Saturday, October 30, 2004

Three Words

The signs first appeared almost birdlike from the bushes as Carly sped past them. The trees and chain link fences slurred into a soupy mix in her driver side window like a heavy rain down the windshield.

"PLEASE" it read.

The heart shaped vermillion sign stood out, perhaps because it was so bright or perhaps because it was St. Valentines Day.

"DON'T" read the next word, a short way further. In between was the latex layer of road noise.

"LEAVE". That was it. The road signs resumed their commonness after that.

Basting in the grey winter morning, three words, separated on a traveled yet today, unfamiliar road, pock-marked Carly's routine to the office. It punctuated the monotonous drive, the stress of the day, the daily global wars in which we engage while pursing the middle class dream.

Carly's emotional ears picked up the way a dog's ears pick up when he hears his master's car still miles away.

There are those for whom Valentines Day is a trite, contrived holiday; a holiday with a sordid history of Claudius the Cruel beating and beheading St. Valentine during the infant days of Christianity. This was in place of the pagan festival of Lupercalia, which honored the goddess Juno Februata. This festival celebrated a theology of lascivious eroticism, now considered barbaric. Those early Christians really knew how to party.

Who would have foreseen that a millennia later all the color of the holiday would be sucked out of it, replaced instead with the obsession of market segmentation: the card segment, the candy segment, the flowers segment.

Carly was a romantic though she forced herself to close her eyes or look the other way whenever her heart wanted to soar. She could deny things to others, but alone, at the end of the day, or when the moon would wink its ghostly crescent smile at her, begging her to make one wish, just one wish, Carly
filled out like one of those balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Still, the suddenness of these words, appearing out of nowhere startled her. There was desperation in the action, yet it brimmed with a sanguine faith in the power of words. These signs were nailed to posts, frail and exposed, far enough apart to create anticipation. “In what air does this sort of hope breathe?” Carly wondered.

She tried to imagine the scenario.

Perhaps they’d had a fight, she thought, and this was his way of making up. Her heart waded into a pool of memory, recalling those times in her own relationships that warranted such corrective action.

Relationships were all about starting and stopping then starting again anyhow. Sometimes Carly thought that love was a roulette ball, landing on whichever color and number it felt like. It is not enough, she would say to friends, to be a good lover, or a good person, to be fully actualized or enlightened, or engaged with her past Jungian archetypes. (Carly spent a lot of time in the Self Help section of the Barnes and Noble book stores.) Sometimes, there were physics completely unseen at work.

Carly puzzled over the kind of physics that would drive a man (or woman) to risk public humiliation, to acknowledge to anyone who could read and drive, to expose oneself, just to restore a relationship that might not, at its core even be alive.

She wondered had it been a messy argument? Were there hurtful things said? The kinds of things that get tossed out in the middle of a free for all, when you are looking for something, anything, to toss at the other person; like hurling a fishing lure, hoping the other takes the bait. Then the fight ensues.

There are those hurts that are open gaping sores that beg for bandages. Then there are those that do its damage from the inside out, in subtle ways, slowly, with intent and measure.

She recalled her fights with past lovers and wondered if it had been like that, unaware of her own self measuring to see if she fit into the parameters of normal grief and misery.

From a hospital room, Dan wondered if Sheila had even seen the signs he put up just last night. When he started the day yesterday, she was mobile, and this was to be a Valentine Day sparkler, a public service announcement about his love for Sheila.

Late last night her lungs began to fill with fluid and she couldn’t breathe. He called 911 and they rushed her, along this road, to the hospital.

The words were not poetry. Dan was no poet, except in the way he felt for Sheila. Three words. The words were all he could think of. They were prayer, though he was too agnostic as he watched her struggle through the night on a respirator to know this then.

He packed his love into these words, like a man packing to move, with the same sense of purpose.

Three words: a wish for life before AIDS. A plea for sanity.

Carly turned into the parking lot at work. Certainly, this would be fodder for discussion in the lunchroom, the speculation about the loss and what it means to each of them.

MB 2004


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