Chapter 10: A World without a Prince
Close to 90 this Sunday in June in Albuquerque, but cooling off a bit now. It is not too hot yet for the botanical gardens; especially if you apply sunblock, look for shady places to rest, and drink plenty of water. Carmen and Isadora have taken charge of Carmen’s younger siblings. The five children are on a horse pulled wagon ride around the functional farming portion of the garden. Juanita and Sandy take a few minutes to relax in the rockers that are made to look old on the porch of the “farmhouse”. Sandy tells Juanita about her latest adventures in dating and Juanita’s shrieks of laughter can be heard through-out the quiet farming portion of the gardens.
Sandy: I don’t get it. I suggested we go out to coffee and he said everybody started out texting now so the first date isn’t so uncomfortable. I get that, but we never really said anything of meaning and suddenly it was Babe this and Honey that and then a picture of his junk. I mean, I guess, there’s a benefit to knowing what his junk looks like before you go out on the first date, but it seems to be getting the cart before the donkey, if you know what I mean.
Juanita wipes away the tears of laughter: The important thing is that you are trying.
Sandy: A guy came up to me at the bar the other night and introduced himself to me as John Travolta. I asked if that was really his name and he said he was hoping I was Olivia Newton John. Then, this other guy was talking to me and he seemed nice, a friend came up and interrupted him and he said “’can’t you see I’m starting a relationship with my next ex-girlfriend.”
Juanita: You make me glad I am married.
Sandy: I just think I am too old and I don’t understand the whole electronic, social media dating thing. I mean this hippie guy seemed like he was nice when I met him. How long do you date by texting? Should I have sent him a nude picture back?
Juanita: No! You have Mike for sex -if that’s what a guy wants. You need a real guy.
They sit for a few minutes in quiet. The temperature continues to gradually decline. Clouds are forming off in the distance for an afternoon thunderstorm. The horses pulling the wagon with the kids round the final corner on its way back to the farmhouse.
Sandy: This is a pleasant moment.
Juanita (pleased). It is a pleasant moment. I wish we had more of them.
Sandy: Do you believe in bliss?
Juanita: Believe in it? Of course.
Sandy: Have you experienced it?
Juanita: Of course.
Sandy: Is it blissful to have someone to grow old with? Or is that just a myth?
Juanita: It’s not a myth. It has a way of lingering in the background when you’re in love. How could my life be blissful with four kids? It’s chaotic and crazy and hard, but the day Bernie held his son, for the first time - just watching them was bliss. Or when the kids are finally all down for the night and Bernie’s fallen asleep on my side of the bed and I touch him and he makes room for me and wraps me in his arms without waking up. Something in the way he moves over to make room for me is bliss.
Sandy hasn’t told Juanita about the second song she wrote or the dulcimer she bought. Juanita is her best friend, but Sandy thinks it is probably best to keep the songs and poems secret for now. The more the songs and poems come to her, the more precious they seem to her. She thinks of them as something fragile - like a flower that could die when plucked or a peaceful afternoon broken by the sound of thunder. Those thoughts make Sandy laugh. She is becoming more poetic in her daily thoughts.
Father’s Day came and went. Isadora and Sandy bicycled to a yoga class and then stopped at a farmer’s market on their way home. There were no questions or comments from Isadora related to her father. Neither of them brought up fathers at all. Sandy again thinks about how grateful she is for Juanita; her children are almost like Isadora’s cousins. Isadora has a more meaningful family in some ways than Sandy had growing up. School is out for the summer and Carmen and Isadora wants to spend more time together. Isadora asks if she can spend the night tonight with Carmen and Sandy is happy to say yes. She is happy to know Isadora will be spending the night with a bunch of loud kids and seeing an adult couple in love and making marriage work.
She is, also, happy for some free Sunday time. It is a great opportunity for her to call Mike - get a little satisfaction, she thinks, but also thinks it might not be all that satisfying. She has been practicing the song “Bliss.” So instead of calling Mike, she goes home and plays the dulcimer. She is getting better. There are excellent online instructional videos and it is an instrument she took to better than she had the piano. The only two songs she is interested in playing are “Blue” and “Bliss.” How interesting, she thinks, those two B words are the absolute opposite of each other! She takes a lot of pride in her songs. Thoughts of the man she has dreamt of lingers with her. She thinks of how nice it felt to lean back in his arms. She suddenly thinks how decadent a long, full Sunday afternoon nap would be and stretches out on the couch.
Sandy wakes a full two hours later with a poem she considers far more complex and layered than her other poems or songs. It is different than the other poem and songs, but is still written by the rugged, handsome man. He does not take Sandy in his arms and she does not feel him rubbing his beard on her neck. Instead as she sees the words against the blue screen she is aware of his thoughts, his fears and his heart as if it has sat side by side with her thoughts, fears and heart in her body, mind and soul. She realizes his heart, soul, and mind had always been there in her dreams, but she was so good at pushing her own emotions away that she had done that, to some degree, with him as well. This poem has to be written by a man. In a strange way, it seems to be written by a man who is talking directly to her. She realizes she is breathing with difficulty and makes it a point to think: in and out, in and out. She grabs a pen and writes the words down quickly.
After she writes down the words of the poem, she leaves her writing on the table. She pours herself a glass of ice tea and takes it out to her balcony. The breeze has kicked up, the air has cooled down, and the smell of rain is in the air. The minutes before the storm begins suits her mood. Sandy focuses on the moment at hand. It is early for the monsoon season. Perhaps it will be a long season. Giant slow drops begin to fall- a couple on her, but mostly around her. At this stage of a monsoon storm, if you knew the right place to stand, you could avoid getting wet all together and could just watch the giant drops fall in slow motion and bounce off the ground. As with all moments, though, this moment of the storm is quickly gone. The breeze is a wind, the fall of the rain is quick, the drops are smaller, and there are more of them in closer proximity to each other. A moment later and the thunder begins, the torrential monsoon with the pounding, hard, hurtful slivers of water is at its full force. Sandy goes back inside. She leaves the balcony door open and turns off the swamp cooler. She returns and stands beside the open balcony door and stares mindlessly at the raindrops. She is no longer focused on the moment at hand. Her mind is quickly running through all the moments of her dreams on the blue screen; the poems and songs. Twenty minutes and the storm ends abruptly. If it was not for the lingering smell of rain in the air, you could delude yourself into thinking the storm had never happened. Sandy is grateful to smell the air. It centers her somehow. She is in the moment again. She watches a bird in a tree shake the rain off its wings. It is another peaceful Sunday in Albuquerque and there is nothing unusual in the day. Sandy tells herself this a few times as if it is a mantra. Finally she sits down cross legged and begins the breathing exercises she usually starts out with in the morning. Inhale/exhale; concentrate on the breathing. This is a great way to calm herself. After twenty minutes, she considers herself calm enough to look at reality more clearly.
Sandy realizes that she always knew in a part of her brain that she could not suddenly be waking up with poems and country songs written in her sleep. Really? She is writing songs from a man’s perspective and with a history and background she knows nothing about and she is writing them while she sleeps! She doesn’t even listen to country music. She doesn’t even read poetry. It is absurd! Sandy realizes she had decided to believe the absurd because all the alternatives were crazy. If the most believable scenario is absurd, then what? She forces her brain to consider the crazier alternatives. Remembering the Browning poem related to reincarnation, she thinks, this could be a voice from a past life. Sandy had grown up Episcopalian, but hasn’t been to church in a while. It is not in her nature to spend time pondering spiritualism. Reincarnation and another voice from the past speaking through her is not possible. Is it? She thinks she could be experiencing multiple personalities, right? This could be another identity in which case she is truly crazy and will likely be hospitalized soon. For some reason, this seems the more plausible; albeit the most unpleasant scenario. Could it really be a man, a real man, is coming to her in her sleep and using her to write poems and songs? Why? Is he in a coma? Is he unable to speak or write himself? Is it someone with whom she somehow has a bond? She thinks of Isadora’s father and her heart leaps, but she knows his life’s story. These poems and songs are not his or Mike’s. The simplest answer, she thinks, is still that I am actually the one writing them and for some reason I have made up this guy in my dreams.
She feels she is now ready to read the poem she has “written” this afternoon. The poem is titled “Uncommonly Handsome Common Man.” She likes that he is handsome; whoever he is. The first paragraph is about flirtation. She reasons that she has experienced some of that recently. She had been talking about it to Juanita this very afternoon. Ok- this is where that came from. She laughs at his arrogance, his self-assurance. What an attractive trait in a man! She could see herself writing this first stanza and making up this handsome, flirtatious, and arrogant man.
The rest of the poem portrays a man who is wounded, damaged, scarred. He doesn’t believe in himself except for his good looks. He blames himself for breaking women’s hearts. He doesn’t trust himself not to break another woman’s heart. He doesn’t think he could stand being responsible for breaking the heart of someone else he loves. He wants to believe that he could confess in advance, admit all his faults, make sure she knows how difficult it is for him to be the knight every woman wants and, maybe then, only then, could he risk falling in love again. Sandy has never broken anyone’s heart. She is sure of it. There is no way she could have written this poem. The thoughts and the concepts are too foreign to her to have imagined. They are not foreign now, she realizes. She knows this man so well. Her heart bleeds for him as much as it had when she wrote the “Bliss” song. Somehow, these foreign emotions and thoughts are now part of her understanding, fears and dreams, but they are not from her. She understands them as if someone had spent great care in explaining them to her, but she couldn’t own them as her own.
She reads the poem again with a more critical eye. It reminds her of the poems of Browning. This poem cannot be hers. It is too good for her to have written it. She picks up her phone to start googling. There has to be a psychic specializing in these types of things in Albuquerque.