Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Show rather than tell

He stared, not at the blood-red Dahlias staked tall and heavy against the next cloudburst, or the iridescent hummingbird flying guard over the the sugar-water feeder, or the giant swallowtail butterflies fluttering like folded scraps of tissue in the hot humid air. He stared, out the window, at the outside, and wondered if it was real, then rolled his wheelchair back in front of the television to watch Jeopardy.


We met beneath my house, an 1885 Victorian raised on cribbing to replace the old stone and mortar foundation. It seemed a fitting place, in the middle of the city, to have a ceremony. He was getting married tomorrow. The groom, best man, and six close friends were celebrating his last day as a bachelor.

We stood in a circle, arms over shoulders, and talked of the coming challenges. Most of us were married, had been married for years, and told stories of battles and wars waged between husbands and wives, and how to survive them.

“We need to mark this moment,” the groom declared, and we grumbled our assent.

We headed down the street, past the old church, the park, past the Odd Fellows, the Masons, to the fountain, and the little tattoo shop on the corner.

“Let’s all get a tattoo,” someone said.

I lagged behind, had never been inside a tattoo shop before, so followed after everyone else slipped through the door.

“Brotherhood,” the tattoo artist was explaining. “It’s the
Chinese symbol for brotherhood.”

One by one each man sat in the chair. It reminded me of a barber’s chair, might have been a barber’s chair. Then the buzz, the bravado smile, as the needle jabbed at the stencil, into the skin of his right shoulder. One by one, until it was my turn.

“Come on,” he said.

The tattoo artist cleaned his needles. I shook my head.

“Come on,” they said.

They grabbed me, started to drag me to the chair.

“Why not?” he asked.

I told them. Nobody in my family had a tattoo. None of my brothers, my father, my uncles, my grandfathers, none had ever gotten a tattoo. But the men still held me, still pulled me closer to the chair.

“Wait,” he said. “It’s important to him. Let him go.”

They didn’t, until he came and undid every hand that held me, telling them they had to respect my conviction.

I followed them out of the tattoo shop, each nursing their shirts back over their wounds, seven brothers and another.


Change is elusive, like the mosquito I see out the corner of my eye and disappears when I turn, only to wake the next morning with a bite.

“You’ve changed,” my friend says. He has nothing else to say and doesn’t call again.

Have I changed? I know I have. From what to what? I talk less. I listen more. I am not so sure of myself, not ready with the answer, the solution, the right way. Nothing bothers me. Little interests me. Each day is new, changed, the same.

Spring changes to summer changes to fall changes to winter. I flow with the seasons. Change is attachment to the difference between the past and the present, but I forgive now, let the past be, and the present is.

I am a raindrop, a stream, a pond. Change is not for me. Change is for those who remember, and dream.

whisper, eternity, soar, frantic, thousand, chain, live, lie

His was a whisper, closer, the heat of his cheek burning into hers.

“Why shouldn’t I,” she thought. “Forty-five is not old.” But her head echoed with another voice, “Hell is an eternity.” Still, she had waited, been patient, tried for 18 years in a marriage that was killing her.

He touched her shoulder. Her heart pounded, lightened her head. She let herself soar. He pushed open the door, went in, tugged at her arm. She floated behind him, the choice made with the click of the latch.

They were frantic, afraid, anxious. And then it was over.

Her disappointment welled, and a blink sped her life down her cheek. His eyes searched, found. He was gentle this time, generous, until a thousand petals burst into blossom, exploding the chain her father had locked.

She wept. He waited, held her. She melted into his arms. To live in this moment was everything. They slept. She woke. He was gone. Her heart ached. She smiled, knowing it would never happen again, knowing it was a lie.

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