I don’t know when I started pressing my heart to your heart, maybe after I crashed my car in the Baltimore Washington Tunnel, when we thought that was a sign, that maybe it was me and not you that was going to die, but then it was my ear always, on your chest, not your ear on my chest.
Your heartbeat was like the rhythm section of Count Basie’s orchestra we saw live, like that woodpecker in Vermont outside our window. Like my flat tire on West River Drive, like the jazz singer in the basement club tapping the microphone.
Ba bum, ba bum, ba bum.
I laid beside you, night after night, your chest hair in my mouth, your heart echoing from its cage, and me wanting to reach in and hold it, feel it’s slippery mass and pathways in my hands.
To say to you – live. Goddamnit, LIVE.
I wanted to transcend the frantic, post orgasmic bumbumbumbumbum, then finally, feel it slowing, like a drumstick on the metal side of the drum, your hand still in between my river of wet, your tired sword on my thigh, and surrender to my intuition.
I hit a car load of doctors in a rainstorm in the Baltimore Washington tunnel, and broke my nose, a bloody mess.
The doctors leaned through my window and said keep your head back, This was the time of the gay cancer, before it was called AIDS, or just when it was just being called AIDS, before all my friends started to die, but were sick. When everyone was afraid of sharing food, or being exposed to blood that wasn’t their own.
The youngest doctor reached in with a towel and wiped my face, got blood on his white sleeve and his wrist and called me honey.
Keep your head back, honey. The ambulance is coming, honey.
For a week I couldn’t tie my shoes, or kiss you, my lips so swollen from the steering wheel, and then I couldn’t lift my arms. I went to see the Russian countess in the art museum district who taught the Alexander Technique, in an old brownstone with high ceilings.
Her thick Russian accent like curtains that blocked out the sun, I could barely understand her, and when I was laying flat, on the table, she placed her hands just above my heart, and said, My God.
Then she bent over, smelling like Rome, like opium perfume. Like cigarettes, like a future I didn’t want to face, her lips almost inside the curve of my ear.
Stop trying to save him, he’s going to die.
And so the which-one of us was spoken, the one who would be leaving was spoken, the one who would be staying was announced, and this truth released everything from my injured vertebrae, like small birds fluttering toward my future without you.
I bent down and tied my shoes, as if it was any other day, and then she pulled me to her like the mother I never had, her large breasts smashing against my smaller breasts, her big heart against my not yet big heart, babum, babum, babum.
That car accident wasn’t about me, it was about the Russian Countess who lead me to the truth of our future, to this woman, who kissed my forehead and clutched my shoulders, branding me a widow at twenty-three.
The Way It Is by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
An invitation to write: The Call to Adventure
- Write about the thread of synchronicities, or the small Signs that you began to notice when you knew a big change was coming.
- Write about the day the universe knocked on your door and what it whispered in your ear
For a deeper memoir exploration through the Hero’s Journey, take Laura’s 12-week workshop in a workbook with STORYquest, the Writer, the Hero, the Journey.