Thursday, March 27, 2014

End of Part One: Bran and Beth; Amsterdam life




I understand his sadness. It is hard to watch him from outside it. And it is hard not to feel responsible for his pain.

In the morning, I bring him coffee, he is still asleep. I bring a biscuit that I baked from the day before. When he wakes up and sits, stretching, I move into the circle of his lap. Place the biscuit to his lips and watch him bite. Then I take a bite. I kiss his mouth in between. We drink coffee like this too.


We take the tram in. We arrive at the office together and pass people in the hallway who say hello over the morning pungency of more strong coffee. We step into our office corner. Some mornings, we are distracted. But because now our business really has to work, we have adapted some discipline during business hours. It is a lot harder than it should to be. I always want to touch him.

Bran meets with people, so some days he leaves. They come from other countries, people he knows and people who know someone he knows. He attracts people to him. He is the kind of person people instantly like as soon as they meet him because he is unpretentious and has an easy going personality. On the days he is in the office, we work together; I work on images, he gets engrossed in the other things he does while we talk about the clients he keeps finding.

This is so different.... this way I see him now and this way that I see us too. It reminds me of developing old photographs in a dark room. When you first drop the paper into the chemical bath, it is blank. And then you see an image. And then this image becomes more and more detailed. I see so many things in him now.... those things that make me see and understand why or what it is that drew us to each other.... and I see a lot of things I had missed before, subtle glimpses of inner mines. They are more clear now than when we were too busy rushing to airplanes. I see those things too that he doesn't know that I can see.

We have work to do to keep our minds off things like the legal problems that he is facing and my own falling out with Dean. Dean, who I have managed to avoid with the exception of a few phone calls. He says my things have been packed up and asks if I am ever coming back. I don't know if it is my imagination, but he does not sound alone.

All that I miss about the US is my daughter. Nothing else. I know that I will have to go back eventually, but I don't want to. I have always felt buried there. Some kind of smog over my mind. It feels as if the person that I was growing up in Amsterdam I left here when I went to the states. I had to become this person that I never was, a persona in order to assimilate. It was never me. Because the real me never fit in there.

Ruud asks us if we would like to join his family for dinner.

When we arrive later with flowers and a bottle of wine, Ruud introduces us to his wife Marijke. They are both very tall and very blond with very tall adolescent children who run around wildly.

After dinner, after a lot of wine and conversation, Ruud says to his wife,
and I am trying to convince these two people who are madly in love, to stay and become a business partner.”

Oh you should!” Marijke agrees and openly laughs because she realizes that her husband has just embarrassed us. She says, “but you are in love, he is right, anyone can see it, it is written all over your faces. You make me jealous because you two make such a beautiful couple.”

It can be so jarring, the people of this country tend to have this affinity; this flair for blunt conversation that can feel, often, impactful, and at times, abrasive. But now, the awkward honesty clears the air. I decide to clear the dishes. It seems like the natural transition. She tells me I don't have to. But I really want to. Instead, she calls her children, Famke and Willem. She wants us to go and sit down in the living room while her husband is pouring us more drinks. So we drink some more and talk some more. They don't make any more awkward remarks and, strangely, the ice is broken, as if some secret code has been cracked.

There is a sudden jolt, a chill down my spine as I become aware of something. And I know he must be thinking the same thing as we are sitting here together in this nice Dutch family's home.... This is the first time we are socializing like two people who are.... together. Always, before, it has been clandestine. And I am thinking how strange and exciting it feels. As if now we are no longer a secret; our secret is public. We have outed.

We walk home from Ruud's, walk silently through the streets, his arm across the shoulders of my coat. We are both quiet. We stop at the bridge that is all lit up, the lights multiplied by the reflections in the water. He stands behind me with his arms on either side as I lean up against him. We stare into the water. It is so pretty. So calming.

And yet even with my back to him, I can feel an intensity that hangs around him like an aura that has been present all day. We walk home quietly and go upstairs and get ready for bed. We decide to take a bath and in the bath tub he draws me close. He is vulnerable. We talk about life and death. We talk about how strange and fleeting life is. The value of our moments.

He tells me,
I remember my father when he was my age and it really doesn't seem that long ago. Life just goes by so fast, it's weird.”

He is thinking so much more than what he is saying because there are long pauses where he stops to think.

I should explain something to you so that you don't keep thinking that it's you who really came between Clair and me. I never told you....before you and I met, things with Clair were --not right....something was just ….not there....” he puts his hand against his chest and shakes his head. “It was like this a long time....After Detroit, I was worried about losing my kids. So I tried to make it work with her again. For them. But... I couldn't. Being there. That emptiness....like I was already dead.... just one foot from the grave.... overwhelmingly oppressive.... but it is the house where I have these memories with my kids.... and that is the part that hurts, that part with them which has to end.” He sighs heavily with self-disgust and says, “I'm turning my back on them. I'm a terrible father and husband.”

But maybe it is better to be honest in life, Bran....” I say now, “I understand the part about feeling empty. Because that is how I felt. Is it selfish that even a living being, like a plant or a tree requires the sun to live?” my legs are around his waist, our skin sticks to each other in the warmth of the water. “I don't have the answer to why we ever met.... But that emptiness you describe-- the one that I know so well too.... if that emptiness was death.... than maybe this is its opposite.”

And for awhile he doesn't say anything.

Then he says,
you know, she sold my motorcycle? ...Fuck it...she did it to get me back because of the time I threw out her necklace when she cheated on me years ago.”

She cheated on you?”

It was before we were married.”

So....”

I guess things were never really great with Clair and I.... I just never wanted to have to face losing my kids.”

I don't want him to withdraw into himself. I breath into his ear,
are you all right?” but he does not answer. And then I feel the heat of tears run down my breast.

He is my father figure, but sometimes, it is the other way. I want to tell him that he will not lose his kids, that they will always be his.... but I know how empty that would sound because I have been through this too. And there is a part of me that still feels responsible for what is happening now to him. To all of them.

He says,
I knew when I first met you I knew how much I needed you in my life....” and he is kissing me, and as we move to connect, the water splashes and goes over the side of the tub.









Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beth who is What part II; Electra and father




I take a taxi and meet him at the airport. He has gone back home to meet with a lawyer and see his family. It has been a difficult week. Conflicted about what he is going through, conflicted about my own life and being separated from my daughter, weighing what he has done to impact my own life. I have never done anything like this-- just run off. Until now, nothing has ever felt so necessary to the point of risking everything.

In the chaos of arrivals I see Bran among a sea of people. Like a compass facing North, I can always find him. Usually it is his height that makes him stand out in crowds, but Schiphol airport is filled with giants. It is his dark hair that I see now and his dark beard that has become overgrown. He reminds me of a shaggy dog that has been wandering the streets, like some great mastiff. This makes me want to take him home and give him a bath. A very long bath.

His coat is open and I go inside. Breath him in. Feel the roughness of his sweater against my face. Close my eyes.

He tells me some of it on the taxi ride through streets of Amsterdam. He tells me about his lawyer, what they discussed, he tells me about Clair. When he talks about his children now, he is thoughtful and is less disturbed about them,
they're used to me traveling,” he explains to me as the taxi swerves through traffic.

My guilt makes me wonder if he feels regret now. Regret about what he has done. Regret about me. I turn my face to the window and start to pull my hand away from his, but he tightens his grip and says, “they liked you.”

I am not sure what to say.

We go back to the flat and he puts his things down, walks straight into the kitchen. He looks in cupboards, then looks at me,
a mouse would starve here, Beth.”

I know. I forgot. I haven't been hungry.”

He reaches to put on his coat,
let's go,” he says.

We walk along the canal and I stare at the reflections in the water. We walk to the shops as I listen to his thoughts. They come through long, introspective pauses. The air is not too cold, there is a strong sun in the sky. Since we have been in Amsterdam we have found a rhythm between us. A kind of easy harmony. A pace. I never noticed how similar we are until now; how similar our habits are. Even creatively. And as we walk now, his week away from here is swept away. He reaches for my hand and our walking steps fall in pace.


We go to our favorite place for coffee, we walk up and down our favorite streets. We stop at the grocer's we like to go to and select things together. And as we shop, I see the lines of stress ease from around his eyes. He begins to smile. I show him food items and wait for his reaction. And when no one is looking I reach up to kiss his mouth. Smooth his mustache with my finger tips and brush my lips across. He kisses me back. “I'm a bit rough,” he whispers, “I should clean up when we get back.”

And for a moment we are locked and I forget that we are still in public, locked in his eyes. He is always calm, even when he is filled with tension or enraged, it is always a calm tension and a calm rage. His eyes burn with this kind of still intensity; fierce-quiet.

We stop by a few more places and take our time going home.

I had feared that I might lose myself in him. That has always been my biggest fear, always what kept me from ever getting close to anyone. That I would lose who I am; my art, my poetry, those things that define my sense of self that I have anchored myself to.

But I think he has made me more daring.... and I have never been daring enough. He inspires me.

When we get back, we put food away together. And in between we touch and kiss, we take long putting things away. He presses me against the side of the sink and kisses me on the mouth. His hands move over my clothes in search of openings; he is impatient. But then his phone rings and he has to take the call because it's important. This time it's business problems.

It is a long call and by the end of it I find him sitting on the living room couch looking tired and tense. He is scratching at his over grown beard with irritation. I go and get scissors. I climb into his lap. I want to serve him, like his geisha, his squaw. He lets me. And when I'm done, he looks beautiful again, his face no longer hidden behind a forest.


I want to absolve him, I want to heal him, I want to make love to him. I kiss his face and touch him as if he is my sculpture. Run my fingers over the coarse stubble of his jaw and feel it with my lips. I follow the course of stubble down his throat and kiss, feel it stimulate my mouth. It makes me wet.

I can tell he does not want to think or talk.

My muse, my Agamemnon.

I want to worship him. I move down to the floor.

He wears worn-out, old suede boots. I remove them; they feel like diver's foot gear. They are huge in my hands. I am on my knees and move myself in between his endless legs. He watches me with a slight smile that calmly invites. And slowly as I watch him, I run my hands up the inside of his legs. Go all the way up to where his limbs begin, and bend my head. He fills my lips through the fabric of his trousers. My fingers unfasten the barrier to what it is I want and I take him into my hands. He is beautiful. I touch his smoothness. Feel his warmth against my lips. I close my eyes. Feel his texture, taste his skin. I don't know if I want to please him or tease him.... so I do. Until I think he's had enough.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beth ydw i, pwy ydw i?




I know that it is some time after two in the morning.  Suddenly he asks me,
who was your father?”

I say,
I don't know.”

No, I mean.... the one you think. You said he was famous, that he was in politics-- a known legislator, I think you said-- or.... you said he was a civil rights activist.”

Yes.”

You said he was Ethiopian,” he reaches to take hold of my hand and then circles my wrist to turn my arm over. He places his long arm next to mine, “look, I'm darker than you. Your skin is like cream,” he says.

It is always strange for me to talk about this.

It's a long story.... I don't know what the truth is and when I look things up, you can tell that things have been covered up. Altered a lot in the data bases. Internet search engines, library archives...”

.... data bases, search engines, old yellowed books. Places you search to find answers....

I tell him, “what I know is that he was of mixed races; most likely Welsh on one side, his grandfather who owned a plantation somewhere near or in Virginia. His Grandmother was a slave. She was Cherokee.”

He studies my face and then traces the shape of my eyes with his thumb and then moves along my cheekbone. I know he sees it too. He says,
and why do you think he may be your father?”

Because my mother told me he was.... but then she said, 'he might be....'”

So she didn't know?”

I don't know.”

And why have you never found out?”he asks.

But I don't answer.

He says,
you're scared to.”

But it is much more than this. It is about a fairy tale.... a fairy tale of father. One that I am not ready to be abandoned from.

We don't talk any more about this. He knows I don't like to. We talk about other things. The edges of things that we are not ready to really discuss. Just like the indefinition of our lives. The one week in Amsterdam that has turned into two, now becomes three and is turning into four.... and now he is renting space in Ruud's office for our business. But still we don't say.

But right now I see that he is interested in discussing things,
I didn't tell you.... because I didn't want to worry you....” and here he hesitates and studies my eyes, “Clair asked me about you before I left for Detroit to do your husband's convention.”

What do you mean?” I ask.

He gets lost in thought. Then continues after a moment “....remember I told you about her friend-- you know, the one.... the one she told me who is taking the kids and the house....?” he looks at me as I nod in reply. He takes a deep, ragged breath.

But then I think he has let the subject go because he says nothing for awhile. He does not want to talk about this. I don't want to ask. But I do want to ask. He is engrossed within himself; staring inward.

But then he says,
it was the day before I left for Detroit. She asked me: 'should I be suspicious about Beth?'”

What did you say?”

At first, I just froze....” he looks away. He looks at a picture that hangs there on the wall; it is an abstract with psychedelic allusions. I watch him brood in profile as he stares at it, holding my breath.  "I said 'yes'” and now he gives me a dead stare, “I said yes, Beth ….because I was sick of pretending. I wanted to finally tell her.”

Why didn't you tell me this? But... this doesn't make sense--”

Well.... I know..... because, later -–Beth...it's weird.... she just dropped it. She acted as if we never ... had the conversation ….I think, maybe it was like a threat, I don't know. The next day when I was leaving to go to the airport, she-- tells me she wants us to have another baby....” there is an enigmatic expression on his face as he shakes his head. And quiet rage. It seems to burn cold in his eyes. “Beth, we.... we have our kids, Clair and I, and I understand, we have all these years together....it isn't easy to let …. that go....”

I hear what he is saying, only I ask the obvious,
Do you love her? ”

It seems like my words don't make sense to him, and he looks at me nonsensically. The creases between his brows deepen, and he says,
sometimes you wish something to be true and you try to believe it because you need it to be true.... but it doesn't really ring true....because it is empty, an empty truth-- so do you keep forcing yourself to will something to be that you know is false?”

Is that why it happened with her? Or did she conceive after you left Michigan?” But he is closed. There is regret but also something else. Something he does not want me to see. After some reflection on this, I say,
so she really came to Detroit to see for herself.”

Only now as I say this I imagine being her. I feel something knot in my stomach as I think about this. The other side of jealously. When you empathize with your competitor and find sympathy. And it stabs at your core. Deep and intense.... and makes you hate yourself.

I cover my face and am filled with self-loathing.... I don't know how I will reconcile this. This is a different kind of shame. I say, “You belong to them, not me,” and now, suddenly, desperately, I need to physically get away from him. I start to push him away and as I do this his fingers grip my shoulders. I want to retreat, I want to be alone because I am filled with guilt. I manage to twist free and run barefoot on the cold wood floor towards the bedroom door. I don't know where I’m running to. I get half way across the room before he stops me and I am caught inside the vise of his arms. He whispers against my ear, “I belong to you....”

He lifts me and brings me back to bed and traps me in his limbs, folding me within his web.

But you will go back,” I say, and then, when he doesn't answer I turn my head up to look at him. Search and fall inside those deep poet's eyes; the morass of moss,
you know, I never wanted to destroy your life.”

He closes his eyes and holds my head to his neck,
but you didn't. I thought you knew.... you brought me back from being dead.”





Monday, February 24, 2014

Bran who is Voice.... and Beth who is What; Echo and Narcissus



I guess you can say that much of what I write about here.... in this story.... is about being a survivor of child abuse and sexual child abuse. How a child withdraws into itself. Builds its inner world. What it does to you later.

Identity only becomes a problem when your inner fortress gets blown by those who trespass. Cast off from the tree of infection, the need to metamorphose is the raft you cling to.

I think suicide and depression would be my platform if ever I was to be a political advocate to anything.  In support of those who suffer the consequences.  I believe this is at the center of so many hate crimes from the singular to genocide. And I believe the cure is art.....

****
I know that there is a reason why I cannot let Bran go. ....we are not released from whatever it is that pulls us. And I think of this as I watch the morning spill into the bedroom and light his face. I know he is my mirror, my teacher.... my father --Agamemnon-- ….that I never knew or never had. I look at him, I pull the sheet and blanket away from his body. I move my hand along his bare hip, touch his warm skin.

I take my sketch pad out and draw him while he sleeps.

Psychologists say that relationships in our lives play out our subconscious obsessions. These relationships focus our sight to what it is we struggle to define or struggle to triumph over. While internally, I struggle over how to define identity of self, and struggle to be delivered from my demons.... But then there is Psyche and I wonder if the gods are just having fun playing havoc.

I have created stories within my story. They say what I cannot tell. What I will not say. I take a step back, and then direct. I let you see within my lens.

Trent, who is Orpheus, the rock star to Electra, stands for voice. Because I have no voice. Because I am mute. Because when I scream in a forest I make no sound. Bran parallels Trent and the duality of Merlyn/Arthur, Merlyn who is the wise teacher and Arthur who stands for all things taboo; brother, incest.

I look at Bran now stretched long across the bed and move the graphite across the paper. I study his angles. His long limbs, the shapes of his bones, the details of his face. His fingers, his skin. The soft dark hair on his body that leads like a beautiful trail to his sex. That is also beautiful. Which mesmerizes me.

I am not blind.

I am aware of the role of my sexuality. And what I reveal here. There are doorways within that lead from here. It is no accident that I write about sex. Or that I am, like Freud, often fixated; lured. But, you see, it is necessary to explore, it is part of the essential whole and where things fall apart; to over look this would be leaving out something so integral, would leave so much out of the scope of this entire body.

If the people in our lives represent our teachers....what about our lovers.... and when you have grown up sexually abused....

How can I apologize for who this has made me? there are bound to be.... depraved neuroses.... my great mind fuck is no game, it is only part of the labyrinth. Like those broken things that mutate into something else that does not allow it to return to the boxed category that founded it.

I think it is because he gets this about me. He does not try to fix it. He feeds it. And feeds into it. And I know it is because there is something perverse in him too that needs this. He is not shocked by these things about me. He accepts ….these things.... that I cannot.

When he fucks me in that moment before release where I can split away.... he goes there too and follows, not just to slay the dragons....he is the dragon. And no matter how often I have reconstructed mine he has drawn his own legend. To him there are no boundaries on the map.

But it is Saturday morning.

I put down the sketch pad and climb back into bed beside him.

I can look at him while he sleeps and bare my soul. To love someone.... you feel it in every cell of your body. It is a distortion, a beautiful distortion. And because I am an artist it is even more distorted. But it is an energy that is omnipresent. And it is useless to pretend that I am not in love with him. And know that I will never get over being in love with him. Which is why there is no walking away. I know that I will love him until the end. There is a tragic-knowing in this. Something almost fatalistic, but then, this was never a decision. You don't choose who you fall in love with, it chooses you.

This means there are no conditions.

This means the ultimatums are useless.

****
I know he has been traveling for hours, he is exhausted. Only I want him. I touch him and kiss him ….there.

And then he wakes up and pulls me up. He says,
You told me last week that you don't know how you feel about me.... what about now?”

****

It is hours later when we do manage to drag ourselves out of bed. We go to museums. First the Van Gogh and then to the Rijkes. And as we walk holding hands stopping at each picture, I am aware that I am sore everywhere from him ….and it makes me want us to go home, it makes me want him all over again.
****

On Monday he has some other people to meet with but stops by to talk to Ruud. When Bran gets up to walk away for a minute Ruud says,
are you sure that you are going back to the U.S.? You don't want to stay?”

Oh, I can't. I have a fifteen year old daughter and....” I try to explain.

He stares oddly at me,
you don't look old enough to have a fifteen-year-old daughter. Were you fifteen when you had her?”

I smile and attempt to laugh.

Well, if you do decide to stay longer it would be nice to work with you again,” he tells me.

When Bran meets me for lunch I tell him about this conversation.
He says,
I knew it would be good for you to come back here.”

We are at a small cafe drinking coffee. We look at each other. Stare. There are so many things I want to ask him. But don't want to ask him. He is looking at me in that way.... where he can read my mind and he smiles. Says nothing. We have silent conversations.

After a few minutes he says,
I've changed my traveling plans.... and changed yours too.”


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Amsterdam high (Bran and Beth continues)




We walk the streets of Amsterdam and there is only us. The lights and busy sounds became the soundtrack we walk in. Without words, his fingers through mine. I feel his thoughts flow, like from hours of conversation with him over the phone crossing time zones and oceans. I know his thoughts. I love his thoughts.

We kiss over a bridge and he speaks to me in his language. I don't know what he says but it sounds so beautiful. He kisses my face and runs his fingers through my hair, he says,
you hungry?”

Because we are both starving, our stomachs are growling loudly. So we go into the first place we find. It's Japanese. We remove our shoes and sit down on the floor. Bran orders saki. But I'm not paying attention to the menu, I am staring at him, watching the way the light hits his face, memorizing the creases around his eyes when he smiles.

He says,
What do you want?” when the lady comes over.

You pick,” I tell him, “I don't care.”

He seems to point at random items on the menu and the lady bows and walks away. The place is quiet, there is subtle music playing, but it is faint and non-intrusive. We drink saki and he leans across the edge of the table and kisses me, his mouth wetting mine.

After we walk up and down more streets and stop in other places along our way; he drinks beer and I drink wine. We do this for several blocks. And then we step into a coffee house filled with the sweet smell of cannabis. Sit down and order coffee. There are other things on the menu that he wants. We are sitting by a window where you can see people walking by. For awhile I just watch but I am really thinking about him... being with him here, where my past is from. It is something so private.

It is easy to forget everything else. Everything feels so far away. There is only him. I stare at him because I have missed his face. I stare at the way the light hits the waves of his hair, how it highlights the silver that now threads it; the shape of his nose and mouth and then I stare into his eyes, like textured moss.... and they are my universe.

He says,
smoke with me,” and then covers my lips with his, breathing into my mouth like a dragon as I breath in and then he kisses me deep.... And he is everything, I am filled with him.... we walk down more streets, like a dream, a magic dream, a beautiful dream.

We stumble through the front door of the flat and he asks me if I want to go outside to look up at the stars. There is a small square of a grass behind the kitchen door that leads out where, in warmer times, it looks like a garden grows. We go out there now and he pulls me down onto the grass next to him. We look up at the sky. But it is not possible to see the stars, we see only a dark sky with some thin gray clouds that go by. There is only the moon.
I put my head on his shoulder and then angle my face into his neck. Breath in his scent and close my eyes.

He says,
I know you left Dean.”

But my head is buffered in a haze. I don't want to talk about our life.
He reads my mind,
We should just start all over, just me and you.... leave everything.” Only we are stoned and these are just pipe dreams.... but for a minute I believe him, I want it to be true.

I say,
OK.”

He lights the joint he has rolled and passes it to me and we lay there passing it back and forth.

After awhile he says,
are you cold?”

So we go in. We go upstairs. Undress each other.

Everything moves in slow motion and all walls melt away. We sit in front of each other on the bed Indian style and lean over to kiss and touch. I move into the circle of his legs, he catches me and pulls me to him and then we are joined.... it is prolonged and seems to go on for hours, just kissing and fucking and being close.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bran; the bridge




The office building is in the main part of Amsterdam, I figure out how to get there and decide to walk. It is different to think about the same problems in another place, leaving to get a prospective has altered my thoughts. I had suspected it would.

But as soon as I get to the office there are problems. Of course it is the computers. I am only in the building about fifteen minutes and they have gone down and they seem embarrassed for the inconvenience. They don't know how I expected this. But this gives me time to discuss things with them. The art director seems surprised when I explain my approach to how I work, that I prefer the physical mediums to the graphics. But then we get to talk and I explain about how this country had been such an influence on me when I was growing up here. It all happened to me first here. The colors, the textures, the crudity, the humanity. I think maybe he was expecting a different kind of American. I saw his eyes change as we talked.

So it looks like my time here will be delayed. The art director's name is Ruud. We have been working with sketch pads for ideas because of the computer situation. He has purchased art mediums for everyone to work in, mostly gauche and water color pencils, some clear film, transfer paper, etc; old school. The older artists there have no problem with it, the younger ones seem out of their element. The week is turning out more interesting that I could have anticipated. I am in an oddly great mood.

Each day I walk back to the flat with something I buy on the way, so the flat is beginning to look a lot less impersonal. I buy flowers. That is something I always did when I lived here. What is it about flowers? It is that element of being reborn, the fresh optimism, the innocence. I bring magazines filled with more art, stopping at newsstands every day. I buy a sketch pad and graphite. I am like a flower that is being reborn. And each day I force myself to do a quick sketch on the way home, do it until I feel too cold as the evening temperature drops.

I like the bridges over the canals. I have been drawing those the most. From every angle. I like the bricks, the iron, the bare trees, their reflection in the water, how you can see the apartment buildings in the water too, their odd gables and the furniture hooks. I love those buildings. There is so much texture here. 

And while I feel so small here because they are mostly so tall and boisterous, I feel somehow less timid because there is no masked politeness to many of these personalities I encounter. I have missed that sense of being under fire, it is like waking up, to be challenged by this flow of wit.

Once I realize that this will not be wrapped up in a week I have to talk to my daughter and her dad, work out things, but he has been surprisingly cool about this. I tell Dean simply in a few texts that I should be here for awhile.

By the second week it seems like my whole life back there is a dream and that this life here is the real life. I start to wonder who that means I really am. Who have I been all this time? I think now too about Electra and the confusion over my identity, the father complex, etc. and somehow ….it feels different; seen from the altering of the prisms. It is so obvious now. That place is choking me. How can I go back there now?

****
And then one day I am walking home and he is standing there waiting for me.

I don't see him at first. I walk down the brick street looking into the canal, absorbed. I was thinking about him, so at first it doesn't register because I thought I imagined it, because it seemed so natural to see him. But then I stop. He is several feet away leaning on the railing of the bridge and he is watching me as I walk. He looks so good in these surroundings.... so at first I can't do anything but see this because I am an artist that is a slave to the visual. He is all dark and beautiful, the contrast is startling; dark mop of hair, looking more longish now, like a poet, the dark beard cut close to his face so that it outlines his jawline. He is wearing his navy blue coat over a rust colored sweater and brown corduroy. He looks like a poet. He makes my head go light.

I walk slowly wondering what I am going to say, wondering what this means. He waits for me to come, just waits and watches me, his eyes looking right into mine as I walk closer, he never looks away. His eyes are intense, like dark opaque moss textured stones, like the kind you see on the beach, washed up on the shore. He is rustic beauty. I know he did this on purpose.... he looks amazing.... the state of his groomed appearance says so much. I smile when I think of this because I know this is all for me and I think this looking up at him now. And now he smiles at me and he is even more perfect. There is gray in his hair, maybe more so now than there was the last time I saw him, but it looks good on him, I like how it goes with the colors around us. I am distracted and my brain foolishly on pause.

He removes himself from the railing and closes the space between us so that he is standing inches away and now he leans down to kiss me but stops and looks at me,
may I?”

He waits and our eyes lock. He is asking for more than a kiss. His eyes ask me. He asks too much. He asks for everything. And then moves to kiss me anyway, first just his lips, but even that is possessive. He puts his hands on the top of my coat to grab me by my shoulders there and pulls me but waits looking down into my eyes. As soon as the tension leaves me he pulls me into his arms and kisses me hard, lifting me.

We should talk,” I manage to say because I know where this always leads with us. But it is hard to say this because he is still kissing me, not letting me go, he has kissed off all my lipstick, he has rumpled my hair. “We should go somewhere....”

Let's go inside,” he says now. When I hesitate he smiles at me that wicked smile and he says, “don't you trust me?”

I shake my head no.

Come on,” he says and drags me with him across the street to the door of the flat, his arm around my shoulders and then we wait at the door as I consider this. I look at him and give him my best impression of a school teacher giving a student a lesson on obedience. Then take out the key and open the door.

He walks around the place, then goes directly to the living room and sits down on the couch. It is only now that I see his stuff in a corner of the living room. I see his bag, I recognize it.
You have a key too?” I ask him.

He shrugs,
I don't have to stay here but I did come here to see you.”

Maybe we should go out somewhere,” there is a mirror in the dining room and I look at my reflection. He has made a mess of me, I am a smeared mess. “I'll go run up and change and then we can go somewhere.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bran and Beth: Familiar ground




The night before I leave for the Netherlands I don't sleep. My thoughts are crowding. I pack lightly, a few wardrobe changes only and it all fits in the backpack.

Walking to the gate I catch a glimpse of the plane and I think: I never have to come back.... I can just go and never come back. I can run away.

But there is my daughter and so I cannot really go, can I?

But I do really want to run away.

Once on the plane I am crammed between two very big people. It is very awkward and I decide that I will not drink anything for the entire flight so that I won't have to get up. I put music on and close my eyes. By the third song I feel myself falling asleep. I sleep through the entire flight and only wake up when I hear the sounds of the wheels below the body of the plane.

And then it is like waking up from a dream. I know this airport and the familiarity of it jolts me. I walk through knowing my way and search my pockets for the information Bran gave me. I go look for a taxi and find a cluster of them. I talk to the driver as we go, it's been years since I spoke any Dutch but he lets me try. I watch the roadway as we go, my eyes get moist because it feels that I have crawled back into myself. I know this road, I know that building, I know this intersection, even as there is more now, there is something permanent about these sights and something within me gets recalibrated with every moment.

It is not as cold as Michigan here. They have had a mild winter. The sky is clear.

As we drive through the main streets of Amsterdam my mind flips back and my present life is eclipsed by my past connection to this place. The flat faces a canal. I let myself in and go inside. I try some lights and look around, putting my backpack down. It is modern inside, the furnishings are linear, all Swedish design. There are even white paper lamps everywhere, some hanging, some standing from the floor. The living room seating is black leather. The place is sparse, no suggestion at all of the person who lives here and everything is spotless. The only sign of life are plants that are well watered and full.

I go into the kitchen to get a glass of water. I look inside cabinets out of curiosity. They are bare except for plates and bowls, cups and glasses. I go upstairs to shower and then get myself ready to go out.

There are messages on my phone from Bran but I text him that I don't think I should be using my phone here as it would accrue enormous fees. But then he calls me anyway. I have not spoken to him in weeks but the strangeness of being here makes me forget to stop myself from answering.

He does not bother with hello, he just says,
don't worry about the fees, that comes out of our business expenses.” And then there is that immediacy in hearing his voice.

His voice does something to me. And I've been starved of it for weeks. I was not ready for this.

All I say is,
OK.”
I hear him hesitate and then clear his throat. He says,
I just wanted to make sure you got there.”
After a moment I say,
thanks.”
Then he says,
don't worry about tomorrow. They are really nice people. Did you bring the memory card?”
Yes.”
Did you remember to back everything up?”
Yes.”
I just don't want you to feel nervous working with them,” he says now, “I know how you ...get nervous about things.”
I don't let myself react outwardly, I say,
so it's all week?”
He coughs and turns away, then says,
I don't know how long. Let me know how it goes, if you have any problems. How is Vin's place?”
I look around,
very clean.”
His sister just cleaned it for you. Oh, I just remembered, she asked me if it would be all right if you could water the plants.”
OK.”
Then there is that telling silence that now falls between us. It is Bran who breaks the dead air,
Beth....” and for a few long moments between us there is nothing more. I can hear him breathing.

I am in the bedroom and walking around nervously. I pace. I catch glimpses of myself in the mirror and then sit down on the edge of the bed that is all neatly made with crisp navy blue sheets and blankets.

Finally, he says,
please talk to me.”
It is the sound of his voice that pulls me in and then that slight crack of emotion in it now that triggers something,
Bran....”
I really miss you,” he whispers, “please don't shut me out.”
I can't....” I tell him. “I can't Bran.”
Why can't you?”
I am now at the window and look down at the canal below,
you know....” and now I whisper too because I don't trust my voice either, “when you didn't call or text after you left....” but I don't say the rest.
After awhile he says,
I'm sorry.”
Then I say,
.... it's too hard...." I turn my face away and hold my breath so he cannot hear,  "to talk to you.”
Why?”
Because you got your wife pregnant,but the last word I give myself away as it comes out in a sob.
“Yes, that happened, I know, but I still love you.  That hasn't changed.”
But it has for me, Bran, because now I don't know how I feel about you.... I have to go,” I end the call and make a rush to get out.

I need to be in the city.

It is possible to run away. I leave my phone on the bed and spend the next several hours walking through the city, going into shops, finding my way to a grocers.  I walk back to the apartment with a bag filled with the basics; coffee, tea, cheese, apples, rice, honey and olive oil.