I drove to work from Port Laughton Monday morning, so I didn't return to my house until late in the afternoon Monday. Adam's white truck was in the driveway. By God, I thought, he had better not have some tramp in my home.
Letting myself into the house, I scanned the front room, and the kitchen. All quiet. I headed for our bedroom, and there he was, bundling up dark clothes to put in the washer. I stood in the doorway, so he wouldn't be able to get past me without pushing. He dropped the clothing, and stood there, his eyes dark. He was wearing his old black baseball cap, and the seedy, sleeveless remains of his ancient turquoise sweatshirt. What was this? Trying to recreate our first lunch? No! A staggering hit of comprehension punched my stomach, and I grabbed the doorjamb. That damned hat and that sweatshirt were from his high school days, he'd told me. They were a signal to tell me something, like dream symbols: I'm a child, don't hurt me! Had he ever really grown up? Had marriage been too far beyond his emotional development? Insecurities!? How about immaturity?
I turned and went back out to the kitchen, disgusted anew. How could I have never seen what an emotional infant he was? Was there any possibility he would ever grow up? The refrigerator was as I had left it the Friday before, so I pulled some moldy vegetables out and pitched them in the trash, and put some cruddy leftovers into the sink's garbage disposal.
Grrrkk! The disposal said, and went silent. "You piece of shit," I whispered, and flipped the switch on and off. I checked the switch under the sink to make sure it was off, and with great fear, reached into the drain with my hand. A piece of bone was what had stopped the horrid machine. I pulled it out, threw it away. I flipped the switch again. Nothing. Just what I need, to come home and immediately break something. I went to the breaker box outside and looked at each switch. All okay. Back inside, embarrassed to be the outraged wife needing to call a plumber within minutes of coming home to her outraged household.
Adam emerged. "What happened?" he said, seeing me peering under the sink at the wiring.
Clenched teeth. "The disposal quit. There was a bone in the stuff I was going to grind up." Nothing smelled burnt in the wiring or around the disposal.
"Now it won't start again? But you cleared the basket?"
"Yeah." Sullen, despising him, pitying him.
He lay down on the floor in front of the open cabinet under the sink, and began to fondle the disposal. "There's almost always a reset switch on these little motor appliances. There it is! Keep your hands clear!" He flipped the switch under the sink and the disposal roared to life again. He clicked it off.
"Where is this reset switch," I said, angry that he'd helped me. I had to kneel down on the floor beside where he lay to see where the switch was. Too close to avoid the scent of his aftershave; not far enough away to escape the warmth emanating from his side.
"Here." He tapped a spot until I could find the reset button, my fingers punished by tiny shocks of desire as my hand brushed his. "You hate me, don't you?"
"I hate that goddamned ugly sweatshirt and that friggin' hat," I seethed through my teeth.
"I didn't know." He pulled both off and threw them in the trash can without getting up from the floor. "I didn't know." Beneath the sweatshirt he'd had on an ivory henley shirt, one of the items of clothing that I loved to see him wear, emphasizing the width of his shoulders, the color making his skin glow. I clenched two handfuls of the front of the shirt, and he caught my upper arms, his eyes the color of blue gas flames.
Speechless, I glared at him, hating him, indeed; desiring him, addicted to him.
"I'm sorry!" he croaked, burying his face in my bosom. In a sudden fury at this new dissembling, I grabbed the sides of his face and made him look at me. Tears were spilling down his cheeks. I let him press against my blouse again, and held him, becoming intoxicated by his touch, as always. Damn him.
Mary LeMay's counter to the Bodie and Andersol barbecue was to invite me to the gym and to her church. No thank you, I had enough of working out with Adam (I hated every second of it, and did the odious leg and belly exercises just to keep trim and firm and to please him, and to keep any more suspicious lipstick marks from showing up on his sweatshirt), and I was still going to my foreign parish 30 minutes north; I'd found the pastor there to be sympathetic and that was as much as I needed in the way of churching.
There are loads of community churches in Riverton; in the older part of town, I swear you can find a tiny church every few blocks. (The newer parts of town don't have churches built into their plans. They've become so expensive that the only ones who can afford the houses mostly don't need God anymore.) Then there are the big song-and-sermon churches on the outskirts of town where they can have plenty of recreational fields and parking. And the Catholic chapel out past the city limits among the orchards and fields, probably originally intended for field workers.
I could imagine Mary chattering away with her cronies in the wide courtyards in front of one of the little churches near the center of town, where the giant sycamores lining the narrow streets give such beautiful dappled shade that congregations occur outside in the air as well as inside with the preacher. Mary would be an organizer of picnics, of bake sales, would hem new robes for the choir, would make a list of all the shut-ins to take cookies to at Christmas. I'd have bet that she knew every family that went to her church, even the only-Christmas ones.
But me? A drifter, now, remaining anonymous to the assembly at Saint Bernadette's, known only to the priest in residence there as a woman struggling to maintain her contact with God. Why did she, you might ask? Easy answer, that one: I believe. Even if God seems hard for me to find, or doesn't want to talk on the telephone, I can't make Him stop existing. Nor did I want to, especially when my life seemed so sad and hellishly empty; I really wanted Heaven to be there for me when I was done.
Oddly enough, I didn't want the consolation of a supportive church community. "Inconsolable" was the definition of my heart, and I just wanted to be at Mass by myself to touch God so that I wouldn't be lost in misery forever. I wouldn't get close enough to Him in a community church. They do a good job, don't get me wrong, but as a Catholic, I believe that I can really receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, body, soul, and divinity in Communion. For us, there is not a question of symbolism; we truly receive God intimately into our bodies, Bride receiving Bridegroom, and have done so, as a Church, since Christ Himself told us that we should. Part of the wonder for me in this truth is that Mass, and this incredible transformation of bread and wine into Deity, happens all over the world, 24 hours a day. All Catholic Communions are the same event, no matter the distance of time and space. And I know it's not considered popular or cool or sophisticated to believe all that, but too damn bad. That's the event I needed, a feeding, a nurturing, a miraculous lifeline in order to survive. Attending Mass was my gesture of faith, what I could keep on doing when all else was failing me. Including my language; I know I shouldn't say "damn" when I'm talking about my religious beliefs.
I didn't say all that to Mary. And she wasn't insulted that I told her I went to church in Stockton, thank you for your invitation. Nevertheless, I was touched by her offer, and in the evenings for the next week or so, when the almond blossoms across the street were glowing in the sunset, she and I sat on her porch, getting to know each other, watching the white petals flutter down onto the aisles between the rows of trees like magical snow, and along with the three cherry trees, the nectarine, the plum, and the pomegranate I had planted a few days after I moved in, I was starting to feel a little bit more at home.
In the city of Roth, there is a place where people go to fly. My nephew Owen and I boarded a little train at the very top of the city heights, the skyline dark against the low sun. There was room in each seat for two people only, and it being the evening, the train was hardly crowded. We scooted down the hill to the station under the Great Aqueduct, and climbed out. The walls of Roth were dark brown stonework, and the Aqueduct was brown stone, too, a leaping architecture against the paler sky. The floor of the plaza was granite, gray and smooth. We were smiling so hard that our faces -- at least mine -- hurt with glee. We ran to the edge of the steps, about thirty feet past the Aqueduct with its graceful brown arches.
At the top of the steps, we looked down and across the city. We were high above the next level, perhaps a hundred feet, two hundred feet. The pale granite stairs stretched for a hundred yards on this side of the Aqueduct, paralleling it. We were wearing white jump suits, and snug field boots, laced tight against our ankles. The sun was westering, the wind was favorable, and it was time.
"Ready?" I called to Owen.
"Ready!" he called back, the dimples in his four-year-old's cheeks twinkling.
I threw my parachute out into the air and felt the wind catch it, unfurl it, pull me along. I saw Owen's parachute blowing out in front of the stair with mine.
When the lines were taut, the moment had come. I leaped outward and upward with all my strength, feeling the wind billow in my parachute.
Will I fall? I looked up into the sky, the wispy white clouds just beginning to tinge pink. I felt the weightless sensation of free fall, and for a moment feared, and then thought, "My dream!" Willing the wind to catch, I felt the parachute lift me in a sailing arc. I looked up at our parachutes, rose and apricot against the blue and nearly cloudless evening sky, the 'chutes full and powerful, the sky beckoning and cool after the heat of the day.
We sailed, catching the breeze. I pulled on the right side of my 'chute lines to correct my drift, and tugged down on the front lines to make the 'chute duck. If I was accurate, I could fly underneath the aqueduct (the Lesser Aqueduct) that strode across the lower level and land in the plaza below it, past the Lesser Stairs, where the evening shadows had already taken up residence.
But I was not yet that skillful, or else I had forgot, because my parachute began to collapse before I could go under the dark stones of the Lesser Aqueduct, and I landed, running, just before it. I gathered my 'chute and stuffed it in its bag while I laughed with Owen at our heart-filling leap.
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