In which everything is inverted and then explodes.
I. The Internet reveals a merry apple-picking party in the works. NC and her fiancee, S, and JTE all together (I’m sure this was to be kept secret) to frolic in the autumnal bliss. NC does the harvest? NC does New England? NC does whatever ___ wants. Touching. In August, NC had expressed excitement about my new relationship but then I got to the part about how we’d be in NY in February. Finally, I thought, we could have dinner with NC and S according to everyone’s rules. NC and S don’t see their exes unless they are both present along with the ex’s new lover. But, “No,” NC revealed, S is empathizing with J right now, “about the break up.” I asked her how S knew anything at all and she lied and told me that S reads the blogs– all of them. But I knew there really hadn’t been enough blogging to empathize except in a generic way. I naively did not anticipate that S would have contacted J. What a way to discover the failed illusion of innocence. I’m busy contemplating a four-letter word for “where Truth is revealed.” And later or before she says “You not gonna, you know, blog about any of this, right?” I assure her: No. And will keep the promise.
II. According to my sun-burnt mother, the British Invasion consisted of three bands: The Beatles, The Monkees, and Herman’s Hermits. The Internet disagrees vehemently with her but she persists, ecstatically telling me about the Herman’s Hermits concert she went to in Denver. (For Free!) It’s hit her harder than Beatlemania and I can feel the joyous repercussions across the country as she wonders aloud which British group sang “Good Vibrations.” I tell her it was the Beach Boys. “Everyone,” she recalls, “knew all the lyrics to ‘Henry the VII!'” and begins to sing in a cartoonish British accent, smiling.
III. “Oh my god, I thought that was the real time and I was kind of freaking out,” she explains, pointing at my blinking alarm clock. I watched it go for a few moments, waiting for it to stop insisting on 2:37 and get on with it to 2:38. “But it’s blinking,” I remind her, “if that were the real time it would mean that I would have had to plug in the clock at EXACTLY 12:00.”
IV. “There was an even better dog there. He even barked my name. But he had brown hair and this other one looked just like you so I got her.” T explains his choice of a second-tier dog toward cheering me up.
V. I haven’t heard from you since July. Dad says you told him that I hate you or disapprove of your life or something. Which is the opposite of what I said. You know that, I think. I love you. I miss you every single day.
VI. For a moment the static dies down and I am talking to you again. “Did you get the thing I got you in Portugal.” And I tell her the truth: that it was lovely and touching. And for once we are talking to each other instead of violent characterizations and everything bad the other person’s friends have said. I want to picnic friendship know. The big words and mean things come crashing back down and I cover my head and cower for a moment. I wonder if the lapse was a chink in the armor, a slip back into the real, a mistake, a mixed metaphor. I do have a heart. I know you know.
VII. NC and I talked the other day about courses I should take at the Vard next year. She did not suggest the course on Irony.
VIII. After just a few minutes she slips back into the usual platitudes and tells me about the encroaching fall on the prairie.
IX. In the beginning she said she would fold the country in half if that’s what it took. I passed around a few Babe, the blue ox, jokes and helped her son plant cherry trees in the front yard by dutifully chewing all the fruit off the seeds. Finn Cherry Tree. We told him.
X. The drawback of a real family is that you realize how hard and how necessarily you were holding onto some other people. Now that you’re holding my hand, I think, it’s time to let go. Or, as the country kitchen sign above your kitchen door so eloquently puts it, Back Door Friends Are Best.
XI. This is not trivial to me. This thing that yawns between us eating all the time we promised, as children, would never be lost. The same way that Father has buried all that time with Brother. We should not. I know you’re here.
XII. It’s too late to stop the cherry pulsing. Maybe to you it’s all numbers and dots– our whole past rewritten as appointment times, reps and sets, dosages, portions. My parts have sprung out my back– the soft 9-volt back-up battery pad swinging unused on red and black wires. Everywhere, used and unused, I am red and black. I stuff it back inside like the ribbons for hanging up ladies’ clothing. I keep my open back to the wall, sliding from room to room so that I do not come undone. I have nightmares that always begin with a jolt and end with wondering why I’ve never bought a battery. If You Hate Resetting the Alarm Clock So Much. If I hate resetting the alarm clock so much.