elizabeth lane lawley
michael "OC" clarke
e v h e a d
sweet fancy moses
wood s lot
m. melting object
Monday, March 10, 2003
Baby Grand Blues 2
A year later. Almost a year since I last saw her. We were in bed, had just made love. She was shouting into my face. Why, I said. Why are you so angry? I'm agreeing with you about almost everything. Almost. That was the problem.
"I'm protecting my boundary," she said, "for lack of better words."
I've been looking for better words ever since.
She'd been asking me if I took it personally when the valet parking guy wasn't anywhere around and I got uptight that my car was parked around the corner out of sight with the keys still in it. No one steals cars in Boulder. They're all too nice. But I haven't always lived here. Some places the car would be gone by the time I got back, up on blocks in some chop shop getting a new color. Did you feel like a victim, she asked.
I knew where this was going. Got pissed. Said yeah, I had a psychotic break. My paranoid schizophrenia got the best of me.
"Why do you always twist my words?" she said. I thought of telling her about R.D. Laing's Knots, Gregory Bateson's breakthrough ideas about the double bind. You never say you love me anymore. I love you. Oh, you're just saying that. Fucked if you do, fucked if you don't. But it didn't seem the right time. Between knots and binds, the right time would never come. Do you want me to leave, I asked. She said, do whatever you want to, Chris. I left. I didn't know in that time-lapsed moment that I'd never be coming back. I didn't know much of anything.
Later I replayed that scene in my head till I was almost crazy. No, for once, not almost. What could I have done differently that might have stopped it? What could I have said? A victim? Who me? Of course not, baby. And no, I don't feel like you're holding a knife to my heart, that any move I make it will go in, find the place that will cut off my life with you, end it right here, for good. For good or ill, better words escaped me.
When her father divorced her mother, she once told me, her mother had said to her, "You destroyed my marriage." I wondered why she was telling me this. It was back when she still trusted me. I thought. Up until Switzerland, I think now, though it had started much earlier. Twenty-some years ago in fact. Fact, what there is of it in love. What there is of it ever. But it was lovely there then, the coffee delicious as we sat together looking out over Zurich See. We were as close as it gets. Close as we ever got.
I'd brought my new digital camera along. New then. So much was still new then. I wanted to take pictures of her naked. It seemed an ideal time to ask. An ideal place, away from everything familiar. New ground, new territory. I was in Zurich to speak about risk assessment. I could give a different talk today. Learning experiences. What would we do without them? Live happily ever after. That was my plan. You laugh. I think of Elvis Costello asking what's so funny about peace, love and understanding. All the jokes about Rodney King, poor naive bastard, kicked and beaten and wondering why we can't all get along. Didn't get the message the first time, I guess. Some people never learn. Sometimes, she said, things just don't work out.
She wasn't comfortable with the idea of photos, but she let me take some. Then she wanted to see them. Sure, no problem. I thought she looked beautiful naked. Which is why... do I need to explain this? It was exciting what we were doing. Letting each other see. If you show for me, said Peter Gabriel, I will show for you. Or was it chauffer? We all hear what we want to hear. The art so often in the ambiguity.
She didn't like the pictures I'd taken. Didn't like how she looked in the flash light. Understandable, I thought. Some of them were pretty awful. But not all. Some I would have treasured. To remember her that way. She made me delete all but a handful. I could have argued it, started to, thought better of it. No, not better. More like a pick-your-battles kind of thing. Risk assessment. But why were we turning toward battle? The joy was out of it. I deleted anything that showed her truly naked. Funny about that. Not that you see me laughing.
It wasn't really about how she looked. That was just the see-through premise. "What if you got angry at me later," she said. "What if you put these on the web?"
Oh. Uh-huh. I see. I was wishing I didn't. How many times had I wished I didn't. When I did, when I said what I heard, she would say I was twisting her words. No win. Not that I ever wanted to. I love you, baby. Don't do me like... you ended up doing. Do you know what that means now? Or are you still drawing a blank? None so blind. As I was then. I wish I'd said you got lucky, babe. I didn't. Thought it would've sounded too petty.
"The web?" I said. "Why would I do that? Why would you even think that?"
When we first started talking by email, she said I pray we don't break each other's hearts. I want to do a new pattern with you this time. Because we'd done an old pattern, long ago. I called her up one night in 1981, offered to come over and show her the cool gun I'd just bought. Knowing she'd call the cops, have to get out. Be on those same streets I was wandering homeless, insane. There was no gun. I wondered this time, afterwards: in a new pattern, would there be? I thought about it. Had to get out of bed at three one morning about eight months ago, turn on all the lights, shake myself, make coffee. To stop thinking about it. A new pattern, yeah. It took everything I had to stick to the old one. She'll never know how close she came. Close as it gets.
In a stash of photos I later downloaded -- pornography; we could get into that one later maybe; what it means, how it feels from the inside -- I found two pictures that look a lot like her. At first I thought it was just a resemblance. I was forgetting by that time what she looked like. But the more I looked at them, the less sure I became about being unsure. The bed and the windowsill matched the configuration of her bedroom. Exactly. Could be coincidence, of course. Of course. Except that there are none. Not really. Not ever. Were those pictures really of her? Maybe not. Had this happened before? Maybe so. I want to do a new pattern she said. What was she afraid of? What was she thinking would make me that angry? Questions of a thousand dreams. At the end, she said she could never trust me. Of course. Of course not.
Much later I realized why she told me what her mother said about wrecking the marriage. No shame. She was looking for sympathy. And underneath that, she was bragging. Whatever she'd done in her life, she was proud of it. Nothing has changed. She still is. "He sees me," she told her friends, amazed at the beginning. She wanted me to see her. See her power. It would be a long time before I understood what I was meant to see. And meant not to.
[to be continued....]
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