I’ve often been the long point in the isosceles triangle. It’s not a very comfortable position. What I mean is more than once I’ve been “the other woman” which is not to say that I was some vampish female who entrapped and led men into committing adultery. Not at all and never, but I’ve often been the “other girl” usually without ever being told. One of my guy friends (just a friend) said of this to me once, “Well, you make a good ‘other woman’.” Whatever that meant. But then, to be fair, I’ve been one of the softer points in triangles of my own while some guy hung out at the rarified distances wondering if I was ever going to leave a husband.
Love can be messy.
One of the most wonderful books ever written (according to my dad who was a mathematician) is “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.” by Edwin Abbott. It’s a kind of science fiction in which all the beings live in a two-dimensional world. My dad gave it to me soon after I learned to read (maybe?) in any case, it was very hard for me to get my child-mind around. He tried to explain it, but in every respect it was over my head. I do remember that in Flatland there are strict rules for movement because it’s very important (naturally) to avoid injury. If a Flatlander happens to run into (literally) the pointy end of an isosceles triangle, it can mean death. It’s a real danger, too, because from the front, that point just looks like a line. No way to know if you’re looking at the happy broadside of a rectilinear “person” or the point of an isosceles triangle.
I never read the whole book. I think even its theme was way beyond me at the time. I ultimately just took my dad’s word that it is a brilliant satire and geometry lesson and mind warping story about living in 2 dimensions. “We’re lucky we live in 3, MAK,” he said, “But we really live in more. We live in at least four dimensions.”
“The one. You know. I told you. The one next month at that theater.”
“Sorry Babe. If you told me, I don’t remember.”
“Do you even listen to me when I tell you things?”
“I always listen. I might not always remember.”
“Part of listening is remembering.”
“I’m sorry, Char. I have a lot going on at work right now.”
“But I’m your girlfriend! I’m ‘going on’ too and this is your LIFE not just your job.”
“Sweetie, come here.”
“I have to learn these lines.”
“OK. You want me to help?”
“No. You have ‘important’ stuff to think about.”
Jack shrugged. Char could be moody. He’d always known that. And self-centered. He’d always known that, too. In fact, he’d always known Char. She had been the literal “girl next door,” and he’d decided, way back when they were six that he was going to marry Char. Twenty years later, it still had not happened, but they were, at least living together.
“Why can’t we get married and live together?” he’d asked her.
“What if we can’t get along? We need to know each other before we get married,” she’d answered. He’d brought up the point that they’d known each other since they were two. She’d just said, “It’s not the same. What if the way you brush your teeth drives me insane? I need to know that before I make a life-long commitment.”
Jack had thought, “But we’ve been on camping trips together, our families, just us, you KNOW how I brush my teeth.”
In some of Jack’s wiser brain cells he knew Char wasn’t all that into him, but he had managed to convince those cells to shut up most of the time. ALL of his brain knew she was hard to please.
He put down his book and went to the basement where he was slowly regaining space from the bizarre 1960s interior design the homeowners had done back in the day. It was a big job, involving the up-rooting of asbestos/asphalt tiles placed in arcane triangles exactly 8 feet apart. And why in hell would anyone put numbers on their floor?
“It has to mean something,” the realtor had said, “but godnose what.”
“Mom would know,” said Jack.
“Your mother’s dead, babe,” said Char.
It was Jack’s inheritance that had bought their house. Jack was a little nervous about buying a house with a woman who didn’t want to marry him, but whatEV.
He hadn’t done much with the floor lately, but tonight he felt a real need to do something that would lead somewhere.
He went at the tiles with a heat torch, a knife and a flat shovel. One at a time they came up. He stacked them in a pile to the side. They had called in an expert who said that since the tiles were in pretty good shape, they weren’t dangerous and they could cover the whole mess with a carpet or even pour a new concrete floor over them, but Char was freaked out by the asbestos. Jack shook his head.
When Jack came to, he was outside in the cold air, wrapped in blankets, strapped to a gurney, an oxygen mask over his face.
“You’re lucky your wife smelled fumes,” said the EMT.
“She’s not my wife,” Jack mumbled.
“WhatEV’. you’re lucky. The fire department was able to put out the fire before it could do much damage and we were able to get you out of the basement. What were you doing down there? You don’t look like a guy who snorts glue or some shit.”
“What?” Jack’s head hurt. He realized his hands were burning, but he couldn’t lift them to see why. “My hands?”
“Third degree burns. Probably be OK.”
“She went to her mother’s. She said she’d call. Lie back now. You’re hurt, you’ve had a close call. We’re taking you to the hospital.”
A cell phone rang, Jack’s. “Can you get that? It’s in my right front pocket. It could be Char.”
The EMT found Jack’s phone, “Just a moment, Ma’am,” he said, and put the phone to Jack’s ear.
In my life “Good-byes” fall into four main categories — those I can’t avoid, those I instigate, those that are instigated by others, and those that happen slowly over time, kind of an “evolving door” rather than an exit.
The first “good-bye” I couldn’t avoid was the death of my grandmother Beall which happened when I was 10. I didn’t understand any of what was going on at the time, honestly. There was the adult world of grieving daughters — my mom and her sisters — and the quiet world of confused cousins, my peers. It was just strange. But it was my first experience with death. The second was to be my cat, Henry, who came home one day with a broke back and while I was at school, my parents had him put to sleep. It was right and completely different from my grandma’s death, not so much because it was just a cat, but because there was a clear injury. I’d gone out to the garage to let Henry in and found him like that. He tried to jump up into my arms as usual.
The next was my father’ death which resembled Henry’s death far more than it resembled my grandmother’s. I had the chance to say “Good-bye” to my dad one afternoon and from that I learned that, if you can, control that moment so you can hold within your heart a perfect memory, a perfect image.
After that, over the years, there was what anyone in this temporal existence expects. One death after another. One permanent good-bye followed by another. Grandmother, mom, aunts, dogs, dogs, dogs, friends. You can’t always say good-bye but after a certain time, “Good-bye” is part of every “hello.”
I’ve had to break up with some boyfriends, divorce some husbands, and end a few friendships intentionally. Those are hard good-byes. They can involve packing up some future-ex’ crap and putting it in a wheel-barrow in the front yard. They can involve difficult phone calls, “No, Sweet-cheeks, I really mean it. I’m tired of you calling me and venting about your horrible boyfriend and not doing anything about it. I’m not your sob-sister. I’m your friend. That guy treats you horribly. If you hadn’t told me all these stories about him over the years, it would be different. I feel used because you don’t do anything about it. I don’t want to hear from you anymore.” Ending friendships can involve “ghosting,” leading to numerous “Why don’t you call me back?” messages which you answer in your mind, “because you kicked my dog, you excrescence.”
And, of course, there’s being dumped. In my life that’s probably been no weirder than in anyone else’s.
Then, you know, people move away. People’s interests change. People’s lives evolve. A lot happens in our lives, and the silent “good-byes” often have no bad feelings. Maybe there are going to be thousands of miles between you or that our lives that — once similar and synchronous — are now wildly different.
I have a few friends with whom I’ve been connected for more than fifty years. The friendships have survived because someone has held on — loosely. Our lives have gone in their own ways over the decades, but the connection remained alive. Some of these friends are old boyfriends (now literally, senior citizens) which is actually kind of cool. Whatever the connection was back in the dim recesses of time, something more important than the feelings of being “in love” was born and endured. My best woman friend from the 70s is still my friend today. We never agreed on everything — in fact, we disagree on a lot of things — but we value the other deeply for certain ineffable qualities of being that we never discovered elsewhere.
“Good-bye” is inevitable and while I’m not sure that every good-by opens the door to someone new, it’s useful to believe it does.
If you spend time in the outdoors, eventually something will go wrong. It’s a law of nature. But if you survive, those epic failures become the best stories! We’ve all read about amazing accomplishments in the wild, but now it’s time to tell us about the not-so-great times and what you learned from them. Share your best #EpicTrailFail stories on your own page, include this paragraph as a header, and then provide a link in the comments here or here. We’ll curate and circulate the best stories in future posts. We can’t wait to read about what you’ve survived! Arionis of Just A Small Cog and Rebecca of Wild Sensibility.
Back in my thirties, forties, and into my fifties, when my right hip went south (without me) I ran miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles on narrow rocky trails in the California chaparral and in the mountains east of San Diego. I ran up and down hills like a bitch. Everyone said, “You should be careful! You’re going to hurt yourself!” but I never did. Never. Not once.
The trail and I were as one. I felt those trails beneath my feet with the same knowledge with which we know the lines on our own hands. No one could keep up with me let alone catch me.
Why once — when I hit the trails to run off a disappointment — I ran up the steepest ‘face’ of one of the ‘mountains’, down the other side and up the next mountain. I didn’t know there was a guy running behind me, trying to catch up. When I finally stopped, and the guy caught up, he said, “Damn, woman, you’re fast. I’m fast, but I couldn’t catch up. Do you do this all the time?”
I gave the guy a hard look and thought, “That’s one fit dude,” and answered, “Pretty much every day.”
But pride goeth or love hurts or something and I fell in love. No, not with the guy who chased me. The guy’s name was Mike, and he was (IMO) beautiful and very smart. It turned out to be a pretty good short-term relationship, too, and it ended in friendship that was even nicer than the relationship. But this was the beginning when people are incoherent, babbling fountains of unasked questions, reading each other’s faces and looks and gestures. He was also 15 years younger, and that was one reason for all the incoherent babbling and face reading. It was a little scary. We hung out a lot as friends and had a blast. But as happens, the friendship grew and hit the infamous When Harry Met Sally moment. Neither of us was sure about it. Meanwhile, we kept hanging out, eating dinner, going to movies, talking, hiking, and riding mountain bikes and stuff.
Then, one quiet Sunday afternoon we went to Balboa Park. Balboa Park is near the top of any San Diego sightseer’s list. It is the location of the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Museum of Art. Many of its beautiful buildings were built for the American Exposition of 1915. It sits at the top of a mesa not far from the harbor and downtown. It is completely and totally flat. As flat as the valley in which I live now.
Mike and I wandered around, talking and (gasp) holding hands. As we talked I realized this was that miraculous, rare thing called “requited love.” Inside I felt like a million Lawrence Welk bubbles were dancing in my heart. I was so happy that I turned to physical anarchy to release my emotions. There was a small square of grass, small wooden stakes pounded into the earth on each corner, encircled by a flimsy white string about 18 inches above the ground. I did a perfect scissors jump over it and then another over the other side. And then I screamed like all the tortures of hell had suddenly found my left knee to be inexorably damned. I’d landed with my knee hyper-extended not knowing, when I jumped, how much lower the ground was on THIS side of the string than the the side I’d jumped from.
Mike helped me up, got me to my Ford Ranger and I drove home. “Walk it off, Kennedy,” echoing in my mind, but when I stepped out of my truck, I collapsed. My knee wasn’t going to hold me. I managed to stand up and limp to my house, let myself in and get past the dogs to the phone.
“Mike, I need to go to the ER.”
Sometime later — a year or so — Mike and I were no longer an “item.” He was in college taking a keyboarding class. One day, in the mail, I got his homework…
“Faces don’t talk unless the hole in the bottom region opens and emits sounds. Mine wasn’t.”
“Your face says a LOT.”
“I can’t help it.”
“So what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. It seems like every time I turn around there’s some kind of, I don’t know.” Hubert sighed.
“Some kind of WHAT? Did I do something?”
“No. Not you. I guess it’s the times we live in. I just don’t understand it. So much is so easy that was once so hard and so much is hard that was once so easy.”
“Like walking, Dude? Your ankle is going to heel.”
“Stuff we took for granted isn’t…” Hubert took a long pull on his coffee. At least THAT still worked like it was supposed to…
“Did you know that during the reign of the Sun King the Great Pyrenees was the official dog of the French Court because it was just such a beautiful and majestic creature?”
“Are you trying to distract me?”
“Yeah, seems like a good idea. Look at Foster over there. Is that majesty or what?”
The big old dog looked up at the sound of his name. Seeing that nothing was happening that required his attention, he lay back down.
“Can you imagine how beautiful that was? All those people in those ornate, baroque, silk clothes, wandering around an absurdly manicured garden, prancing through the short labyrinths — short in matter of height not length — and all over the place were dogs like Foster.”
“Foster isn’t a Pyrenees.”
“Same basic theme. Big, white, livestock guardian, calm, independent. Why are you always splitting hairs? Did you ever think about that? How that egregious insistence on absolute precision in all things might lead to your depression?”
“If you don’t like me, you can leave.”
“Well, yeah. Why would you want to stay around here if you’re unhappy?”
“Hmm. Good point. Here, Foster. C’mon boy.”
The big dog stood slowly, stretched an immense white dog stretch, looked at Hubert questioningly, shook all over, throwing hair and dust all around the room and went to Anabelle. “We’re going for a walk. See if you can be a little less whiny and self-indulgent by the time we get back.”
Warning: Frank language! This is posted by request of Carrot on The Dihedral This post appeared originally on one of my Blogger Blogs in 2008.
Warning II: All these stories are true.
In 1998 I tried to go to Colorado for a week with my dog to visit my Aunt Martha. On the Alpine Tavern Road exit, the waterpump in my Escort went out and that was the end of that adventure. I coasted to the Ford dealership that took care of my car and left it. It was then I established my first email account and I tried online personals for the first time.
From that I wanted to write a story called “Netting Men”. I thought it was a clever title.
I met four guys. Three of them were bizarre; the one who wasn’t lived on a sailboat. The most bizarre was an old hippy in flo-jos and tube socks who lived in a motor home on the bay. His job was delivering pizzas by bicycle. He was about 45 years old. When I arrived (our “date” was a walk on the bay) with Kelly (golden retriever) and Molly (aussie/malamute mix), there were three other guys in his run down and harvest gold motor home and he came to the door with a large dead rat in his hand. That was horrifying, but I went through with the date. He had grey hair; I had red. We walked a red dog and a grey dog. A girl commented how cute it was “our” dogs looked like us. My skin crawled. If he TOUCHED Molly, I’d have to bathe her. At the end we sat on a bench. True to our generation, he asked me my sign. I answered, and he informed me that he didn’t think it would work. See, he had once been a Professor of Astrology at de Anza College. “I’m a Scorpio and I can tell that you are not particularly sexual. I need a very sexual woman. Sorry to disappoint you,” he said.
I have heard the “the Scorpio” argument several times since; enough to avoid them if I have fair warning. My brother is a Scorpio, too. So was my most recent ex…
(P.S. from the present — no woman who is completely turned off by a guy is “particularly sexual,” AND no guy who lives in a harvest-gold RV, delivers pizza on his bicycle [and is older than 16] and calmly carries rats out of his kitchen is much of a turn on)
Then there was the guy with the wonderful dog who went hiking with a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew and regaled me with splendid belches along the way. The dog was smarter than his owner, and I soon realized the dog felt a custodial responsibility to the guy. He looked at me almost desperately, as if he hoped I’d take to the guy and give him (the dog) some time off. Another met me at a trail head. The first thing he said on seeing me was, “That’s not your natural hair color!” We’d talked on the phone several times prior and I had thought he was probably a smart guy…
That was the end of that internet dating experience. The next time I tried it was in 2003-04 to reassure my ex-friend, Lana, that I was not interested in a good friend of mine whom she was dating.
The first was a museum curator who took me to see an exhibit by Andy Goldsworthy. I loved the exhibit, but my assessment and appreciation of the work did not sit well with my date who was an east coast guy full of answers. This was not to be a participatory experience; he was there to tell me what to think about what I saw. He was intelligent, thoughtful, articulate and divorced from sensation. It was a case of well-mannered mutual revulsion. During the course of this date I was actually hit on by a wildly tattooed, punked-out artist who came up behind me and said, “Here’s my number. Call me when you ditch your dad.”
(P.S. from the present; I probably should have called him but I washed the jeans with the number in the back pocket.)
The second was an Executive Coach. When my friend Brian (aged 20 at the time) saw the guy’s picture in the Yahoo Personals, he said, “Martha, that’s an old guy!” Since I hiked with Brian and hung out with Brian he had forgotten that I, too, am “an old guy.” I met the man and we immediately recognized that the other had the social skills to make the date/coffee/light dinner interview pleasant and entertaining, but we weren’t going anywhere. I got home to an email suggesting that we “just be friends.”
The third was a marketing director for a publishing company. We met for lunch; it was obvious immediately that he was just going to get through as quickly and painlessly as possible. The fourth was an avid mountain biker who loved to ride in the desert — something I really wanted to do. I was impressed because he drove all the way to Alpine to meet me. We had a nice dinner, and I liked him and we both thought the other was nice and good looking, but the conversation died about 40 minutes into the meal and never returned. What started out great became awkward and uncomfortable… He was NOT a Scorpio…
It should work. I mean you describe yourself in your own words. Back in my 20’s I remember thinking that meeting someone and handing him a resume, he hands you a resume, you check it out and go from that, many questions answered, would make it easier — that’s what online dating actually does. You basically write an ad telling the world who YOU are and what you are looking for. It’s amazing what you can tell from what is NOT written, for example, you know a guy is an executive type who’s used to giving orders when he basically writes a profile (allegedly about himself) that sets forth the necessary qualifications a woman must meet to be “hired” by him to be a girlfriend/lover/wife. Don’t have the min quals, forget the interview. One guy wrote, “I hate big breasts. If you have big breasts, don’t email me.” Another guy wrote, “If you get together with me, you’d better like my girlfriend. I would never leave her for you, ever so accept that right now.” This is accompanied by photos of him and his girlfriend along with photos of just him. Another, “I like 69, but my wife doesn’t. I love her, but I want head.” These are freakish phenoms, and amusing.
My favorite came to me through eHarmony (which a friend I met on eHarmony and I call “eharm” — that friend had been rejected 1440 times by potential matches and wonders if eharm is where “stepford women go to die.”) This passage is from a profile of a man that eharm’s much vaunted algorithmic bots (had to be white bots because they don’t have much rithm) sent as a potential match FOR ME:
“as i said befor i realy like to go into the woods and listen to the sounds of nature and get colster to m y savuer and think about life and hope this is not for nothing that i am on this world . i am a biker and hav been for 45 yrs & only broke 14 bones in that time ,i dont plan to break any more because i have stop speeding. after supper i watch tv movies , walk my dog for the night and retire for the night after watching j. leno . i also like to make my own food for the last 4 yrs sinse my devorse .i stoped smoking 26 yrs ago , & make 80 of my own food because i am very fussy about fats’ fiber.”
Some men (and possibly me, too) reveal between the words a level of hostility that tells you just how bad they were screwed over by someone. Women do that possibly more than men. On OKCupid (a free dating site that is a little WORLD into which one can fall and never emerge — it reminds me of a film I once wanted to make about a guy on Venice Beach who went from Tarot Card reader to Tarot Card reader until he dies just trying to get a different future reading after being told by the first that he would live an empty life full of futile searching…) it’s easier to read the same-sex profiles on OKCupid than on any of the dating sites I’ve been on. An enormous range of gorgeous, successful and dynamic women along with half-dressed Lolitas somewhat past their prime. I like it a LOT.
(P.S. from the present: I met one of my best women friends on OKC back then)
Putting a profile up on a dating site has taught me a lot about communication and its impossibilities. You can write what you think says, “I’m looking for a friendship that can turn into a love relationship” and there are men who will think you want sex now, with them (those are the Scorpios) over the phone. So, in a way, it doesn’t matter what you write in a profile, some will read what they want to read.
What’s AMAZING to me is the sheer NUMBER of dating sites each of which has hundreds of “age appropriate” single men. All the information (assuming it’s honest) should make this work, but there’s no reason it should be more certain or more predictable than meeting at school, or in line at the movies, or at Trader Joes (I’m constantly being hit on at Trader Joes — I think it’s the 50-something equivalent of a 70’s fern bar). People like me — who are scared — assume that all that information is a little insurance against future disappointment and heartbreak, but that just ain’t necessarily so. This is because…
People Can Lie
I met my most recent ex on Yahoo personals… Besides his physical attraction (substantial, in my opinion) his profile was clever. He said he preferred sushi to spagetti, Fellini to … I forgot but it began with an “F.” I thought this meant he liked sushi and Fellini (anyone who knows me knows that if someone likes Fellini they have penetrated several Martha barriers) — “Wow!” I thought. I read the salient details, too. His career was in marketing; he made $70,000 — 100,000 year and lived in La Jolla. He painted a picture of a clever, intelligent, educated man with a good career and an appropriate salary for his age in that “line of work.” We exchanged emails. His were brief, but fun, then we talked on the phone. He was incredibly charming. We met for dinner; he was captivated by me and hardly ate anything. I asked him what he did. He said he did marketing for a north county newspaper. He drove a Lexus. We sat in his car afterwards and kissed; I was very excited in every sense by this handsome man, who wrote good songs (he played them for me on his MP3), who was enchanted by me…
And then… His marketing job for a north county newspaper consisted of standing behind a cardboard kiosk outside Vons, Costco, or Ralphs trying to sell newspapers. His emails were brief because he wrote them on his phone from the kiosk in front of Costco… He liked sushi OK, but what really interested him was neither sushi or Fellini, but alliteration… The film genre he liked the best was that of the mindless action movie and anything directed by Wes Anderson. He had not finished college — in fact, he had done two semesters separated from each other by more than 20 years… The income he advertised was what he had earned from one of his jobs before he lost it (the job) and the Lexus is in front of my house, tagged by the county to be towed away. He parked it here more than three years ago to “hide it” from the repo man. He wrote three whole songs, and could not play any musical instruments. He was not captivated by me at dinner, well, maybe a little, but the reason he didn’t eat was that he didn’t like what he had ordered. The picture had been photoshopped…
(P.S. from the present: the Evil X was a narcissist and sociopath who practically ruined me financially and destroyed any interest I might have in ever getting involved with a man again in any lifetime. He ended up being committed to a mental hospital at which point I lost sight of him. I had to help his beautiful wonderful daughter get through her crushing disappointment at learning the reality of the father she had always adored.)
AND THEN, later, maybe contemplating trying again, I drafted a personal ad which may have been a parody but it also seems like it might be carry more than a germ of truth…
If you are overweight or ugly, don’t message me. I just can’t get my rocks off with overweight or ugly men. I tried to be less superficial, but guess what? I’m superficial, deeply, truly, profoundly superficial. I prefer men with blue eyes, fair skin, hair (any color), a strong chin, a sharp nose — basically your standard Anglo/Celt/Viking kinda’ guy ala Rutger Hauer, several interchangeably handsome Irish actors. Green eyes will do in a pinch, if they reflect intelligence as well as light, and since you’re likely to be grey haired, the least you can do is NOT wear a pony tail.
If you have issues with relationships such as rage at past partners for kicking you between the legs or taking your money, that’s not me and I’m not going to go out of my way to attempt to understand that this might make you something less than free, open and trusting at the beginning. If you didn’t know better than to choose women like that — yeah, yeah, I know how you men like the bad girls — that’s not my problem and I’m not going to pay for it. I’m one of the last good women and a good catch. You must be gainfully employed or self-supporting. I’m not a gold-digger, but I’ve supported all the shiftless, unmotivated, addicted and lazy men I’m going to for this lifetime. I’m a very independent person and you’d better be, too. Otherwise, get in line for the next woman, I guess.
Please don’t be controlling, passive-aggressive or co-dependent. My ex was all of those things and I don’t like being controlled that way. If you know how to use your masculinity and money to get me to do what you want, well, I’m all about it. I don’t care if you have a motorcycle; it doesn’t interest me now, it won’t if we get together. A motorcycle is a motorcycle is a motorcycle. I just hope it hasn’t completely pulverized your gonads or numbed the salient nerve endings because I really like sex. If you have ED or any other problem for which there is much late-night advertising on TV and much spam in my email, probably you need to find someone more on your sexual flatline, I mean wavelength. If you spend all night looking at porn on your computer don’t e-mail, you don’t need me.
You must have all your teeth and no serious health problems; you must have your own health insurance because I have mine. If we travel, you must be able to leave the US psychologically as well as physically; I don’t want to hear provincial complaining about the toilet paper in the restrooms of a nice restaurant in Grindelwald. My god, man, look at the mountains and forget your anal varicosities!
You must be someone who is not chronically “negative,” your every quotidian moment controlled by emotions like unhappiness, sorrow, grief, frustration or anger. I’ve already experienced enough negativity and I won’t accept any more. A good sense of humor is a must and the ability to enjoy my back-handed, sarcastic jabs a real plus. If you drink heavily or are addicted to hard drugs, NO. I have been there and done that and hate it and I would hate you, very, very quickly.
I’m looking for that “last first date” someone to “come home to” and someone to “grow old with.” Of course those are euphemisms for the fact that I’m not getting any younger or better and we’re looking at our twilight years, baby, but I’m denying that because all my students who want A’s tell me I look like I’m in my early 40’s and of course they’re right.
Her winsome smile, her dimples, the way she sat on the edge of the ottoman beside his big leather easy chair when he told her about his day. With her sitting there, looking adoringly at him, Paul could believe he was the most interesting man in the world, not just an accountant sitting in a half/cube surrounded by other number crunchers.
“No way around it. Those were pretty boring stories, and she just listened.”
He got up, thinking a cup of coffee might help him shake off the empty feeling that shadowed him everywhere now. He needed to get some work done.
“Go on Tinder,” said Francine, his — and several other accountants’ — secretary. “Seriously, Paul, Lulu’s not the only fish in the sea. Francine waved her little left hand over the wall of her cubicle. Yeah, yeah there was a that diamond. Francine had gotten married just a few months ago. Second husband. She caught the first one cheating with her — such a cliché — her best friend.
“They aren’t Lulu.”
“Don’t you get it YET? Lulu wasn’t Lulu. If she had been Lulu, she’d never have left you.”
“Who was she, then?”
“Paul, look. Mr. Shorter is trying to get your attention.”
Paul turned around and, sure enough, standing in the ONE office with a door on this whole floor was Mr. Shorter. He did NOT look happy.
“If you have TIME Paul,” he said mockingly.
“Yikes,” whispered Paul.
“Good luck, babe. Think about what I said.” She waved the diamond in this face again.
“Come in and sit down.”
Paul took a seat in front of Mr. Shorter’s desk.
“Let’s get straight to it. Since your wife ran off with the circus your work has deteriorated abysmally.” He might be the boss of accountants, and an accountant himself, but his undergraduate major had been English. His dream of becoming an English teacher was shattered when he looked at his probable yearly earnings and he went for an MBA in accounting rather than following his passion for Thomas Pynchon about whom he hoped someday to write a totally incomprehensible analysis about subterranean themes in Pynchon’s work. “I understand you have a broken heart, but negligence hurts the business and could adversely affect our clients. Inaccuracy in calculations results in multitudinous regrettable outcomes, as you are doubtless cognizant given the issues experienced last month when we came precipitously proximate to losing the Lamont Account because of your mistakes. In the last colloquium, the board decided to let you go because of your problems handling that extremely lucrative account. I persuaded them that such a remedy would be an excessively punitive given the twelve years of exemplary performance you have given the firm, but you are henceforth on probation.”
Paul nodded. Mr. Shorter’s utilization of the vernacular made everyone want to scream, but he did make his point. Paul wasn’t totally surprised. The problems had been with the annual report for the Lamont Account, an enormous project he and his team worked on for months. It had come due the week Lulu left him. He was in no shape, mentally, physically, emotionally, for the intense (though often manufactured) pressure of that project. Mr. Lamont himself was never easy to deal with, and it was the company’s biggest account. And, let’s face it, Paul was a wreck.
Meanwhile, on the patio outside the narrow, three-story beach house next to the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, California, Lulu stood waiting for the charcoal to get hot enough to toss on the tuna steak her new love had caught that morning.
“I’m going out with Carmine and Tony,” he’d said. “We’re hoping to catch some yellowtail.” They’d been lucky and caught three.
She looked up at the ocean and saw him heading in, riding a six footer. It would be the last ride of the day. She loved living in California. It was so much more interesting — and a lot warmer — than Chicago. Once more she thanked her lucky stars she’d met Dude on the El that day as she went into the city to shop. What if she were still back there? November, Paul, those endless recitations of quotidian tedium of an accountant’s life. It had been such a strange coincidence, clearly it was meant to be. Dude’s pal, Lamont, was meeting with the board of Paul’s company about the annual report for his motivational speaking limited partnership.
Well, Lamont was definitely a weirdo and, thankfully, not around much.
The only thing about her new love that puzzled her was the plethora of hyper-realistic paintings hanging all through the house, pictures of dinosaurs, salmon, Smilodons, mammoths, a bear, an oak tree, pictures that sometimes, if she caught one out of the corner of her eye, bore a strange resemblance to Lamont, sometimes even to Dude.
But who could really care? Dude was funny, kind, had great stories, adored her and she was sure they would live happily ever after.
Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past lives which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.
Courtly love is the unconsummated love of a lowly knight and an unattainable noble lady who shares his feelings but is trapped in a marriage from which she cannot escape. They express their love in languishing sighs, Minnesangs (love songs), secret letters, tears, public rejection and vows of eternal love.
Because of his love for his lady, the knight achieves great things — wins tournaments, goes on crusade, kills dragons, whatever is in his purview to prove his worth and his love. His lady, in the meantime, longs for him but publicly scorns his suit, returns his gifts (some of them) and denies her feelings to any who have noticed their exchange of loving looks. Courtly love is a kind of “higher love” that makes both knight and lady better people which is kind of paradoxical from our vantage point. How can imagined adultery ennoble anyone? We all know what happens when courtly love turns carnal — Camelot falls.
Courtly love still exists. When I started this post, I thought I could speak candidly about its existence in our world today, but I can’t. Suffice it to say, it’s alive and well among extremely romantic people who want the feelings but not the mess of love, or, perhaps, those for whom Camelot has fallen quite enough times, thank you. 🙂
Tanzweise – by Walther von der Vogelweide
‘Lady,’ I said, ‘this garland wear! For thou wilt wear it gracefully; And on thy brow ’twill sit so fair, And thou wilt dance so light and free; Had I a thousand gems, on thee, Fair one! their brilliant light should shine: Would’st thou such a gift accept from me,– O doubt me not,– it should be thine.
‘Lady, so beautiful thou art, That I on thee the wreath bestow, ‘Tis the best gift I can impart; But whiter, rosier flowers, I know, Upon the distant plain they’re springing, Where beauteously their heads they rear, And birds their sweetest songs are singing: Come! let us go and pluck them there!’
She took the beauteous wreath I chose, And, like a child at praises glowing, Her cheeks blushed crimson as the rose When by the snow-white lily growing: But all from those bright eyes eclipse Received; and then, my toil to pay, Kind, precious words fell from her lips: What more than this I shall not say.
“When From The Sod The Flow’Rets Spring” – Walther von der Vogelweide
When from the sod the flow’rets spring, And smile to meet the sun’s bright ray, When birds their sweetest carols sing In all them morning pride of May, What lovelier than the prospect there? Can earth boast any thing more fair? To me it seems an almost heaven, So beauteous to my eyes that vision bright is given.
But when a lady, chaste and fair, Noble, and clad in rich attire, Walks through the throng with gracious air, As sun that bids the stars retire,– Then, where are all thy boastings, May? What hast thou beautiful and gay Compared with that supreme delight? We leave thy loveliest flowers, and watch that lady bright.
Wouldst thou believe me,– come and place Before thee all this pride of May; Then look but on my lady’s face, And, which is best and brightest? say: For me, how soon (if choice were mine) This would I take, and that resign! And say, ‘Though sweet thy beauties, May! I’d rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay.’
Walther von Der Vogelweide is, IMO, a great poet. “Unter der Linden” is a beautiful love poem, very sexy and evocative (not quite courtly love). “Alas! Where Have all the Years…” is something we all feel in the later years of life — even now, almost 1000 years later.
What a summer it was! One thing after another, wearing subtly on the soul. I know I’m not alone, so I’ll just leave this here… And right now, some idiot is singing on my radio, “I bop, you bop, bopaloo she bop.” Seriously? And autocorrect keeps changing “bop” to bob… Listen, AC, I KNOW what I’m trying to type! What do you mean you know better? How???
Woke up this morning to a rejection. Not even a rejection for a manuscript; a rejection for a book review for The Price. To wit: “One of our readers enjoyed the story, but we felt it was not quite suitable to be selected for a published review on Discovering Diamonds. We do, however, ask our readers to consider placing a personal comment on Amazon/Goodreads if they should wish to do so.”
I wasn’t really surprised. Sending my book was a shot in the dark as the focus of this group of reviewers is usually — though not exclusively — historical romance. But, I could have done without, “One of our readers enjoyed the story.” 🙂
I’ve experienced so many rejections over my writing that at this point I resent every effort at tact or subtlety. A simple, “Not happening sweet cheeks” is all that’s needed. Oh well.
I’ve attempted writing romance but every attempt has turned into a cynical short story, usually published here in this blog. They all end the same, too. A couple is in trouble, not getting along, one of them is obviously more invested than the other, something happens to wake one of them up and the relationship ends — or it’s left hanging and the reader doesn’t know what really happened or what will happened. I’m thinking — since I’m marginally immobilized now with a sprained foot — of giving it another shot, but…
I’ve only read one romance novel in my life and, honestly, it was like a really sinister drug. I couldn’t stop reading it even though I hated it. It ended up in a trash can in a hotel room in Milan. My idea of a perfect romance is very different from what went on in the book I read. 🙂