Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Continuation of romantic story by, er, popular demand
What follows is probably a mistake.
Oh how we, in this hedonistic age, crave immediate satisfaction and forget the longterm goal... Of maybe Random House or, to really strech it, Borzoi Books. Hah.
Anyway there is a demand now in cyberapace. Well, at least from Mona, or maybe Liz and Donnetta, who want to see another chapter of my Light Over Newmarket.
So here goes:
I had no idea where you were in Mexico until I got your postcard. Why did you send it? Are you feeling some remorse, regret, guilt?...Maybe you've found a girl, a beautiful girl, who knows?
You have hurt me very badly, Kevin. I spend nights alone, awake, with nobody beside me and I become lonely, frightened, angry.
I suppose I can understand why you did this. I suppose you felt, in your peculiar way of connecting things, you had to be a man, to go on an odyssey to prove to yourself that you could still enjoy life, that you were not yet old, to prove that you could still get it up. I understand that. I suppose I'm really resentful that it was you who left and not me. You had the guts and I didn't. But you were so sudden in your leaving, so callous, almost. You threw away the ten years we had together as if they didn't exist at all.
I still love you, Kevin, in spite of it all. I cannot say that I will be welcoming you with open arms if you every come back. I'm not sure I'd take you back right now, if you were to appear on my doorstep. You have hurt me too deeply for that. But I must say that I do love you (or is it just that I still like you?)
Do what it is that you have set out to do down there. I realize that it was not a one-way thing, you leaving. You had been changing for years and so have I. I just didn't realize how much we were changing, how much I resented my constant piggybacking on your career, on your hopes, dreams, aspirations, myself having no dreams at all.
I relied on you for emotional support; I had good solid Kevin to always lean on. Now you're gone and I have to do things for myself; I have to stand on my own two feet and I should like to tell you that I don't really care for it. I suppose that I will have to learn to be self-reliant, to act out those independence fantasies that I had had, through which, perhaps, I was impinging on your psychological space, to the point where you could not stand it and you ran off.
I have gone back to university. Canadian Studies and English. You laughed at English majors. I remember; but you are luckier that I, Kevin. You have a large talent for science and I have to be the statistician, translator, historian.
You were always more surefooted than I. When we were married, I dropped out of college, became a housewife, raised your children, did your laundry, looked after the house, helped you grade your papers. Eventually I grew sick of it. I had my dreams of independence. I badgered you at a difficult time when you should not have been badgered at all. Neither one of us realized what was happening during those periods you had of disorientation, nausea. You were sick of our life too, but in a different way.
I miss you, Kevin, and so do your children. But I don't think things will ever be the same with us. Will they?
If you like, I will keep writing to you. But I do think that we are through, Kevin. We cannot again have what we had. The hell of it is, I understand.
I stayed by myself for two days. The temptation to run back to Loren was very strong. What was the gain, what was the sense of maintaining a relationship with Valerie, Valerie coming from a crazy society, maybe a little crazy herself, and yet beautiful, complicated, witchy-attractive. But how could she compare with Loren's mature womanhood, Loren's intelligence, Loren's capacity for love. Or was it the other way around? I was no longer sure.
I had almost laughed out loud at some of the things that Valerie told me in the first few days of our relationship. The need to "get in touch with your feelings", that obsession of hers to talk out absolutely any problem between us. I didn't really take her seriously at first, her easy sex, her earnest naive way of placing value on emotion, on intuition, on psychological insight--qualities possessed by any peasant yet lacking, she said, in so many of the American young as they try to blast through the prison of cold logic with their drugs and their religions.
I love two women and I love them both the same. A little ring to that. Was it an old original Jimmie Rogers song? Yes, back there in the hungry thirties, the guitar twanging through the Victrola, the little winding cylinder buzzing, missing the tops of the tinhorn chorus. Honky blues of another era, the music of hard times, love gone bad, rejection unemployment, the blast of the past that would no doubt lead to a blast into my awful future.
How can I fall in love with a woman in the space of a few weeks and think of leaving Loren for good? Can I trade ten good years for ten crazy weeks? Why did I come to this loco country anyway? What do black holes, experiments, particle accelerators, telescopes matter to me now? I am certainly on Event Horizon. Why does humanity worship the brain and not the body, that preoccupation of old Tertullus? For it is though the body that we live. Life itself is holy. And marriage is holy. It completes, spiritually and almost scientifically. Why try to wrench the galaxies from the cosmos? The universe vibrates in A-minor, like a marriage with its various accidentals. We are back to the Garden. Sin exists in all its various disguises, the devil in a punk haircut. Now only an Eastern European would think that way, my U. of T. professor would say. But after sixty years of a Communism that had nowhere to go, can it not be said that the basic Slavic family unit had had a 20,000 year track record and that it was the best one?
I have sinned. This is the meaning of the Garden of Eden myth: The Garden of Eden is the marriage bed and the snake is the temptation to seek another, more glorious bed. And when the woman tempts you as Valerie had tempted me, she did not really know what she was doing, apple of wisdom or not, and then Wham! Old God comes in the garden looking for you and you are naked.
I have to get back to Loren. I have to leave this country. The hell with my pride. The hell with the project. I have to save my marriage.
When I saw Valerie again, she was way ahead of me. "I think we have a relationship based on need. I think that I know this fairly certainly. I do not want a relationship built on need."
I could not believe it. She had made the decision for me, the decision to end the relationship. I wasn't sure whether it would have been such a good idea to have gone home now, to go home with my tail between my legs to face a Loren who may have changed into God knows what.
Valerie was freeing me. And yet, I had really grown to love Valerie. Arghh, the devil sound. What to do? I tried to talk to her. Ours was not a relationship of need, but of mutual love. I didn't feel very comfortable saying that. Maybe I was only using Valerie. The thought did occur to me.
No, she would have none of the argument. She wanted out.
We were on her rooftop terrace, she in the same spanking bathing suit she had worn on those first few days at the hot springs, the same heartbreakingly clean hair, the deep tan setting into her skin once so white.
I went off, thoughtful, hands in my pockets. I was free to do as I wished. There would be no more Valerie to complicate things.
In the morning I stumbled out to the town square, but the men and women there seemed like distended Picasso shapes. The trees and plants took on surreal dimensions. Dali in the garden.
Going mad. No doubt about it. Crazy people are the last to know it. What is that promise of clarity that never comes to those really on the way to losing their grip? You read a book and the words begin to dance. Comprehension slips. There is a fuzziness as to meaning. Maybe it's not madness but plain lovesickness. Spinoza must have hit it right on: In the absence of the loved one, the body weakens and so do the powers of mind. But which loved one? Whom did I love more strongly, Loren or Valerie? And the children, the little children! What were my children doing now? What were they chirping about? What is happening to me, to the family, our entire society?
The days passed and I stayed in my crisis. Eventually I grew afraid to leave my apartment. Each passing Mexican on the cobbled streets was a threat. Something was written all over my face. I had marked myself down in my own estimation. The absence of the loved one does indeed affect the powers of body and mind.
A kind lesbian had rescued me, briefly. I had somehow ended up at an upper-class Mexican party, with the whiff of marijuana strong in the air, and kinky sex in all the rooms off the patio where I lay on a chaise-lounge, hugging an enormous bottle of rum, a cold friend in a glass overcoat. I hadn't been able to eat for some time and now the rum was helping.
She had come to me carrying a large quilt, which she threw over me. I had looked at her eyes and something electric, human and urgent passed between us. "My God!" she had gasped, seeing the lonely hollow expression on my face, the expression of an alienated Cain, wandering and lonely, unable at this point to connect with human feeling, with emotion. Too late now to establish human contact. My need had begun to scare people.
And suddenly her hands were on my face and her breasts were against my chest and I was stroking her hair, face, eyes and I was crying in the first release of an emotion in days. How people bandied the word love about. How desperately people needed it. This was the meaning of the popular songs and the airwaves were still full of it. Love. Love. All You Need is Love.
And afterwards, when it was over, when the sobs and tears had stopped, I thanked her, and she kissed me on the mouth, something that both Valerie and Loren had been reluctant to do toward the close of both relationships and I thanked the woman for kissing me on the mouth, and she said "I kiss all my brothers and sisters on the mouth."
We had coffee the next day, rational adults coming to terms with who and what they were in a world where personal distinctions were becoming blurred. She'd gone off eventually with a girl who looked like Ozark Ike and I was not the least resentful nor judgmental. Humans need humans. I felt warmer and more understanding about the third sex. I could see myself becoming lonely enough to eventually get to the point of doing anything, anywhere with anybody.
Two days later, I was sitting in a restaurant and suddenly Valerie stepped out from behind me, put her lovely long arms around me and said, "Hello darling." I could not believe it. I was like something out of the dreams I had been having lately. It was so healing, like rain falling on a tin roof after a long drought.
She had gone off somewhere to consider our affair, perhaps to other people, perhaps to another man. And she had decided on me at the last moment. I would no longer be alone.
We sat very close together, me basking in the warmth of having her near again, she increasingly sure that she had made the right decision.
And yet, what of Loren.
I couldn't think of Loren. To think of Loren, to separate from Valerie was to approach the loneliness again, the sudden fear, the dreadful self-consciousness. It seemed I could not live without Valerie.