A rough, rough copy of a chapter from the book I’m working on…
That girl with the face so sweet, everything about her. I don’t care where she came from. She could have just escaped a tyrant. She could have been a mermaid fresh risen from the sea. She had that mysterious air about her that said,
Never ask. I may reveal my past to you. What we have here, now, is everything. I am yours. But you must respect me, and never uncover my story until I am ready, if ever.
Of course, it did not say, ‘never wonder’.
I first saw her standing on the lake dock one night. She was lighting tiny candles and setting them adrift into the water. By her bare feet a rosary. She hummed a distant but familiar melody. I was not twenty feet away, and the night was still as pie. I had just exited the bar to smoke a cigarette, and noticed her while I was lighting up. Stunned and then entrained. I inhaled and watched her as though it was natural to, as though maybe in her splendour she was expecting a stray voyeur. Or not. “Who’s there?” she shouted calmly, without turning a head. “Milfrey,” I replied, as though it was good enough an answer. I surprised myself with the softness in my tone. “Who are you, Milfrey?” She asked.
I wanted her.
“Yours,” I replied. Inside, I cringed. Did I just say that? I expected her to laugh, and then ignore me. “Come closer,” she said.
What happened next, I could write about this moment in a book. And did. I went closer and stayed closer for years.
“What are you doing out here at such a late hour?”, this was her next question. To me. She was probably used to receiving it. I had the feeling she could read my thoughts. I didn’t care. “I’m not an angel,” she said. It was the way I was looking at her, reverently. She offered me a candle, lit.
“You can bless it with a wish, and put it in the water. Don’t think about me.”
I thought about her. She glared at me. I was fucked.
“What are you doing out here at such a late hour?” I asked, finally, setting a tiny flickering flame adrift into the lake, trying my best to think only about myself. I thought about my sister.
She winked, too ready for the question. “Praying for the blood of my enemies,” she responded. I genuinely had no idea if that was a joke. It was both, probably. “Oh?” I asked. She smiled as though her enemies were somehow also her friends. Maybe she meant their menstrual cycles.
“But I keep my demons to myself,” she added. She bit her lip and I had to remind myself that her beauty should not distract me from the points she was trying to make. She seemed remorseful of what she had just said. “Are they anemic?” I asked, joking through a redemption. Midnight light from the street and the moon washed her figure and face with a glow that had me wondering if angels themselves could forget who they were.
That night I had myself forgiving everybody that had ever hurt me. I even forgave people I hadn’t yet met, for the things they hadn’t yet done. I was busy forgiving myself too. Perhaps you could call me inspired. What I knew was that there was no room in my heart that night for both hatred and love. Love for this woman, or anybody like her. A sort of woman I never knew existed before she. Maybe she was the only one.
I found her again in the morning, walking along the pier and biting into an entire loaf of bread.
“Where are you from?” I asked, from behind her. She spun around coughing.
“Oh, you”, she said. I felt disappointed that she barely sounded excited, at least not through her word choice. And I wasn’t going to be like those other disrespectful lads reading too deeply into double meanings. I remember my grandfather telling me, “Son, a woman means what she says, if she don’t, you still give her the benefit of the doubt.” What he meant was that always respect a woman, even to the point of doubting her advances and being exceedingly gentle with one’s own. My grandmother became a singer after they began dating.
She walked confidently and alone. I wasn’t going to follow her, or be hopelessly woo’d, but it felt right to ask for her company. Birds scattered from the lower dock and trailed a cloud, perhaps announcing the morning light with their song. She swooped her hand low as if to scoop water, and then flicked and splashed nothingness around. She looked at me flat in the eyes and said, “trust your better judgement.”
Why the hell was I so turned on? I invited her over. We kissed for hours.
“Can I stay?” she asked, after her first night in my bed. I thought about it for a minute. She paused. “I’ll be your altar” she added. Eyes made of sugar. “You are not helping me think clearly” I said, with all my courage. I walked outside, smoked one cigarette, walked back inside, said nothing, and we made love. I never gave her an answer. Her lips were as right as my freedom. My lips on hers was my answer. Stay, they said. And then biting gently on her lower lip, but in the right way. What did they mean, the right way? I let my lips know more than my mind then.
She wasn’t beautiful; she was beauty. Her in my bed was living on the crest of an ocean made of summer peaches and sea strawberries and having that sweet being around me her hair long like tears her chest bare her nipples like secret garden flowers budding it was like sleeping on clouds that make you see clearer like a love that makes you wise. I had the privilege to drink starlight every morning and night and I would never again forget to be grateful. One day she might pick up and walk and I knew it wouldn’t be because of me or us so much as her, her lust for the world, her need to keep dancing, the way her heart would spiral forth into a new infinity already and she must follow. I couldn’t keep her though I sometimes wished to, to bind her down but give her everything. But she was a flower. She was a butterfly. If a butterfly lands on your palm, you can only be your best, be love for it, understand it and what draws it to you. But even magnetizing butterflies is wrong. To keep it is to kill it.
And anyway, we had this tiny Vescica Pisces painted over the bedroom door. From the inside I mean. The symbol showed two overlapping circles and the third form created between them. I had to end the lust in me that would dare consume her future. Just as I thought this one morning she got out of bed barely clothed and her bare behind… goddamn if there was a god I didn’t want to know. I suspected she walked with a forgotten god in her heart and it was They I would worship.
There was a lake near the house. Her lips like summer, for days we didn’t go outside. Then one day she announced we were going. “Oh?” I said, picking up her soft body and gently holding her against the wall. “Oh yes” she said, with an elongated tone. And after that we went everyday.
Sometimes I never let myself wonder. About her origins. Everything about her kissing was purposeful. Don’t quel dark of the sacred should it not too be holy. I tried not to analyze. And I was so in love with her. Just watching her prairie wave hair be carried in the wind, feeling the pulse of her as she walked. Something about her connected me to the forest life I had never much noticed before. And to myself. And I began to write.
On other days, I would bring her a wood tray with dishes of sliced fruits, lemon water and a tower of pancakes with sour cream. I would bring it right into the bed once she was awake. Her smile. I just wanted to be sure she was OK, that she felt safe. Too much I knew it and I would swallow my worry. And then my mind would run with possibilities, and I would fight the invisible gods of her old fate that may have harmed her, I would curse the old men of the sea who had forced her to silence. And she knew I was thinking of these things, but she would simply suck on a piece of honeydew and while biting in, ask if I was OK. She said to me one morning, “I hold my fork so tight when you kiss me. Maybe my love for you can be measured in how tight I hold forks. You make me want to hold on to something.” I leaned over the tray of breakfast and plates moved too fast and I didn’t care and my heart was beating and I kissed her square on the lips. One of my hands ran the length of her forearm and took a hand squeezing something metal. Feeling the truth of her words in her hand, a strange thought entered my heart: ‘If only I loved myself like she loved me, I would be as free’.
One day I found myself walking alone in the forest near the lake. I wasn’t thinking of her: something about her company allowed me to simply be without thinking of anybody or thing. I felt no stress, I felt a great freedom. I was observing the wind in the forest and the way it moved the leaves…My perception became very subtly tuned and I became aware of my own body and being. We lived at the Appalachian foothills and the wild plant life spoke the secret will of the mountains. The further I found my way into the path, the more the vitality of the life around me brought me into a state of wonder.
I hiked a trail I had never much noted; past the waves of Queen Anne’s Lace and yarrow, through a twinkling hill bend of violets and mallow, winding through a congregation of birches stood tall and elegant as though they were a part of a champagne ceremony stretching eons. I hummed along with birds and eventually found myself in a clearing surrounded on the lower slope side by a running creek. I wandered to the middle of the clearing where an ash stump stood maybe a third of a foot high. On it a ring of shasta daisies and within it a single delicate white-pink rose. I felt a movement in my belly and thought of Lucy. In the forest, I heard a quick shuffling and felt a sudden deep calm. So many questions arose I chose to ask none. Something sweet that I did not deserve was teaching me.
All I could do was love her. Everything she did and was made me the happiest man I had ever met.
As I thought this, the sun emerged from behind a tree canopy for a brief brilliant minute before dipping back into a cloud blanket.
On my hike back through the forest, past the night lake and towards our woods cabin at the southwards side of town, the same calm peace followed. As did a slightly unusual shuffling of branches, an animal just to the left of my vision.
(… next chapter)
In my dream I was walking with many spirits and they asked me to pick a woman from a crowd. I motioned towards a woman in a seagreen dress holding a bouquet of daisies and I said, ‘that girl’. She turned to stare at all of us and disappeared.
(I’m aware this needs more editing, better organization, more realistic dialogue and more invisible detail, and the correct tonal emphasis. It’s a bit too romantic and needs more big vision and natural history, imo)