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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

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Frank in all directions

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« In Which We Overcome The Sirens We Look Both Left And Right »

Second Summer


Leavened and unleavened bread drops from the sky. Someone, perhaps the ghost of Keith Moon, sits on the edge of the scored lake. He is breakfasting on the noodle. You know he is out of his mind because he sings to himself, but no sound comes out.

The cabin remains very cold at night. The gate shakes when the wind moves through, but mostly the reason for the noise is the people who used to live here. They want to get back in.

Letters arrive by the hundreds. The mailman gives me a snooty look. He told me that this is part time stuff while he gets his PhD in abnormal psychology. I said, “OK.” He said he measures everything in mail, and so should I.

I did meet Gabriel, who is a student at the extension. I asked him to come back to the cabin, but he made a choking gesture with his hands. “You can’t breathe up there,” I said. He doesn’t speak much English, but when have I ever let that stop me? (This is the kind of joke my mailman is not entertained by.)

Hey, you can’t connect with everyone. The closer you get, the more apart you are in your heart, because a pernicious separation is an aspect of all closeness, the same way sometimes you can see the moon when the sun is out, but it’s not the moon you know. Instead it’s a reflection, or more properly described as the Etch-A-Sketch version of what you thought was there.

I have this vision that when I go down to the convenience store to buy Cheerios, the fire department trucks have taken this opportunity to invade my person space. I told Gabriel about this paranoia, and I asked him where it comes from. “God,” he said, “everything comes from God.” He couldn’t prove it, but neither could I.

At the local church our father - the people here like him very much - is obsessed with this letter he received from an old congregant. You see, the letter began grateful to the father for assuaging the man’s doubts and all that. Predictably, something went wrong in the man’s life again, and he fell from this throne. The father said he could rise again, but maybe he wouldn’t and that would be up to him.

The next week the father reported the congregant had left a note saying he stopped by but the father wasn’t there. In his little talk he didn’t say where he was that he missed this gentleman. My second guess was a grocery store.

I want there to be people in this life who knew me the way that people in the other life knew me. I doubt it will happen. A flower never opens as fully that second summer, and that is when the flower (the flower is I) notices that even the street smells of body odor.

There is this place I go to for lunch. They only open for lunch, while tells you how completely important this meal is in their sphere of understanding. There is this guy who waits outside for them to open, OK. He wears about half a sweatshirt, and some nice enough pants, and no shoes. Dirt cakes some of his body, but you can discern a sincere effort to wash as much as he can. They are plenty of public bathrooms around here, although if you go in the grocery store you have to take the elevator down one floor, and that is not recommended. Everytime I see this guy before the place opens, he seems like he is really keen to go in, but then he doesn’t. His feet do not move, and his posture slouches. It took me three or four days of solid mail to discern his emotional reaction to the opening of the restaurant: he was relieved.

Some of the letters say don’t go. Others tell me to stay. To leave a place you know is what Gabriel calls a channeling, because you are going into not only a new environment, which may or may not accept you on a molecular level, but a place where none of the stimuli are familiar. In New York I had the advantage of myself; nothing was threatening above 22nd Street, and the elevator always worked.

The letters sometimes say, predictably, that we have heard your latest broadcast, and we wonder if it is still you. On the condition that it is, here is a check for seventy five dollars, and a card that says we miss you. I put it away.

In the new place, you can still see movies, but they are not the same kind of movies – they are a jaundiced, petrified version of the same, as if Reese Witherspoon is exponentially less sure of all her choices.

I could not list all the people I miss after reading their letters. Reminders contain a hopeful and a sorrowful melody, and so we must engage in them or deny ourselves. On some level I know that is exactly what I ought to do. I am so near sighted that someone when I only open one eye, in the dark, so that I can see the screen, and then I realize I have been pressing the other one shut, and I open it, I think I am seeing myself from above. It is a challenging view but the mail never stops.

She never liked it when I talked about my dreams and she will hate reading this. It’s too abstract.

This one type of person you can only find in the early morning. She dresses all in black because you can imagine some cranky executive wearing his old black clothes, but hers are too worn to merit that appraisal. She does wear socks in her black sneakers, because white socks represent the last vestiges of humanity. On some level, this is the way I remember everyone I meet, to myself.

And then one day the father says to those assembled, he finally connected with the man who wrote him all those times. Maybe the man was lost, maybe he wasn’t. Sometimes people exaggerate the depth of their despair, and he might have a very good reason for that. In a few months he might receive a check for $75.00, or that could be the low end of what proper faith bestows upon the devoted.

My mailman does not want to hear about such things. He is into the following: what it takes to climb over a high fence, how much gas is consumed before the day is done, how two people connect in a more meaningful way than three or four or seven, whether to carry a basket on a shoulder or under an arm, choosing the proper words for the occasion and then showing up at the proscribed time. In contrast, I display the words as they come to me, and if they never arrive on the scene, I say nothing at all.

The gate rises higher and higher, and opens at odd hours, and then only to me. Impresarios, vagabonds, milquetoasts and strangers.

In a frosted-over envelope, next to one with the check, a message from the one I loved. “Come home.”

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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