I thought it would come to nothing, he reminded himself. She said, I can’t give you children. He replied, I can’t promise you money –paused–or fame . . . even if, when I die, my stuff–he chuckled–gets discovered.
In the small clearing, where their bodies nearly filled the circle when they were making love, and now at rest still left little room, the rain began to fall, slowly, and by the time they were scantily dressed, the mist had become a downpour.
They ran back to her house, laughing like little children, covering their heads–his shirt, her blouse. His chest was bare and she wore no bra . . . he wanted to stop and follow the arcs in the air her nakedness traced.
If rain were the worst fate to befell thee, is lightning not far behind thee? Going to mass cankered his speech if not his soul, he began believing the Jesus myth all over again, even if his mother and father lived as though Christ had not lived. How could you know?
He railed occasionally when the subject came up, and she never again asked him to attend mass with her. He kept religion to himself and at twenty-six his only politics was Vietnam; but now, at seventy-three, perhaps more vocal than in his youth, even occasionally seeing in the evidence at hand what might be coming, he believed the Church would attempt to usurp the power of the State through the seemingly infinite riches of the forces of reaction and the unimpeachable decisions of their toady, the U.S. Supreme Court.
He loved her very much–how much, he would not say, even to himself. At twenty-six he saw ahead of him only what he had survived so far. That, and the miasma of music and poetry that might lead nowhere, but he had no intentions of giving up either . . . For what? It was not in his heart to sacrifice what he loved for anyone, and she held out for his work coming to something, enough at least for him to "persist in his folly," as Blake recommended "a fool" do if he were to "become wise."
She was going to apply for entry into medical school, sell her house to put herself through. She worked on the materials when she wasn’t at the hospital. Her father’s career was leading to her own, especially now, after her hysterectomy. One day Bobby made a crack about how she could become a call girl now that pregnancy was no possibility. She shot back, You want to pay me every time? adding, Don’t be a fucking boor, Bobby! He made a lame attempt to apologize. She left no doubt she was more than merely disappointed in him. He left.
He huddled in the bungalow. Rain fell. Maybe he should talk to a priest. Or see a shrink. He told Bonnington what had happened. The doctor said only Bobby knew why he thought such a remark would be received in the spirit he had intended, if he had, Bonnington added like a warning, then suggested Bobby might try reading Freud’s study of jokes and their relation to the unconscious. Such wit thee have no need of, Bobby reminded himself.
It was still raining when he made the street and started to enter the first coffee shop he came to. He saw Jacqui through the window, with another man. He made it to an overhanging eave, sagging against a wall, waiting for the downpour to ease. He was already working in his head on a story about a fool who fucks up his future by running his mouth.
He kept to himself all afternoon, writing. He made it autobiographical, as always when he chose a fool for his subject. In this story there were two. The fearless one he wanted to be (A) and the one he feared he would become (B). They were each other’s best friend. B moved to Mexico after A was drafted and died on patrol. Though he was 4-F, B claimed to be weary of the rain. In Mexico the protagonist began to think in the biblical argot that Bobby called Jesus-eeze, what going to mass had done to his own soul. Clearly, the fool had become a madman only, babbling in ingles and learning the espanol exceedingly slowly.
When he reached a stopping place, Bobby read through the Fool’s lines in King Lear. He put off adding any more to his own tale. Lear was someone he never understood. Maybe he’d marry Cathleen someday and have a daughter like Cordelia. But that required more suspension of disbelief than he was capable of . . . Still, they might have sons and only the one devoted to silence would love his father.
He slept and woke when Melindra entered without knocking. He was happy to see her and did not think of Cathleen any longer. Melindra said Rose had called her and wanted Bobby to sing for her. Rose had fought with Dave after steadfastly refusing again to marry him . . . or anyone, as Rose always added. What Rose was doing or going to do she didn’t say. They drove to Dave’s house, it was empty, and Rose had not been in the Black and Tan.
(29 March, 5 April 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander