Thursday, October 14, 2021

Living and Dying (in Three Quarter Time)

I worked on photos from San Francisco and environs for the past few days.  I have many photos I want to show.  But this is the one for today--just "my" cat.  She is not "my" cat, of course.  You see her clipped ear clearly here.  She is feral as she can be.  She doesn't trust anyone after having been captured, cut, clipped, and released.  I don't know how people think they can do this and not damage an animals psyche.  This cat is scarred way beyond her ear.  

But she likes for me to feed her and she comes closer than ever now that I'm home.  Still, there are days when she doesn't show up at all, and I have to wonder what she does.  But our bond is tenuous at best.  

Like most relationships, I guess.  That is what I thought of last night in my sleep.  You see people come together madly in love, then, with time and circumstance, the passion fades and is replaced by a tired but sometimes decent acceptance.  Seeing it makes me sad.  Living it has made me sadder.  

To wit, I went grocery shopping yesterday.  I went to Fresh Market because I wanted luxury things, the sort of treats you can't get at Publix, the local Supermarket behemoth.  I won't tell you what I got out of shame, but I'm not sorry to have those things.  

When I went to the checkout line, I heard a voice call my name.  It was a blonde woman standing in an adjacent line. I couldn't make out who it was, however, as she was wearing a mask.  She pulled it down and said her name.  Holy shit.  I hadn't seen her in many, many years.  

I have known her since she was in high school.  My girlfriend at the time was teaching at an expensive private school and had been hired to escort her and her boyfriend, her boyfriend's sister, and her friends for a weekend at the beach condo.  I went over on Saturday to visit, and oh, my, I was knocked out.  

The younger girls were cute and flirtatious when I went into the pool with them and my girlfriend.  They'd swim over and stand up and ask, "Do you think I'm fat?"  They were skinny little rails, and I just laughed. But they kept going, shimmying about, popping up in front of me with those little girl flirty eyes.  

"This is my pooch," one of them said to the other mere feet away, "and this is my cooch," she said looking me in the eye, grabbing herself and laughing.  Jesus, I'd never seen such a thing.  I tried not to look guilty of anything to my girlfriend who sat staring.

The older girl didn't hang out with us.  She spent her time with her boyfriend.  But after swimming, we went up to the condo and I chatted with her before I left.  She was sixteen and as sophisticated as anyone I had ever met.  She spoke in the low, assured tones of the privileged.  She was definitely not seeking approval.  

I was smitten.  

We became friends.  Don't ask me how.  I don't know.  It was, of course, through my girlfriend, but I got to know her parents, her brother and sister.  I would go to her house, and she would come to mine.  I can't imagine this now, can't imagine how it happened, but one night, I asked her if she wanted to go to a movie.  Don't ask me.  It even surprises me.  We went to see "Wolf at the Door" (link).  It was a movie about Gaugin (played by Donald Sutherland), and of course, there were lots of nude women in it.  Most significant, however, was his affair with his landlords young daughter (significantly shown in this theatrical trailer--link).  

Jesus Christ!!!!  I had no idea.  Oh dear God, I thought, I'm in trouble now.  If people had been using the word "grooming" then. . . . 

After the movie, we went to get something to eat.  "Well," I asked tentatively, "what did you think of the film?"  

"Oh. . . it was alright."  

Maybe not the response I might have hoped for, but it didn't seem she was going to call the cops.  

And we still stayed friends, her stopping by often just to chat.  In her senior year she was voted Homecoming Queen by all the privileged boys and girls.  I would have been displeased, but she also played on the boys soccer team as the school did not have a girl's.  I went often to see her play.  

When she graduated, she went away to college and would often write me letters telling me about her experiences and what she thought of them.  I still have the letters somewhere, of course.  And each holiday break, I would see her on the Boulevard where we would embrace and go somewhere to chat.  The year my girlfriend and I split up, she said I looked down.  "You know, she was a shit, anyway.  You are better off without her."  And then, for the briefest of moments, we kissed.  

That Golden Moment.  

She eventually left the college she was attending to come back to town where she attended the local university.  She had started dating a boy whose father had become fabulously wealthy, a good looking boy who had everything he wanted.  She had become a sophisticated hippie, smoking dope and looking expensively bohemian.  For Christmas, she gave me a colorful little bracelet she had woven.  I wore it for years until it fell apart.  No worries.  She made me a new one.  

She and the boy broke up, and she was devastated.  For awhile, she taught at the private school where she had gone.  In a very short time, her ex-boyfriend's father went to prison.  Apparently, his business was a Ponzi scheme.  The family was suddenly broke.  The ex got married and went to Texas where he became a renowned painter among the very rich.  Her father, who owned a large chain of car repair shops along the lines of Midas, went broke, and then his health failed, and in short order, he died.  Her mother, who had a tutoring business of some repute, hired her to run the company, and she made it very successful, mostly through the writing of federal grants that paid them to tutor underprivileged kids.  

I found this quite ironic.  

I didn't see her much for a number of years, but one day I ran into her at an Office Depot.  She was with a big, overweight guy who she introduced as her boyfriend.  It was unbelievable to me.  He just wasn't handsome in any way.  It was a boy she had gone to high school with, and eventually they got married and had two kids.  I learned all this from her mother who I would run into from time to time.  

What her mother told me, though, was that she had married Jim whose family owned the biggest transportation company in town.  But wait.  What?  I had known Jimbo from the old steroid gym.  He was a couple years older than I and a nut, a testifying Christian on 'roids.  She couldn't have married him.  Could she have?  I'd seen her with one unattractive guy.  Maybe she did it for the money.  Who knows what happens in people's contorted lives.  

It wasn't until years later that I found out that she had married a fellow her own age, perhaps the guy I had been introduced to at the store.  

But as I say, at the grocery store, I didn't know who she was until she took her mask off and said her name.  I don't think I would have recognized her if she hadn't.  She didn't look much like the girl I knew.  Of course, I was surprised she could recognize me at all.  

We walked out into the parking lot together and talked like old friends.  She was as easy and friendly as she had ever been.  She told me of her children, the usual shit, and then I said, "You know, when I heard you married Jim, I thought you had married Jimbo, then I realized he must be junior."

"No, no," she laughed, "that was his uncle.  He committed suicide a few years ago."

"What?  Really?"

"Yea, he was really messed up.  He had an empty soul."  

"But he was a super Christian,"

"Yes," she said, "he had an empty soul."

Good girl, I thought.  She was alright.  She was still good.  

I didn't feel like cooking last night, so I called my mother and asked if it would be o.k. if I just ordered a pizza.  Oh, sure.  She was all for that.  I was hungry having hardly eaten anything all day, so I got there early and we sat outside and ate.  I told her I still wasn't feeling well, that I would have a few good hours and then just feel sick again.  I said I was tired and depressed and couldn't think of anything I wanted to do.  I'd thought about it, I said.  I thought, o.k., you need to get out of the house.  Where do you want to go?  But I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do.  I used to like to go places, I said, so that people could see me.  I knew that if I went out there was a good chance of catching some girl's eye.  Now. . . what would I do?  Get a cup of coffee and be ignored?  No, I said, it isn't fun being ignored. . . or worse.  That is what was so good about seeing my friend at the grocery store again.  It is just fun to have a pretty girl who is glad to see you.  

But I wasn't feeling good and sitting with my mother got to be boring, so I came home to pour a whiskey and sit on the couch.  I read for awhile, then watched t.v.  Before bed, I cleaned up the kitchen, prepared he coffee maker, and ran the dishwasher.  As I was leaving the kitchen, the dishwasher seemed to be making a very strange sound, but I was tired and decided to ignore it.  I took some pills and went to bed.  

In the middle of the night I woke up with a crazy itching in my throat and ear.  I had to get up, drink water, blow my nose--something bad was surely happening.  I was getting sick once again.  

I never truly got back to sleep, so I got up before six.  When I went to the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot, the floor was covered in water.  Fuck!  The dishwasher!

When the neighbor's cat came to see me, I opened the door to speak to him.  My head sounded full of cement.  I don't feel well.  WTF?

And so begins another inglorious day of retirement.  A chance encounter reminded me of better times, but I probably won't run into her again for years.  She is wealthy once again and lives in a different part of town.  

Me?  I guess I'm reflecting on the lyrics of a song that came on my playlist yesterday.  Am I living or dying?  It may not be an either/or, but you know. . . it seems a bit more than merely philosophical.  

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