September 23rd –the first kiss of fall and there’s a noticeable blush on the face of the trees. Halloween decorations, along with a scant amount of loosened leaves, gradually litter the golf grass lawns of Kelley’s Point. Two more creative G-rated displays have appeared suddenly out of nowhere, like unique spider webs spun secretly in the night. Fresh-faced children—fed, scrubbed, and combed—making their way to the school bus stop are filled with obvious delight. A tiny sprig of a girl and her handsome older brother are flapping their hands and laughing at a burping pumpkin face which appears to be sweating in the morning dew. I always think of this initial seasonal phase as the prodomal period before the full onset of Christmas fever.
I like it.
As a writer, I continue to observe the little flock until at last they disappear inside of an enormous yellow school bus and roll away. A loud pop is followed by a puff of thick black smoke. I think of time machines.
The exhaust finally clears and a harvest of apples and hay greets my nose. There’s an orchard nearby.
Immediately, an unidentifiable something quickens my heart. I won’t discover the exact nature of any vague notion until I write it out—that’s how it works—an inexplicable invisible finger always poke-poke-poking at my soul. This whatever it is (a possession, a haunting, a mental illness?), hasn’t made me famous or rich but has only gotten me into worsening trouble through the years. In fact, someone “official” recently told me that I’m a useless daydreamer and I almost took it for a compliment.
I give the babies one more thought, their innocence rolling away, day by day by day. Come back, I want to say. Don’t go, not yet. Please stay. Let me watch you run and play. Forever.
Adult Peter Pans are deadpans. Walking dead men. I’m thinking of someone. Conforming. Uniforming. Brown-nosing. Deforming. Rotting. Losing brain cells to CNN. A lump. A self-righteous galumph. Unnecessarily preachy. Over-reachy. Too heavy with responsibility, unable to fly, thick mustached, baggy eyed, saggy eyed, red eyed, an old hound dog of a guy who sleeps too much and without dreams, who barks at nothing, burnt coffee on his breath because he’s too cheap to brew something fresh, merely paying the bills, suffering from a sad loss of wonder, no more thrills, arms folded with nothing constructive or imaginative to say.
Truancy is skipping school without a good reason. My argument for the kids this morning: ‘Tis the season! Children grow up swifter than the morning sun rises in the sky or the white ice frosting disappears from the grass. Let them stay. Let them play. Just a little longer. Let them enjoy the temporary lack of accountability that comes with a purposeful wide berth of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
I couldn’t wait to return home from school, especially during the fall. Years ago, about this time of year, long before online shopping, hard copy Christmas catalogs from Sears and JCPenney and Toys R Us would arrive, blossoming faithfully on living room couches and kitchen tables all across America. My birthday came in October, so I was able to choose my gift thoroughly and carefully, searching every exciting glossy page over and over, a single toy request followed by a longer list for December, double the pleasure. My siblings were jealous. They called me a big fat catalog hog. Admittedly, this was an accurate accusation—especially after I turned twelve and felt a unavoidable curiosity toward the women’s lingerie section. I remember hiding in the bathroom and staring hard at the mysterious, beautiful, captivating curves of women, drawn to picture after picture of almost translucent bras, sheer pantyhose, silk panties, and satin Teddies. I felt the butterfly stomach pangs of a paper crush. I was controlled by a fascination for a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman. I don’t know why but I named her Carol. Although Carol had made many repeat appearances, there was one holiday moment that put me in an instant trance. She showed up in a morning scene wearing modest but sexy flannel pajamas and sipping on a cup of hot coffee. The look on her face—her countenance—why was she smiling at me that way? Oh love, love, love! I was drawn to her mouth. I hadn’t kissed anyone yet because I thought it was slobbery and gross but, suddenly, I really, really, really wanted to kiss her. I couldn’t stop thinking about it—her setting the mug down, stepping into my arms.
I wanted to write about it, her, us. Our secret passion.
One Saturday afternoon, something truly frightening happened around Halloween. I was spending some quality time with Carol on the toilet. Hands free, out of nowhere, I began to experience deep, internal, unexpected contractions followed by a curious, piercing, eye-twitching, squirting mess. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stop it from coming and, it was so intense, I literally thought I was about to split in half down there. Pending death wasn’t supposed to feel so good, right? Right? RIGHT? The sound I made came as a surprised yelp. I could no longer see Carol’s face behind the scary, stinky, pearly, white slime. She was my first.
Whoever is brave enough to read this, please forgive my honesty. TMI. I know, I know, I know.
Listen to this.
There was a bang, bang, bang on the bathroom door. I about jumped out of my skin, my belt buckle jingling and giving me away. I scrambled for cover, hoping I had remembered to lock the crooked door which allowed for a limited peek at the very least. My brother was yelling from the other side. I was mortified. He was only a few feet away from my horrible, wonderful, embarrassing discovery.
Catalog hog! Catalog hog! Only pretending to be dropping a log!
That’s exactly how Adam must’ve felt after he’d taken a bite of the forbidden fruit in the Garden. A draining of all color. Abject humiliation. A newfound carnal knowledge. A strange kind of awe. Trying to hide the fresh spurts of sin on page 58. I tried to clean it off while imagining Eve, wearing the flannel pajamas from blessed Sears, sipping on coffee, watching Adam, her breast’s robust and glorious, smiling at at her man just like Carol smiled at me. How could he have possibly resisted?
Didn’t the Creator of humankind make it that way? This life-altering attraction?
Even the children. The never-ending temptation and overpowering desire for sugary treats. Little Adam’s and Eve’s biting into candied apples in their individual temporary paradises of innocence.
Halloween is followed shortly by Christmas. The devil first, innocence lost, and the inevitable, undeniable need for a Savior. In that order.
Nobody ever dresses like Christ at Halloween, wearing His robes of righteousness, or anointing themselves with frankincense. No, no. This is the season of grave clothes—strips of mummy wrap and the need for a burial spice of myrrh. Death stinks extra much if not tended to with care.
Today, many birthdays later, I’m reviewing the catalog of my life. I’ve disrobed many women; among them: one with black hair who glares back at me with a seething hatred, one with brown hair who stares at me with a terrible sorrow and disappointment, and another with blond hair who repairs me. Her blue eyes are smiling at me over a cup of coffee. She opened the front door as I completed my morning walk, wearing nothing but a see-through thong stitched with skull and crossbones and a tight T-shirt, no bra. I didn’t have to guess what lies beneath.
Where do I go from here? What can I possibly say?
The invisible finger is now poking me in the eye. Privately, in the writing room, I’m starting to cry. I think of the children, all of them growing up, the Cain’s, the Abel’s, the precious daughters of men like me who’ve succumbed to every fleshly impulse in a supposedly spiritual search which has only harmed others in the end. Maybe one day will reveal an answer that matters, a 500 page apology, bound in a book for all to see, something about the essence of life and how to live forever.
She’s my heaven. Her name isn’t Carol. It’s Christina, which comes from the simple Latin feminine form, Christiana, and means CHRISTIAN. (At least one of is a Christian, even if in name only.) The most well-known of Christina’s is Christina of Bolsena, the legendary saint who was tortured by her pagan father, Urbanus.
All ye pagan fathers! Of whom I am one. You are sweating, burping pumpkins littering the long landscape of history. The children can only laugh at you and there’s nothing you can do.
Before the catalog of my life closes, I fear that eventually Christina, my Christina, the only one that matters to me, my catalog girl who stepped off the page and came to life before my very eyes, will hate me, too. When and if that ever happens (I hope it does not), she will mark the end of love for me. Only red heads remain and, well, no. There will never be anyone else. It’s impossible for perfection to be out perfected.
She led me to bed. I always shower beforehand because I don’t want to remove her life-giving scent from me afterward. I want to smell her all day: musty, wet, metallic, hypnotic, mixing well on the piney breeze. Our intimacy. On me. Every time I unzip to pee. She rolls her eyes, those glowing eyes, and smiles. Whenever she smiles, perfect dimples form parentheses of flesh and mark off the soft text of her lips. I always want to kiss her—and I do –silently wondering what our baby will be or look like: a mixture of me and her, beauty and the beast. US in embryo. Innocent. Before the fall. Before the guilt of adulthood settles in bone deep.
She wants a boy for our posterity and her protection. I would name him Patrick —never Pat or Rick which rhymes with Dick. Patrick means noble. I would love a son who is noble. Nevertheless, and for the best, I want a girl—two them, maybe four—for redemption. I bulk at the possibility of a boy because I’m afraid he’ll be more of me than her. In the end, it will be God who decides, the Author of all mankind. He’s the real writer of our story. Certainly not me.
But that finger, that damn finger is now playfully interlocked in mine again, saying, come here, come over here, right now, right here, let me show you something, I have something to tell you, a secret that must be shared. What follows are whispers that don’t make any sense, stuff for the loony bin, but that weird tickly breath is a powerful sensation in my ear, sending a shiver of anticipation up the spine.
So, I decide.
I make up my mind, whatever is left of it, to write and write and write.
I will write until I understand. More than a novel. An oracle. Yes. Line-by-line, page after page, by the seat of my pants, a fascinating, humbling, soul-stirring, life-changing plot penned with invisible ink that will become apparent in hindsight.
Oh, if I only had more patience. Universe, talk plainly to me. Tell me now. Start making sense.
Of course, before I begin, I will require a shot or two of gin. New Amsterdam. Glub, glub, glub into a glass that will become a wizard’s crystal in twenty minutes on an empty stomach.
Christina, that lovely, lively girl is staring at me again. I am weaker than Sampson with a fresh buzz cut, imprisoned and blinded by the brilliant brightness of her love.
What do I see?
It’s something about starting at the beginning to figure out the ending. It’s something about time travel, different dimensions, and a parallel existence. It’s something about Paradise regained. It’s something about a harvest. It’s something about the sins of the father to the third and fourth generation. It’s something about the children.