And what are the odds that you are reading this?
Almost Halloween 2017
I’m wearing the hat you knitted for me. I have a flu (got it from Ross) and am wearing it inside the house.
I hope you are well.
Happy Birthday 2016.
Remember the winter when I drove through that horrible blizzard in order to pick you up to drive you to Maine, but then you decided to go skiiing with friends instead?
I had called you from my parent’s house. We talked for a while. When I asked how you were getting back to Maine, you didn’t know. As a young male I felt that meant I should help. I think I made suggestions. I remember your saying, “You tell me.” So I did. I said I would drive through the blizzard to pick you up. We’d drive south to get out of the snow and then drive to Maine.
So I drove through that truly horrible blizzard. It was night when I pulled up in front of what I thought was your house. The snow was blowing so thick it made it difficult to see. I knocked on the door. A girl I didn’t know answered. I asked if Jill was there. She didn’t know. “Should I look?” She stepped out of my way. So I walked in and began to search. In about five seconds I knew I was in the wrong house. I said so and hurried back to the door. The girl looked terrified and slammed it behind me.
I don’t remember where I slept that night, just the next morning going to your bedroom and the hug, such a hug, I wasn’t letting go of until you said, “You’re making me do all the work.” I said, “I know.” And knew it wasn’t the right thing to say. Even the way I said it wasn’t right. And making you do all the work wasn’t right. I knew I had so much to learn.
I also don’t remember exactly when I learned that you were not leaving with me. Smiles, hugs, that tiny waist, and cute everything overwhelms concurrent memories. You were unbelievably good looking. It is amazing that anything other than that could find a synapse in which to lodge at the same time in my young male brain. But I remember driving back to Cincinnati wondering why you went with your friend to go skiing instead of coming with me. I was so lost.
If I had known how to talk about the things that were like that… If you had been able to talk about chronic suicidal depression…
I might not be missing you on your birthday.
* * *
Happy B’day 2015.
I send out an e-card around xmas or New Years. Usually they are a photo I’ve taken of my wife and me in an xmas setting. But for ten years she has been trying to get me to send a photo of a peace pole. It is at this link.
* * *
I had thought that the peace pole I made for Churchill High School in Livonia, MI was the only one I ever created that never was “planted” as they say in this movement. I was wrong. They planted it. They just didn’t tell me. I wrote to them asking how things went with it and they never responded. But I’ve learned that they planted it years ago.
So one thing I did in Livonia wasn’t wrong.
* * *
Thanks to facebook I saw a photo of you and your husband. You look happy. And pretty. He looks like a nice guy. I’m happy for you.
* * *
There are these things, like the brown plastic colander. Is it possible I haven’t written about it here before? Whenever I get it out, mentally I am in the grocery in Boston where I bought it, not the small one on the corner, the big one further away, where I was buying food in preparation for your arrival. I was so looking forward to that. Fancier and more expensive stainless steel colanders have come into the kitchen, but I refuse to let them replace it. It might be leaching phthalates into the food, but every time I touch it I am immersed in the the warmth I felt when looking forward to seeing you.
“All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
– Helen Keller
* * *
It is the sense, with nothing to go on, but still the feeling that you don’t see any of this. When thinking about posting here, I now have the sense that if you ever did drop in here, you don’t anymore. I always was aware that you probably never saw any of this, but this sense was different. It wasn’t a calculation of the odds like before. It was like knowing – like when one day you look up knowing your spouse is with someone else, not knowing how you know it, but you do. Somehow I knew you didn’t see this, or if you did, you didn’t think this was a good thing to be doing. That stopped me. Until yesterday.
Yesterday someone asked, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done.” I said that I never called you.
That brought me here to write here regardless. What else could rise to that level after this?
The number of images and feelings and flashbacks occupying my consciousness since then . . . It’s like I’m 23 in Boston and Maine and Michigan.
There are other things that do that, things that I’m more used to than tagging something as the worst thing I’ve ever done. But why write about them for the second time, let alone the five thousandth time? All of those don’t get jotted here. But if they are not seen by you, if you never are aware or, or not comfortable with, what I write, why write it even the first time? Just having a new feeling or thought isn’t enough to write here. Now that I have this enlarged sense of your not ever seeing any of this, to bring me here something will have to be consciousness changing. Like visiting Livonia. Or having something put me even more deeply in touch with how bad of a thing I did to you. Even though it resulted from my being so lost.
The habit of posting a Hello for your birthday . . . when you don’t know about it or don’t want it . . . at some point would have to be regarded as a deficiency of sanity. It feels like that. So I didn’t this year. I didn’t forget it. I had the feeling that the point had been reached at which it I shouldn’t do it. I had the sense, like I’ve never had before, that you have moved on in some way that makes posting here crazy – whether or not you see this.
What will it take to bring me here now? The fact that things do proves you are a deep part of me. I don’t write anything like this for anyone else.
* * *
Cosmic symmetry? I don’t believe in Karma, and this wouldn’t be exactly that anyway, I don’t think. What’s the opposite of poetry? It might be something like the fact that the peace pole that I delivered to Livonia (in the note below) is the only one I ever created that did not get planted. At least not yet, and it’s now about 9 months later. A large, expensive peace pole personally delivered with instructions and even some coaching on how to wrangle it upright. And in Livonia . . . Is it something about Livonia? Am I cursed in Livonia? Do the geographer/numerologist/astrologer-equivalent studiers of terrestrial phenomena (energy emanating from rocks stacked three high and all that) know what they are talking about? If I’d removed a pebble from your curb and mailed it to Mt. Etna would everything be different?
However, that’s not what I came to say. I came to say “Happy Birthday” again. I do that well ahead of your birthday each year so that the note will be here if you should happen to drop in over the holidays.
* * *
Since it’s Livonia, it seems like news for you.
High school students in Livonia had been raising funds for a year before a faculty advisor decided they better call me to talk about the peace pole they were raising funds for me to make for them. This was at Churchill High School, which wasn’t completed until after you graduated, but, as you probably know, is just off Joy Road. Today I was there dropping off the peace pole. Their deadline was too near for Roadway Trucking to have time to deliver it. I rented a truck and ran it up there.
A photo of it as at this link:
At least that is part of it. I had to work too fast to have time to get decent photos of it. And it isn’t in the ground yet. It’s on a skid waiting for a school assembly to celebrate it. So this is a photo of part of it as it lies horizontally.
Is its being in Livonia enough of an excuse to tell you about it? Probably not. Oh, well.
* * *
From the time I was born, Detroit was where we went. I remember being an old hat at making the trip on the train by the time I was 4 years old. I remember what the drive to Detroit was like before freeways. My father’s brother was there. All of my mother’s sisters were there. All of my cousins were there. Half of my grandparents were there. Every second or third Christmas was spent there. My Cincinnati grandparents joined us there for that and the Thanksgivings and other holidays we spent there. The cottage on Lake Erie, where we spent part of every summer, was there, just across the river in Ontario, near Amherstburg. Other lakes in the Detroit area, like Long Lake in Bloomfield Hills at my uncles house, and others, were where we spent so many hours fishing or water skiing or sailing or rowing or paddling or swimming. My brother went to Cranbrook to get his BFA and I visited him there and got help designing something from people there. Friends of mine lived there. I went to weddings there. I dated someone else there. Cincinnati is the only place to which I have more ties than that part of Michigan.
And yet now, on the infrequent occasions when I drive there (no relatives still are there), my entire consciousness is involved with the awareness that it is where you were. All I feel is what it was like when going there to see you. Somewhere in my consciousness your presence and spirit inhabit that place to the extent of erasing all other connections to it.
Would I say any of these things if I knew you were reading this? I don’t know. And why is it I imagine that if you were going to peak in here it might be around the time of your birthday? Or over Christmas – within the vicinity of your birthday. Odds are you haven’t been here in years. If ever.
* * *
He was lost. He was in trouble. He was on a snow-covered roof on a dark, overcast night looking at the glinting outlines of the car and the Dumpster seven stories below. From here which would he land on? Stuart, his roommate, shouted that the phone was for him. He took it.
On the phone she wondered why he hadn’t called for so long. Not meaning it, not wanting it, not even understanding it, he said he hoped she’d forget about him for a while, though for the rest of his life a day would never pass without his thinking about her so what sense did that make?
He hung up and Stuart asked what he was doing on an icy roof. He made a quip about not knowing.
He had tried to find out. He had asked everyone he knew for help at one time or another. Parents. Friends. Sunday school teachers. Strangers. Walking on the side of a mountain he had tried to ask her. She said she couldn’t go there.
“But that’s where I am,” he thought but didn’t say. “Help me.”
He had hoped loving her would answer all the questions, or at least make them irrelevant. This was it. She was it. What more could there be?
“I love you” were words he had never spoken. Not to anyone ever. He was trying to figure out how to say them to her. He was trying to process the fact that being in love was not easing the agony. Life was no more tolerable because of love. Life with him would be what for her under these circumstances?
On a journey through a lifetime of depression so painful that the longest he’d ever been able to persuade himself to put off suicide was one more day, he had held out this long in the hope that someday something like this would change things. This, of all things, he had hoped would change things, but nothing changed. No matter what he did or where he went or who he was with, nothing changed. He couldn’t keeping going on like this.
Why had he been on the roof? As usual he made a dark quip. Stuart laughed. The darker and truer the quips he made about it, the more people laughed. He never knew why.
The icy roof had been treacherous. When falling is desirable, there is no insecurity. There is calm, collected agility – perfect survival skills generated by not wanting to survive. Travel to that edge enough times though and eventually you will slip.
In fact, he did know why he was on that roof and why he kept going to places like that icy edge. What he did not know was how he had survived it this long. And what to do to make it so that he could stand to survive it any longer. If he did not find an answer, his plan was not to.
Saying that he hoped she would forget about him for a while was a thought that had not occurred to him and he himself was surprised by it when it came out of his mouth. He wanted to take it back. He wanted to make everything different. He didn’t know how. He was lost. And he was back at the top of the stairway with the door open looking at the icy roof.