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Archive for February, 2008

Why is it?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 21, 2008

power_cord.jpg Why is it that wrapping a long cord around something is extremely satisfying? Like an electrical cord around a power tool or vacuum cleaner? You wrap it in neat circles around and around, so it’ll stay together and unwrap easily. But, it irritates you when you want to use it and you have to just as slowly unwrap it? Seems to take forever. Why is that?

Why is it that you’ll clean up your car or bike thoroughly once in while, vacuuming, wiping, washing, polishing, but, not other things you use just as much? Like the toilet, the bedroom, the garage, the den? Why is that?

Why is it that your house has no odor until company is coming? Then you smell something rotten, something fishy, sour milk and dirty socks? Why is that?

Why is it that you remember to watch the lunar eclipse, and when you go out the moon is covered by storm clouds and you can’t see squat? Why is that?

Why is it, that, needing a new VCR, and debating the relative merits and popularity of Blu-ray over High Def -DVD, you buy the cheaper Panasonic HD-DVD player that plays every CD & DVD format in the world, except Blu-ray, but Panasonic drops the entire technology a couple months later, leaving the foreseeable future solely to Sony’s Blu-ray? Why is that? blue-ray_vs_hd-dvd.png

Why is it that, early in every political race, the one candidate, out of a huge field of candidates, that you really like, who makes the most sense, who seems the most trustworthy, intelligent and visionary, is never one of the the two left to duke it out? Why do we always have to choose the lesser of two evils? What’s that all about?

Why do people make lists like this? Why is that?

why-would-a-person-do-that.gif

Posted in current events, humor, Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Coffee, tea, coke or Nana?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 19, 2008

I LIKE TO DRINK

coffee.jpg

coffee  (Costa Rican)

Good to the last drop

black tea (Lipton)

Made from tiny little tea leaves
needs sugar black-tea.jpg
raw (Hawaiian)

And I like cow juice too

2%, (Creamland)

hormone freemilk.jpg

whiskey-pour.jpg Now, whiskey,

whiskey is OK,

(Jameson’s 1780)

Triple distilled

Twice as smooth

but

nothing

nothing beats a Coca Cola

make it real

I like the way coke.jpg
it dissolves my teeth
removes stains
or cleans the toilet bowl
Now, That’s good stuff.

© O’Maolchathaigh 2013


Now for something really cool, listen to and watch Nana Mouskouri sing a blues classic: Black Coffee (YouTube)   mouskouri
Oh, yeah.

Posted in coffee, poem, poetry, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Pool Game – Your Shot

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 10, 2008

m113apc.jpg Armored troop carriers rolled down the streets over deep tread marks in the soft blacktop. tankm48.jpg Tanks had preceded them. There were troops already bivouaced in Druid Hill Park. It wasn’t a town in Czechoslovakia, or Poland, or Afghanistan. It was Crabtown, grave-site of Edgar Allen Poe, birthplace of the United States’ national anthem, and headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church catholicchurch.jpg in the United States. It was Bal’more, Mar’lan’. It was the time we call 1968. GreenmountAve1968.jpg Martin Luther King had just been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and city officials had persuaded Governor Spiro Theodore Agnew to send in the National Guard. Houses and businesses had burned before, riots2.jpg and fireman had been shot at before in the inner city, riots1.jpg but troops occupying the city – this was new. riots3.jpg
I thought Agnew was a good man, Mike was thinking while he rode the bus past his old high school, I never expected him to put Baltimore under martial law. The bus went east on North Avenue past Gay Street, where his parents had once lived, past boarded-up storefronts and burned-out buildings, riots4.jpg where it connected to Belair Road, and a transfer took him to the hamburger place where he worked after school, near his parent’s home in the whiter northeast section.
I would’ve voted for him if I could’ve, he thought, seeing a billboard with the Governor’s bulldog face. spirowatch.jpg Agnew had run against a man who wanted to keep black people out of white neighborhoods.house-w-sign.gif Mike knew that wasn’t right. He was almost eighteen, but the voting age was twenty-one, and he didn’t like that. At least that racist Mahoney creep didn’t get elected. George P. was an Irish Catholic, the Democratic Party nominee for Governor in 1966. His campaign slogan was, “Your Home Is Your Castle; Protect It”. Mike went to school with blacks. Daniel had told Mike how hard it was for his parents to move into a white neighborhood. Mike had asked Daniel why so many blacks lived in slum neighborhoods if they could afford Cadillacs and Continentals.
“You don’t understand, Mike,” Daniel told him, “We’ve got no place to move to.”
“Can’t you just move? I mean, isn’t discrimination illegal?”
“Mike, Mike, Mike. What do you think happens when a colored family looks at a house? The real estate man smiles, and the owner smiles, but nobody can be forced to sell their house. Don’t you see how it works?
cookskin-hat.jpg “Yeah, Coonskin, I think I see. I never knew that was going on.”
“Damn it, I told you never to call me that.”
“I was just kidding, Daniel. It’s just your name that gets me. I watch Daniel Boone on TV, and that’s what Mingo calls him all the time.”
“It’s not funny.” boone2.jpg
“I guess not. Sorry. It is kind of stupid. So that guy running for governor wants to keep things the way they are, huh?”
“Now you’re getting it. He says people should be able to sell their home to whoever they want. He’s talking about white people not having to sell their homes to black people.”
When Mike got home he watched the news. Governor Agnew said the troops would keep order. There was a curfew, and all citizens were “strongly urged” to stay home. Arsonists and looters would be shot on sight. looter.jpg By the time the ’68 Baltimore riots died down, six people had been killed, about 5,300 arrested and more than 5,500 armed troops were on patrol throughout the city.

A year later, Mike graduated, and moved into the inner city. GreenMountAve1970.jpg He had a new job, one that he had seen posted on a bulletin board outside the guidance counselor’s office. He’d been so glad to get away from the hamburger stand, with their miserly wages and short hours, that he’d have done almost anything. As it was, he’d been hired by an old Physics professor at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, to run some old research equipment that used x-rays to measure molecular spacing in crystals.
jhuphysicslab.jpg Mike couldn’t get over how lucky he was, and Dr. Pshaw treated him like a grandson. Eventually, however, Mike came to believe that Pshaw was not quite the kindly old man he seemed. Pshaw was always coming up with strange ideas, like the time he said, “Mike, I think I know what to do about juvenile delinquency,” which intrigued Mike.
“What’s that, Dr. Pshaw?”
“It’s like this, I don’t think that young people should be treated like hardened criminals, and put in prison to learn, well, the sort of stuff they learn there from the other inmates.”
“Sure, I agree with you there. But what’s the alternative?”
“Well, this is my idea. It may not be a good one, but I think it would work.”
“Yeah?”
“I think that all offenders should be made to wear a jacket with the name of their crime on it. That way they would be recognized easily, and, more importantly, they wouldn’t be able to commit the same crime again.”
“But, wouldn’t they just take their jackets off?” yard_jacket.gif
“No, that’s the beauty of it. If they don’t wear their jackets, they have to go to jail, so they’ll wear them.
Mike thought about it for a long time, hoping that Pshaw could be right, that there could be such simple answers. Of course, once someone took the jacket off, who would know? However, he respected Pshaw. He was the only role model in his life since he’d left home. But, Pshaw finally blew the kindly-old-man image one day, when Mike asked him, out of curiosity, about the other applicants for his job.
“Well, Mike,” he explained, in a grandfatherly voice, “there were a few others, as I believe I told you. But they were colored, you know?”
Mike just stared at him.
“It’s not that I’m prejudiced,” Pshaw elaborated,” it’s just that I grew up in the countryside, and well, there just weren’t any of them around when I was growing up.”
Mike was still staring, not sure that he was really hearing this. Dr. Pshaw seemed to be so honest, and fair, and, after all, a “scientist.” It had never occurred to Mike that a seeker of knowledge and truth could be biased. Mike was a little naive.
Pshaw continued: “I don’t know what it is, but I’m just too uncomfortable around those people.”
That was the most racist thing I ever heard, Mike thought, but he didn’t say anything. Now, he felt the guilt of the privileged. I thought I’d gotten this job on my own merits. Now it’s ruined, he complained silently.

cover.gif Mike was sure that he, of course, was not racist, and he continued in that belief for several years, until now, until he found himself playing pool in a part of town where he was the only white guy around. Doesn’t bother me, he told himself, but he felt uncomfortable when he saw the bartender come out of the back room. The bartender owned the place. He was white.
Figures, Mike thought, that’s what Daniel used to tell me. He said that the reason people burned their own houses and looted the downtown stores was that the whites owned everything there. “The Whites,” he remembered him saying, “charge the people outrageous prices for things, and then they go home to their white suburbs, and take the money out of the community. The worst slums are owned by white slumlords, who don’t bother to fix anything.” Mike believed him, but he didn’t know what he could do about it.
“Anyone want to play?” he asked, glancing around the room at several people who weren’t.
“Sure. I’ll play. Rotation alright with you?” asked a middle aged man. Mike nodded, “I get so tired of playing Eight Ball, it’s too damn easy, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, you’re right, it’s too easy,” Mike said, but he thought, Oh shit, so he added, “but I don’t want to play for money, I just like to play, you know?”
“Yeah, OK. We’ll just play for the table.”
The older man moved around to shoot, and two balls fell in. “Your shot,” he said.
“Why’s that?” Mike asked.
“Because they were out of order.”
Oh, we’re playing serious, huh? Mike thought. He didn’t do too bad on that first game, but he still lost, and kept losing. He put a quarter in the slot. Bang, the balls fell into the hole when Mike pulled the slot back. He was filling up the rack, one ball here, two ball here, three ball here, when, Bang, there was a sound like a truck backfiring outside the pool hall. Heads lifted up from the tables.
Mike filled the rest of the rack quickly. Bang. Someone yelled, “There’s a shooting!” and everybody ran out of the hall, dropping cue sticks as they went. Mike watched everyone scramble outside in the seconds it took him to move his own feet. He left an empty building.

He stopped when he saw the gun directly in front of him. Bang. It fired again, at the ground. Mike looked down. He saw a young black guy, well dressed, bleeding. Bang. The body jerked. Mike saw his chest moving spasmodically. “He’s still alive!” Mike shouted. He looked at the man doing the shooting. The shooter, another black man, looked about fifty years old, and his face was contorted with hate. The man looked at Mike, seeing him for the first time.
“He deserved it,” he shouted at Mike.
People die that deserve to live, Mike wanted to say. Can you bring them back? he wanted to ask this guy with a gun. But he just stood there, watching the man’s face. Maybe it was Mike’s look, maybe it was the surprise of seeing him standing there, but the man suddenly lowered his gun, lowered his eyes, and turned and walked away, slowly.
People gathered around the wounded man. Mike stood apart, separate, but unequal. In a few minutes an ambulance silently turned the corner, followed by another police vehicle. 1968international.jpg Paramedics lifted the man onto a stretcher while the police stood by. They’ll probably question me, Mike thought, and want witnesses. What do I say? He looked at the crowd, at all the black faces, conscious of his own white skin. He couldn’t read their expressions. It looked more like no expressions at all to Mike. This is their neighborhood, what right do I have to be here? he thought. Do I tell the police what I saw? or is this none of my business? But he knew that he would never have hesitated anywhere else. He felt that the people standing there in that large crowd were different. He felt that their thoughts were alien to his way of thinking. No one looked at him, or entered the large open space around him. The ambulance door closed. The cops were writing something, but no one had spoken.
Maybe they already know all about it, Mike thought. Maybe the guy is going to be alright. Mike waited for them to come over, still unsure what to say. The cops walked around the ambulance, got back in their car, and escorted it away. Mike went back into the pool hall. What should I have done? he wondered. What should I have said? Why couldn’t I talk to that guy with the gun?
The hall was silent, but then small groups of men started quiet conversations along the walls. A ball cracked! against another.
“Do you want to finish the game?” Mike asked his partner.
“Uh, yeah. Might as well.”
pool.jpg They started playing, Mike’s partner sinking ball after ball, until he couldn’t find a shot. The remaining balls were crowded together on one side of the table, and he had tapped the cue ball lightly, so it banked off the side, but it rolled softly into a corner pocket. Mike retrieved it, lined it up on the center of the crowded balls, and shot. The crowded balls scattered, but the ivory cue ball leaped off the dark green table like it’d been shot. The other man laughed, retrieved the ball, and finished the game.
“Might as well call it a night,” Mike said, “Thanks for the games.” On the corner, the North Avenue bus hissed to a stop in front of him. The black driver stared at him, silently, as he dropped his coins into the box. He walked down the empty bus to a rear seat.

Posted in crime, fiction, Life, My Life, race, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A New Bike

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 9, 2008

flying.jpg There I was: flying – nothing around me at all. Air – I could feel air under me. I knew I was gonna die. It’s a very comforting feeling – when you know you’re going to die. You just relax, you let it happen, you don’t fight it. I’ve heard that in such moments, your whole life flashes before your eyes. All I thought of was that I was going to be late. I thought about the classes I’d miss. Maybe I didn’t have that much time to think.
I don’t remember anything from the realization that I was airborne until I found myself lying on the ground, wondering where I was. I was lying down, I might be in bed, dreaming. I was outside. I wasn’t in a bed. I wanted to get up, find out. I realized I didn’t know who I was! Now that was scary! I remember telling myself (whoever I was): Just lay here. Relax. Let it come. It was like trying to remember something on the tip of my tongue: think of something else, don’t think about what it was I’d forgotten. I closed my eyes.
I remembered the construction site, the hole in the floor for the cellar steps to be added later, being pushed, falling, waking up to a headache, being carried across a field, blood on my face, getting stitches above my eye. metwo1957.jpg I remembered standing outside the tree house, trying to cover a hole in the roof on a rainy day, slipping, falling, coming to with a terrible sharp pain in my arm, the visiting relatives in our house, the ride to the hospital, the plaster cast.
It came back to me. Pumping my bicycle down that hill, hell-bent for speed. Traffic. Lots of traffic, rush hour traffic. A whole lane to myself. I was keeping up, moving pretty fast. Warp factor seven, Scotty. Suddenly there is a car coming across the lane to my left, pointed right at me. A big white whale of a car. I see a panicked woman’s face through the windshield, her mouth open, her eyes wide. The car is trying to cut across traffic into a driveway I don’t know is there, to my right. It is practically on top of me as I stare into the woman’s eyes, then, I’m here.
So I knew where I was – in the street. Somehow I’d survived. I opened my eyes to a typical Baltimore grey-blue sky. I knew who I was, forgot that I’d forgotten.
Voices. There were people talking somewhere. “Now, don’t you worry about it none. I saw the whole thing,” I heard a man say – I could hear an eager concern in his voice – “It wasn’t your fault. I’ll testify in court for you.” Now, why would someone say that? I wondered. Someone else – I remember a deep gravelly voice – asked, “What about him?”
Another voice: “Him? He’s dead,” with a definite certainty in the tone. Nice!
It was time to get up. My leg muscles were strong from bicycling every day. I usually spring to my feet, like a cat, I imagined. So, I popped up off the street suddenly, wondering why I was alone, why no one had come to help me. firemanrest.jpg Through the traffic I saw firemen sitting in lawn chairs in front of their station on the other side of the street. They weren’t looking my way. It was almost too much. No pain, but my left leg felt weak, wanting to give way, to not support my weight. I spun around on my right leg, and saw a car, the car, the white whale, an impressively long car, a Lincoln Continental Mark IV. lincoln_continental_mark_iv.jpg It was empty, door open. There was a crowd on the sidewalk, maybe ten feet from me. Men, black and white, in denim overalls, with grey lunch boxes, brown bags and silver thermos bottles were arranged in a ragged circle around a white woman with her head hanging down. She was heavy, not fat, but matronly, motherly looking, with blond hair. Her dress looked expensive. As I started moving, she looked up in my direction, staring at me, her mouth open again, or was it still? I limped towards her. She practically jumped off the sidewalk and headed for me.
“Hear, sit in my car,” she insisted, softly, and gave me her arm for support. I let myself fall into the car, sinking into the plush rear seat.
She left me there. I looked around. It was an expensive car. Besides the softness of the seat, the colors were unusual. 73markivpict5.jpg The interior and the seats were all the same light tan color. In 1973, it was the fanciest car I’d ever been in, except, perhaps, for the limousine I’d ridden in after my grandfather’s funeral mass. That had been some car. I remembered playing with the electric windows, thrilled to be in a black limousine, even one going to a cemetery. I was 12. I didn’t play with the windows this time. I was 22 years old. I knew the windows would be automatic. I knew the car was expensive, and I wondered if this woman would take me to the hospital. There was pain shooting up my leg from my foot now. The pain was increasing every moment. The woman’s face appeared at the door. “Are you all right?” she asked. There was a hint of worry, and fear, in her voice. “No,” I replied, “I’m not. My foot hurts. It hurts a lot. I don’t think I can walk on it.” She disappeared again. I laid back on the seat, trying to ease the pain. A fireman appeared. I told him about the pain. The swelling was very visible now. He told me I should go to a hospital, get it x-rayed. I said OK. He left for a couple of minutes, and came back with a piece of plastic. He put it on over my leg like a sleeve, and it filled with air, somehow. The pain seemed to lessen a bit. He asked me if I could walk. I said, “No, my foot hurts real bad.” He told me to lay back down. After a few minutes people grabbed me, helped me up and out of the belly of the beast, into an ambulance.
At the hospital, I lay on a gurney for quite some time. I thought accident victims would get immediate treatment, but I was wrong. First they ask questions: “Do you have insurance? Can you pay for this visit?” Then I get a clipboard with papers to sign. “Sign here, and here, and here.” Then nothing. The pain was intense, like the time I’d broken my arm. It worried me. No one seemed to care that I was in pain. Nearby, I heard children crying. I looked over. One of them had a head wound, another had a broken arm. They had to wait too. I did my best to be patient. When someone finally came to see me, I asked if I could get an x-ray. “Yes, as soon as it’s available.” The x-ray didn’t show a break. The doctor said the upper part of my foot was sprained. Nothing serious. I called my roommates to see if they could come get me. They were very nice. Don and Joan. I walked out of the hospital with an arm around each of their shoulders. I still couldn’t put any weight on the foot. I don’t know where they got the car, because none of us a had a car. Afterwards, the hospital sent me a bill, for x-rays and crutches. I couldn’t believe they billed me for crutches. No one had offered me crutches, or even mentioned ‘em.
I stopped by the Free Clinic where I volunteered and they found me a pair I could borrow. A lawyer called me. He called on behalf of the woman who had hit me. That was strange, as I’d given Mrs. Penn-Central-Fruit-Company my number, and had been expecting her to call. He acted like it might have been my fault, but that’s what lawyers do, I’ve since learned. lawyers.gif He asked me how I was, and what had happened. I explained the situation. He said he’d call me back. When he did, he asked me what I wanted. I told him I’d lost my Schwinn ten-speed – it had been dragged across the lane under the car; one pedal arm had been bent backwards into the spokes, and the 16 gauge steel tubing was impossibly bent in a couple of places. I needed one to get to school. I told him I had a bill from the hospital. He said that his client had already offered to pay that – just send it to her. I told him she shouldn’t pay for the crutches on the bill, as they hadn’t given me any. He said he’d see about getting me another bike. I got a check. It was enough to buy a new ten-speed. I picked out a tough, German-made one, as soon as I was able to ride again. All my friends told me I should have sued the woman, but I had a new bike, and no expenses as a result of the accident, so I never considered doing that.

However, a couple months later, someone stole it from my girlfriend’s backyard, even as I was planning a cross-country bicycle trip. A friend of a friend at the Free Clinic came by with his Gitane bicycle, said I could use it. I told him I didn’t know when I’d be back. He said not to worry about it. It was a really nice bike. I’d had enough of Baltimore, of mildewed row-houses and cockroaches, of bumper-to-bumper traffic and pollution alerts. School was not working out very well. I was studying calculus, organic chemistry and physics, writing for the school newspaper, marching in demonstrations, going to meetings, and volunteering one night a week at the Free Clinic. My grades were terrible. I helped organize a teach-in at my school around the continuing war. We called a student strike, but few people boycotted classes. I missed a key genetics lab. A teaching assistant told me, “You’d better decide what’s important.” I figured everything was important, that I could do everything. The school finally decided for me, dismissing me on probation for six months. That was when I’d decided it was time to go. I’d quit my job to go to school full time. My savings were almost gone; the scholarship and loan were over. My girlfriend told me I could stay with her until I found work, but the idea didn’t thrill me. I didn’t want charity, and I didn’t know what kind of job I could find or when.

I traded my waterbed for a sleeping bag. Bought 5 pounds each of brown rice, soybeans, and granola. Threw in some alfalfa seeds for spouting too – needed greens. Took two pair of jeans, two long-sleeved shirts, some t-shirts, and some basic tools. I asked my mom to repay a loan I’d given her. She came by my girlfriend’s house and gave me part of it. I had about $80 altogether now. I headed west with my Gitane. gitane.jpg A French racing bike. Gitane is French for gypsy. Bike (bique) means penis in French, I’d been told, so I wondered what I could do with my gypsy penis. I didn’t have much else.

Posted in Bicycling, Life, My Life, rambling, Travel, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Seduction of Rosa

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 6, 2008

Charlie played with the gun, running his hands over it’s cool blue steel. He checked to see that it was loaded, and pointed it at Rosa’s fish tanks. Quite a mess that would make, he thought. He imagined the water pouring out through the holes, like blood pouring out of a body, splashing onto the floor, slowly seeping in. He pointed the gun at the sepia-toned picture of him and Rosa dressed in period clothes from the Civil War. He looked just like a bearded Union officer with the brass buttons on the uniform and the sword held across his body. Rosa was dressed in a long dark dress with lace on the ends of the sleeves, and a wide hat provided by the photo shop. She looked so happy. happycouple.gif He put the gun barrel in his mouth. He put his finger on the trigger and slowly pulled the hammer back, but slowly released it, and brought his hand with the gun down to his lap. He emptied the gun of bullets, then put it back in his mouth and pulled the trigger – click! Click. Click-click-click! Click. He put the bullets back in. Again he put the gun to his mouth, and cocked it. It would only take a slight pressure to set it off now.
That night, three weeks ago, still played in his mind, in an endlessly repeating loop. He remembered how the evening started. He had walked into the bathroom. Rosa was standing at the sink putting on makeup.
“Mind if I take a leak?” he said.
“If you’re going to this party, aren’t you going to shower?”
“I’m planning to.”
“When?”
“Well, now, after I pee.”
“We’ll be late.”
“No we won’t, I’ll be real quick. I know how important this party is to you.” Rosa turned, then turned back to Charlie and said, “Oh, maybe we shouldn’t go.”
“What? You been wanting to go to this party all week. Now I’m all fired up and ready to party. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Rosa said quietly.
“You seem upset,” Charlie said. “Do you want to stay home?”
“I’m not upset. Just hurry up so we can go.”
“Sure. Rosa?” Charlie put his arm around Rosa, and tried to kiss her.
“Not now! I just put makeup on, and you smell.” She pushed him away.
“I’ll be ready in five minutes,” Charlie said, cheerfully. He felt rejected, but didn’t want to get Rosa any more upset. He thought she was being especially difficult lately. He did his best to get ready fast, although he couldn’t understand why there was such a hurry. It was just a dumb party. There’d be drinks and dancing, but the political animals would be out to convert them. He knew that they had been trying to get Rosa into their little socialist sect, and he and Rosa had been to a lot of their meetings. Even a Party can have a party, he had decided.
BEEP-BEEP. BEEP-BEEP. Rosa was leaning on the horn of her car, her ex-husband’s MG Midget. Charlie had to run out to the car.
“What’s the hurry? I was on my way.”
“I just wish you’d get ready ahead of time.”
“I was ready. It only took me a few minutes. Why the rush?” To himself, he fumed, Hell, you spent an hour and a half getting ready.
The rest of the drive was silent. Rosa pulled up to the curb on a strange block. Charlie decided to see if Rosa was still upset, so he said, “I’ve never been here. Whose house is this?” To his relief, Rosa seemed relaxed, “It’s Carol’s,” she answered, “You remember the blonde – with the Carpenters Union?”
“Yeah, I know the one.”
Inside, they were warmly welcomed. Too much! Charlie thought. These people are too friendly to be believed. They were soon separated by smiling people, people who never seemed to stop smiling, and not incidentally trying to discuss their own “correct” analyses of current events. Rosa and Charlie got some wine. People talked to them, dividing their attention different ways. Charlie noticed Rosa being dragged into a discussion in another room. Divide and conquer, that’s their plan, he thought. Charlie started in her direction when he was intercepted by Rebecca. She was one of the group’s better people, Charlie thought, friendly, but not always pushing the party line on him.
“Hey Charlie,” she said excitedly, “people are watching Star Trek in the next room. Wanna watch?” That’s a great idea. He’d just spent ten minutes in a useless conversation with Larry, who was insisting that Charlie define himself politically. Charlie had told him that he figured he was kind of a hippie redneck, just to shut him up. That somehow made Larry mad, and he said that he didn’t know how Rosa put up with that. What’s it to him? Charlie thought. Well, Rosa can see through these people. So he joined a small group around the TV, glad to be away from Larry. He watched a bit of the show, until he heard music start up in the other room. The music had people up and dancing, and several people asked Charlie to dance, before he had a chance to look for Rosa. After he’d danced to a couple of songs she walked into the room.
“Come on, let’s dance,” he said.
“No, I don’t feel like dancing,” Rosa said, coldly.
“Don’t feel like dancing? But this is a party, the music’s great. Hey, c’mon, let’s go for it.” Charlie put his hand in hers, and gently pulled, but was shocked to find that she was not only resisting him, but stiff, and pulling away.
“Rosa, what’s wrong?” Just then there were some new arrivals at the door. Rosa turned to him, said, “Alright, let’s dance,” but it was a futile effort. She was still stiff and her movements were jerky and uncoordinated. “Rosa, are you OK?” Charlie asked.
“No.”
“Do you want to go home?”
“Yes.”
On the way home Charlie tried to find out what was wrong, but Rosa just said that she was tired, that they could talk when they got home. As they walked in their door, Charlie asked, “Do you feel like talking now?”
“No. Yes. Oh, I don’t know, let’s go to bed.” They walked into the bedroom, but Rosa sat on the bed and started crying.
“Rosa, what is it?” Charlie put his arm around her, and they sat hugging each other awhile on the edge of the bed.
“Charlie, I’ve been seeing someone else.” Charlie didn’t say anything, he just held her tighter.
“Do you know who it is?” Charlie didn’t know what to say. He was thinking, Is this the same woman who told me that we were through if I ever touched another woman?
“Uh, is it Tom?” Tom had once been their roommate. He was a good friend of Rosa’s, and they talked with each other a lot.
“Tom?” she said, opening her eyes wide. “No!” she said, in an exasperated tone. “It’s Larry.”
Charlie almost laughed. Not Larry. He’s the most obnoxious, artificial bore I ever met.
“I don’t care,” he told her, “I love you.” But she started crying again. He hugged her tighter, and she continued to cry. Charlie felt numb. He wasn’t mad. He found it hard to think. He loved Rosa, and here she was crying. He wanted to comfort her. Surely, he wondered, if she’s crying, she must still love me? They sat there for minutes – five, ten, thirty – then wordlessly undressed and got under the covers.
Charlie didn’t know what to do. He loved Rosa, and didn’t want to have to think about anything else. He kissed her, and tried to make love. Rosa didn’t resist, but she was limp, unresponsive. Charlie kissed her mouth and neck. He kissed her cheeks, her forehead, the space between her eyes, and kissed the salty space below her eyes that had so recently been flooded with tears. He wondered if he would ever be able to touch her again. He kissed her some more, moving down her body, to her shoulders, and to her breasts. He paused to run his tongue briefly around her nipples. He kissed her stomach, her thighs, and in between. Rosa put her arms around him loosely.
After a few minutes, Charlie found that he could enter her easily. But she didn’t respond to his thrusts. She was passive, and quiet. Charlie kept trying to excite her.
He turned over and put Rosa on top. Charlie was feeling less passion now, but he wanted Rosa to know how much he wanted her. He wanted to remind her of the fun they’d always had in bed. He continued to kiss her, to touch her, to fuck her. Suddenly Rosa was crying, and Charlie stopped. He pulled her flat against his chest, and then lay silently while Rosa gently sobbed. Rosa Rosa, Rosa, was all Charlie thought. He loved her; always would.
In the morning, they were still curled together. Charlie lay awake for several minutes, digesting all the events of the previous evening. He reveled in Rosa’s warm nude body softly pressed against him. She moved slightly, pressing closer to him. But he had to know. He had to see what the new day might have brought.
“How are you, Rosa?” he ventured, and instantly regretted it, for she had still been asleep. She opened her eyes slowly, looked at Charlie, and rolled quickly out of his arms, and out of the bed.
She hurried into the bathroom. Charlie waited in the bed. When Rosa stepped out of the bathroom, he held an arm out to her, beckoning her to return to his side. She began hastily dressing.
“What are you going to do?” Charlie asked.
“I have things to do. I have to go.”
“Go where?” Charlie asked, dreading the answer.
“I don’t know. Charlie, I need time to think.”
“When will you be back?” Charlie asked.
“I won’t be back, Charlie. I have, I have to go.” It was Charlie’s turn to cry. Rosa came to him, and he began to sob, tears streaming from his eyes, along his nose, into his mouth and beard. Rosa held him while his body shook and heaved, and he cried. After he calmed down, she gently released herself from his arms.
“Do you have to go?” Charlie asked. Rosa looked away. “Where are you going?” he asked again.
“Probably to my sisters house. I need time to myself, time away from both of you.” Charlie straightened up, calmed himself. Maybe it’ll be OK, he thought. “I have to go grocery shopping,” he said to her. “Do you need anything from the store?”
“No,” she said, and hurried out the door. Charlie looked out at her, watched her as she started her car, and quickly drove out of the cul-de-sac, disappearing around the fire station on the corner. He heard her car’s engine accelerate down the street. She was gone.
Charlie had found Rosa’s thirty-eight snub-nose in the closet. She’d been gone for three weeks, and she no longer said she needed time to think. Five days ago, too anxious to wait any longer for her decision, he had called her from a phone booth. She was in love with Larry. She said, “We’ll always be friends, Charlie.” Right. He didn’t know what else to say; she’d made her decision. He pounded on the glass walls of the booth, hoping to break them. In his mind the booth shattered, he cut his wrists, and ended up in the hospital. Rosa would be sorry.

All of her things were still in the house, except for a few clothes. Charlie felt more lonely than he ever had, more so than before he’d met Rosa. When he met her two years ago she’d been married, but left her husband for Charlie. Charlie had been surprised. He liked Rosa, but was just passing through. He’d been traveling across country, enjoying his freedom to go anywhere, do anything. Meeting Rosa had changed his plans. At first, Charlie had simply found Rosa attractive. When he found that she was married he’d been disappointed. But Rosa offered him room at her house for a few days. He discarded the idea of sex with Rosa when he met her tall, blue eyed husband. Hans seemed an ideal husband, affectionate, intelligent, and open-minded. Hard to compete with that, Charlie thought. Although he worked, he didn’t seem to mind his wife’s role as director of a public interest group. Nor had he insisted on a common surname. Rosa had discarded his last name for her own. Hans even cooked dinner for them all the first night Charlie slept in their living room.
Rosa was bright and witty. She’d traveled a lot while she and her husband were in the Peace Corps together. She told Charlie about her experiences in Africa and her vacations in Europe. Since Charlie had never been out of the United States, he was fascinated. Here was the kind of woman he’d been hoping to meet, but she was married, so, Oh well, he thought. But he enjoyed talking with her. They discussed feminism and socialism, and Vietnam, and racism. They got high too. She had a stash of some really primo weed. One day, she invited Charlie to join her and her husband at a party. At the party, she danced with Charlie. He found himself really liking this woman, but he knew he had to leave soon. As they talked and laughed and danced, Charlie regretted that he’d probably never see her again.
Moving from one room to another, Charlie passed Rosa, stopped, and spontaneously kissed her. Rosa liked it. She pulled Charlie into the bathroom and shut the door. Charlie was pretty nervous about that, but Rosa was on fire, it seemed, until there was a knock on the door.
“Rosa! Are you in there?” boomed through the door. Rosa turned out the light in a panic. It didn’t help. Hans had been looking for her. Charlie turned the light back on and opened the door to an enraged Hans. Hans, however, said nothing, turned and walked away. Rosa ran after him. Charlie found another place to sleep that night. He was ashamed of himself, but expected that Hans and Rosa would patch things up. All we did was kiss, he thought. We just kissed.
In the morning, however, Rosa found Charlie and woke him up. “Rosa! What happened?” Charlie asked. “Oh, it’s OK. We talked about it. Don’t worry about it.” “Are you sure, Rosa? I never thought I’d see you again.” “Do you want to see me?” she asked. “Of course!” “Let’s go for a drive.” Rosa drove back to the house they’d partied at the night before. The house would be empty all day, and her friend had given her a key. Charlie was shocked, and nervous, but he overcame his misgivings when Rosa dropped her clothes. In fact, nothing existed then but him and Rosa.
Later, although glowing from his sexual encounter with Rosa, Charlie knew he still had to leave. Rosa was married, after all, and it was time to move on. Rosa, however, had other ideas. She said that she wanted to leave her husband. She said she had been trying to leave him for some time. “Now’s the time,” she told him. “But I’m leaving tomorrow,” Charlie reminded her. “Just stay two more weeks,” Rosa asked. When she looked at him, Charlie’s resolve melted. He could do that. He could stay two weeks, just to see what might come of this.
Rosa dropped Charlie off much later that day. They were saying good-bye, kissing each other just one more time. Rosa made Charlie promise not to say anything to her husband. “I want to tell him myself,” she insisted. As they kissed, just one more time, standing by her car on the curb, an old Dodge truck drove up, tires squealing as it jerked to a stop, crookedly, in front of them. Hans jumped out. “Are you fucking my wife?” he demanded of Charlie. Charlie was speechless. On the one hand he wanted to admit his guilt, bare his sin, and take his punishment. On the other hand, Rosa had insisted that he not tell Hans anything. He took the cowardly way out. He said, “Well, I had wanted to.” It was not admitting anything one way or the other. He didn’t want to just say “no”. What will he do if Rosa tells him? Charlie wondered. Maybe this way he’ll think I only tried to seduce her.
“What the hell does that mean?” Hans roared. Charlie was trying to think of what to say next when Rosa intervened. She grabbed Hans’s hand, and led him away. Rosa talked, Hans shouted. In the end, they drove away, Hans following the little MG in the old Dodge, but not before telling Charlie, “You stay the hell away from my wife! You hear me? Stay away from her, or I’ll kill you.”
Charlie wished he had now. He’d never felt this bad before. As he toyed with the gun, tasting the steel on his tongue, he still needed something to convince him to do it himself. Hans had left Rosa. She had come to Charlie, and Charlie couldn’t leave her. He found a job. He and Rosa rented a comfortable house. He’d felt such happiness with Rosa, such peace. On a trip home from Taos one day, Charlie told Rosa that he wanted to have children with her. He hadn’t wanted to have children before he met her. Rosa had smiled, and told him that she had said the same thing to a girlfriend just days before. She wanted a baby with Charlie. She’d never wanted to have children with Hans. They planned a long life together then, with a child or two. Charlie planned to build a house for them all. It was the happiest time Charlie had ever known.
Now it was over, and Charlie didn’t care about anything. He didn’t care about politics, or changing the world, or music, or sunsets. He closed the windows against the shrill noise of the birds. Rosa had taken her cats, and her dog, and Charlie was completely alone. The dog at least would have been some company. He had no family in town, except for Rosa’s family. It was Sunday, so Rosa and Larry were there now. His only close friends were out of town.

shesgone.jpg <– (Graffiti art. Photo by Paul Armstrong)
Charlie took the gun out of his mouth again. He walked out the back door to the back wall, and fired into the field behind the house. The noise, and the burst of light jolted Charlie’s senses. He couldn’t hear anything for a moment, but he saw a car on the street a few blocks away suddenly pull over and stop. Charlie looked at the car. He looked at the gun. He removed the spent shell and tossed it over the wall. He went back inside, afraid that someone had seen him, that they thought he was shooting at them, that they would call the police.
He felt foolish. Here he was worried about the police, when he was going to kill himself anyway. Not the police. My mom, my brothers and sisters. What will they think? They’ll miss me. This is more than just me. And Rosa, what will she think? Hah! She won’t care. Well, maybe she will, for a few days, or a few weeks. Maybe she’d even cry. But that’s all. Then she’ll forget me altogether. She might even laugh at me, be glad I’m gone, out of the way. She’ll be free to live her life with Larry and never think of me again. NO! Damn it. I’m not going to make their life that easy!
He put the gun back in the closet where Rosa had kept it. He was tired, and hungry. He hadn’t slept much in the past three weeks, and hadn’t eaten for the last five days. He forced himself to drink a glass of water, one swallow at a time. He made two pieces of toast. He ate one. He went to sleep.

Posted in fiction, Life, love, madness, My Life, relationships, sex, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jeanne Gauna and Che Guevara

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 5, 2008

jgauna.jpg

I think about Jeanne Gauna
and Cuba and Che Guevara
Little brown woman
with the huge smile
tiny NM town Jeanne
in big city Albuquerque
trips to Cuba
(the country, not the town)
sugar cane and rum
new houses new clinics
I think about Jeanne’s velorio
about her friend the priest
he said her language was
colorful
but he spoke of her work
tireless fighter for justice
a revolutionary
a friend

Jaime was there too
he’d been crying
I didn’t recognize him
sunken red eyes
behind dark glasses
Is he on drugs
I wondered oddly
I barely knew him
but he knew Jeanne
fellow traveler
husband Eric smiling
he smiles like Jeanne
after years with her
what else could he do?
son Karlos was there
Karlitos grown to man
fighter for justice

A revolutionary never dies
Che lives Jeanne lives
revolutionaries touch people
in ways we don’t imagine
until they’re gone
our lives are different
we remember them
we dream their dreams
we feel them near
we miss them
we carry on

Posted in poem, poetry, politics, Writing | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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