Some things are difficult to tell. They end up in my journals. I know I'm not the only one. Hemingway, for instance, wrote about his transgender tendencies, but he didn't publish them. It wasn't until after his death that all that came out. And then, of course, his wives' (pl.) lesbianism, and even later Gregory's arrest in his youth for cross dressing and entering a women's bathroom. My shit is tame comparatively, but what I am saying is that not everything makes it into print. We all keep secrets. Sky says she wants my books, my art, and my journals when I die. She wants my trinkets, too.
"When I die? What the fuck?"
But she is very knowing about that. She seems to be a realist. She will live a long time after I die which seems terribly weird to me, but she recognizes the fact openly. Q does, too, in a sense, though I feel he wishes to hasten it a bit sometimes. Maybe he is just being kind.
"I don't want you to suffer."
But the journals. . . now there's a problem. When should the burnings begin? I've saved everything. I have boxes and boxes of letters, cards, and cocktail napkins full of notes and "poetry" written in bars. Sometimes when I open old books, notes fall out, some flattering note some girl had written to me in the wayback. I am always startled and pleased. Funny thing, boys never left me notes on my Jeep. You would think they would at least call me an asshole and tell me they will kill me if I ever. . . again. But boys are brutes and generally stupid unless they have a fay side. I guess I do.
Sky met me for lunch. I feel the need to tiptoe around things here. This is not my journal. Sky asked me yesterday what I write about in them.
"Me," I said.
"Of course. Your favorite topic."
"Writing is therapy."
But our afternoon began at lunch at the bar. It is like "Cheers," I guess. The barkeep always remembers you. How they do it is a complete mystery to me, but they seem always to remember what you order. If you are a Rain Man like me, I mean.
Sky showed up with a cute new haircut, a blonde in black. She is my stalwart supporter, but she keeps me off balance always and we have rather reversed roles from when we first met. She is the more confident one now. I used to be cocky, she says. A bit of a front, I say, but I have lost all confidence now. She has a full life. She has little time to whine. There are always things she must take care of, things to do. She has a week of downtime now, though, so I get to be part beneficiary. Hence. . . we lunch.
The bar was empty but for the two of us and a woman sitting nearby. The lady was a throwback, of sorts, with short coiffed hair and the makeup of a matron of the fifties. The barkeep knew her and they spent most of the time chatting. When the barkeep poured a huge double tequila and sat it in front of the lady, she looked over and said, "This is a rosé sangria." She motioned to the glass beside her. "I am a ten year survivor, ten years cancer free."
The bar was celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month by serving pink drinks like hers.
"Congratulations," Sky and I said in unison. "Good for you."
"I always drink half my sangria, then I have a shot of tequila. Then I finish my drink. It is my M.O." She smiled. "But this is a very big shot," she laughed.
"Cheers," we all said raising our glasses as she put the shot glass to her lips. She had no problem getting it down. I liked her plenty.
"It's good to have an M.O., and that seems like a pretty attractive one."
I could see the tequila hit her eyes as she looked at us smiling. She stared just long enough to make me a little uncomfortable. I found that an admirable quality.
She went back to talking to the barkeep and I went back to talking with Sky. I started telling her something.
"Yea. . . I know. You told me that before."
I see her so rarely, I don't know what I've told her, but it seems I may have run out of stories. I haven't made any new ones for years. Old men repeat themselves. I was getting nervous. When we do get together, we talk for hours, so I felt myself in a bit of a pickle. What was left for me to do? The bar was Spanish, and the background music at the moment was flamenco.
"I could dance for you," I said, clapping my hands to the left above my head.
"I don't think I want to see that."
"Oh, but I do it well. I stomp my feet and clap and twirl. You wouldn't know I hadn't been trained."
Her eyes swelled with fear.
I started to tell her a story. "Stop me if you've heard this one before."
The story included Brando. She wanted to know what happened to him, when he died. She wanted to know if I went to his funeral.
"Fuck no," I said.
"But you sure talk about him a lot."
"Yea, I learned a lot from him. He was a generous man at one point."
"Swindlers usually are," she said.
"He thought he was going to inherit a fortune from his aunt. He was her only living relative, but she left the bulk of her money to the nurse who took care of her for years. She left Brando a parcel of land that was split between him and his two children. He sold his off right away. After that, though, he had changed. He was meaner and bitter.
"People can be weird about inheritance," she said.
We talked about that for awhile. Her father had her up recently to make sure she understood his will.
By now we had eaten our lunches and were ready to move. Sky needed to do some work shopping, so we decided to stroll down the Boulevard. Limp, I should say. But I was fine. She remembered the Boulevard, but it seemed smaller and shorter now, of course. New York, I would guess, has warped everything from the past. We passed a shoe store that sold Birkenstocks. We went in. My fancy girl bought a pair of hippy shoes. I liked shopping with her. I just liked watching her, but I will always go with a woman shopping. It is a joy to me. Imagine.
My ex owns a jewelry store, as I've noted before. I've never been in, but it is the one where we registered for our wedding. Sky asked if I wanted to go inside. I pushed my face against the glass to see if my ex was inside. Just then, a woman opened the door.
"Come in. You don't have to look through the window."
I don't know shit about jewelry, but it is part of Sky's professional knowledge. I guess the store had high-end stuff. I don't know, but it all looked the same to me. Now an odd thing is that my girlfriend before my ex-wife is a high end jewelry maker. She makes stuff worn to the Oscars and the Emmys, or so I've read. She and my ex have become friends which seems weird to me, but I asked the counter lady if they carried any of her jewelry.
"Yes we do. It is right over here."
She led me to a counter.
"Do you know her?"
I thought that was very odd. Why would she ask a customer if they knew the jeweler? I nodded.
"Yes," I said.
Sky came over and looked and said she liked the pieces. I was glad, I think, but I had no opinion.
The counter lady was full of questions, though.
"Do you all live here?"
Again, wtf? Sky said "no" and told her where she lived.
"Oh. . . my daughter wants to move there. . . but everything is SO expensive."
I am just a dumbass hillbilly, but my rich jeweler girlfriend taught me long ago never to let the shop help be your intimate. Just because they handle expensive things doesn't mean they own it. They are going home to a trailer park somewhere after work. Many of my wealthier friends have much the same attitude. I am still pretty much a prole, though.
I realize, however, that you don't have to be rich to be conservative. I had to giggle inside my hillbilly soul at how the counter girl prioritized herself.
Back on the street we had a quick laugh and decided to go for a drink. Sky wanted to see the Cafe Strange.
"Sure, but I warn you. . . it is kind of sticky."
When we pulled up, she remembered the place. It used to be a video rental store owned by the same fellow who owns it now. He made a successful transition.
"Wow," she said. "I remember coming here to pick up movies to watch at your house."
We sat at the bar. It was still early. I ordered a Campari and soda, she an Aperol spritz. I ordered from the little girl working the counter. Instantly, I saw doubt and fear light up her young hipster eyes.
"I. . . I don't know how to make them," she stuttered.
"C'mon, I'll show you."
Sky came back from the bathroom just as we were finished mixing them.
"This place makes me nostalgic," she said. "Where do you sit when you write?"
Sky's job takes her to all the best places in the world. She lived in NYC for most of her adult life. We were sitting in a dumpy cafe in a town that tops the list of "The Most Cutting Edge Service Workers in America." That, at least, is what my snooty conservative friend living near Raleigh, a cutting edge tech town, apparently, dubbed it. And it is true, by and large. Our city flag has a weed eater and a lawn mower as its logo.
We drank our drinks and made photos in the Photo Booth. I am hideous, more so for sitting beside her radiant beauty. Quasimodo and Esmeralda.
It had been a long afternoon, and she needed to get back to do some work. I didn't want her to go, of course, but I think emotion and drink had worn us down. I drove her back to her car, then missed her right away.
After visiting my mother as is my practice, I came home to sit on the deck, feed the cat, and have a drink. I pulled out the bottle of wine she had brought over the night before.
I don't know the wine, but it was good. I don't think I know much of anything anymore.
"I have a lot of esoteric knowledge nobody really needs to know," I told her the other night.
"Yup," she laughed.
That's pretty much how I feel now. But it isn't true. I've had three calls from three professors at three different colleges asking for my advice this week. I've still got chops. I know things that add up. I know it is true.
Sky urges me to get out and travel. She wants me to fall in love.
"You bet," I say. "I'll get right on that."
I'm taking the train to see her today. We are getting out of town. See that? All I need is encouragement from MOTL.