Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Six. The One. The Three (alternate title: Postmarked: Precious Metals)

That was a strange day, a lovely day.

It begin in bed. I woke up. Later than planned. MUCH later than planned. I needed the rest and I need more. Just like I needed the unrest.

Then, off to the City of Orange. It seems like I'm always there, in the Circle - a place many many miles from home but a place that important people in my life seem to find themselves near. So I get invited to lunch. Or I invite someone to dinner. And we go to the one place or the other. Today, it was the other. This makes four trips to this one restaurant - all in the last 18 months.

In time, all time, one time, it was at night and things were calm. The second time, she was going to be moving away soon. The third time, things seemed peaceful for one hour. Today, I saw old friends and I'm glad I did. May have made new ones too.

I was exhausted when I entered the restaurant. My head has been in a funk some days, in a ruckus others. Today felt muddy before lunch. I had every reason to doubt and then every reason to believe that doubt. Memories rushed me, in one ear and never leaving. I saw her face. And then hers. I recognized his and the other hers. I was introduced to one more his. They saved a seat for me. I saw her face but I couldn't quite believe. 

After lunch we strolled. We walked into stores where sudden movements could cause art to fall. Nothing fell. We talked about languages and cities. We reminisced on missed weddings, kept weddings, gun laws, and things kids know.

I remember in the early 90s I had to convince myself that feelings I had weren't real. It was easier that way because the ones I had feelings for weren't there or weren't available. You could call it a coping technique or you could call it essential to survival.

No, there wasn't just one feeling, nor was there just one unavailable heart. Take last night (another story for a quieter night) for example - she had a smile in her step and a skip to her face. Puddles had no chance at slowing her.

So I entered the restaurant. It was obviously them. Haley, I hadn't seen for 18 years. Impossibly, she looked younger, truer, more alive and beautiful today than... than what, who knows? It was clear that she's spent 18 years living a rich life, a real life, an unexpected one.... not an easy life but none are. She is also aging in reverse, or youthening if that's a word.

When I saw what I saw, my instinct was an old one, a shy one. When I saw Haley, I pretended to believe that it couldn't be her, that this wasn't real. They must be in another part of the restaurant. But look there -  there was Tinka across the table - it had only been a few months since I had seen her and I knew there was no way around the fact that this was the place. This was the table. There was no pretending that two of the most important people in my life were sitting at this table for seven, in the front room, left of the center, a half-block from the circle

In other words, I arrived (late, yeah). I saw them. I looked away; this must not be the place or the part of the place. I'm shy, you see. But not that shy. I glanced back quickly and then I felt what love felt like.

Later, earlier tonight, I drove past the old apartment building in Brea. I was in town, nearby... after the sun set and before the rain set in. I was surprised to see that La Casa Brea had a security gate for the parking area off of Laurel Avenue. I drove to the Date Street side and tried to figure out which balcony, which window belonged to the two of us - John and me - when we lived there. Or the three of us - add Tinka because she spoke loudest (a compliment). Or make that the four of us - add Matt because he was there more often than... than everyone but the first three.

Or, and I say this with the purest of hearts, the five of us - Haley once knocked on the front door on a Saturday night in March, 1989. I don't remember why she knocked. The party - I believe this was the first one, of two - had not yet started. She may have arrived early and yes she could have just come through the door, knockless and wearing white and black and red (what I remember). I opened the door. We shared a non-conspiratorial look and what happened next... or later...or up to discussion. In fact, we discussed it this afternoon at the table. To answer your question, no we did not. But hearts were affected and poems - or at least verses - written. Back to 21 years ago. She knocked on the door. I opened the door. There were chips and pretzels and beer and three of us walked to the liquor store on Imperial Highway, for something fruity but menacing.

Jim is the sixth. But really he's the first. He set it all in motion and he waits in Seattle for his own next great entrance.

I could be clever and create a hexagon. Or two triangles that don't cross. They can cross but they won't. Or three straight lines, each with two points (different shapes on each point; but inside each shape is a face and each pair of faces smile at the same time).

Which pairs of faces belong to each other? The easy answer is six times five equals thirty divided by two equals fifteen. But we were in pairs a lot back then and we know who we are, who we were with. And being that no one else but the six of us will have read this far down this self-indulgent page, I'll consider my question fully answered.

It's the second balcony, yes that's the one. We never went outside on those March Saturday nights. We never approached the balcony. Window-wise, it's the third one

We went our separate ways. I kept coming back, over and over. Katinka never left. Matt traversed oceans. Jim is in the city of pockets. John is happy... must be happy if we hear his silence. Haley lives in her own strength. 

Ali doesn't know but he's happy nonetheless. His past came back in big storms of wild wet rain, settling in messy asphalt puddles. He's writing the book. About the girl who mailed the letter. He's the third person. There are six of us. In time, there will be five then four then 3-2-1-0. Until then, there are risks to take, risks not yet enumerated. Until then, there are surprises manifesting themselves through the openness.

It drizzled as the three of us walked back to our cars. The two I was with were not among the two that were among the six I had known. They were new. They were good. I had said goodbye to Katinka and Haley at the height of the rain, minutes earlier. I said goodbye to the others as the rain stopped. I hit the 22 West as the clouds parted and the sun fell hard on the February trapper-keepers.

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