A Marriage

“Why do you always run off to the shower after we make love?” This could be the man or the woman asking. On this particular night, it is the woman.

The man, her husband, slides back into bed beside his wife’s naked body, reaches over, kisses her lightly on the lips. She resists his kiss.

He withdraws to a few inches from her face. “You know you can join me in the shower. It’s not like there’s not enough room.” The best defense is a good offense.

He’s not ready to give up on that kiss. He tries again for her lips.

She is having none of his attempts at getting on her good side. “All I want is to be close,” she says, moving her lips away from his.

“I’m trying to be close now.” He catches her cheek with his kiss.

She pushes him away. “It isn’t the same. After we have sex, all you do is run away.” Slipping over to her edge of the bed, she gives him her back, then pulls the sheet tight around her, making it into a cocoon.

He drops off to his side of the bed. “But … Lenore,” he protests.

“Why do you choose to call me that?” she tosses over her shoulder at him. “You know I don’t like it, Sam.”

“What do you mean? Call you what?” he speaks to her back.

“Lenore,” she says the name as if it is a curse.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Of course it’s her name.

“It’s what my mother calls me. But I’m Nora and you most definitely know that.” Of course he knows it. He has called her Nora a thousand times and more. Her back is now a wall and she’s not allowing any climbing over it. Not for this night anyway.

”I like Lenore. It has such a romance to it. Just like you.”

Silence. Not a sound coming from behind that wall.

After several minutes of waiting for a truce and a goodnight kiss, he reaches over and switches off the bedside light, sighs and slides deeper into the bed. He lies on his back and studies the shadows spreading out across the room as the night grows deeper.

A sob escapes through a crack in that impenetrable wall lying next to him. His wife is crying, pouring herself into her pillow. He reaches over to offer her a tender, comforting touch.

She moves away from his hand and rolls over and faces him. “My name is Nora. And just why do you always feel the need to wash me off after we have sex? Guess you can’t stand the smell of me, the taste of me, the touch of me on your skin. Bet you can’t even stand the sound of me.”

He starts to protest but holds it in.

“Next thing I know you won’t even be able to stand the sight of me.” Shoving the covers off, she jumps out of bed, grabs her robe, heads for the door. Takes one last look at the man in her bed. “Ever since Candace went away to college,” she says, changing the subject but not really. She throws the robe on and heads off down the hall.

He calls after her. “Candace doesn’t like Candace for a name, you know.” Their daughter likes to be called Dash.

“That’s her name, Sam-u-el,” she cries out into the night. She’s Candace’s mother and she can call her daughter any damned name she wants. Why doesn’t he understand that?

“And Lenore is yours,” he wants to yell back but doesn’t. She is the woman he loves, has always loved, and he knows that this is not a good time to call out “Lenore”.

He moves over onto his side and faces the wall, pulls the sheet closer around his body. He hates these dark, restless nights when nothing seems to go right. When everything he tries is wrong.

He waits in the dark and hopes. What is he hoping for? That she’ll come back to bed? That he can somehow show her that he didn’t mean for the night to turn out the way it has? Maybe that, after twenty years of marriage, things can change? That he can change? He keeps hoping but he knows. This will not be the night.

It’s one thirty and he has to get up in the morning for work. But he’s not going to get any sleep. Not till Lenore comes back to bed, and they make up.

Why does he keep calling her Lenore? he wonders in his sleeplessness. He knows how much she hates it. It’s only at times like these when he drops his guard that she she is no longer an average, everyday Nora. She is the Lenore of his best dreams and he is recalling their honeymoon in that long-ago before twenty years wore down their marriage.

He glances over at the clock on his nightstand once again. It’s two and she’s not coming back. He slips out of bed, pulls on this pajama bottoms and a robe.

Downstairs and out on the patio, she hears him slide the glass door open behind her. “I’m not mad,” she says to nobody in particular. “It’s just that, well I’m not mad.” This time she’s speaking to her husband.

There she goes. Making peace. Why does she always do that? he wonders. “I was a jerk,” he says, looking at the back of her neck. The moon throws its light across the room, and he can’t ever remember seeing anything so beautiful.

“No, you were just being you.” Her voice is soft and lonely. Then she thinks, “There I go again, making peace. Why do I always do that?”

He doesn’t know what else to say or do so he waits.

She looks over her shoulder and up into his face. His eyes gaze at her the way he did that first night oh-so-many-years-before on the the beach where they first fell in love. Her hand reaches out for his, takes it, draws him to her side on the bench. “I love this house,” she says.

“It has been a good house.” He sits down next to her.

“I wasn’t sure it was the one for us.” She leans her head on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know that.” He squeezes her hand with all the affection that comes from years of loving and arguing and making up and arguing and making up some more. “I wasn’t that positive myself.”

She squeezes back. Her head feels the strength of the shoulder she has always known that she can lean on no matter what. No matter what. She then takes her head off his shoulder and looks up at the sky. “That sure is a pretty moon.”

“We didn’t think we’d we be here that long.”

“And, my god, the mortgage.” She laughs.

“We’d never owed that much money to anybody. But Dash loved it.”

“We thought we were buying the moon. Five years old and Candace knew it was for us.”

“Why do you keep on calling her Candace?” he whispers. “You know how much she hates it.”

“Why do you insist on calling me Lenore?” she whispers back. “It spoils everything.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, unsure how to tell her all that her name means to him.

“I can see we got what we paid for.” She is back thinking about the house.

“It was a good price.”

She points toward the sky. “We got that moon too, and it is much better than the one we thought we were buying.” She looks at it for several minutes. “You think that Brett and Dash will last as long as we have?”

“I hope so. He seems to love her but not as much as I loved you then, Nora.” He kisses Lenore, not a soft easy kiss, not a deep passionate kiss, but a kiss that makes up for everything. And she kisses him. Then he whispers, “And still love you.”

She stands, reaches for his hand, and they go inside.

On the way up the stairs, he says, ”If you let me call you Lenore every-once-in-a-while, I promise not to run off to the shower after we make love.”

“Only when we’re alone,” she says from the stair above him.

He nods yes, and they are back in bed and soon asleep.

Forgiveness fills the house as it has so many times before and they continue their married life together. At least for one more day.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Another Perfect Day

Pam: So when am I going to meet your father?

Carol: You don’t want to meet my father.

Pam: I don’t?

Carol: Take my word for it.

Pam: Why?

Carol: My father is old fashioned. Extremely so.

Pam: So what do you do?

Carol: I spend my life collecting perfect days. Like this one.

Pam: What would be imperfect about meeting your father?

Carol: It just would.

Pam: I’ll let you meet my dad if you’ll let me meet yours.

Carol: I don’t have a dad. I have a father.

Pam: Then I will meet your father and it will be a perfect day.

Carol: Would you do that for me?

Pam: I would do that for us.

The next morning the two of them drove the long drive south to see Carol’s father. It was a warm spring day. They did not run the air conditioner. They rolled down the windows and let the wind blow through their hair. They stopped and had lunch at one of the several Cracker Barrels along the interstate. Then they drove on, laughing and giggling. Every so often a little worry sneaked into Carol’s laugh. She tried to hide it from Pam but Pam could tell. Pam didn’t mention it. She didn’t want to spoil the perfect day.

Carol’s father, Marv, met the two women at his door. Later, after he grilled some hamburgers, the three went into the living room. Marv sat down facing the two of them.

Marv: So, Carol, you want to know what I think?

Carol (fear in her voice): “Yes, I do.

Marv: Well, Pam seems nice enough. But I am a bit disappointed.

Carol (under her breath): Here it comes,

Marv: I spent all that money, raising you, putting you through college. You go out and can’t even make a living with that major of yours. I mean, c’mon. Political science. You’re still working at that retail job you’ve had for five years and you’re only making minimum wage. Then you go and waste yourself by marrying a…“Your mother would be so disappointed. She expected better out of you.”

Carol: Go ahead. Say the word.”

Marv: What word?

Carol: You know, marrying a lesbian.

Marv: No, marrying a writer. I’m sorry but I won’t be able to support the two of you.

Some Pleasures

I just want to say how thankful I am for all you who read my posts. I am so grateful for you guys. Thank you.

The perfect meal, thanksgiving turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, buttered rolls, pecan pie and iced tea.

Christmas lights twinkling from houses along a street.

Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song”

A spring morning on my back porch with the cats and watching the birds in the trees.

Joshua Bell playing the violin.

Ravel’s “Une Barque Sur l’Ocean”

Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”

“Let Evening Come”, a poem by Jane Kenyon

Creating a scene whereby two characters, a man and a woman, walk out on the stage of a street and admire the stars, or any number of other scenes that I am amazed that I wrote.

The feet of a flamenco dancer in rhythm with the guitarista.

Listening to Frank Sinatra at three a. m.

An Edward Hopper painting of a diner at the loneliest time of night

John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood” words and music dancing across the room to my ears, two perfect partners.

Good food and drink in a room full of friends celebrating

A late night drive

A Henry Moore sculpture, lines that rise and fall to the beat of eternity

Kathe Kohlwitz’s “Mourning Parents”

Alan Rickman delivering his lines

Bobbie Kennedy speaking against injustice

Three cats sleeping in my living room.

Season three of “Northern Exposure”

A laugh that begins in my toes and moves all the way up my body and out my mouth in one gigantic ha.

The first time I read a novel or a story or a poem where the writer blows the top of my head off with his prose and story, a novel like “The River Runs Through It”, “The Old Capital” or “The Old Man and the Sea” or the Alice Munro story “Walker Brothers Cowboy” or Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here ironing”.

Delivering humor, a joke or a line or a phrase or word, that emits laughter from another person.

Reading “A Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Alan Poe at midnight

An Alfred Hitchcock movie

Following my curiosity and learning something new.

Finishing a blog or a story or a novel or a poem I am very proud of.

The movie “Cinema Paradiso”

A friend’s thank you

Finding a great gift for a loved one or a friend, then giving it to them and finding out that they love it.

Finding a new musician that I love

Writing the perfect sentence

My job in a library

Donatello’s “Mary Magdalen”

Praise from a reader

Creating pieces late at night

Seeing a new movie and finding out that good movies are still made

The support of friends and loved ones.

All these I am thankful for and more. I am especially thankful for those who love me and care about me. Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you and to your families and loved ones.

Divorce in America

Maggie and I had been married for three years when the word “divorce” first came up. There we sat on our screened-in back porch, gazing out at the soft summer rain, sipping glasses of iced tea, day dreaming as if we had forever.

Then Maggie turned to me. “Jack and Anise are getting a divorce. Anise says it’s for the kids.”

I looked over at her. “For the kids? Nobody gets a divorce for the kids.”

“That’s what I said. But she insisted.” She went back to studying the lawn. “You think we should plant a rose bush over there.” She pointed to the back corner.

“It’s okay with me. Remember you are the gardener. I have the black thumb.” I gave it some thought. Maybe roses would look good at the edge of the yard. “What kind of roses?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when they told the kids. ‘We’re getting the divorce because of you kids.’ Bet that was one heck of a conversation.”

Maggie reached over to the pitcher on the table between us and poured herself another glass of iced tea. “She said the kids had pretty much figured it out. They were troopers about the whole thing.”

I swirled the ice in my glass with my finger. The cold felt good. “I thought they were the perfect couple. Who’ll be next? The pastor and his wife?”

“Naw,” she said. “It would mean his job.”

“As if that would be a bad thing. His sermons are so boring that the devil wouldn’t have a hard time recruiting our congregation Sunday mornings. Anything to get out of that sanctuary.”

She giggled, then said, “You’ve got that right. Why do we keep him?”

“Nobody wants to hurt his feelings.”

“If she’d only have an affair. She’s the type you know.”

My interest perked up. “What do you mean? She’s such a tight ass.”

“The ones you least expect, you know.”

“Are you saying?” I couldn’t imagine this. Helen, the preacher’s wife? Who’d have the gall to sleep with her anyway?

“I’m just saying.” She laughed. There were times I wasn’t sure if Maggie was joking or serious. This was one of those times.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure. I have my suspicions though. Just call it woman’s intuition.” That closed that subject. She brings up woman’s intuition and I knew that was it.

“So when’s the big day?” I asked.

“The big day?”

“When is Jack moving out?”

“As soon as the kids go off to college this fall. He’ll be there when they leave. When they come home, he’ll be gone. He’ll be coming over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ll be one big happy family for the holidays.”

I shook my head. “That sounds nice and cozy. How long they been married? Twenty-three years and now they’re getting a divorce. And for the kids too. Did she say what she meant by that?’

“No,” she said, then leaned over and kissed my lips lightly. She had tears in her eyes.

I offered her my lap, then I held her, trying to fend off the fear I knew she was feeling. She said softly, “It’s Mom and Dad all over again. We kids go off to college and they get their freedom. Only it’s freedom from each other.” There was unforgiveness in her voice.

I didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say. I remembered the arguments between my parents. All the yelling, and they stayed together for us kids. At least, that’s what Mom told me at Dad’s funeral.

Maggie squeezed my arm and drew it closer around her. There we were, Maggie and I, sitting on the back porch of our new house and talking about divorce. Hoping it wouldn’t happen to us.

The National Holiday We Ignore

September 17th is one of the national holidays we choose to ignore. It’s Constitution Day. It’s the day Congress has set aside to honor the United States Constitution and commemorate its signing on September 17, 1787 by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention.

We all know about the Declaration of Independence when our founding fathers proclaimed that we had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We all know about Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, reminding Americans that we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The United States Constitution is the document that guarantees our rights and answers the question: What kind of government is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land.

And despite everything we might think, it’s pretty easy reading. It’s only 7591 words long which means it can be read in an  hour.

Just to get you started, here’s the Preamble:

 

And though we haven’t always lived up to those words as a country, they still inspire us to be better.

I have learned two things about the Constitution. As we have added Amendments to those original words, we have asked the Constitution to do two things:
1.Limit the power of Government, and
2.Expand the Rights of Americans.

When we lose sight of those two things, we have go astray. Consider the 18th Amendment. It was the Prohibition Amendment that banned the sale of alcohol. in 1933, we had to admit “Ooops, We made a boo-boo” and ratified the 21st Amendment which meant the 18th Amendment was no longer law.

Today is the 234th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution. Maybe as a birthday present to the Constitution, we might read it. I know I will.

And if you’re looking for some helpful reading on the Constitution, here’s three excellent books:

The U.S. Constitution and Other Important American Documents (No Fear) by SparkNotes (A modern reading of the Constitution)
The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk
The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide by Linda R. Monk