You are still my best friend.
I wish it weren’t so.
I wish I could move on.
But I need you every day.
There was a simple pine box in my father’s office desk. The box, like the entire drawer, smelled from a small bag of pipe tobacco he kept there with a couple of used corncob pipes, cream rims brown from smoke. His other pipes, those of fine woods but not his favorites, hung from a metal rack on top of his desk.
His box contained a small, soft leather pouch the size of a plum, a few handwritten notes, a Saint Michael protection card printed with gold-ink, a tiny, faded photograph of his mother and a couple clip-on pins given in recognition of his community service. The pouch held a stone fox, the color of iron, with a piece of turquoise tied on top of its neck with a slim strip of leather. A note inside the pouch read, “Thank you, from the people of the Navajo Nation.” I found these things after he died.
By opening his desk, I learned that he, like I, had a secret place for talismans, superstitions.
It was strange to find this stone fox because a couple months earlier, I’d given him a small, stone grizzly, about the same size, also tarnished iron color, also from a Navajo artist. I bought it at a roadside shop in Southern Utah because it reminded me of him. Thick and strong bodied, it had a long nose, a slightly tilted head that made it appear to be listening, and penetrating, warm turquoise eyes. The grizzly fit perfectly in my palm. I could wrap my fingers around it, heat it up, fill it with life.
I placed it on my dad’s nightstand and it watched him die.
The grizzly is now my fox. He’s been with me for fifteen years. I keep him at my bedside wherever I sleep, wherever I go. When I’m most afraid, I clutch him in my hand, sometimes all night.
Perhaps because of the times we are living in, the ennui that has set in, the deep sadness I can’t shake, perhaps because all the suffering in the world hovers in the atmosphere like unbreathable pollution, for whatever reason, my grizzly has materialized, expanded to life-size.
He lumbers around my apartment, the scent of sweet pipe tobacco following him. Mostly though, he sleeps on the couch, cuddled into the pillows, sniffing the ocean air. He’s begun attracting winged creatures. Sunflower-colored seagulls, lizard dayglo green crows and persimmon and pomegranate songbirds. And the birds are attracting butterflies the color of pink and purple petunias.
I have felt so lonely, myself an extension of the long arm of time reaching around the curve of the earth into darkness. A dead silence rests heavy around my heart. My sustenance, the kindness of strangers, is gone.
Come here, sweet bear. Rest your head on my knee so I may look into your otherworldly eyes, touch your fur as soft as a Labrador’s, your velvet nose shortening the distance to the horizon. Let us wait for luck...when a songbird will sing for us, a butterfly will land on your head and you may feel the whisper of wind as fragile wings open and close, open and close, open and close and I may find peace in the gentleness of it all.
Early morning on the beach, a misty, dirty cloud covers the sun. A low haze hangs over the sea. The waves are weak. It’s already hot. Two days ago, my daughter said, “I want to leave.”
“You want to leave Spain?” I asked.
“No, I want to leave.”
I knew what she was talking about. I'd been thinking the same and I told her so.
For a moment, we both felt better.
Only a trickle of people walk the water's edge. Some out to exercise; running or striding quickly. Almost everyone wears bathing suits, women with straps tied around backs instead of shoulders. No tan lines, I guess. An older woman’s breast hangs out of her suit. She doesn't bother putting it back. No one cares. Women go topless here in Alicante.
Couples, most all. I am alone.
The silver sea is capped with foaming white waves. People pass like illusions. Wondering what their lives are like, I gaze down at footprints in the sand. The impressions dissolve with two or three brushes of waves, just like me, just like I have dissolved from lives, cities, jobs, friendships. How nicely this metaphor, this cliché, works.
Pale, cushioned benches under yellow umbrellas line up in neat rows, a new addition on Campello beach. Tourists, most from Madrid, have dropped in with big city arrogance and cash. Past tense are days of silence teased by palm branches brushing the balcony railing, birds chirping choruses accompanied by pulsing waves. The Spanish people are beautiful. Especially young girls with black eyes, long faces, large, long noses and thick, black hair. Picasso proportions.
When did my anger morph to despondency? I've risen, like the waves, to the occasion, crashed it, turned around healthy and gone back in again. Too many times. I'm tired of fighting for alright, joy, my verve. I hate getting older. Just one more thing out of control.
Only a few people wear masks on the beach. One blue-masked woman carries a purse which she lifts to her face like a tiny wall each time someone passes. People protect their health, their lives. We’re survivors. It's in our DNA. But I want to leave, end the fight for fundamentals, bread and water, work, love, belonging.
Did I become so strange no one wants me? I’m tired of blaming myself. Tired of knowing no one wants to hear me asking for help again. Tired of putting my chin up, my chest out and pretending I can do it alone. Tired of the pain of losing people who loved me but are gone like footprints after a few gentle, morning waves.
Afraid of the future, disappointed in the past, the present as elusive as a just world.
I ran to a Spanish desert
from cruelty, injustice, people,
fled with my sense of helplessness, ineffectualness, meaninglessness. Intimidated by hate. Afraid of civilization’s monsters. Ashamed that I am not David or anyone at all. That I am vulnerable and tired.
I cower in solitude.
A child looking through a crack in a door
as adults fight and the mean adult pushes the weaker, kinder adult against the hard edge of a suffocating knee, and going down the kinder adult, the gentle giant, takes the sheets and drapes and comforter and all the murdered innocents along. A flimsy torn, tired piece of cotton catches a candle’s flame. Fire crackles, cracks like a breaking windpipe, and consumes the room. My hair catches fire
as I watch the room burn,
my daughter’s room,
her grandmother’s room,
her father’s room,
her granddaughter’s room.
The desert around me, dry and dark, is ready to burn as well.
For hope, the house comes down.
They are not birds’ wings.
Not really a Biography
I have always been inclined to move forward, roll the stone, down, and often up, hills. I've tried to write through it all. Everything on this blog is written by me.