My Cousin Adele

My Cousin Adele

Since Monica has floated the idea of my posting additional pieces on her blog from time to time, maybe it’s a good idea to get to know me a little bit. So here you go:

I was born to a family high in the Swedish aristocracy, but was kidnapped as an infant by a roving band of deranged Puerto Rican housewives… Continue reading

Not the Beatles

Not the Beatles

John, Paul, George and Ringo? Try Michael, Davy, Peter and Micky instead. Think Junior Varsity Beatles. The Beatles 2.0. I’m talking about The Monkees, the imaginary boy band/actors created by Hollywood central casting in an attempt to cash in on the sensation created by the Beatles. (I’m not joking about the central casting angle: Stephen Stills, the brilliant musician who as a member of Crosby Stills & Nash recorded some of the classic albums of the ‘70s, auditioned for the group/TV show, but was rejected as not “cute” enough. So instead they cast Peter Tork, with the goofy smile and room temperature IQ.) Continue reading

The Road Taken: Euphoria

I have a plastic container. I keep this container burrowed in the back of the closet that I share with G. It is mine.  One of two filled with letters, poems and countless journal entries. G and I have been married almost two years now. He is still steeped in graduate school, classes, research, late night study groups.  I am a graduate school widow. I might as well be single and living alone.

We left the treehouse for a two-bedroom condo in this place.

G and I had moved out of the tree house and into a condo we’d purchased in the Northgate area, about 10 minutes north of the campus.  Fifteen in traffic. It stresses him to be so far from the school, since he has to be there all the time.

But it is our own place, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, on two floors. What more could we want? On this particular Saturday, G had left early for the lab, as usual, and I am organizing. One of my favorite pastimes.  I pull out my containers to see what I can trash, what I can consolidate.  Every letter my mother has written me is here, so are the letters of my friends from school, my friends from Maryland, my friends from camp.  I’ve kept them all.  Even notebooks and composition books from elementary school, I find these hard to discard. My life is in these containers.  Here, too, are letters G had written me when he was already in Seattle and I still in Maryland.  Folder after folder, I open and lose myself, once again, in memories of old friends.  Which is when, I come to a folder marked, simply, “R.”

“R” is for Rick. It has been quite a while since I’ve thought of Rick. Even longer since I last saw him. Two years. And now, I feel my heart aching all over again, for him. My yearning for him hasn’t abated one bit. Here are my journal entries, poems I’d written about him. About us. Euphoric, is how he made me feel. I’d never felt that way about anyone, not until I met Rick. His passion for life was contagious and here on these pages is the proof.  Proof of what we had, of what he meant to me, and what I meant to him.  His notes, his desires.

There are aspects of him I shall never forget. Like the slight Southern twang in his voice.  His honesty and warmth, the love in his heart, and the longing sensation I’d get when he smiled at me. The memories of the days we spent together, so short, so fleeting, still feel fresh. And now, the memories are all that are left.

Rick slipped in and out of my life seamlessly, barely noticed by anyone but me. We were like children, exploring, touching, testing the limits of our senses, in ways I have not tried since. There were no boundaries, no fears. While I may be comfortable and settled with G, I felt challenged and delirious with Rick. Suddenly, everything was new, waiting to be discovered.

I pulled out the journal I’d kept then and opened to a random page, more than two thirds in. There it was. Remember? The one full day we spent together. It was all documented here, page after page of a recollection of a singular, cosmic day where we were as one and nothing else in the world mattered. That was the day we went to the zoo in search of Jimi Hendrix. That was the day I will never forget. A perfect day, and in the end, how I hated saying goodbye.

We met one more time at a cafe in the University District and finally faced our truths: my marriage and his yearning to keep running. Running towards the next adventure. Running to see the world. I wasn’t ready to give up on G, having only just begun, and Rick’s journey, his restlessness was too real, too strong. We held hands as we poured over our words, finding no relief in the conclusion. I held my tears back as long as I could. One last hug, one last kiss on the cheek and one final memory of walking away. Away from Rick, away from joy and the promise it held. Away from me. I watched him leave until he became a pinpoint on the horizon, until I could no longer see him. He was gone and, as I got back into my car, I let the tears wash over me.

And now, reflecting on the day at the zoo, and what happened after I returned home to G, I know I did the right thing. I had already gone too far on that road and needed to return to the one I’d started with G. He was waiting for me, after all.

So, there is only one thing left to do. I gather the poems, the journal entries, and Rick’s notes to me. One by one, I destroy them all.  No trace, no record. Wouldn’t be right for anyone to see this, especially G.

For, G had returned home early the day Rick and I went to the zoo, to surprise me. He was sitting at his desk, his back to me, in the dark, with only his desk lamp on. He didn’t see me open the door. He was quietly playing solitaire, and it made my heart lurch. Is this what we’d come to, so soon after marrying? This was my husband. We were just starting out. I was young. G was young–and so was Rick. And just like that, I knew what had to be done.

As I sat in our condo, with my boxes of letters and mementos, tearing up the evidence, I keep two items:  A short story Rick wrote and gave to me, and a poem I wrote for him about the night we missed class.  All the memories, all the wonder and delight between us, reduced to these two items.

But closing my eyes, I can see once again. Rick. And, there I am, by his side. We’re running, hand in hand. He looks back at me, his face flush with joy as he pulls me along. Almost there! My feet skimming the ground, barely touching. Just around the bend. Feeling light, light and free! We are as one, and we are laughing. Yes! I close my eyes and I am once again, euphoric.

 

Missed a chapter? Read past installments, by visiting the page, The Road Taken.

The Road Taken: The Here, The Now

I hated the in-between days when we didn’t have classes. For, seeing Rick couldn’t come fast enough, and no matter what I was doing, all of my thoughts kept drifting to him. Yet, the thought of seeing him outside of class seemed insurmountable. I didn’t dare suggest it. I had no right to ask.

Now, Seattle has many memorials to Jimi Hendrix, but there was a time when there was only one, at the Woodland Park Zoo.

But, when we were together, there was no stopping us.  We were like gazelles in the night. We ran, as if we were afraid we’d lose our footing if we stopped. As if it would all end in a cloud of dust if we did. We’d roam giddily around the school grounds. Running. We were like night owls, bats, creatures of the night, never thinking about what lay ahead, and only focusing on this, that was in front of us. This, that we could touch. Emboldened by the immediacy and the connection that was between us.

This was real and all that mattered. The here, the now.

We started arriving at school early and staying later and later, stretching our time together. And when not in class, anyone looking for us could have found us walking purposefully through campus, and ending up in the fields by the fountain, where we’d lay in the grass and talk some more, feeling the blades of grass, the grit, the dirt beneath us. We loved talking, sharing our innermost thoughts, our dreams.  Rick wanted to know everything about me, but here’s something I didn’t talk about:  my marriage.

One evening, during a class break, Rick suggested we meet outside of school. Which is how we came to make plans for the following Saturday at noon.

I couldn’t wait. I spent the next few days as if in a dream. The anticipation of seeing Rick, and not being constrained by the duration of the class, was thrilling.

We met in Volunteer Park, high on a hill, south of the university, on a sunny and mild day. When I arrived at the park, Rick was already there, leaning against one of the marble, life-size camels framing the entrance to the Asian Art Museum.

Taking my hand in his, we walked aimlessly through the park grounds, observing the people. As we did this, we amused ourselves by conjuring up new lives for the passersby.

“That man over there, with the long hair and down vest,” I said,  “He’s been taking a fencing class and accidentally stabbed the instructor in the eye.”

“Well,” responded Rick. “See the lady wearing the orange pants, sitting on the steps over there?”

Yes, how can I miss those pants,” I exclaimed.

“She’s just got out of prison,” Rick said smugly, adding,  “And she’s thinking of joining the circus. Apparently, she always wanted to be an acrobat.”

We went on like this, taking turns creating new identities, and soon found ourselves by the entrance to the cemetery, one of the oldest in Seattle, just beyond the park grounds. I’ve always enjoyed browsing through cemeteries, particularly old ones, rich with history. I love reading the inscriptions, reminding myself that once these were real people living real lives. Cemeteries, I believe, have always been irresistible to writers, perhaps it’s the mystery, the ghosts, the very idea of confronting these past lives.

I asked Rick if he was aware that Jimi Hendrix, the Seattle-born rock star, was buried there. He shook his head. I wasn’t sure exactly where, so we decided to go in search of Hendrix’s grave. When we finally did find it, on the top of a hill overlooking the Space Needle, Rick took me in his arms and began to slow dance to music heard only in the breeze. As I swayed to his rhythm, I wondered again, how could I make this last forever?

Snap, the moment was interrupted by three young boys coming to pay their respects to Hendrix. Rick stepped back and, tugging at my sleeve, muttered something about the zoo. The next thing I knew, we were off and running. Out to the street, where his Toyota was parked, jumping in and speeding down Capitol Hill, over the Freemont Bridge to Wallingford, and then left, to the Woodland Park Zoo.

Once inside, we veered to the right, heading past the giraffes and zebras, grazing amidst the trees of the African Savannah, and past the dozing lions. We made a wrong turn, and ended up by the reptile house where a huge boa constrictor was busily devouring a mouse. Rick stopped to ask directions from a short, stubby man who was photographing the snake. Finally, we reached the spot that Rick had been seeking. It was by the aviary. The newly-constructed Jimi Hendrix Memorial walkway.

Apparently, when Hendrix died, he left a substantial sum to any public agency in Seattle with the condition that a portion of the funds be used to build a monument to his memory. Of course, just about every Seattle agency wanted the money, but no one, it seems, wanted to build a monument to a rock star, who had died from a drug overdose.  Which resulted in the money being left untouched for many years, until one day, the zoo learned about it and said they would build a monument to Jimi Hendrix. And here, we were, on the Jimi Hendrix Memorial walkway. A large rock next to the walkway bore a plaque with his name.

Standing there now, Rick looked at me and smiled. Our fingers intertwined, we sat on the rock, mesmerized by our surroundings. In the aviary, the birds flapped their wings, enveloping us in their celestial fanfare. In the distance, you could hear an elephant’s trumpeting call. Somewhere to the north, a lion roared. A concert, of sorts. I stroked Rick’s hand, loving this moment. The here and the now.

I don’t remember how long we stayed, but I knew it was getting late. The sun had begun to set, filling the sky with hues of deep orange and fuchsia. Rick stood up and, leaning in close, he kissed me. I could not fathom a better day.

Missed a chapter? Read past installments, by visiting the page, The Road Taken.