“How’re you coming along with your contest entry?” asked AB at our weekly tête à tête in Barnum’s, a coffee shop with nice brown paneling, artwork on the walls by local school kids, altogether a friendly place.
“I’ve been writing here at this table,” I said, but what she didn’t know was that I’d racked up a bunch of free coupons. “Have one on me.”
“Free lattes for life?”
“The boss appreciated my business. Been here with a lot of dates.”
“You’re always so generous.” She left to order at the counter. Secretly, I was hoping to avoid her question, for as you know dear reader, I didn’t have a strong handle on where I was headed, wasn’t too sure how to talk about love. Many others before me have tried. Take Antony and Cleopatra, for example, a lovely play by Shakespeare written in 1606 according to Harold Bloom, considered to be a Shakespearian scholar, whereby and wherefore the two lovers, Tony and Cleo, are ready to retire from public life. After all, Antony has waged countless successful military campaigns and Cleopatra has built an Egyptian Empire on her own casting couch; they both have the hots for each other, and figure after all those years, they’re entitled. (Beep. Wrong assumption.) She floats on perfume-scented barges and gets others to research any competition that Octavius throws her way, namely his sister; the two lovers are waylaid by the conflicting demands and jealousies of a world that exists outside their immutable love. Cleopatra finally marries Antony while she’s dying, which is no way, as far as I can see, to start a relationship.
“It’s not fair!” I want to cry out, which is exactly what many adults had tried to tell me growing up. “The world is not fair.” But what does that mean when you are a child, and believe that you are a superhuman superhero who is about to change everything and set the entire world with its conventions and misguided ideas on its head? The kid thinks, just give me enough time to get a driver’s license and figure out a way to buy alcohol before I’m eighteen. The world is not fair is like saying to a young person you have to eat dessert last, which doesn’t make sense, until, that is, the kid, you, me, we get our asses kicked big-time and end up in a variety of places like jail or the hospital, on the street with a sleeping bag to keep us warm at night, which forces us to reconsider everything, especially our approach to love, which can make fools of us all. But there are those, a select group who engineer start-up companies by the time that are eleven years old and have everything going for them, money and power; men who could choose to become Harvey Weinsteins, but don’t because they’ve been raised right, and anyway, their mothers would come after them with rolling pins; women who know, before puberty strikes, exactly who they are and what they want to do, stand up to any loud-mouth who may tell them differently; they fall into a dance pattern that repeats without becoming repetitive—a gentle 3.4 beat toward a loving life.
AB came back with her latte, a tree emblazoned in the foam. She set the coffee on the table and sighed. It wasn’t like her to sigh. Maybe to talk fast, or tell me about a new job, or let me know about the next road trip she and Miriam were planning, but sighing, never!
“What’s up?” I asked. She placed her spoon in the center of the foam and splashed at the tree, tore the tops off two sugar packets, and emptied them into her cup.
“It’s Miriam’s mother,” she said.
I’d already known about Bianca, a Portuguese woman who had been married to a pottery wholesaler who could afford to buy designer everythings. He also maintained a specialized entourage to plan kinky sex parties throughout Europe. I wasn’t sure how AB knew about the latex details. My guess is that he attended without Bianca. I couldn’t imagine her sharing those intimacies with her daughter, unless she had a good reason. Mine never would, a woman who rarely talked to me about sex, although she did broach the subject once when she found out that I was no longer a virgin, “Who will marry you now, my little flower?” In any case, Bianca was elderly, alone, and without financial resources.
KPFA Open Book (hosted by Nina Serrano) November 2017
Getting an Extra Hand (Little Leo Journal) November 2017
From the Lower Depths (New Verse News) August 2017
No Orange for Julius (Eunoia Review)August 2017