|From "Bike Ride Along the Rillito River"|
Photo credit: Tory (Pax Plena.com)
A muggy, late-summer day, sun striking sand crystals in the dry Arizona wash, giving off memories of white Florida beaches. Sun sparkling on discarded aluminum cans, glass bottles, wisps of candy wrappers. Familiar smells - Banana Boat chemical sweetness and sticky, dehydrated mouth. An underpass in shadow. A cushion, an empty black bean can, lingering whiff of cigarettes.
I'd just picked up a pair of whiskey glasses—a rather special set of 10th anniversaries once proliferated by a dive bar on 4th. The bar itself is special, an actual dive bar, a friend told me, not a fake one. Where the best scotch is under ten bucks a shot, and they pour you three fingers because it's been pre-cut with water. Leather bar stools worn and knicked by idle, anxious, wanting hands, by pocket knives and ragged chain wallets, by the zipper pockets of skintight jeans worn by women in platforms and bling who've forgotten to close the door on the fashion of yore.
Where the men all smoke and leer and don't take "no" for an answer.
But that's not so strange.
I was heading to a man's house just then, who wouldn't hear my "no." Maybe I'd said it too quietly. Maybe I hadn't meant it. Maybe, I'd really meant "yes." After all, I was en route with the tumblers, along with a bottle of good scotch. Cost me two weeks' worth of groceries, more than the occasional eighth.
I'd met him a year earlier, climbing. I actually have a picture on my phone of him with my -ex, the three of us roped and harnessed and helmeted. I'd thought him sexy, with his tall solidness and easy laugh and wild, curly hair.
He climbed with grace. It made me wonder what he was like in bed.
A year later, the -ex a memory, I asked him over. We spent the day in shadow, curtains drawn, in the company of high-end whiskey and clean sheets and under them, playing, sharing stories, sharing ourselves.
It's easy to share with someone you've predetermined only to fuck, to care for, but nothing else.
I fell into the familiar romance of it. We met parents, watched re-runs, did laundry together, cooked, smoked, climbed, played in the park, adopted a dog—all at breakneck speed. Both of us, I think, seeing the other only with one eye.
The other eye stared into the distance, out into the bleak past, thinking of what had been.
He'd told me how when he broke up with her, he'd been up on the mountain. How in the pre-dawn, sleepless dark, stars as witness, he free-solo'ed his project route—no rope, no harness, no helmet. Courting Death. Good morning. You aren't such a stranger, after all. Death, whose great gift is relief from the stuff of living.
My heart hurt, hearing him tell how he'd crawled out from the tent and zombied to the rock and begun to ascend with such clarity of purpose.
It hurt because I'd felt it, too—and in bed, in the moments after the storm of passion, and before sleeping, I felt it again.
That night, we drank together from those special glasses, an homage to the simpler things.
And the next day, I ran past my familiar haunt and paused in the shade cast by the underpass, emotional boundaries cellophane-thin. I felt like I could feel everything, like I could empathize with anyone—I knew pain, didn't I? Didn't I know yours, then? You, whose name I do not know? You, by whose threadbare cushion I thought to leave money or food . . . or a red rose?
So the story came unraveling on the keyboard, and I realized how little I truly knew—you, perhaps, least of all.
|Pantano Wash near 22nd St.|
(c) 2010 by Karen Funk Blocher. Used with permission.