Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Enjoy "Too Distant For Pain" from Reflections of Connie: Memories of a Sundered Love


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Note: Linked endnotes go to a Google document.

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Too Distant For Pain~

I was raised, believe it or not, in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. It was one of his lesser-known designs, for a family of lesser, though by no means absent, wealth. Oddly enough, it was located, of all places, not in Wisconsin or Chicago, but in the countryside five miles outside the small but growing town of Fort Collins, Colorado. The home stood[9] on a well-landscaped acre of lawn at the summit of a very gently rising hill, which gave us, the Helbert family, a lovely view of Fort Collins and the surrounding farmland.
The back yard could be accessed through a large sliding-glass door which led to stairs, at the bottom of which was a square, roofed porch at least as large in area as the last apartment I, the adult writing this, lived in. It was nighttime when I glanced out the large double panes of glass, then unlocked and opened the door proper. The air was cool and pine-scented from the blue spruce growing just out of range of the soft yellow glow coming through the curtained living-room windows. I stepped outside and slid the door closed behind me.
The yard beyond was ink-black, as though the lights from the house dared not penetrate it. Despite that, I didn’t feel fear stepping from the porch into the darkness. The soft grass felt cool on my bare feet.
I looked up. The stars were like tiny white pinpricks through a distant heavenly drive-in movie screen. They shimmered like my young spirit, too far away for pain, too far away to know death. Presently I looked down and stopped breathing. Connie was standing there, right in front of me, looking very sweetly and seriously up at me.
“I love you,” she said, very quietly. She reached up for me, coming to her tippy-toes, her hands coming to rest on my shoulders.
She kissed me, very softly, on my cheek.
I woke. My emotions erupted like a volcano from deep within me, and I began to sob.
It had only been a dream. Even so, I knew—somehow—that we had just shared that dream, that it wasn’t just mine; that in her sleep, as she surely slept this late hour, as I had just been, that she had experienced the very same thing, that she had just kissed me. I knew.[10]
Something else added to the tears, though. It was cold fear, because I urgently, urgently loved her in return, which meant that the stars weren’t at all too distant for pain. I could no longer be ignorant of pain or death—even if I wanted to be.
~~*~~
I spoke earlier about how very few adults possess the courage necessary to truly love. I stand by that statement. Fill a room with 10,000 randomly selected adults, and perhaps—perhaps—one of them will have the backbone to truly love. I didn’t know how daunting the real article was upon waking from that dream, but beyond its crystalline certainty, as well as the ecstasy from that kiss, which was so real that today I can still feel it when so many others’ kisses, which came of course in the years following, are but shadowy impressions in comparison, I walked away from its vision with a novice’s understanding of what was involved, what the risks were. But I was ten years old. I was growing up in every sense of the word: spiritually being the most pertinent. The risks were far beyond the understanding of one so young, but not so much that their warning, breathed into my ear as her lips pressed soft as a butterfly’s wings to my cheek, didn’t tickle my adrenal glands. What if I lost Connie? What if she suddenly lost interest in me? What if she found some other guy to hang out with? How could I handle it? This wasn’t the same thing I’d felt when the subject of Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson came up. This was much greater, much more potent and clear and present.
Years later, I can clearly see that what most adults call love is nothing more than safety colorfully packaged. It’s suburban complacency offered as genuine comfort. It’s settling, which is proffered as excitement and adventure. It’s dollars and cents (sense?) offered as riches and sanity. It’s stale, stifled air offered as passion. It’s “My biological clock is tick-tick-ticking!”[11] offered as judicious rationale for being with someone. It’s herd-approved possessiveness masquerading as authentic affection. What it isn’t is love.[12]
Sitting up in bed, my face soaked with tears, my understanding of the world, of myself, had taken a quantum leap forward. I knew it then, though I had no sense of the specific direction that understanding had leapt, only that it had. It was like being blindfolded, then launched in a hang glider off a cliff somewhere. I had flown sightless for a great distance, and had, miraculously, safely landed; but I was unsure where I had gone and had no idea how to remove the blindfold. It was just like that. Connie’s kiss—maddeningly, terrifyingly, beautifully—gave that to me.
~~*~~
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me
~~*~~
There are pieces, glimpses of my past. They come to me when I’m falling asleep, or when the sunlight strikes a blind just so, the lengthening shadows of the day stretching across my bedroom … They tickle my spirit when I smell stews and soups, or the fresh, chill kiss of pine at Christmas, or when I walk into a movie theatre.
One golden Saturday afternoon Mom drove me and my best friend Kenny to the Fox theatre for a matinee. We went to see Lady and the Tramp. Both of us had never seen it, and were very excited. We jumped out of the back of the station wagon and hurried inside the big glass double doors.
The Fox Theatre was glorious.[13] It had a tremendous marquee and ornate red interior and a concession stand that seemed to run for half a mile, ending only at the bathrooms in the back. The place smelled of popcorn and Junior Mints and my favorite, Flicks. They came in colorful thin tubes and looked like flat discs and tasted like heaven. I got some of those; Kenny grabbed a large popcorn and soda, and, loaded down with our daily requirement of sugar, salt, and fat, we hurried to get a good seat. There were lots of kids there that day,[14] so it took a while to find two decent seats together.
The movie would, of course, and as I am sure you are already thinking you know exactly why, make a huge impression on me. It was the spaghetti scene. I’m sure you remember it.
It was Connie and I—as dogs!
I remember coming home after the movie, eating dinner, then walking outside to the back yard, to the exact spot where Connie had kissed me in my dream just a few weeks earlier. I remember gazing up at the stars; I remember today precisely how they looked. I stood there, my head thrown back, wondering how I was going take another breath as glorious as the one I was holding that very moment in my lungs, or feel as intensely the cool, almost biting late-fall breezes on my cheeks, or how I was going to get to sleep later, when I knew sleep had been banished from my being until it could guarantee I’d never forget the milliseconds that flitted about me like excited miller moths, vanishing and reappearing, free of mortal constraints, milliseconds that played down the nape of my bare neck and teased the crown of my head. How was I going to sleep later—feeling like this?
But mostly: How was I going to get Connie to share a single plate of spaghetti with me, one that somehow held an unbroken two-foot-long noodle that we’d somehow start eating at the same time, unaware that the other was doing so, pulling our faces inexorably together as we looked away until our lips met?

~~*~~