"How are you? How did your week go?"
"Well, Monday went well. After our session, which was a good one I thought, I walked down to the bike shop to pick up my old steed, and it was so nice riding back from 14th Street. It's such a good feeling being on a bike. But anyway, the next day was the anniversary of my father's birthday, so that was a hard day. Monday night was hard enough with the jazz night, so anyway, by the time I was ready to go to work, I wished I had more time. But I got to the woods, got off my bike, called my dad's Patricia and we had a nice talk. 'I still talk to him,' she said, 'but he doesn't answer me.' Sweet lady. I stopped at the stream for a moment, looked up at the trees, though of him, and then I called my mom. And she was great. She said she was sorry she was so hard on him, but how that's what wives do...
"But she said an interesting thing. As I'm walking up the road behind Dumbarton Oaks, which was that my brother would always speak for me. She said, that's why we got you that punching bag, because he was always bullying you. And I said how he was kind to me, protective, all that sort of stuff, but it's always been hard to talk, you know, if I think about it, around him. Like once I was talking in the kitchen looking out the sliding glass door at the bird feeder and the apple tree about how it would be nice if we could go back to old fashioned cars and horse and buggies, and got rid of all the polluting mechanized modern stuff, and there he was like a debate team, older, smarter, well spoken, picking my arguments apart how ridiculous I was, when really it was just one of those intuitive poetic thoughts that comes out of your bloodstream as you look at a budding apple tree, just one of those errant thoughts. I mean, it may have been what I believed in, and indeed looking at it now forty years later, maybe I wasn't so completely off. Look at biodynamic vineyards, and foresting with oxen... Global warming... But I remember feeling stupid, and taking my arguments away and sitting by the stream or something and didn't talk about it again.
"But I said to my mom, yes, it was like when we were having dinner at the restaurant with our cousin and Bob and he was talking about the Tour and actually riding the Tourmalet with his buddies and he totally took it over and he's not ridden a bike in twenty years... I mean, I appreciate he's interested in it, that we can talk about it. In a way, yes, it's good to have a spokesman, a strong eloquent voice, but you know... There I go, off to college. And I have to talk for myself. Speak up. What do I want. How do I say it. And maybe by then that sort of being cowed by a bigger stronger handsome funny engaging guy sort of led me off into the ways I would express myself. Like with my guitar, or out in nature on my bike going past cows and cornfields and ridges above towns. Or, yeah, when I wrote. Early on I was a decent writer. And once I even made a speech about being a scholar for a high school assembly for the honor society, saying everyone was a scholar as long as you're curious. Anyway... Yeah, I wrote this piece about the reservoir down the road, the town didn't use it anymore, and the water was green and there was a heron that would come, and dusk when the bats would come out after the kingfishers, my Walden Pond, and my teacher came to me and said it was really good and got it published in the high school paper... One of my few triumphs in life, ha ha ha.
"But I was doing a good job at it, speaking up for myself. I had lots of friends, became buddies with guys from the classes above me, doing well as far as the courses I was taking... you know, finding myself. Doing all the things you're supposed to be doing.... And then came the split, moving out of the house, parents going off on their own, different apartments, my mom having to figure it all out. Stuff you have to accept. All for the best. We had good times. Now move on, it's different now, and then people don't talk anymore.
"And somewhere along comes this beautiful girl. Just someone I wanted to be with, on all levels, a huge kick just to sit next too. And you know, you feel it when you want to talk to someone. It's like beneath, just beneath your skin, your hide, beneath the fascia, the layer of fat, the thickness that grows over you, just beneath the surface there is this vibrant electric being. Like the spiritual essence of who you are.
"And we all live in coffin-like boxes, like wooden boxes, and we try to be polite and silent and say just the appropriate things, but it's like there's this light, and it escapes out of us. You can't help it. Maybe it comes out as light, as beams one might intuitively sense, like when you want to hold someone's hand or just touch it. Or maybe it comes out as a few squeezed words choked out, not many, but having to hold a lot of meaning, expressive. All the things you want to say. You want the time, the opportunity, the right place, the right way, the right circumstances to say them. You can even think, I need a million bucks first, and then I'll say them, but there's this inner body of man... And you have to express things somehow. And that's why I like writing English papers, like, taking apart a poem line by line, because that was getting close to the source of light and all. All that vibrating twirling energy just below the surface... Eliot's 'infinitely gentle infinitely suffering thing...' It comes out as bitten lips and sore eyes and sad looks down toward the ground, just as much as it comes out in the normal hunky dory way. A million different ways. Intuitively understood, no matter how you might try to block it or the understanding part. Everyone is going to get it, sooner or later.
"And that's my great failure. Before that even I guess I was so frustrated, like missing all my chances with her, fucking them all up, by accident really, I couldn't even write papers anymore. I couldn't write her, I couldn't talk to her, couldn't run into her, couldn't even see her in the dining hall, all if I were some sort of a creep, like I was ogling her or doing something inappropriate. Which I wasn't... Just couldn't talk, didn't have my brother around to speak for me, and he's always understood me so I can't complain. That's how I came out into the world, being completely shut-down. Not being able to speak for myself, not able to say, 'hey, would you like to for a walk...' I'd try, and I felt we'd established enough to speak openly and honestly, but she would shut me down.
"I even remember saying to her once over the phone, when she proposed meeting for lunch so she could explain the situation to me, how I never say anything anyway... Hmm.
"So how the hell would I ever be able to express myself, to even figure out what I wanted to do now with my life, all along with the silent electric inner being just below the surface kind of wanting to cry out in some like animal pain. And the few words I said, like, 'crazy to bring flowers to a beautiful girl' would repeat themselves in my idiot head as I went about the daily crap I had to deal with keeping some rotten shitty job way beneath me making no protest just sort of accepting, lying down with dogs, getting fleas. Taking my goodness and my body of light to go and stand in front of people, wait on them, talk to them. Because I didn't know what else to do.
"It helped to read the Gospels. That bit about not hiding your light under a basket, the wedding party, the groom... So that's why I wrote a book, with a spiritual element in it, because reading The Brother's Karamazov helped me somehow, like, this is life, you have to express yourself, even if it's all gone to hell for me and it will never be right. It has such a strong inner form, so it has to have an outer form, even if it's like anonymous or something.
"God, at the end of a week putting up with it all I just want to lay down and not get up, just nap like Jesus did, now all that light you have being banded into a sort of substitute life, no longer any girl to express it to, the personal wish and desire so sadly gone, so abandoned, left like an old drive-in movie theater to be overgrown by grass and fall apart, so all your left is sort of Jesus mutterings, as if you could really help the world or had a single teaching that made any sense. Cold comfort...
"I just feel so awful. But I did my job as a writer. Just didn't get me anywhere."
I crossed my legs, looked back at her, reached over and took a sip of water from my red cup.
"Yes, sometimes I sleep all day, and then I'll wake up finally, and I wonder about that spiritual being caught in the cage, how he can never say much to defend himself. It's like he feels it's just him, that's all I am, the body of light, doesn't own anything, hasn't achieved anything, so conventionally what does he deserve? He's not making a hundred thousand dollars a year, what could he possibly do to provide for anybody, and all he can seem to do is sell his own labor for food and health insurance. That's what you get for honoring that inner being.
"I wonder, is the only way out for the psyche, whatever you want to call it, to honor it, and by honoring it do you find yourself getting really serious and saying to those who deserve it, 'Thou hypocrite, enough,' and going down that path, and where does that one end up? Do you knock over the money changer's tables, do you sit down like the Buddha under a tree, what? Will they throw you into the funny farm and toss away the key, for taking things too personally, as it were. I don't know."