This will make only tiny bits of sense until you've read: My Flying Horse and all the ones before that
When it’s calm and we’re lying in our own bed, green sheets, our own bedroom walls, looking at the ceiling with the crack I know so well, our own warm skin touching, now in the peace I see what I did like I've watched it in a television documentary. Anna asks me--didn’t I know I was good enough for her from the moment she met me when we were four? Wasn’t it enough at the carnival? Didn’t I know I was all she ever wanted? How far would she have to go before I understood how much she loved me?
“I don't understand it myself.” I say but I'm starting to. Starting to allow myself to think it, and so I should tell her now that it doesn’t matter anymore. Hell, it probably never mattered to her. Only me.
“What?” she says. She rolls over, sits up and straddles my stomach, knees at my ribs, squeezes the way she does. Then she pokes me on the nose with her fingertip.
I look up at her silhouetted against the midday sunshine and clear my throat, say in my newscaster voice, “Before you, did you know…” but even though the words are streaming through my brain they don't make it out my mouth.
“What’s so hard to say?” she leans over until her breasts touch my chest hairs. Then she puts her lips next to my ear. “It’s easier if you whisper.”
She turns her head and I touch her earlobe with my tongue. Then I whisper, “Before you, I, before that night we stole Matt’s car…I never. There's only ever been you. Ever. I mean, like since the dinosaurs.”
I close my eyes and wait for a reaction, but there is none. After a moment she holds my cheeks between her palms and kisses me.
Then she touches her nose against mine. "Since the dinosaurs."
"Maybe since the invention of dirt."
When I open my eyes she says, “So what?”
"So what? So what I know it's not you. I know it's not girls in general. I mean, you're all out having sex at 12, even with each other."
"Is that what you think?" She crosses her arms, which while she's naked is so incredibly sexy I begin to devour my lower lip. Why do men do that?
"Well. I've heard..."
"Margie who does your hair?"
"She would do a lot more than my hair if I let her, sweet cakes. All I'd have to do is say the word and it would be get out of town children and old people, welcome to x-rated haircut Sunday."
"Margie. She tells you about women's sexual preferences?"
"Ok. Penthouse forum."
"Since when do you read Penthouse?"
"Darling, men don't actually read Penthouse, if you didn't know."
"What do you think I could possibly not know?" she says, now leaning on her elbows, drawing a line with her finger from the bridge of my nose to my chin.
"My love, you know everything. That's what worries me so much."
“A lot of things, a lot of that sex, turned out to be a mistake,” she said. “It's not what you think. You think it's going to be one thing, and then it's another."
"If you wouldn't have got so upset at Meg's party, you might have found out for yourself."
"I don't even want to think about that. Can we agree never to talk about it again? My makes my toes curl and gives me foot cramps."
She laughs. "No matter what you think, this is better," she says, running her tongue down my chest, over my abdomen where it tickles so badly I can't lie still.
And then there where she's still talking which I think is totally freaky. She says, "But some of it was good.”
“Ah, I knew it," I manage to say and she knows this one spot where if she...stops. I gotta say, "You're killing me, you know it." She smiles and tries to make a fist. Moves that and I'm sure I'm going to swallow my own tongue.
"This remind you of Penthouse forum, darling?" she says, and I tell her she's right because I really don't care as long as she doesn't stop I'll tell her anything. It's amazing how easy it is to make a guy stupid. Could be why they think we are. Too much of this.
She sighs as if she's peeling carrots, “I had a boyfriend. That guy, George I told you about. He was into this open-sex-swinging stuff, which I also told you about, if you can even remember."
I'm having trouble remembering where I left my feet, actually. "I remember."
She goes on, "He’s the one that introduced me to the Matthews and their little club. They’re really nice people; they just like to have sex with each other. As far as I was concerned it’s okay once in a while, but these guys can get a little extreme. I mean, every barbecue or birthday party is an excuse for an orgy. Sometimes you just want to sing happy birthday, open the presents, and go home without having to take your clothes off.”
“Once in a while?”
“I don’t have to do that. It’s not something I need," she says. Stops what she's doing and climbs up along side me, face propped on a hand over her elbow. "You have to believe me. I did it because…I did it because I was curious. Maybe because I could. That's what's different than you, maybe. Maybe you never had the chance but you're the sort, Rocky, who's not going to try something like that even when he has the chance. I know you.”
"Are you saying I'm not adventurous?"
"I'm saying you have common sense. A lot more than most people. I love that in you."
"You love me because I'm Fred MacMurray? Are you saying you'd sleep with Fred MacMurray? Do you know what damage that could do to someone to hear that? They'll imagine I'm pretending to be Chip Douglas in here."
She ignores me, "I love you because I know when you tell me something you mean it. Because there's something good inside you that's more than words. My husband is a good man. And magic, as you know."
“Not where I come from,” I say, and I feel strange. There’s no way I can be part of her past, and I don’t know if I can make us a life as interesting as the one she’s had.
She runs a hand across my cheek and answers my thoughts as if she’s reading my mind. Am I really that transparent? “It’s okay,” she says.
“I wish I could feel like it’s okay. That’s my problem, though. I’m going to try to not imagine those other guys. How about every time one of them comes into my mind you call me Fred and ask me to the sock hop. I think that will cure me.”
“How can I get this out of your head?" she says, straddles me again, slides over and on, presses down with her hips. "All I want is you, ever. Ever. You're all I've ever wanted anyway." And she moves that way she does, how the hell does she do that? Bobs up and down like that. I couldn't do that if I was sitting on alligators.
“Oh," I say to complain to make her go harder but I realize what I need to do, what I have to do, what's necessary and manly here--is. And I grab her by the shoulders and roll her over. Jam her down from above like a lion about to consume a wounded antelope. She makes that noise that goes right through me, that full high pitch noise like she's got me even though I've got her.
She's got these eyes that sparkle so much. I just want her whole self, to consume her somehow.
"If you don’t tell me about it, I’m always going to wonder and that’s probably worse.”
"What do you want to know? I'm not talking."
I can play this game. I like this game. "I want to know about Cassie."
"Uh buoy..." she says, closing her eyes, stretching against my thighs where I'm pressing the backs of hers.
"Keep in mind you're talking to a guy who has had sex with exactly one woman."
"And who has learned a fucking lot in the past couple fucking years fuck a little more that way, ok ok ok ok ok."
I love doing this. I really do. Just to watch her.
"Oh my God," she says. "Oh God. Oh God. Oh baby."
"I hope you really mean that," I say, finding a little more energy somewhere. "Tell me about Cassie."
So I stop. "Now you can."
"Oh goddamn you. You bastard. You're evil."
"I'll kill you first." She slaps my hip.
I pin her arms. Kiss her neck. "Tell me."
“We were housemates.”
“I know you were housemates. I met her, remember?”
“She won a prize at the literary magazine," Anna says. "Like THE prize. She was so excited but she didn't have anyone to celebrate with this is so fucking mean you please go just a little I'll be good."
"Only a little bit."
Now she's biting her lip. "Her boyfriend was gone and you were, like, not in my life. And there was just us so we sat home eating ice cream and cookies and drinking margaritas and watching movies in our bathrobes and we got on the subject of sex and, we were already not so dressed and goddamn you, Rocco. Don't make me do this."
"So don't," I say. I start again in earnest. Her shoulders jerk a little. Tiny waves course over her breasts. "It's okay."
She's not closing her eyes now. She's not going into that ecstasy I saw before.
"What?" I say.
"I gotta brain," I tell her. "I gotta imagination. It's good enough."
"I don't know. Look. Someday I'm just going to want you to explain to me what the hell it is you women do to each other. Ok? You're talking to a virgin here."
“Like hell. Virgin. Didn’t you ever wonder what it would be like with another guy?”
"No," I say, pretty loud.
She looks at me for a couple more seconds and then I know I have her. I got her place. She can't keep her train of thought and I know it. She arches her back. Strains her head backward like she's lost something under the headboard.
"Oooo, you liar," she says. Then in rhythm. "Liar liar liar liar." Then I stop for a sec and she says, “Why do two women together make men so excited?”
“You're the one who knows everything," I say. Then after a few more seconds of effort, "I don’t know. It just does.”
She furrows her brow, looks like she doesn’t believe me, says, “So now that’s all over and in the past. There’s nobody but you and me now. Forever.”
“Me and you,” I say. Closing my eyes.
"Let's get serious," she says.
"Time for some serious," I echo. Stop and move over. I feel her slide over me. This is ballet. We know the moves to the music. Communicate in the sound of her breath, feel nothing but life, the ecstasy of being adored. There can’t be anything in the past could change this here and now. If something tried, I would kill it.
I whisper something when her breathing and movement accelerates to the pounding of my heart, a small cry from her throat as she stares at the ceiling through closed eyelids that puts crystal goblets of brilliant life into my chest and brain. I will live forever. I will never die. She makes me immortal.
“What did you say?” she asks, breathless, beads of sweat glistening on her chest.
I am Lazarus.
Two days later we’re lying on the bare rock overlooking the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and El Capitan looming in the distant darkness like silhouettes of prehistoric gods. We’ve flown to California to get away from everything familiar. We’ve packed up our gear and hiked to a campsite where we could see the valley and watch the stars come up.
It’s a clear night and the dying sun salts the darkness with crystalline stars that scintillate in the cooling mountain air. We’ve arrived in an off-season, but it’s exceptionally warm. The last of the hikers heads for the valley with the setting sun leaving Anna and I alone on the warm rock. I’ve pitched our folding tent and laid out our sleeping bags, but it doesn’t seem necessary.
Night birds chirp in the distance and the roar of the falls sounds like a distant earthquake, a rumble we feel in our chests. Soft breezes ripple against my ears. This is what magic is. It’s as if ancient energy courses through me from the rock, to the falls, to the stars above us. We are connected in the tableau of life, drinking the milk of mother earth.
I am powerful here, energetic. I don’t have to suggest anything to Anna, she knows what I am thinking when she sees me staring at the sky.
“This is that power thing again, isn’t it?” she says. "Mountain boy, or elf or whatever you call it."
I grin and nod like a four-year old. I pull my shirt off.
“What about bears?” Anna asks, a little apprehensive as I move toward her.
"I strong like bear."
"What if they come to eat us?"
“Then we’ll get eaten,” I say, pulling her t-shirt over her head. “Maybe mauled beyond recognition.”
“They might smell our food.”
“They’re not going to smell our food. They’re going to smell us,” I say, and then quoting her, “Just go with it.” She smiles and kisses me, and we make love in the open, sweating on the rock, mammals in a primordial stone universe.
And I have never been so in love with anything or anyone in my life.
The moment flows through me as water. Time and motion are one entity that comprised the two of us. And when we stop we lay side by side on our backs, naked under the sky. It’s time to do something that in ignorance I’ve forgotten. I need to make a place for her in my universe.
“Do you remember what I told you about the stars?”
She looks at me without answering, and I’m sure she’s afraid to say yes because I might quiz her, say no and I’m hurt.
But it’s okay. I can never be hurt here.
I point to a spot in the sky near the “w” of Cassiopeia, the tiny fluff of light Earthlings call M31. It takes her a while to see it, but she sights along my arm and then I get her to avert her gaze slightly so the more sensitive nerves of her peripheral vision can take over.
“Remember on the blanket in the woods when I showed that to you? You can only see it when you don’t look at it,” I say, and she thought that was neat.
She called it a ghost star.
“Let me tell you the rest of the story. That star is in the constellation of Andromeda, and Andromeda was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom."
"That better be me."
"Oh, it's you all right, sweetie pie," I say, then go on. "When the land was threatened by war, the enemy demanded her as a sacrifice or they’d kill everyone. So they chained her to a stone by the edge of the sea where she waited for the gorgon of King Neptune to devour her.”
“That’s always what happens, getting fed to the dragons. That's why I gave it up long ago.”
“Indeed. Well this one didn’t get eaten because a handsome young man called Perseus, part played by the ever popular, Mitchell Dale, heard what had happened and vowed to save her. He jumped on his brilliant flying charger named Pegasus and flew to her rescue. There’s Pegasus over there.” And when I point to the square of stars she snuggles closer to me.
“Now Perseus was a smart cookie. He’d killed the Medusa, that witch with snakes for hair. She turned anyone who saw her to stone, but Perseus was clever. He knew how to fight with his sword when he was turned around backward. He used a mirror and killed the Medusa and carried the powerful head with him in a flashy leather Tumi briefcase that he needs for his office job because the one he has is falling apart.”
"Perseus has a day job?"
"When he's not saving Andromeda or flying around on his horse, he's secretly a high-powered corporate lawyer for a major world bank."
"So not only can he save her ass, but he can help her get a car loan for that convertable she likes because you can see the street going by in the holes in the floor in her car."
"Can I save your ass first, then the car?"
“You've already got my ass," she says. "How come he wasn’t turned to stone when he saw her in the mirror?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the stone rays don’t work that way.”
"See what happens when you let Margie do your hair? Stone. I told you she was trouble."
And I say, “Can I have my own goddamned story please?"
"I'm just saying," she says.
"So you are. Anyway, Perseus found Andromeda chained to the rock and he cracked through the chains with the titanium sword he got on sale at Hammacher Schlemmer, just as the attacking army and the Gorgon were about to strike. Andromeda climbed on Pegasus with Perseus, and he shielded her eyes and lifted the head from the briefcase. All the army and monsters were turned to stone and Perseus took Andromeda away and they married and lived happily ever after.
"And then did they get serious and have babies?"
"Listen to you," I say, trying to be incredulous.
"I'm just saying."
"Are you telling me we could have babies doing this?"
She lifts her head up and looks at me, smiling. "Didn't you know?"
"Oh that's it. I'm outta here," I say, acting like I'm getting up. She's acting like she's pinning me down. We wrestle a little and it ends in kissing and her pushing the crown of my head toward her navel, which doesn't mean she wants it there only that she can't get it farther, and then after, when she approves my continued breathing and returns my jaw to my rightful ownership, it winds up I have her tongue in my ear which I have to remind her is less interesting to me than it is to her, apparently, "can I finish my story now?"
"No babies with that," she says, smirking. "You could do that forever and there'd never be a one."
"Goddamn it. I'm trying to be romantic," I say, sitting up. Harder to see the stars this way, but there's the great nebula, shining down upon me. The ghost star.
She calms down and I say, “That little fuzzy light is a galaxy inside Andromeda. It’s not one star, but a billion stars surrounded by millions of planets. But it’s so far away, it looks dim and fuzzy. The light from that place has been traveling to us for two million years. When that light was born in those stars none of this was here. All of our history, all the beauty and joy, all the pain and war, everything we are and can remember, that light started toward us before all of it.
And she props herself up and looks in my eyes. Says, “You are my true love, aren’t you?”
"I am nothing else," I tell her.
She hugs me and I see her eyes glistening. Those eyes. I could power my entire future on that energy.
“Those stars burned at that moment two million years ago and they knew that on this day they their light would touch our eyes on this rock. And all the volcanoes that made the lava, and all the earthquakes that pushed this rock out from the center of the earth did so because they knew that we’d be here at this moment so you could see the light and name it a ghost star.”
Anna hugs me tighter and I feel her shaking.
“So brave Perseus saved the beautiful Andromeda so the stars could be named, so the rocks and the starlight, and all the people from whom we descend could bring and Mitch and Anna and the universe together at once, right now. That’s what magic is. It’s all of the universe coming together, expending the moments of life that can never be reclaimed, each piece reminding the other how wonderful it is to be.”
And now she’s crying and I’m holding her with both arms. Part of me wants to tell her to stop, but another part thinks it’s beautiful.
it goes to Jamaica 1993 next