Love is simple fiction
Love is simple (fiction)
No wars have been fought
No blows landed
No strain to breaking
No guns to heads
No tears shed
No journeys to the ends of the earth
No cliffs stepped from
No rope burned throats
No pill bottles emptied
No stopped hearts
No end in sight
Love is happiness
I'm not in love is
Driving to work this morning I passed a shoe. Woman's. Conservative business dress. Black with two-inch heel. Not recently buffed or shined. Sitting upright on the asphalt of a suburban upscale neighborhood street.
And it occurred to me that on many of the occasions of my scanning a literary magazine or compendium of short stories I'd come upon a piece that would start with such a solitary image.
"Roadway. Woman's shoe, unworn, unclaimed.
By what fortune does it come to mark my path?
Is there even now a police blotter description under pen,
'Victim was blown out of her shoes--'
Is it evidence to be stumbled upon by a suspicious spouse
'Honey, the shoe you lost under the bed is in the road'
Or did the heal poke through the plastic grocery bag
'Please look, it was under the bench in massage room #3'
I step on the gas
Goodbye storied footwear.
A better writer would start with that scene and make something of it.
This morning I figured trying to be literary about a crappy shoe in the road was pompous presumptuous bullshit. I aimed the Audi toward it and missed.
This is what normal people do.
I currently live in a million-dollar house.
I don't have to be a good writer for you to imagine my home. Think about the million dollars.
Wow, you think. That iceowl.
Welcome to my home. Please, come in.
This is the marble entryway, lit by an opulent crystal and gold chandelier. You see the mahogany stairway, curving upward toward the second floor balcony. The kitchen is appointed in the finest appliances: read the brand names -- you've never even heard of some of them. My Miele dishwasher could scour the rust off the fender of an 80's era Aries K car. Admire the craftsmanship of the cabinetry. Can you see the SubZero refrigerator? Do you recognize the Thermador range from "Iron Chef"?
Come into the media room. Of course, full THX-rated 7.1 system. Blu-ray playback from any of several sources. Yes, that's a real '30s era theater popcorn machine. Got it from the Rialto when they remodeled.
This is the guest suite, of course. Glad you like the granite bathtub; it's carved from a section of a column from the Parthenon. Don't ask.
And the master. Silk, of course, though never in winter. That's the remote for the fireplace. The hot tub is a Bain Ultra. Easy access to both the weight room and the sauna. And if you open the French doors - yes, that's the vineyard. We think we have a killer zin this year.
Now, please step down these stairs from your brain into my actual house.
Well, you're right. It's a little cramped in here but we are on a hillside, and the benefits of a tiny house built on stilts, rather than a big house on a solid foundation is that there's less overall weight pressing into the earth and disrupting the tides.
Those cabinets are indeed real genuine home depot plywood. None of your laminates here.
Yes, the living room is three inches lower on one side; it slipped during the '89 quake. Probably should get that fixed before someone falls out and I have a lawsuit on my hands.
No, I don't know how the hardwood got this bad. Maybe they were slaughtering their own beef in here.
Of course I don't plan to keep these rugs, but they tell me you don't want to disturb those stains and get that stuff in the air. I don't think it's a cancer risk, but better safe than sorry. Know anyone unloading a respirator and a Tyvek suit?
Oh, that smell? It could be. The prior owner, well, it was several days before they actually found her, but that was a couple years ago. Lysol doesn't work as well as you'd think.
Did I mention that Peggy Fleming lives right up there in that house?
She won the gold medal in Olympic figure skating, I think. Something like that.
Sorry you have to leave so soon. The coughing isn't because of the asbestos. Some kind of mold. We're addicted to Benadryl these days. Want one? Don't worry, it will go away in a couple hours.
Please come back someday.
I used to write a lot about sex, and I used to get a lot of positive comments about it. People enjoyed it. But in the last couple years I had to tone things down.
I've come to the conclusion I used to write a lot about sex when I wasn't having any.
These days I hardly ever write about sex.
Bad for you. Good for me.
For about five years when I went mountain biking I was invariably alone.
These days I go mountain biking with a blond-haired woman who looks decent in lycra.
This changes the dynamic of the mountain biking experience. For instance, I used to notice that when you're pedaling uphill, and a mountain biker girl passes you coming downhill her position leaning forward on the bike and your position on your bike gives you a rather unobstructed view. Of her.
I used to notice this often, but now I'm riding with a woman who is creating the same trailway distraction.
Which makes me think, "Damn, it's good to be me."
Another reason I'm not writing about sex, apparently.
These days I come home from work and find pieces of my tiny hillside home in my driveway. Sometimes the pieces are walls and sometimes the pieces are cabinets. Tiles. Bricks.
My blond-haired mountain-biker girl takes the house apart every day. It's in her blood, apparently.
Sooner or later I'm going to come home and there's going to be a vacant lot where my house used to be.
Then we'll have a new hill to ride our bikes on. Only this one will be a private, million-dollar two hundred-foot trail. There will be no biker guys to stare down her lycra sports bra. Just me.
The blond-haired girl really doesn't like mountain biking. Actually, she just does it to provide me with the appropriate trailway company.
She would rather walk. She wants to hike Mount Whitney.
"But wouldn't it be better to bike Mount Whitney?" I say, thinking that at least the downhill will be easy.
"Look at this," she says, pointing to a large chunk of conduit in the driveway.
"Isn't that a piece of the water main?" I ask.
She doesn't know, because plumbing isn't her thing.
"What's that?" I said to her yesterday. There was a big thing sprouting wire and pipe ends in the driveway so my car didn't fit there anymore.
The blond-haired girl said, "I think it's a piece of the electrical system. It didn't seem to be doing anything, so I pulled it out."
"I think you took the compressor core out of the air conditioner."
"It's not supposed to get hot, is it?"
"Well, maybe not. Summer's going to be over in two months, and anyway, probably doesn't matter because those are the living room windows you tossed in the recycling bin."
"Does it bother you?"
"The destruction? Yes, sort of. We have to live here. I'm not used to living in a million dollar house with no windows or utilities. It's sort of like a tent. Like a million dollar camping tent."
"You have to tear things down so you can rebuild them."
"This is..." I start to say, and then stop myself from making the analogy.
It's why they call an orgasm the little death in some cultures. It's why the male of the species will someday be rendered irrelevant. It's why my marriage ended and I am now cohabitating with Shiva the destroyer.
I am become death. It's so simple.
"The tearing down always hurts," she says.
I'm thinking of crying, but deciding it would just be selfish. Ostensibly I'm crying because my house is draining my finances at the rate of the Clampett mansion and every day it acquires more of the features of a shotgun shack.
Or else I'm crying because changing my life still occasionally hurts like anesthesia-free open heart surgery.
"And then you rebuild," she says. "You have to believe it's going to be beautiful."
"I have to believe."
"And it will be beautiful."
I told the blond-haired girl about the shoe in the road.
"Maybe she was having passionate sex in the back seat of a car and kicked it out the window."
"How would that happen?" I ask.
"Like this," she says, and shows me.
"Hey, do that again."
She does. "You like that?"
"How about, say, twenty more times?"
"Ok. What are you thinking about?"
"Mountain biking. You in lycra shorts. What are you thinking about?"
Lah lah de dah.
"What does that look mean?"