I suppose that it is time for such a thing to happen. The world has not completely stopped, just taken a sabbatical during the pandemic and virus recovery attempts. Along the way a lot of people have perished. Many of them from the virus and many others in the normal course of life’s medical tragedies that seem suddenly less than immediate, but just as certain as, well, taxes.
I am in the vein of reality where mortality is upon me in a way that brings it all truly home. My spirit demands a sudden accounting of things as I read of the death of a former lover. Approaching my sixtieth birthday in July, an age that my Father did not reach successfully, I am pondering the absence of a woman with whom I once lay generously and passionately for hours and days without beginning or end. Her smile and warmth and coming alongside me in general conversations of daily being and faith explorations gave me a toe hold on the person that I am today. We once turned the morning into awakening with ravenous hungers and physical bonding before surrendering to the start of day. Even now, her body long gone from me; married and surrendering to a spouse; she gives me pleasure and expectation, as I page thru the mornings with others.
Gone. Dead. Passed. Deceased. Succumbed.
She called me not long before her death and asked if I still wanted a particular thing that we once found in a resale shop. It was right there; in her hand; rusted and seized up, as useless as the one we found over fifteen years ago on a lunch side trip. Next to the BBQ place, across a slanted parking lot with a slow-cranking, red and white sign and $30 box springs out front, the wide store windows burped with metal shelves and promise. We left the foil-wrapped food on the car seat and browsed for what she called, “another man’s trash”. Two aisles into our browsing she yelled out to me, “Got IT!” and ran to me with a Smith-Corona manual typewriter. “Fix it up and write me poetry. All for the low-low price of $10 …and rust dust on both our clothes and the back seat of my car.
Later that day, with the office abuzz with some manner of team building, maybe a baby or wedding shower that overtook the conference room, she called me with a request. “Can you come to my office? Well, actually. Can you meet me in the stairwell while this party is going on?” I headed straight over and rode the elevator up to the floor below her office and entered the stairwell for the meet up. She asked if I had written anything yet on the seized up device from lunch. “Nope”. She lifted her navy and white polka-dotted dress and I read, MUSE, written in White-Out on her thighs.
That’s where we found ourselves frequently for much of the next year. Getting caught by stair runners and pretending to share a quick smoke, before the days of twenty-five feet from the building entrance smoking areas. Soon enough the novelty of sneaking off ran its course and our lives succumbed to other relationships and marriages and our growing kids from previous relationships. But, still, she called, all those years later with a familiar tone across the phone lines. “I found another one. You want it? I can send it to you…or you can come get it (laugh). She wasn’t close. Our kids were making kids. That office building has long since started securing the stairwell with digital codes. I couldn’t take off in the middle of the day. I held onto the MUSE through numerous relationships. There were years to add to that story.
Social Media came around and phones changed into cameras and messages could be secreted to anyone at anytime. In the middle of the night I received her breasts and a recording about how much they would be missed. “But, you can remember them like this”. A little while later, months later, she asked for my body’s picture. Later still, she asked if I remembered the White Out; unlit cigarettes and the guy who watched from the next floor up.
In the mail one weekend was a manilla envelope. Inside a sandwich bag was littered with slivers and squares of nylon, silk and cotton fabric that had been sprayed with perfume and had a Victoria’s Secret tag taped to the outside. No return address needed. There were twenty-two pieces: it had been twenty-two years since we last touched. I did not reach back to confirm or celebrate or figure out a flight to nowhere. I put the whole thing in my side table and waited out the unavoidable.
I really do hate Social Media and the insensitive nature of calling out the dead. Memorials of life started populating my timeline within the next few weeks. I guess nobody knows that you are leaving behind lovers when laying hold of your image and videos of your voice…laughter…wedding…graying into a sexy grandma. There is no reason to consider who kissed the dead or found them in delight…read their thighs…felt their breath and bite and exhale.
The ways of the World do not consider your becoming years or fathom a guess at the worth and waning melody of finding yourself suddenly mortal. Unlike a parent or relative; elderly or neighborhood or College roommate’s passing, the first time you lose a lover is a sobering affair. Your bodies are forever linked with shared muscle and fluid exchanges. There is grace and homecoming ending forevermore. And, there is an upturned calendar, hourglass and ticking…ticking…and time running toward you, now. Suddenly, it is possible that you, too, could breathe no more into the memory of someone special.
.Jas Mardis is a 2014 Texas Literary Hall of Fame inductee and a Fabric and Pyrography Artist .