April 27th, 2022
Absence Makes The Missing More Meaningful
It’s been six months since I moved out of the house on Fowler Avenue. And in some way I’ve been trying to get back there ever since. Not necessarily into the house itself, but back to what brought me there in the first place: Gusto.
That girl, that young woman human creature thing with grey eyes and that smile of hers and the laughter that comes with it. I miss her.
I miss her hiccup, the way it pops out of her mouth. I miss her bashful face. The way her lips purse off to the side, the way they kind of roll around her face from one side to the other. I miss her excitement. I miss the unbridled joy when I would finally give in to her whims, when I shared my breakfast with her, when she received a present in the mail, when she’s around friends. I miss how she always asked if she could have a bite of this, a sip of that to stay connected. I miss how she wanted to share in the same experiences, to talk about it until blue in the face (Though to be honest this is what she lives for).
I miss how she asks permission to share something vulnerable, how she gives that space to say yes or no though most times I would say yes without checking in on myself beforehand. I miss the mornings in bed. I miss laying there with her and Millie, saying good morning to that fur ball and how Millie would roll around on her back and growl a little in her excitement.
I miss how she brought the house to life, the way a space was never the same for too long, always in a state of change, the way a picture might float from one room to another, the bed as well, the dining room table, the plants.
I miss her show and tell. All the things that bring her joy. All the things that make her sad. I miss her curiosity. I miss her questions even though they would annoy me to no end because I didn’t understand that she was still trying to stay connected, to be one of two. I miss the way she’d fart and then quickly cover my nose for fear that I would leave her if I caught a whiff. I miss how her hands would go to work when she was nervous or scared, how one would tap into the palm of the other in a certain frantic rhythm. I miss the face she makes when she’s sad, tears rolling down her cheeks, how it would break my heart to see it.
I miss how she wants to experience EVERYTHING her heart so swollen by existence.
I miss that. I miss all these things more than I could ever have known when it was happening, when I was in it, sometimes almost pulling my hair out in fits of confusion.
There’s so much in us. Too much. The weight of yesterday. And the day before that for the whole of our lives. And I miss how she wanted to heal that, alleviate the weight from herself and others. I miss being around that. I miss the knocks on my office door. The notes slid beneath it. The post-its in the bathroom. The love messages written on them. I miss the hard times too, because that was part of it. The times we had to work towards understanding, to come to an agreement, to get closer.
I miss wrestling it out with her, to get somewhere where we weren’t a moment ago because at least then it was working towards something. I miss how she wanted completeness, to be whole in us. I miss the girl who jumped in a van with a complete stranger and gambled everything for a shot at love.
It’s been nearly three months since I last spoke to her in person. Saw her face. Touched her. We were severing what ties there were left between us. She had a list of things we needed to divide up. I couldn’t go through with it all at once (Even though it was my choice to separate in the first place). Both of us were in tears.
All the cliches are true, she told me, as we sat there saying a final goodbye.
All the cliches she loves so much that I ripped apart. Tore into pieces. Threw in her face like sad confetti. All the things I once wanted for myself: A partner. Someone to dream with. To make a life with. To love.
When I was backing out of the driveway she was standing behind the glass door in jeans and a white shirt, middle finger in the air. I returned the sentiment, then drove off.
The image is burned into me. I can see it now, and it brings tears of sadness, tears of joy. Sadness for the mourning of that union. Joy for the gladness of the secret message hidden in that symbol.
The last thing she said to me was that if I wanted her back I had to watch Arthur (Her favorite movie ((Not the original with Dudley Moore but the remake with Russell Brand))) I would have to do what he did to get Naomi back.
The truth is I watched it a couple of days later knowing I only needed some time to figure myself out, to see the whole of the forest from the trees. Eighteen minutes and forty-five seconds into the movie, when the lovers first meet, Arthur confronts a police officer who is harassing Naomi for not having a license to give guided tours of Manhattan (At this time the tour group is lying down on their backs staring up at the celestial painting on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal). This is what Arthur says to the officer:
“Officer, which law prevents this radiant stranger from finding the MAGICAL IN THE MUNDANE.” (The emphasis on magical in the mundane is mine)
To which the officer replies coldly, “MTA Code 1085.1 Section 5.”
Are you paying attention?
I opened my eyes wide then. Played the scene over and over again.
What was this? A symbol? An Alignment? I knew it was important, that it was pointing me towards something, something I’d forgotten.
Okay, I thought. I’m listening.
Over the course of the next month or so there were more of these instances, these magical moments in the mundane that seemed to reach out and grab me, shake me around, to make sure I was made aware of feelings I had at some time lost touch with, forgotten.
During this time I was reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Esther, the narrator, spoke of having her hair stroked by her mother when she was a girl. How she would lie in bed and her mother would caress her hair until she was asleep. This was something I used to do to Gusto as she laid there in bed. I loved how her face would become serene and quiet and glad, how it made her so happy and loved.
More of these realizations occurred.
When Gusto left for Arizona for a week in January and left the living cotton ball with me. Each day is a ritual with Millie. An understanding. She taught me patience. Routine. How to find solutions without being emotionally involved so there’s an opportunity to help another creature get what they want without making a story about it (This last one being the most important considering I’m a complex creature with an imagination and a history of story telling).
And again it happened while watching a Harry Nilsson documentary. At some point in the film they talk about the song Without You and I told myself if I saw Nilsson Schmilsson I would buy it and play that song for her, and then only a moment later checking Homer’s Instagram to see all the new used records they get in and when they fingered through the stack of records the second one right off the bat was the record. I put it on hold and bought it same day no hesitations (When these things happen you act on them because they mean something to the individual experiencing it if not anyone else).
This happened again and again where instances would remind me of her or bring more clarity to understanding who she is and what she needs in order to feel loved and safe and connected. I would think of her much when they happened. I would think about my part in it all. How to make adjustments. Be more aware. All the while I had plenty of things around me to remind me of her.
The porcelain hand with “Don’t Forget” written on it and the pink post-it clipped to it that reads “Pink” in her hand writing. The hot sauce packet she gave me that says “I can’t let you go” on it. The pictures of us taken by my sister-in-law, me lifting her up and kissing her on the cheek, a smile on her face with Millie in her arms. The nude portrait I took of her in our condo in Myrtle Beach when we were on the road. The photo she took of her god (A mirror ball). The drawings of mushrooms, of random objects she found around her studio. Framed love notes she would leave for me around the house. The middle finger card she made me for Mary’s Christmas.
Last night marks the first Jazz Nite I went to two years ago (Jazz Nite was a gathering on Zoom hosted by Keith Rogers and Neal Duffy) during the 2020 outbreak of the pandemic to celebrate jazz music and connect with friends and strangers). It was the first time we’d seen each other in seven years. We talked for a couple of hours after the show about life, about personal things. It felt so natural (I later commented on this to her and she replied, “That’s my favorite kind of conversation.”) She wore a floral shirt with frilly sleeves and collar and she played with the top button nervously while we talked. It was adorable. I was smitten.
Over the course of the coming months we would spend many more hours talking and reading Still Life of Woodpecker together. We would create the Outlaw Quaker Poets from that book and devote every Wednesday to wearing black, our own private ritual. I’m wearing black today in honor of that union.
There are many more things I could say that bring a smile to my face when I think of you, Gusto, wherever you are at this moment. There are many reasons why you are worth the work, the effort, the time. Your love is the best love I’ve ever known. And I wouldn’t need any of these reminders to know that to be true, though they’re nice all the same. You’re the fuckin’ best and as cute as a goddamn button.
Thank you for being in my life. Amen.
* How do you make love stay? Woodpecker wondered.
You don’t make it do anything, I replied. You bite into like a Twinkie and forget about cholesterol and sugar content, indulge in the creamy goodness at its center, and chew it up until every bittersweet crumb is gone gone gone. The end.
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