Pajamas under my overalls, I drive from bank to bank getting together oil money. It’s complicated but it is there. There is gratitude beneath my frustration at the cold. Yet the only thing I can think of, for some reason, is all my friends who have children growing up – for a variety of reasons – without fathers. (At this point I begin to cry so hard I can barely see out the windshield. And the sun glare is magnificent.) This thread of thinking stitched by my child’s father backing out, last minute, on a promise to finally watch her fence in today’s last tournament of the season.
She is wounded, again, and wants no comfort from me, (it is ultimately my fault having marred him in the first place). Her epee will be graceful and with purpose, and she perseveres.
My longing for good men to co-parent the children flies upward as the last turn into the bank bends right.
That was a Saturday morning. Bright, brisk (damn cold, really). Gnawing reality stealing pieces of the sweet life I’d tried to create as a single mother, working person, and very part-time dating female. Two “inappropriate” partners down, my calendar indefinately scrubbed clean of social engagements with any and all men; including blind dates, gay male friends and platonic outings with churchfolk men. I was done. The only male who continued making salvos across my bow was married and crabby when he made any contact: and I’d already been married to him.
That cold Saturday, our old brick poorly insulated house had dropped to 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect spring day temperature…were it spring. Our beds heavy with down comforters; the kind you roll into a cocoon and nap on winter weekends, the sun mildly warming through the window. We wore socks in the winter version of that house, tredding mindfully not to slip down the glossy oak floor stair onto our tailbones or accidentally sockskate the foyers and mis-glide.
That morning she howled in anger. A freshman lefty fencer, she forbid me from attending her bouts that day, which I easily respected yet found difficult to stay away. Witnessing her life from the sidelines is what I’d done forever, it was what I planned to do for the rest of my life. Not today. She found herself a ride there and back, took care of her food, uniform and equipment. As much as I want to talk with her about her father, I cannot. She must have her own, pure, experience of him without my input or the input of others, even if meant to inform, guide, protect or encourage. I keep my thoughts and leave her be as she had sternly requested. She can be a storm, my girl. A storm with skin tender pink and gorgeously powerful. My baby a tsunami of emotion and cure, for she always rises above what’s irksome and thrives.
By the time I returned from the banks and oilman the house was colder, ghost quiet and empty, except for the dog who greets with her spastic wagging euphoria of relief she has not been abandoned, again.
The unplanned poetry of this crappy morning happened while unfolding. When finished writing – or exorcism, what those wordbombs feel like most times – I sat on the roadside facing blinding morning sun, blessed heat purring into the car’s cockpit, and sobbed until the windows fogged in thick exhales of my heaving shame.
I had failed.
As a heat provider, a fencing parent, a regular parent, a homeowner, a would-be girlfriend or date, a workerbee. I managed to tred water at work. The real estate office job was so far below my abilities and class, working there felt like drowning in dirty motel sheets and stale ashtrays. I could not recognize a decent partner any more than I could present myself accurately for an emoloyer that valued my cababilities. In some respects, I’d paused and made a temporary habit there while contemplating how to improve things.
Later that day, oil delivered, enough to warm the chill air and floors. I received a private note from a fellow who’d read my morning poem post. He offered friendship, if I needed it, at a distance of 400 miles complete with a 10-year old son and a mere three-year separation from the boy’s mother. As much as I found his note kind, I found it unbelievable and, more, remarkably unrealistic.
We had been schoolmates, not classmates, he two grades above me. Did I remember him? Yes, well. Lurking backstage at rehearsals and clanging around the high lighting catwalks of our high school auditorium. Barking instructions to younger bumbling students, wearing a scrappy toolbelt like owned the place. Scruffy teenboy facial hair and thick wavy dark auburn parted to the side that dropped in front of one eye frequently. Yes, I remembered him.
It was summer 1977. I was gangly, freckled, controlled awkward 13; he was decades older, cooler, mysterious and intoxicatingly off limits to a geekgirl like me 16.
….to be continued… .