In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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An abrupt change in the weather. It’s colder than it’s been in weeks. Shivering, I hunt for an extra sweater, some socks. The first sentence of Spring, lyric and pure, winding lazily around itself, ends with a chilly gust.
A small thing, a change in weather. Yet the whole body responds; the mind sends forth memories, turns the day like a smooth stone, sends it skipping over the waters. Such strange weathers in us — sudden squalls, a rain of blood or heaven’s sorrowless tears, longings that lift the roof of the heart. Who knows what’s next? When are they right, those who say they know?
On my thirty-seventh birthday, the weather kept changing, clouds racing across the sky, a little rain, sunshine. The day had the flavor of time passing, weathers bitter and sweet — those mornings you think you’ll last forever, outlast the earth, the sea, the light itself; those nights when the lips of the world compress into a tight little “no”; everything between weeping and laughing, moods subtle as a wisp of hair raised by a breeze.
Questions were raised: sitting by a lake with the woman I love, I was startled by an approaching car. We were the only people there, and the car had slowed down for no apparent reason. Danger, my intuition blared. Ignore it, she whispered, wrapping her arms around me, and when I didn’t, she added, “He’s here to make love to his lady, too, or he’s here to hurt us: take your choice.” I’d been talking about how we create our own reality; what now? I couldn’t see who else was in the car — a woman, perhaps, or no one, or another man, or two men, or three — nor could I tell whether he’d just seen my half-naked lover or the both of us: take your choice. Was I more afraid of trouble than I was troubled by appearing afraid? Was her innocence, or my quickened breathing, the deeper wisdom? Or was this just the old breath of the city in me, the New York winter that never ends, narrowing eyes against the wind, suspicious, and with good reason, or so reason suggests.
He stopped near us. I still couldn’t see if there was anyone else in the car, because we were at the bottom of an embankment. A tall fence separated us from the road — we’d crawled under it, on the other side of the lake — so there was no way for him to get closer. There was no way of telling if he wanted to; he turned and drove away.
A small thing, yet the mind turns it over: rape, death, innocence, arrogance, history’s fist, eternity’s flower. No answers, though the mind digs for some bone of Truth. The sunset is a blood-soaked rag.
A few days later, I don’t go to the World Peace March, though I do, half-heartedly, sign a disarmament petition that’s thrust into my hands; that’s about as daring an act as sleeping late on Sunday morning. Of course, I’m against war. But the violence isn’t in the head of a missile; it’s in our own heads. The gangs that roam the glass-littered streets inside the human spirit, inside me, inside you: do you run from them? face them down? sign a petition? Are there ten of them, or three of them, or two, or is it just a man and a woman? Are they fighting or making love? The dark tears in her, the silver nail he hammers home, the old grief like ivy climbing the walls of their lives, the bite and the kiss: is that love, or war? Are you kind, or cruel? Do you want a fence between you and the Russian soldier? Is he here to make love to his lady or to sell you souvenirs from Afghanistan? Or to reach through, with hands capable of anything?