Of dreams and memories (a pantoum)

mistymoonlight

I dreamt I saw you late one night
Standing where I saw you last
Underneath the setting moon
Far away and yet so close
Standing where I saw you last
Draped in layers of regret
Far away and yet so close
Shadows play across your face
Draped in layers of regret
Memories that never came to pass
Shadows play across your face
To hide the tears you cannot shed

ceg 9.11.15

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bound

moonlight

on her tiptoes
she s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  s
to touch what was lost

a now-dusty remnant of a time
before the burdens of life had weighed her

d
o
w
n

she sees her silhouette against the wall
an indeterminate shadow
surrounded by golden-red
sunsets
fading as the evening sky’s purple fingers
draw night’s jewel-strewn curtain

she wonders

(not for the first time)
(not for the last time)

if her life was simply
a collection of moments
longing for yesterdays

ceg 9.04.15

Bugiardo and the Signorina

bugiardo2

Link to Part 1

I stared dumbly at the man, who before had seemed rather benign, but now appeared more sinister.  He leaned forward and reached for my hand, shaking it and introduced himself as Signore Bugiardo.  He then stood, bowed slightly and left without another word.  As I watched him depart, I was baffled, somewhat irritated and more than a little concerned. It was then that I realized that he had secreted a small piece of paper into my still-opened palm.

I had watched enough movies and read enough books to know better than to sit there and read the note.  I may be an amateur but I am not a stupid one.  I gently closed my hand over the note and continued gazing out the window, concentrating on acted interested in the view.  I counted to 100 tend times before rising and carefully making my way to the ladies’ room.  With practiced disinterest, I looked over the heads of the other passengers who were in various states of bored sleep.  Of the man, I saw no indication.

I opened the door to the lavatory that I would have never gone to if it weren’t for the note pressing itself into my hand.  I entered, put the seat down and sat.  Wasting no more time, I quickly opened the note.   In cramped writing I saw:

bugiardo

I stared at the note for a few minutes trying to fathom the implications of Bugiardo’s note, simultaneously memorizing every word, every nuance of it.  After a few moments, I returned the note to its former state and pushed it into my mouth.  With a grimace, then a cupped hand of water, I swallowed the note.  The short melodrama of the act amused me somewhat and when I caught my reflection, I saw a wry smile playing about my lips.  I quickly left the confining space and returned to my seat and resumed staring out the window.
Later, as I watched the train pull away from the station, Canada bound, I picked up my suitcase and asked the ticket agent about applying my refund towards a return ticket.  The man simply smiled and wordlessly handed me an envelope with my name written in a familiar hand.  Inside was a return ticket.  I looked at the ticket agent, who nodded.

“You have made the right decision, signorina.”

He turned away and I was left standing and staring at him before turning away myself to wait for my train.

Years later, sitting at a café with one of my few friends, we talked about trifling matters before she lit a cigarette and after a long pull, she commented on how I had changed after that trip that I had refused to speak of.  I asked her how she thought I had changed.  She mulled it over for a few long moments and then spoke carefully, looking at a place just beyond my shoulder.

“You seem more secretive now.  You rarely give straight answers to questions. I think of all the times I asked you about the time you left with little explanation and returned abruptly with even less of an explanation.  What happened?  Really.”

“Nothing,” I returned.  “I just changed my mind.”

“Bugiarda,” she replied, angrily stabbing her cigarette out.

With a start, I asked her what she had said.

“I called you a liar, cara mia.”

ceg 8.28.15

Agatha Christie, Chekov and the Train Ride

train

What is it they say?  Something about a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?  Something like that.  And I suppose that’s true in its most basic sense.  However, I believe that journeys begin someplace else and long before the feet are engaged for walking.

I never really saw the need to leave the city.  I had lived here all my life and never wanted to go elsewhere.  I guess that’s because it’s all I have ever really known.  I have everything I need within walking or biking distance.  Work, library, bar, restaurant, grocery store, friends.  Seriously, what else is there?  I also hate traveling.  I find it dirty, exhausting and uncomfortable.  So I guess you’ll understand when I tell you my friends thought I had lost my mind when I told them I was planning a trip to Canada and would be leaving at week’s end.  Or maybe you won’t.  It’s not like you’re that invested in what I do and what seems odd given my character.  Just take my word for it; it was weird.  But, I had a thing that needed to be done and so I packed my bag (one I had gotten years ago from my parents after I graduated-“Well, we’re done with educating you, perhaps it’s time to go”).  For this particular journey, I had opted, in all my wisdom, to take a train.

I had this long-held romantic notion of what rail travel would be like.  If you’ve ever seen that one Agatha Christie movie with the train,  you would have a pretty good idea about how my fantasy train ride would look. It’s where all the men and women are rich and svelte and hoity toity and they travel with their small yappy dogs, which are named Bayard or Fluffy.  Sprinkled in the mix of these hoi polloi are the kind of greasy, slightly sinister guys who are from some foreign country and tend to be on the swarthy side of melanin scale. Of course, those are the bad guys. Except when they’re not.  Aha!  They were simply a red herring and the really bad guy was . . . Mrs. Myra Elisabeth Smythe-Winters?  But, she’s so lovely and why would she kill that poor girl?  Anyway, yeah, not like that.

What I noticed first and foremost was the smell.  Talk about your wretched refuse and there was I.  Yearning to breathe free. Imagine the rancid odor of last week’s deep-fryer oil.  It seemed everyone exuded that smell.  Throw in a little rotting bacon and some lettuce that has given up on being completely solid. This lovely miasma swirled around me.  Its origin was the collection of huddled masses who had, at best, questionable hygiene practices.  I concentrated on breathing. Slowly.  Through my mouth.  This, as it turned out, was a spectacular failure.  I quickly decided that the smells were preferable over the taste that seemed to have permanently taken up residence on my tongue.  I quickly found my seat and looked out the window, praying that we would soon be off.  The sooner off, the sooner home.

The windows were surprisingly clean, given the condition of the rest of the train.  I fixed my gaze through the glass, hoping to send an obvious message to my fellow travelers that I was not particularly interested in starting up some lively intellectual conversation which always seemed to start with the obvious . . . “Going on some sort of journey, are ya?”  No.  Not really.  I think to myself what sort of snappy answer I could come up with to quiet even the biggest of oafs, but nothing came to mind.  Maybe I wouldn’t be verbally shanghaied and the snappy answer wouldn’t be necessary.  Hope springs eternal, right?

The man who sat opposite me, barely gave me a glance as he sat down.  He pulled out a book and began reading and completely ignored my existence.   Good.  I have learned to revel in even the smallest of miracles.  As the train moved forward with a lurch, I settled into my seat and continued to look out the window.  The largely empty platform slowly slid past and I was relieved to be on my way at last.  Soon the city gave way to green expanses that I had only really seen in movies.  Trees, wildflowers, tall grasses, fields all flew past my window until my eyes grew weary of the view and I moved my eyes forward again to the man seated across from me.  He was on the younger side of middle age, no facial hair, horn-rimmed glasses and no watch.  At least none that was obvious.  He smelled of licorice and of pipe tobacco.  Pleasant combination.  My eyes drifted towards his book; something by Chekov, but I couldn’t tell what it was. He continued to completely ignore me, so I let my eyelids begin to droop and let the sway of the train lull me to sleep.

When I awakened, the landscape had changed dramatically and was now flat and unremarkable.  Across from me, the man was no longer reading, but studying me closely.  I was at first amused and then uncomfortable by the fact that he didn’t try to hide his examination from me.  He was blatantly staring at me.  I didn’t flatter myself that he found me attractive; I knew better than that, but I was nonetheless the object of his rapt attention.  I cleared my throat and was about ready to say something when his eyes locked with mine.  He pursed his lips and laid his index finger across them.  The international sign for “shhhh.”   (to be continued)

ceg 8.24.15

Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant*

old-city-street-in-the-night-gynt-

When the starless skies labor beneath a gravid moon, it’s so easy to imagine your face and the way you looked at me as the door swung shut behind you.  Most of the time, there is a veil between me and my memories of you.  In the brightness of the day, I can walk down these streets and not think of the souls you crushed and how you sucked the marrow from us and picked your teeth clean with the fractured bones.that once held our fragile frames together.

It didn’t matter that you left us, each one of us, sleepless and lying on beds we once shared with you.  Heated whispers and touches swirling around us like sweet incense. We believed each promise, each lie, because your blue eyes, so absent of guile, pleaded with us to believe.  To trust.

When you see another tasty morsel walking by, the staccato sound of her steps echoing against the pallid brick and mortar of the old buildings, I wonder if your eyes begin to glisten in breathless anticipation.  And it doesn’t really matter if she is a long-legged blond who sees right past you or a disillusioned artist who weeps her pictures out on stretched canvas.

No, it really doesn’t matter, because after all, a meal’s a meal, right?

ceg 8.7.15

*Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
Emily Dickinson

“Finders were keepers unless title was proven”

mockingbird

Rarely did I keep a secret from my brother; he could tell by the guilty look on my face that I harbored something that I wouldn’t share.  At first, he would act as though he didn’t care and then, as time wore on, he would threaten to beat me up if I didn’t talk.  He was not above resorting to the occasional Indian sunburn if the situation were deemed necessary.

Second grade had begun and it was as terrible as I knew it would be and could have done without it, but Atticus assured me it would not, as I feared, “ruin me for life.”  It was on those walks to and from school that Jem and I began to find gifts in the knothole by the old Radley place.  Usually nothing would convince us to go that close without  a jeer from Dill, but everyday, we looked to see what might be waiting for us.  Even after Mr. Nathan filled that knothole with cement, we would reflexively turn our heads as we walked past.

I never told Jem about the key.  It was small and, to my relief and dismay, much too small to be a door key.  My imagination, kindled by Jem, Miss Stephanie Crawford and even Dill, had me certain it would unlock the cage to a half-crazed Boo Radley, holding bloody scissors and surrounded by newspapers.  I think part of the reason I never showed it to Jem was because he would want to investigate. Admitting I was too scared would have resulted in unrelenting brotherly aggravation and condescending taunts of being such a girl. That would have led to blackmail and using Dill as his co-conspirator.  So, for one of the few times in my young life, I kept my mouth shut.  Partly in self-preservation and, to an extent, because it was mine.  My secret.  My mystery.

After Mr. Arthur saved Jem’s life that night, I put the key away, no longer allowing my head to fill with fearful thoughts or hopes of buried treasure.  I think I finally understood that sometimes a key is just a key and that rather than let it lie forgotten in a drawer, it was given to a child as a simple gift.  Perhaps a way of saying “I see you.”  In the hands of a child, that key unlocked more than doors or hidden treasures.

ceg 7.31.15

Immediacy

images

He watched my foot tapping turn to a full-force dance and he laughed.

Not the sweet laugh from long ago, but the kind that is mean.  I don’t think I will ever forget the ugliness of it.  He knew I was almost frantic in my need, and yet he laughed, finding humor in my pain.  What is it they call it?  Schadenfreude? Coming from someone who is supposed to love you, it is never appealing.

That incessant need-It starts with a gentle nudge and builds to this screaming demand that refuses to quit until heeded. Unrelenting.  My thighs were squeezed together and I was using those I internal muscles I had learned about when I was pregnant.  Squeeze.  Hold.  Breathe.  I was terrified of losing it completely in public, but he thought it was funny.  He laughed as he saw tears begin to swim in my eyes.  I had come to terms with his bullying.  I had learned to ignore the almost constant stream of belittlement.  This laughing thing was an unwelcome addition to an awful repertoire that he had displayed for years now.

Through the blur of my tears, I spied the urban equivalent of an outhouse.  To me, it looked like a green gateway to paradise.  My nose found it as well, but my need was too great to worry about that.  I “ran” with my knees squished together, beginning to gag from the smell.  I heard his peals of laughter ringing in my ears and the sound of my own retching, as I grabbed the handle and slammed the door shut behind me. Fumbling quickly with the button and zipper of my jeans (had it always been so difficult?), I managed to yank them down and sit before my bladder completely let go. I cried in relief and gingerly rubbed my tender side.  In a fit of pique, his boot had connected with my ribs. The resulting bloom of blue, purple and black was impressive.

When I emerged from that little hut of horror and blessed release, I looked for him and contemplated, and not for the first time, what it would be like if I could just run away.  Run away and not look back.  I had stayed with him all these years.  I couldn’t just leave, even though he was a monster.  A monster.

But, I stay.

It’s not like you can divorce your own child.

ceg 7.24.15