Self Conscious, the J Eric Miller blog

Sunday, March 27, 2005

a friend indeed

…A friend from a time when I made little friends calls me in the late Saturday night, from some sleep I’m fortunate to find, and the phone rings, this girl calling in the rain, outside a bar, I can hear the water and the music and the people, a little drunk this friend, and what she says is, she’s got a ride home, but she’d rather have a ride from someone else.

And it makes me feel good to know that I can be that somebody else, that at two thirty in the morning you might call me, not just for a ride, but a particular kind of ride, a particular kind of company. This friend whose just been through an auto accident, who is afraid now of driving even when the rain doesn’t pour, she’s going to feel safest with me.

I pull up sleepy eyed, and she comes running out of the bar, all black hair and red shirt, all cleavage and attitude and smile, her little crowd of fans at the plastic patio windows, and I wonder if she even really knows how it is, almost like a butterfly, so innocent of her attractiveness, almost unaware, but then again, if she were unaware, she wouldn’t choose that shirt, those pants, this girl who gets into the cab of the truck, where it is warm, who brings the smell of liquor and smoke and the deeper scent of her perfume and of her; this girl who is a mixture of calculated and accidental beauty.

And the boys press their nose against the plastic and think seedy things and she never stops smiling, wiping the water from her face, shaking out her hair, and it’s warm in here, and the rain falls hard and the conversation, this drive home, it’s good.

I think how lucky it is for both that something between us survived that meeting in a bar, so few things, including my first marriage, that begin that way do, and fewer yet the oversexed openings of half drunk kisses and wherever they may lead.

And yet here we are, in the comfort of something that has evolved into full on friendship, each a person to whom the other can speak honestly, and in soft voices against the beating of the rain, we do.

She’s telling me about the accident again, how it made her feel, this thing that repeats itself in her mind, sudden mortality, absolute chaos…

She’s telling me about the summer before when we met and how we went to a fountain in a square and got wet, and along with everything she says, she is smiling, no bitterness in this girl.

She says, I’m taking stock of my life, taking stock of this last year.
And I think, Yes, taking stock.

She’s telling me about the trauma in which we met.

This last year.

(A year ago, I woke every morning as if to a sonic boom.
All around me, everything was shaking.
Every day was a sleepwalk day.
I was living in a vacuum.

{Even if you tell her to go, this is what she leaves, the empty space where her body has been; even if you doubt your love—and it was dumb to doubt your love but then again if you doubted it, was it love?—there is still the habit of her to break; so she’s gone because you’ve asked for her absence, and in that following dark, after the slamming of the door, this girl you loved with and without doubt, this girl to whom afterwards you will always bitterly refer to as the stripper ex, when in reality you know they want to be called dancers, when in reality, she is not reduced by a long shot to that profession in your mind, this thing you call her justthesame because reduction is in fact necessary, when this girl, this wife, is gone you will miss her, and your will romanticize her, the way you do the places you’ve been and the people you’ve been with}.

How do you come to termsl with your choices? You try to make them right.

And perhaps my choice was right.
But in the resulting confusion of decisions made big, I assumed that my desire to separate myself from this second wife, this dancer, this stripper, this unreducable entity, was because I wanted to trade one for the many.

And Darwin winds his clock.

But if it was right, that choice, it wasn’t based on that kind of trade.The choice to be justified, it has to be the one for the none.

{“I wanted so much/to have nothing to touch/I’ve always been greedy that way.”}

Only I didn’t know it. Or want to face that knowledge. Or myself all alone.

Those nights of furious dating. You wait for the girl to see through you. The rattle of your laugh. The distance in your eyes. Something, anything. To ferret out the mechanics of the fucking. That you weren’t really there. That’s the secret you’re keeping, but so well that even you yourself won’t admit to knowing it. That’s me a year ago, in the aftermath of another divorce. These things compound upon each other. Soon, you get to suffer every goodbye in each subsequent goodbye.

Your life is about reverberation, echo, aftershock.

That’s me in the later winter and early spring; that’s me in the summer.Working up a proper face, a proper costume with which to go out into the night, to take some girl by the hand, anything at all to keep away from being alone with my thoughts.

Like any period of sickness. Or maybe that was recovery. What is sickness but the process of recovery? Or complete loss.

(It will go one way or the other. You’d better know when you take the field that this is a battle to the death.)

Waiting for someone to unmask you.
Someone to remind you that you’re not ready for any of this.
That you ought to go ahead and just face your demons.
Survive your exorcism.
And so on.
That’s you pressed against some girl and in the center of that pressing, or maybe around it’s edges, there’s always the moment that feels like epiphany, that perhaps illusionary moment when you feel somehow torn open, somehow seen inside of, and you believe in communion, in bonding, you could be those candle figures with a single wick burned to melt together.

{No wonder the French call it the little death}

And if she won’t ferret the truth out, you will.
Those zombie days of deaf and dumb hollow head walking, when your eyes catch on anything and stay without any real reason. Those furious nights of serial dating.)

We’re driving in the rain, the heater on, the music light, the company of a friendship that was born in the heart of that old storm, the easy voice of a rare person I know to trust, red shirted and black haired, that smile she really doesn’t know, it's so natural, like the lines on her hand.

She’s telling me about her boyfriend, she’s telling me about her accident.
You feel her embracing the world. The energy of more than youth.

And I take stock of the last year, as if she is there to ask me to do that.

(What do I have to my name?
An flat and wide screened television.
A thousand dvd’s.
These are my valuables.
The things I carry.
I’ve gained another divorce.
Survived pneumonia.

And now it is spring again, of a new year in which nothing really terrible has happened.
This 2005.
This year in which from time to time I’ve even acted wisely.
Who knows, it could be the best year of my adult life.

[No year will equal that of a childhood year.])

This last year, when we met, this white smiled girl and I, in trauma, and this new year, when we survive sickness and accident, and are ready to take stock.

And we arrive, and sit talking for awhile longer, this cleaner communion, one more real, that doesn’t require any grasping, any gasping, anything at all but the ease from which almost all good moments are born, I think about us, the two of us, good enough people in the end, really, and how we’re both ok, at this moment, and, even, in the context of our lives.

I think about the simple pleasure of friendship, that more rare than we know thing.