If you’ve been reading along here for more than a few years you know that every now and then a little hiccup comes along and a new story just pops up. Well, this is a hiccup. A new story that has absolutely nothing to do with the 88th Key or Come Alive or…anything else. It just is.
And it’s about 25 pages so not real long and not too brief. Maybe time for tea? Probably.
Life is really kind of funny, ya know? Like how many unexpected things come up and slap us on the face – almost like right out of the blue – except maybe we’ve been setting out little breadcrumbs all along the way? When you look at it that way, well, that little slap on the face almost seems inevitable, kind of like we planned it that way. That would almost make a weird kind of sense if we were actually smart enough to pull something like that off. Yet it’s funnier still how many of these consequential slaps remain just out of sight – and then at just the wrong moment they strike. We go through life and never hear anything from them, but then – like meteors that narrowly miss the earth – sometimes our little breadcrumbs cruise on by and we remain blissfully unaware of how utterly close we’ve come to annihilation. Or…we come full circle and trip over our trail of breadcrumbs and despite all our so-called smarts we remain in no position to effect any sort of positive outcome. That’s just life I suppose, yet I’ve always been a little more proactive about the things I am aware of to let even the littlest things slip by. But there’s a catch here, and it’s a biggie: you have to be, at the very least, aware of the world unfurling around you. If you aren’t…well then…you have no one to blame but yourself – even if you aren’t a total control freak.
Which, of course, we all are. Yet in a way being a control freak has contributed to the nature of our success, as well as more than a few of our personal failures along the way – but that, too, is just life. After all, everyone has to be something, so why not be a control freak?
Yet through it all I keep coming back to the idea of circles.
But cut me some slack here, because while I’m not exactly sure where I’m going I have a feeling it’s someplace interesting. Circles are like that, I guess.
Didn’t Elton John write something about taking me to the pilot for control. Yeah, that one. Take me to the pilot of your soul. You get the drift – of the song, I mean? Well, I look back on all that time in college and think I wanted to get a handle on the whole soul thing, and I did right up to the exact point in time when my brother was killed in Southeast Asia, on a dark and stormy night all his own. I know that’s when I first started thinking about circles, anyway.
See…my brother was a full-fledged member of the war corp, yet I was well on my way to becoming some kind of rock ’n roller when I got news that his life had reached an unexpected end. He’d been flying off carriers in A-4 Skyhawks; he’d been flying one of the very first missions in early ’66 to go after shipping in Haiphong Harbor – when a Russian SAM removed him from the ledger.
There was a place I used to go up north of the Golden Gate, and I drove out to that cold little beach after my dad called to let me know I didn’t have a brother anymore. Lost out there in a fog, I tried to picture him alone in the middle of the night in one of those jets, here one second and gone the next – literally just gone – and then all these other memories of him came back in a dull roar that maybe sounded a little like surf out there in the mist. Throwing the football in the backyard with him, my fingers so cold they hurt and smoke from a million wood stoves hanging in the air. Learning to drive with him by my side, all patience and so full of confidence because he was such a good teacher. Such a good friend. Maybe that’s what big brothers are supposed to be, in the world as it’s supposed to be, anyway. Friends. Role models. And sure, yeah, teachers. And Doug was all those things. I was lucky, and even then I knew it.
Because when I was a spud I had friends whose big brothers were bullies, who we avoided like the plague. You know the type, I’m sure, maybe even if you were one. But sitting out in the fog on a cold rock with Pacific tides rolling-in all I could see in my mind’s eye was some kind of missile warning light blinking red and then a few last seconds of dawning awareness – that my brother knew his life was about to end, that the light he had carried through his life was about to go out, and I wondered what he thought and felt in those last few seconds of his life. Work the problem? Fight the inevitable until the very end? I’d never know, of course.
Because a couple hundred pounds of high explosive had turned him into purple rain, little bits of death slipping into the ooze and out of my life. One more point of light switched off in a sea of flickering stars disappearing in one black hole after another.
I was playing keyboards a lot back then, kind of a college side gig to earn money for pizza. But the group I was with had cut a second album and we were getting a reputation. And that’s when I showed up for a gig with my long hair long gone. I was, I told them that afternoon, joining the Navy, headed up to Washington State for OCS and then, hopefully, on to flight school. I was following in my brother’s footsteps, you see. Walking along the remains of his circle.
I remember the looks of stupefied disbelief on faces of people I’d called friends for more than a few years, then the sense of betrayal in their downcast, red as stoned eyes. I wasn’t war corp, they cried. I was one of them. How could you do such a thing…?
I had a girlfriend, of course. Joyce. Joyce of the long red hair and deep green eyes, her batik skirts that always swept the floor. Patchouli. I remember clouds of patchouli most of all when I thought about her. I loved her, of course. As a matter of fact she taught me how to love. Not the mechanics but the soul searching embrace of love. Probably the best song on our last album together was all about her, about the way she moved, about the way she made me feel inside when she smiled at me just so. She was a light acoustic number, all gentle chords wrapped up in little love-knots, and I always felt closest to her when her music came to me.
I had a little green Porsche back then, a new 911E I’d picked up a few week before all this went down. I bought the car with the money from the album, and Joyce picked it out. In a way I guess I always thought it would be our car – because I couldn’t imagine life without her. She was my circle, if that makes sense.
I can still remember throwing a few bags in the front boot and getting behind the wheel of our car, looking around at the life I’d had, at the life I was turning away from. Driving away from familiar streets I turned on more time and got on the I-5 Northbound, bound for Someplace I’d Never Been Before.
Two days followed, tow days of thinking about how much I wanted to kill the people who’d killed my brother. Two days to come to terms with the fact that I’d already started to hate the person I was becoming.
NAS Whidbey Island became my home after Berkeley, especially after doing hard time in OCS and then Pri-Fly in Pensacola. Like my brother I went into attack aircraft, in my case the A-6E Intruder, and after my initial squadron orientation and readiness training ay Whidbey I was assigned to VA-165 and sent to Southeast Asia. I won’t dwell on this part of the circle but in my mind I avenged my brother by plastering targets all around Hanoi and Haiphong, but even if such a thing was truly possible I have to admit now that I found no pleasure or satisfaction in anything about the experience. If anything I felt more empty than I ever had, but Death is like that. Maybe I was just bitter now, probably because the whole vengeance thing proved nothing at all. Then, as the war wound down I couldn’t wait to…do what? To do what…exactly…with the burned-out husk of my life?
Stay in the Navy? I used to go up to the hangar deck then aft to the fantail and I’d stand at the rail and watch the churning water down there in the dark. My brother was down there now, a part of the sea again. What would he have wanted me to do, I wondered?
No. The Navy wasn’t going to happen. Not to me. The Navy had taken his life and was chewing mine up slowing. Each cat shot in the night, every bombing run, the night traps and the endless endless endless stress of living up to everyone’s endless endless endless expectations. About the best thing I could say about flying is I didn’t have to look into the eyes of the people I killed, but that didn’t mean all those broken circles would leave me be; no, they came calling in my nightmares, where I least expected them. Where there was no place to hide.
I’d kept in touch with some of the guys in the band and one of the guys wrote back and told me the group still wanted me. But Joyce, he wrote, my red headed green eyed girlfriend and the love of my life was long gone, married to a realtor and I realized she was well beyond my reach now, but yet somehow that loss felt like a reward I all too richly deserved.
Staring down into the churning sea behind an aircraft carrier is a strange thing, especially so at two in the morning. Your mind dances in phosphorescent chaos and there are no stars reflecting off the echoes of fleet-footed memories. You are alone with the cold truth of the sea, her eternal nothingness an all beckoning gravity singing her siren’s songs you could swear you’d heard before – maybe in another time, or another life…
There was a piano in one of the squadron ready room on the Connie, a beat up old upright tied off to a bulkhead, and I went to her on my last night aboard and played Take Me To The Pilot. I mean I really banged it out, five years of hate pouring through my fingers into the poor old thing and when I looked up there were a couple dozen pilots standing there in awe, maybe because I’d stopped playing when I left Berkeley so no one knew I played. I finally told my shipmates about the group I’d been in before all this flying shit and no one could believe it. “What the fuck are you doing out here,” they asked.
“I hate the world and I want to set it on fire,” I replied – and everyone laughed.
I mean, really, who wouldn’t? Who knows, maybe we all wanted something as insane as that – each in our way, but whatever, it was good for a laugh.
But not me; I wasn’t laughing. In fact, I’d never been more serious in my life.
After signing some papers that part of my life closed like a bad book. I found my Porsche and got her ready to roll and then threw my bags in the front boot again and after a little soul searching on a beach turned onto the I-5 once again and this time headed South, only when I got to Berkeley I looked at the offramp and shook my head then just drove right on by. It was time to go home so home I went. Back to Newport Beach. Back to standing in line at The Crab Cooker on Friday afternoons with mom and dad, back to catching up with old friends from high school. I went up to SNA, that’s Orange County Airport to the uninitiated, to one of the flight schools there and I talked about maybe teaching or something like that but one of the owners asked me why I hadn’t considered the airlines.
Because I hadn’t. No reason, really. Maybe I just didn’t want to be a bus driver, I think I said and that made everyone laugh. Everyone there wanted to be a bus driver…
So anyway, me being me that’s exactly what I did.
I ended up at TWA because I thought maybe flying internationally would be more interesting, and who knows, maybe it was. I started off in 707s, well, actually the 707-320c, and like all the new hires back in the day I drew the really glamorous routes during my first few years. In my case it was JFK to LAX – which is, believe me, about the most boring route a commercial pilot can get saddled with. Two years of boring and I was about ready for a career change. Maybe something exotic. You know, maybe something along the lines of dental hygiene or plumbing.
Then I drew JFK to Stockholm.
Lots of blonds in Stockholm, right? That had to be a good thing, right?
I was happy again and all thought of going to dental hygiene school vanished. But within a year the word was we were going to drop 707s and transition to L-1011s for most of our trans-Atlantic European routes, so it was back to school – then a year after getting my type I went back to school to work on my transition to captain. To four stripes. The promised land of commercial aviation.
And I ended flying out of Boston Logan for the rest of my career, flying the TriStar to either Heathrow or Charles De Gaulle, though occasionally to Frankfurt or Munich. It was fun work, satisfying in its way, yet all this flying stuff has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Well, almost nothing, but circles are like that. You gotta follow the breadcrumbs, ya know? You gotta go where they take you.
A lot of people think that cockpit crews work as teams, like two or three pilots working together all the time, and there was a time when this was true. The problem with such groupings is simple enough to understand, though. When people work together all the time relationships develop. Some relationships are good, some are not so good, while others may grow toxic and mean-spirited – but none of these relationships end up creating a competent cockpit environment. The end result of all this is you really never know who’ll be working with you until you show up at the airport and get your manifest and load-out from the dispatch office.
Getting to know the people you fly with is not exactly discouraged, but neither is it encouraged. Call it a gray area. Inviting some of the guys over to watch a football game is sort of okay, while screwing one of the flight attendants you fly with is kind of a no-no. Assuming male-female gender combinations in the cockpit happen more frequently these days – as opposed to when I was flying – screwing your co-pilot is about the worst thing cockpit crews can do today. Period. I have to assume that the same principle applies to male-male or female-female hookups as well, if you know what I mean…but I’d rather not go there.
Still, you get to know the people you do fly with. If, for instance, you fly with John Doe three times a month you kind of pick up where you left off, talking about his farm in Indiana or his son’s interest in wearing stockings and high heels. And you might fly from Boston to Paris with one First Officer and Flight Engineer and then have an entirely new crew for the return. Again, you just never really knew who you’d work with, but even so – over time, anyway – you began to know quite a bit about the people you were flying with.
Everything is inevitable, ya know? Like points on a curve. More breadcrumbs along the way.
Mike Elliot was one such character. He was a couple of years older than I yet he’d never expressed any interest in moving up to captain. None. He didn’t want the added responsibility, he told me once, or all the extra pressure that went along with the position. And, as it happened, Mike’s attitude wasn’t really all that unusual. I met a number of First Officers over the years who were comfortable where they were, the same with a whole bunch of Flight Engineers. Mike was usually down in the dumps about something his wife had done to him and he was, generally speaking, a very unhappy fella.
On one trip to Paris, Mike’s wife, a petite fire breathing dragon named Isabel, joined us on the flight across from Boston; they were going to spend a few weeks in France on vacation – together – and yet Mike was despondent about the whole thing.
Because, as it turned out, Isabel was a total control freak. Not a casual misanthrope but a real balls-to-the wall man-eating hell-bitch sort of control freak. She’d been a dancer of some sort, ballet, not exotic, and even I could see she was cute. Or, well, maybe once upon a time her looks had covered up certain character traits. When I met her the first time, and it was on that trip, all I noticed was an uncertain meanness in her eyes, and a tendency to mock everyone and everything around her – her husband Mike most of all. After being around her for about five minutes I realized she was a toxic compound, really mean to the core, and I couldn’t wait to make my excuses and get away from her. Which was exactly what I did, too.
Then again, I was flying back to Boston the next morning and had to hit the sack fairly early; Mike had no such luck and he was stuck with the bitch, and it didn’t take a lot of imagination to understand where all his existential despair came from. Anyway, after we cleared customs I found the crew shuttle to the hotel and left Mike and the hell-bitch to enjoy their vacation together.
We typically got into CDG, or Charles De Gaulle International, a little after six in the morning, and I usually didn’t go back out to the airport until nine the next morning, so my routine in Paris was fairly casual. Check in at the hotel then head down to a favorite bistro for a quick breakfast before a long walk to nowhere in particular followed by a late lunch and then heading off to bed, and that’s exactly what I did that December night.
Except in the middle of that night I jumped out of bed, startled by the pounding drumbeat of someone banging on my door; and there was Mike in a bath-robe, all bleary-eyed and blitzed out of his mind, crying and halfway out of his mind. I was, on the other hand, shaking from yet another nightmare, and that was before Mike’s fists started hammering on my door. Anyway, he said he couldn’t take it anymore. At least that’s what he said between ragged sobs full of pointless accusations and pointed recriminations. He couldn’t, he said, spend a dime without her approval. He couldn’t eat a thing she didn’t approve of first; at dinner that night she’d ordered his meal, told him what he was allowed to drink and even the people sitting around them had noticed her overbearing crudeness and it had gone downhill ever since.
Yet there wasn’t a whole lot I could do, and certainly nothing I was willing to say about matters. In truth, I didn’t know Mike all that well and I sure didn’t know his wife, which, if nothing else, meant I really didn’t know both side of the story. By the way, getting pulled into this kind of drama without knowing the true dynamics of the relationship is, in my experience, a toxically stupid thing to do and besides, it was two in the morning. I helped Mike get a room then trudged back up to my own and promptly passed out.
Sleep was, however, not to be. Probably less than a half hour later I sat up in bed, my ears ringing like church bells as even more furious pounding on my door woke me – again. Yes indeedy, I was a really happy camper. Only when I went to the door this time I found a vampire bat named Isabel frothing at the mouth in rabid fury on the other side of peephole.
And even as I opened the door to my room she tried to push her way in – not with much success, I might add – and then she demanded to know where her husband was. I pointed to the open doors that led to my balcony and said as politely as I could that when her husband had heard her banging on the door he had decided to jump, then I slammed the door in her face.
I listened to the stream of four-letter invectives as she made for her broomstick and yes, I smiled, not really caring what the witch was thinking but nevertheless somehow quite pleased with myself. And, if I was lucky, or so I thought, I might even get two more hours of sleep.
So…and this in no way accounts for what happened next, I went and packed my overnighter and caught the next crew shuttle back out to De Gaulle. I’d had enough of their drama and I’d had just enough sleep to get me through the day. Yet I halfway expected to read about Mike in the morning edition of the International Herald-Tribune. You know, something like ‘American Murders Vampire Wife, Throws Decapitated Body From Eiffel Tower.’ That sort of thing. But no, nothing happened. Matter of fact, I didn’t fly with Mike again for a week or so.
Something told their vacation just didn’t work out, ya know…?
So…after signing off on the manifest and load-out in the dispatch office at CDG, I made my way out to the airplane on the early side because I wanted to stop off for breakfast at Maxims. I always loved their ham and cheese omelet and made it a point to drop by for breakfast whenever I made the CDG-Logan run, and with a decent breakfast under my belt I went on out to the gate to get the day going.
And that’s when my life turned upside down.
Red hair. Batik dress. Sitting in a cloud of patchouli. Joyce. Joyce of the green eyes.
Sitting with a young girl. Sitting there expectantly – just like she was waiting, for me.
Because, as it happened, that’s exactly what she was doing.
Maybe the first clue that something was wrong came when she ran into the pilot’s arms.
She wasn’t the skinny little thing he remembered, either. As a matter of fact, he thought she was rather plump. The bags under her eyes came as a surprise, too. Still, the pilot seemed to take hold of the moment and he helped her back into her seat and gave her a tissue to wipe away the tears that had come as a surprise.
“Joyce? I can’t believe it’s you!”
“I know, I know,” she said between sniffles. “I just really need to see you, to talk to you.”
And about this time I notice the teenaged girl sitting next to Joyce. Then I noticed her eyes. Which for some reason reminded me of my own mother’s blue-green eyes.
What was that sound? Cosmic tumblers slipping into place?
“Joyce? What is it?” I think I managed to say – as I looked at the teenager.
“We need to talk,” she repeated, now gasping for air.
“I can see that,” I sighed, wondering where I’d packed my heartburn medications. “Are you on this flight?”
“Yes, your dad helped me.”
Okay, like that was a big help. “Okay, okay,” I said. “Can we talk – once we get to Boston?”
She nodded before she hauled a wad of soggy tissue up to her nose and began playing something that sounded an awful lot like The Ride of the Valkyries.
Not exactly knowing what else to do I looked at the teenager and held out my hand. “Hi. My name’s Jim. And you are?”
“Tracy,” the girl said – and rather sullenly, too – as she took my hand in her’s.
Then Joyce looked at me and shrugged – as if the gravity taking hold of us had grown too strong to ignore. “Jim…she’s your daughter.”
I think there’s something about those cosmic tumblers – like they make an unmistakable, almost imperceptible little clicking noise as they slip into place. You can feel them, too, right in the middle of your heart.
They were flying coach but I took care of that and moved them up to the front of the plane before I disappeared into the cockpit. I was so early I had the space all to myself – until one of the flight attendants, a sweet thing I’d known for years came in to go over the cabin manifest.
“Anything I need to know about?” she asked.
Really. No kidding. Like what would you say then, ya know? “Well,” I began, “it turns out a girl I was nailing back in college has a kid, and guess what? I’m the daddy. And…I just found out.”
“And they’re on this flight. I just put them in 2A & B. Would you take care of them for me, please.”
“Take care of them? What did you have in mind?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have a clue, Jill. As a matter of fact I’m feeling a little speechless right now.”
“You? Speechless? Wow, I am impressed.”
“Jill? Not now, please.”
“Okay, champagne and caviar it is. Anything else I need to know?”
I think I just shook my head, but not much else remains in my mind about the rest of that day. Once we got in to Logan and parked on the ramp at T5, I helped Joyce and Tracy off the plane and through customs, then Joyce told me to pick a place where we could talk for a while.
“Where are you staying?” I asked her in reply.
“Nowhere right now.”
“Nowhere? What does that mean?”
“I was in Copenhagen,” she said, “but I needed a way home so I called your dad.”
“Uh, Joyce, you’re losing me. Do you guys have a place to stay or not?”
“I don’t mean to split hairs, but are you telling me you don’t have anyplace to live?”
“Mom!” Tracy cried-out in exasperation. “Just tell him!”
“Tracy, just back off, okay?” Joyce whispered, her voice a coarse, jagged thing that seemed to have come from someplace way beyond tired. “Jim? Just get us out of here, please.”
Tired, yes, but I heard a rising tide of panic in her voice and now all of a sudden I realized I was looking at some kind of breakdown in the making. And, if I was reading the tea leaves just right my father had given his blessing to this meeting so I really needed to get my act together, and quick. I picked up Joyce’s bag and headed for the crew shuttle – with these two strangers in tow. We got to my car, an ancient Land Rover that I used to drive to the airport in winter, and I did the only thing that came to mind…I drove them up to my place.
I’d bought a little place in Manchester-by-the-Sea after I settled on Logan as my home base; it was new construction and bigger than I needed but it was almost right in the center of town and I could walk to almost everything I needed. I’d furnished the place as if a family might – had one lived there, though I knew not why at the time; maybe because it felt like the right thing to do? So, are you thinking breadcrumbs and circles yet?
And as I think I mentioned, it was early December and the mid-afternoon sky was lead gray, but the sky around Boston in wintertime is always lead gray – and cold. There’d been a couple of snowy days a few weeks prior but only the gritty remains were left on the margins of the highway leading out from Boston; it was, I guess, a typical New England winter’s day – which is to say it was depressing as hell. When I pulled into my driveway and hit the garage door opener the first words out of Joyce’s mouth concerned our little green Porsche.
“You still have it?” she cried, and for some reason seeing the old thing made her cry – again.
I got their bags to the rooms I thought they’d like, then went downstairs to wait for them, and Tracy came down first, and she found me in the kitchen popping the top on a Coke.
“Is there anything to drink?” she asked.
“All kinds of stuff in the ‘fridge. Help yourself.”
She found my last Coke and stood behind the sink and slugged it down, then she took a deep breath before cutting loose with a timber-rattling belch.
Nice first impression, ya know?
“So. You’re my dad.” Not a question, just a statement of fact. And she didn’t seem too excited by the idea, either.
“Uh, look, this is all news to me, Tracy. Have you and your mother talked much about all this?”
“Oh…only for the past ten years or so.”
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Fourteen. I’ll be fifteen on the twenty-fifth.”
“A Christmas baby,” I said, doing the math as I watched her. And yes, the numbers worked out perfectly. I could in fact remember the night I’d nailed Joyce that would have led to a December birth. I was, in fact, in Pensacola, Florida at the time she came into the world, and by then Joyce was supposedly hooked up with some realtor or something like that. “That always sounded like…” I started to say…
“Like getting short-changed? Christmas and your birthday on the same day so you only get half as many presents…?” She shrugged, then she walked off – into the living room, and there she plopped down onto the sofa and finished off a root beer. And then Joyce came down the stairs and straight away asked for a mineral water, just as Tracy fired off another wall rattling burp.
“Sparkling?” I asked, trying to ignore the eruption in the living room.
“If you have it. Please.”
“What about dinner?” I asked. “We’ve got a couple of good seafood places within walking distance, if anyone’s interested.”
“I’ve always wanted to try lobster,” Tracy chirped brightly. “Is there anyplace for that?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Joyce? What about you? Are you hungry yet?”
“Give me a half hour,” she sighed, trying to smile a little.
I handed her a Perrier after she sat beside Tracy, and it wasn’t hard to see my contribution to her features as they sat side by side. And it wasn’t too big a stretch to see my mother – as well as bits of me and my brother – in her profile.
And yes, this was all a little unsettling – yet I was still waiting to hear what this was really all about.
“So?” I began cheerfully. “I think you said there’s something you wanted to tell me?”
Joyce sipped her water, then put the little green bottle down on the table in front of her legs.
“Yeah, Jim. I’m sorry, I should’ve let you know about Tracy years ago but after I got married…”
“Did your husband know?” I asked…
…and she shook her head. “We hooked up right after you left, but I knew. And I never told him. Then during some kind of medical exam he learned he was sterile and that was the end of that. He filed for divorce about three years ago. I tried to keep up with the house payments but, well, that didn’t work out. That’s when I contacted your dad. He’s been helping us out a little…”
I think my hands were shaking by that point. I know I was upset, but just then I saw that Tracy was curling up inside, already extremely afraid something bad was about to happen, so I tried to let go, let Joyce get this out in her own way.
“…but we ended up losing the house. We tried staying with my mom for a while but that didn’t work out, either.”
“I can only imagine,” I sighed. I remembered Joyce’s mother. She’d been an alcoholic for as long as I’d known Joyce and I couldn’t imagine a worse place to raise a kid.
“You remember her?”
“She’s kind of hard to forget, Joyce.”
“Yeah, well, she’s worse now.”
“So…where were you living, when you were married?”
“Up on the coast,” she said – a little too evasively.
“I see,” I said, because I did see. ‘Up on the coast’ meant Humboldt County, the pot growing capitol of the known universe, which meant her realtor hubby had probably been knee deep in the trade. And she probably had been, too. And she was being evasive because, despite my time in Berkeley, I had always been considered uncool when and where pot was concerned. Then again, I was probably considered uncool where booze was concerned, or any other drugs, for that matter. Call me a prude or call me an asshole – it doesn’t matter to me what your excuses are – because I am the anti-drug. Always have been, always will be, and you’d be surprised how many pilots are exactly like me. Or…maybe you wouldn’t be…
“I always hated that judgmental tone,” Joyce sighed. “I can still hear the derision in your voice when you say ‘I see.’ We all could, ya know…?”
“I wasn’t cut out for that life, Joyce.”
“But you were such a good musician. I really never understood where all your anger came from?”
“I don’t either, but here’s the kicker. I really don’t care where it came from, and guess what? I’m not going to change anytime soon. I hope that’s not going to be a problem for you.”
And Tracy was getting smaller and smaller, turning in on herself the more I spoke, the more worked up I got, but it didn’t take a real rocket scientist to figure out that all the horror stories she’d heard about me were coming true. More than true. She was getting a front row seat to her nightmare-come-true…her asshole father in all his self-righteous glory about to explode and throw them back out on the street. Again.
But then…the circle started to close.
“Jim, I’m sick,” Joyce said. The green eyed love of my life. The girl I turned away from when I decided to destroy the world…
“Sick?” I said.
“It’s called a glioblastoma. It’s a…”
“I know what a glioblastoma is, Joyce. How long have you known?”
“About a month.”
“What’s the treatment plan?”
“Jim, I don’t have insurance. That’s why we were in Copenhagen.”
“What? Not even Medicaid?”
She shook her head and my eyes started blinking like a semaphore flashing out an SOS. I looked at my watch and went to the telephone and called a friend – who also just happened to be a lawyer. After a brief hold I explained the situation to him, right down to the Tracy thing, and he recommended we meet up for dinner and go over some options.
Joyce and Tracy were staring at me during this exchange, looking at me like I was some kind of lunatic-idiot-savior, and after I rang off I turned to them and was really quite taken aback by the sight of the two of them. Diaphanous little Joyce, well, not so petite anymore but still cute as hell, and our little girl. Two peas from the same pod. And just then it hit me. And hard.
They were the life I’d had within my grasp, and yet they were the life I never knew was within my grasp. I was angry as hell and totally unprepared for the sudden overwhelming love I felt for them both.
Marco Petrocelli was one of those all purpose lawyers everyone runs across sooner or later. He’d handled the closing on my house and beat a speeding ticket in municipal court for me. Well, more than one, actually. He played golf and liked to sail, which was how we became friends. Sailing. Not golf. A real fringe benefit of being Marco’s friend was his mom’s lasagna. His parents owned a fantastic little Italian cafe down on the waterfront and his mom’s lasagna was the stuff legends are made of.
So we met Marco at the cafe and sat in a quiet little corner booth, and Joyce finally felt free enough to let it all hang out. Tracy did too, and I assume because she probably thought I couldn’t possibly hurt either of them in front of witnesses!
Anyway, I’ll spare you the details, but as time was of the essence Marco thought the best way to get insurance for Joyce – and Tracy – was to marry her and get her on my group policy as soon as humanly fucking possible, because Massachusetts had the best laws in the country as far as pre-existing coverage issues were concerned. He volunteered to make it happen, too.
So, here’s the scoop.
The day before I was this happy-go-lucky single guy with a nice job and no responsibilities.
Tomorrow I was going to be married to my college sweetheart. I was going to be the father of a fifteen year old girl who was, quite literally, terrified of me. And, assuming the clouds of patchouli that seemed to ooze from their pores meant they were both potheads, I was going to be up to my neck in one hell of an ethical dilemma.
Make them quit? Yup. That wasn’t an issue, at least not as far as I was concerned, yet…now I had to consider the probable results of coming down hard while having a rebellious teenager on my hands. Stupid I am not. Uncompromising? Yeah, probably, but not stupid.
I knew exactly what I needed. In fact, it was the only possible solution.
I needed a mother.
No. Let me be clear. I needed my mother.
When I called home I realized I needn’t have worried. Their bags were already packed.
Yes. I know. Maybe I could have handled this on my own. Hell, who knows, maybe I should have…but that’s not how these circle things work.
But here’s the thing. My parents were good at the whole mom and dad thing, and maybe because the first thing they ever taught me to do was to listen. Listen to them. Listen to my teachers. Listen to my friends. So…I listened. And I because I knew how to listen I found it easy to learn. And I found that by listening to people I found it easy to learn all about them, and that as a result I hardly ever got into arguments or disagreements with anyone.
Maybe it was too late to get Tracy over that hump, or maybe no one had ever tried to get her to listen, but all that fear coiled like a spring in her gut sure looked to me just like someone who didn’t know how to listen. She’s heard a lot of stuff about me but when it came right down to it, when she finally met me she had no clue how to listen to me. What she’d heard about me in the past kept her from hearing me when I spoke – and it was going to hurt us. She and me. And my mom was the best remedy to the problem I had, so why not at least give it a try…?
Why not, indeed?
Because as it happened they’d been on the sidelines for a few years. My dad had been involved for at least the last three years, and though he’d never told me about Tracy he’d done so only because Joyce had insisted he not do so. Now it looked like they were going to get to play the whole grandparent thing – and that by marrying Joyce I was going to make the game legit. How perfect! Instant family!
But wait a minute there, young whippersnapper. Your betrothed, your wife, has a glioblastoma, and in case no one has clued you in yet, this wife of yours, the one with the glioblastoma, is going to die. And probably within a year, if not a whole lot sooner.
In other words, this part of the story does not come with a happy ending.
I think it was a few days before Christmas.
Yeah. Mike and I were scheduled to do the CDG thing again.
And I know right about now you’re scratching your head and wondering where this is going. I got that. Yeah. But, well, you see…the whole Mike thing is wrapped up in this story in all kind of interesting ways. Like I said…circles are like that.
So, yeah, dispatch office, pick up manifest and load out and Mike’s there too, going over the METARs – the meteorological reports for the North Atlantic overnight – then we walked out to the gate and stowed our flight bags, woke up the aircraft then went down onto the slush covered ramp to do our walk-around. Yeah. Cold as shit and snowing like a son of a bitch. That about sums it up. Nasty outside, and getting nastier by the minute.
Back to the ‘pit and get the heat cranked up, program the INS and sign-off for the load-out, call the stews and tell them it’s time to close and arm the doors. Call Ground for a pushback and activate the flight-plan. Push back and start three then taxi to the active. Take off and climb out of the muck and work the SID to the airway. Routine. Pilots like routine. Routine is good.
The time from pushback to takeoff to getting established on your airway is no nonsense time. There’s no extraneous chit-chat allowed. No ‘how’s the new pup doing?’ or ‘how’d that wisdom tooth thing go?’ during that phase of flight. You ‘aviate’ – period. You fly the plane and listen to ATC when they call out traffic. You fly the plane and look for traffic. Maybe a half hour later, when you hit cruise and the autopilot takes over, you start the whole idle chit-chat thing – assuming you want to.
As far as Mike was concerned I was pretty sure I didn’t want to.
Mike, on the other hand, wanted to. Hell, he needed to.
“I left Isabel,” he said like right out of the blue.
“Oh?” I think I said, not really wanting to go there.
“Yeah. The thing is, I got a problem.”
I turned and looked at the flight engineer, a crusty old dude who looked and acted like a civil war veteran, and he knowingly pulled the breaker on the CVR, the cockpit voice recorder. And voila, with Big Brother turned off you can vent to your heart’s content knowing the goons back on the ground won’t be listening as you talk about corn-holing your mother-in-law at Thanksgiving. Or…whatever…
“Oh?” I replied. “What’s up?”
“Well, see, the thing is…I’ve been seeing a dominatrix up in Beverly…”
I think I closed my eyes and looked heavenward, saying the only prayer that comes to mind in such situations: “Oh, God no…Why me?”
Then I looked at Mike. “No kidding? A dominatrix? What’s that like?” This, of course, I said in a remarkably non-judgmental voice. As in, “Oh, you like bananas on your Cheerios? Me too. Well, how about that! What a coincidence!”
“Yeah,” Mike continued, “I’m moving in with her next week.”
“Really? Doesn’t that seem kind of sudden to you?”
“No, no, not at all. She’s getting out of the scene, not going to be doing it professionally anymore…”
“She’s a…professional?” I think I asked.
“Is that how you met?”
He nodded maniacally. “She’s great. I can’t wait for you guys to meet her.”
I turned and looked at the crusty old civil war veteran flight engineer – who was literally laughing so hard he was crying, only he had his fist in his mouth so he could laugh silently, and I don’t know why but I envied the old guy right about then.
“Yeah, you know, a few weeks ago she did me with a strap on and…”
And that was it. Crusty old dude burst out laughing so hard he started cutting cheese right there in the cockpit. In case no one ever cued you in on this, you can’t just roll down the windows on an airplane, not even up front, and cockpits are already nasty, confined spaces that smell of coffee, sweat, and spilled chicken-a-la-king – so adding old man fart to the mix just ain’t cool. And anyway, now I was laughing my ass off as I tried not to picture Mike on all fours with some leather-clad whack-job set to give him a colonoscopy on a No-Tell Motel bed. And it weren’t working. Not at all.
Then the head flight attendant called and wanted to know what was going on up here and that people in First could hear us laughing.
That put an end to the party and I told Mike we’d have to finish this conversation once we were on the ground.
C’est la vie, right?
So after we got to Gay Paree Mike told us all about this chick. All the whips and chains shit you’d ever want to hear, and then some. It was kind of funny, but then again it wasn’t.Having my ass paddled is not my idea of fun. Paying someone to paddle my ass seems like the height of insanity, yet Mike was full of so much love for this girl even I could see it.
Still, I had no clue, not really. I didn’t know the guy, not well, anyway, so about all I could do was laugh it off. Which is exactly what I did.
The next time I flew with Mike he had indeed filed for divorce and he had moved in with the dominatrix. I also learned that, surprise, Mike and Isabel had a…wait for it…a fifteen year old daughter, and now that kid was mixed up in this affair, too. I was, in a word, speechless. Did she realize what her father was into? Really…speechless.
Mike’s situation smacked – to my puritanical way of looking at the world, anyway – of a full blown middle aged crazy outburst of somewhat more or less epic proportions. Mike was in his forties and had a fifteen year old daughter and he’d been married to an absolute hell-bitch control freak and so what does he do? He hooks up with a professional dominatrix, and excuse the fuck out of me but isn’t a professional dominatrix a professional control freak? A paid mercenary control freak?
Man, I was confused.
Yet, well, my own life on the home front was already confusing enough.
Joyce was indeed sick, sicker than even I imagined in my most pessimistic imaginings. She’d be lucky to see June, at least that was the word her oncologists laid on me. My parents were doing their best to keep Tracy from falling apart – because, let’s face it, I was away on average four days a week, sometimes five or six, and Joyce wasn’t strong enough to handle treatments and raising a daughter.
Oh yes. Treatments. Surgery. Chemo. Radiation. All with the hope of giving Joyce an additional six months to a year. Tough call. After seeing what she went through I’m not sure I could do it, not sure I’d make the same decision, but when the sand is running through your hourglass at that speed time becomes a seriously interesting issue. As in: what would you do if you were almost forty and someone told you that six months was it. The party is going to be over and the lights are going out. Wouldn’t an extra six months to a year seem like the most important thing in the universe right about then?
And here’s one more piece of this little ever-expanding puzzle.
I’d begun falling in love with Joyce all over again. Whatever had brought us together back at Berkeley was still there. It was a palpable thing. My mom saw it first, then Tracy did. I felt it, or at least the beginnings of that resurgence, when I saw her sitting next to the window by the gate at CDG. Maybe because I’d only been with a few women since leaving the Navy, and nothing really serious had ever come along. Sorry, Jill, but I tried to be upfront, ya know?
And, oh yeah, I can talk all about her now so let’s get it out in the open right now. Let’s talk about that which we’ve ignored so far. Destiny. As in: Joyce was my destiny, right? And some mysterious force brought us back together, right? La forza del destino, nes pa? I’m still not sure I buy into all that stuff but there it is, hanging out there in the air apparent, just waiting for your casual refutation. Or mine, for that matter.
The thing is…I can’t.
I held her in the shower before her surgery, and that was the night she asked me to shave her head. I always loved her hair so the idea of cutting that away from her really hurt us both. But there it was, reality. And sure, yeah, reality is a close cousin to destiny. I get that. And at times reality is inescapable, a weight on your chest you can’t shove aside, so with scissors in hand I cut her hair and placed the strands in a big zip-lock baggie to we could drop them off at a place that made wigs for chemo patients to use later on in their treatment. Later on, when those lucky souls were well on their way to a remarkable recovery. Only Joyce wasn’t on that road, and that was about all I could fathom as I put a fresh blade in my razor and began lathering her skin, then shaving her smooth.
After I finished I just held her. No words came. No words could possibly suffice. Standing there under the hot water all I knew is I wanted to hold on to her for something like forever. I hated myself for ever leaving her. I loved her for finding me again, for trusting in me enough to pass her future on to me.
I thought about destiny a lot those days. Mine and, oddly enough, Mike’s.
I know. Circles are funny. Yada-yada-yada…
Because about a month later I learned that Mike had, quite literally, bought the farm. Well, he and the (ex-)professional dominatrix – and I wish I was making this up – along with her ten year old daughter (!) moved into an ancient farm house in the hills not all that far from my place. Isabel, his now ex-wife, and their fifteen year old daughter moved into an apartment in Boston and that was, I reckoned, that.
Oh, yeah. That. What a word.
But there’s that whole destiny thing lurking around out there, ya know…? That old saw about not counting your chickens before they’ve hatched? Yeah. As in: don’t fuck around with destiny, because she’ll kick your ass every time.
I guess it was April. Joyce was not doing well and Tracy was acting out at home and in school – and even my parents were struggling to keep up with Tracy’s constantly shifting moods. Joyce helped when she could, which was more than I managed on my two days a week at home, but Tracy was foundering and we all knew it.
Then late one night the phone rang and of course I picked it up…
…and I heard screaming in the background and a girl trying frantically to talk to me…
“Hello!” I said.
“Hi, it’s Angela. Is this Jim?”
“I’m Jim,” I said between the gales of screaming insanity I heard in the background.
“I’m Mike’s daughter, he told me to call you.”
“Oh?” Why is it that whenever destiny calls your first reaction is to say something clever like ‘Oh?’
“He’s in London and he said I should call you when I need help!”
“What’s wrong, Angela?” I think I said, molten steam seeping from my ears.
“Something’s going on with my mom. She’s not acting right…”
“Is that her screaming?” I asked.
“Yes, she’s acting really weird…” and then she stopped talking – and I’d assume she did so when the sound a smashing glass cut off her train of thought.
“What’s your address?” I asked, pen in hand.
When I hung up my dad was standing there looking at me with that “What Now?” look in his eyes.
So I told him and off we went, the Lone Ranger and Tonto off to save another damsel in distress one more time and I think the entire time I was driving into Boston Little Miss Destiny was laughing her fucking ass off.
The apartment was in tatters. So was Angela. As in bruised and battered.
Isabel was a whirling dervish and somewhere completely off this planet. One look around and dad grabbed Angela and took her down to the Land Rover; I talked Isabel down from wherever the hell she was and got her to Mass General.
One of the ER interns, probably fresh from a psych rotation, wanted to put her in a straight jacket and into a rubber room – but calmer heads prevailed. Angela helped provide a decent history, some of which I could verify, and it turned out that Isabel had started acting weird about six months ago. So as fast as you can say magnetic resonance imaging Isabel was off for some pictures of her brain and just wouldn’t you know it…?
“That’s a glioblastoma…” the attending neurologist said – about two hours later. “They’re really quite rare.”
“Oh, really?” I sighed as my gut pulled another barrel roll. “Imagine that…” Actually that was about all I could manage at the time. Maybe because I was too busy getting Destiny’s foot out of my ass.
This whole Circle of Life thing sometimes leaves me a little flummoxed.
You’re born, you live, then you die. I get that. Your life is just one small part of a larger circle, like an arc…or a segment, if you will. If you don’t have kids the circle ends with you. If you have a bunch of kids then a whole bunch of new circles spin-off of the original, yet somehow all these new circles are a part of the original, like fused atomic nuclei. Like planets orbiting their home star over eons of time.
Only Isabel and Joyce were fusing now. United by cancer, united in fighting the good fight.
And Tracy? Wild, unmanageable Tracy?
She became Angela’s new best friend, her coach and savior. It all came together naturally enough after that night. Those two teenaged girls decided they’d get through this whole cancer thing together, and just like that – problem solved. Cosmic tumblers?
Don’t get me started.
When Mike got back he surveyed the carnage he’d let slip under the door and I think he took stock of his life and found himself wonting. So…Mike being Mike and all – he moved Isabel and Angela into the farmhouse with the (ex-)professional dominatrix and her ten year old daughter. But as mentioned Isabel and Joyce were now on the same trajectory and Mike, overwhelmed – or overrun – with feelings of guilt could hardly keep up with his own feelings. So we – Mike and I – took turns taking the girls to the oncology clinic for their chemo, then their radiation, and Mike and I – now picking our way carefully through the same jagged, heart-stopping terrain – grew closer and closer as death itself came closer and closer to our respective circles.
And that’s when Destiny decided to come in for one more kick, this one aimed squarely at the heart of the matter.
The (ex-)professional dominatrix – Sybel was, I believe, her nom de guerre – called me at the house one morning, but Dad took the call.
“Jim,” he called out a minute later, “I think you’d better take this one.”
Mike was flying that day and Sybel woke up with a bad pain in her pelvic area and would I mind taking her to her doctor in the city? And, oh yes, her daughter Sadie would need someone to look after her.
“Mom?” I called out in desperation.
I mean, really, wouldn’t you?
So…I picked up the (ex-)professional dominatrix and drove her to her clinic in the city and she asked that I stay with her in the room when her doc did an ultrasound. Then her doc asked that I wait outside while they did a quick colposcopy to get a tissue sample. An emergency procedure was scheduled for five the next morning, and I learned then that Sybel had a high-grade small-cell neuroendocrine cancer. Stage 4, by the way, we soon found out. The surgeon told me that this was a very rare cancer and I’m sure by now you know exactly what I said next.
“Oh really? You don’t say?”
When I picked up Mike at Logan later that afternoon I got to explain the known and unknown intricacies of high-grade small-cell neuroendocrine cancer to him – while he broke down and apart and crumbled into a million shards of thin glass – as I drove him through the city to Mass Gen and to the crumbling remains of his passion play. Little was known about this cancer at the time, I think her doctor mentioned to him in passing, only that it was invariably fatal. No, he didn’t say that. Doctors really are not that obtuse. Anyway, Sybel soon started on some sort of generic chemotherapy but again, little was known at the time about this type of cancer and it was just a shot in the dark. She starting sinking fast by early summer, and so too did Mike.
For the life of me I can’t really remember why I bought that little house on Saw Mill Circle. I was single at the time and if you’d asked if I planned on getting married I’d have shrugged off the question as the deranged musings of a lunatic. Maybe, I told myself, five bedrooms and four baths was great for resale value. The house had three main floors, too, with a big master on the ground level, four on the next, while the third floor was finished out as a great room, but which, thankfully, as it turned out included a full bath.
The third floor turned into the hospice floor by that summer as one by one our gathered arcs drew to a close. Marco busily went over contingencies, with Sadie’s real father the first real unknown we had to confront. Also, as it happened, Mike’s divorce wouldn’t be finalized while Isabel was still alive so Angela would remain with him regardless. Yet by early summer Sadie and the other two girls were doing well together – and this is where all that talk about circles and atoms and planets comes into play.
Who knows what pulls us together, what tugs at our orbits or what comes along and tears us loose, pulls us into new orbits, new ways of being, new lives out of the old. My father could see all this at the time but maybe that was because his own arc was closing. We didn’t know it at the time, of course, and even though death didn’t come to him for a few years, he still knew. He was always wise about those kinds of things, and maybe that’s why Joyce reached out to him in the first place. Of all the people in the universe, she reached out for his warm, steady hand and he pulled her back into our orbit, kept her stable until she could find her way back to me, to her real place in the world.
Mike? Who the hell knows. I sure don’t know how to reconcile what went down with him. Sometimes middle-aged crazy sounds about right, but not others. Still, if he’d never left Isabel and if he’d never found his new orbit around Sybel’s little star we’d have never had Sadie join our own circle. So…see what I mean? This whole circle of life thing is pretty daunting and none of it makes the slightest sense – until it happens.
Joyce was a wisp of herself the last time we drifted into the shower – together. Standing there as one under the water it finally hit me: I couldn’t let her go. No way. She was confused all the time by then, and some days she hardly knew where she was, or even who I was for that matter. Still, there’s something about warm water, something almost amniotic, womblike and comfortable. I loved to hold her there, smell her hair, even as short as it was. Her skin on mine, an attraction stronger than gravity, the pull of what was meant to be. How could I let go? How could I ever? Even when I did so many years ago.
Some mistakes you can never make right, no matter how nice the water feels.
Tracy couldn’t do it. She’d come up to the third floor and the smell would hit her and she’d start to cry as he turned and fled to her room. The last few times days it was sheer will that pulled her up there to her mother’s side. Her fear was palpable. So was mine.
Joyce stayed those last days in a blue recliner with an IV hooked up to a port in her chest, and she was receiving fluids and nourishment through that line. The hospice nurse came by one day and dropped off some morphine and instructions on how to do it – and when, but there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell I could pull that trigger. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask Tracy or even Mike to do it, so when the time came, when Joyce was slipping into that place you might charitably call agony, we called the hospice agency and waited – no longer knowing how or what to feel. I sat with Joyce as she passed, but Tracy couldn’t do it. My mom stayed with her. My father stayed with me. We held her hands and it was all so easy. So gentle. So final.
As human beings we really have no words to say goodbye in moments like these. You do the best you can knowing words will never be enough.
But Joyce had figured that one out a long time before she grew ill. The song I wrote for her, the music we made together? All of it now on a scratchy old vinyl record hastily transcribed to binary bits on a shiny silver disc, and she asked that I slipped headphones on her head when the time came and so I played that music, our music, while she slipped away. It was music we’d made together so many years ago – yet I could see those moments unfold in her eyes as the crystalline notes made their way to the place where memories hang on the longest, and I could feel all the stories of our life come together again, all right there on one last sigh.
I’d gotten used to sleeping with her, to sleeping with someone in my bed, and the loneliness I felt after she left us was unbearable. The cold sheets, the utter quiet of night without her breathing next to me. Tracy, of course, felt pretty much the same way and so she decided she just had to have a dog.
So…why not get two dogs? One for her bed – and one for mine?
Only someone should have talked us into something more practical than Bernese Mountain Dogs. I mean, really…
Anything other than Bernese Mountain Dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs know how to do one thing really well: they know how to drool. Drool by the bucket load. They eat a lot, too – which means they shit small Volkswagens all over your yard. They are, however, terrific cuddlers…and frankly that was all that mattered.
Because Death still had a grip on our little house.
Sybel and Isabel went next, and they passed on the same day. Don’t ask me the how or the why of such things because I do not know. Never have and never will.
Mike went up to the farm the day after his love died and cleared-out all his belongings and put the property on the market. Then he didn’t even ask, he just moved in with the rest of us. I called the guy who built the house and we converted the third floor into an apartment for him. And that, as they say, was that.
Marco had a little sailboat and we carried all our ashes out into Mass Bay. A few minutes after the deed was done a whale and her calf scooted by so close we could her them breathing and there it was again, that whole circle of life thing. It was everywhere that day. In the air, in the sea, in the eye of a passing whale. Like there was more to live than mere survival. I could feel the love in that whale’s eye, the love for her calf, her love of life. Who knows, maybe she felt what was in our beating hearts, and maybe I was looking into the beating heart of that truth when I stood looking down into an aircraft carrier’s churning wake.
Mike dated once or twice but nothing ever came of it. I think he was afraid any woman he touched would turn to cancer and that her ashes would blow away on the next sea breeze. He kept flying for a while, at least until Sadie graduated from high school, then he retired and started teaching kids to fly. By that time Sadie and Mario Petrocelli were a permanent fixture down on the waterfront, and once she started working at the restaurant as a waitress that was it. Within a few years she alone possessed the secret to Mama Petrocelli’s lasagna and there she would remain, spinning off to form new circles of her own.
Angela went to NYU and then to med school. She’s an oncologist now, and lives up in Portland, Maine, yet the funniest thing about us, the really odd part of our story, is that I love Angela and Sadie as much as I love Tracy. We came together inside a shifting moment in time, a moment when old circles completed their arcs and new circles seemed ready to start, but we, all of us, we fused under the pressure of the moment. We came together, just like families have come together throughout all our time on this planet.
I watched my father’s circle close, then my mother’s. And I watched their circles close with three girls and a slightly insane pilot there by my side because, hey, that’s what families do. When we’re together now everything feel whole and good and right with our world, and I don’t know how else to describe things. We just are.
Tracy thought she wanted to be a pilot for a while, until she heard me play the piano anyway, and then, after she really listened to the two records I was a part of she decided she wanted to be a musician. And despite all my best efforts to change her mind she turned out to be a decent keyboardist, even if she still burps too loudly.
All these spinning circles come together at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and everyone comes and spends a month or so here when the leaves are green and the breezes are soft and warm. Even Mike comes by every now and then, usually to pick up a grandkid and bounce him on a knee, but sometimes just to pick up his mail. It’s home, after all is said and done.
I married Jill, the flight attendant I’d futzed around with before Joyce came back to me. It took me a while to get there but we weren’t meant to live alone. We go down to Petrocelli’s at least once a week and eat Sadie’s lasagna, and on Sundays Marco joins us for brunch.
Jill and I like to walk out to a nearby beach – it’s called Singing Beach for some reason – and even in winter we like to walk through the snow and watch the sun come up over the water. Sunrise and sunset, points on an arc describing and defining circles of her own design, yet even so a part of who and what we are, what it means to be alive, even if we are but little tangents to her steady arc. Jill and I walk down to the sand and the sea with an old Bernese Mountain Dog by our side, and she barks at passing whales.
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.