nothing to declare but the luggage and the tequila. Back over the Rio Grande in a blur, on foot, back past the same little shops that carried the duty free goods, back to look down over the river, where farmers' fields and dirt patches ended at the muddy gorge. I walked back into Laredo on the American side.
What a shock. And for the second time: everybody in American Laredo--everyone--was still Mexican. Not a Caucasian face in sight. I had the first twinge of regret over what I was doing. Only a scant week ago, Valerie and had been at this very spot along with Lucille, the stunning Southern belle who could write so Southern, about Good Ole Boys, and women kept penned like farm animals. There was George, her boyfriend, George divorcing his wife and keeping Goldie Hawn Lucille as a mistress. Dave taught photography at the Instituto in Manuel Hidalgo. He was also a drawing master at some school in Oklahoma. He had a lot to be proud of; an accomplished man. After months of standoffishness back at the Instituto, he was finally accepting me as a friend. We had all been together on the border trip, something of a necessary ritual in our Manuel Hidalgo set-- No new tourist visa, you don't stay in Mexico.
Lucille, George and Valerie had all been friends even before Valerie had met me. Could Valerie and George have been lovers before Lucille came on the scene?
Now I was in the self-same spot that we had been standing on, just scant days ago, during our mutual shopping jaunt, in front of the same motel we'd all stayed in, and I was so angry, so self-conscious and so alone.
As I went to book into the hotel the only thing on my mind was Loren. Loren, Loren, why did she dismiss me so out- of- hand, what was she thinking? How could she end this marriage, just like that, with no sparks, with no attempt to get me back, with no hint of a fight, of acrimonly even. Just a straight Dear John.
The hotel room was at least comfortable, almost identical to the one Valerie and I had slept in so very recently. Standard motel layout. American. Predictable and familiar after the relatively comfort-deprived state of things in Mexico. There was the colour television and its somehow comforting whine of the cablecast channel before the backround elevator music came on. They had an endless tape of of the by- now unfamiliar popular songs of the past year. Hits would play and I could not identify them. I had missed a part of the seventies. "Cheap Perfume and Candle light". And something by Merle Haggard, "Are the Good Times Really Over For Good?"
I took a deep pull of the tequila and though about Loren and what I wa going to do, or what I was going to say to her.
..............end chapter thirteen