A Brief History of Time
Now that we each have someone who knows how
we take our coffee, that smallest but most telling of intimacies —
you, black, three sweeteners ; me, cream, no sugar —
we’re each eating breakfast with other people who don’t
drink coffee at all. There seems to be a message here, but
I don’t know what it is. I’m no good at this love thing
nonetheless, I keep on trying, like the benchwarmer
who begs to be sent in and is carried out crushed every time.
I wish just once someone would
cry out from the stands, Quit putting her in there.
For God’s sake, she’s just a kid. She’ll get killed
if she takes much more. Then I could go back
to my regular duties of pouring Gatorade,
wiping away sweat and shards of bicuspids and
incisors. But this never happens. The Elizabethans were right,
you know, that love is just another type of insanity. The Greeks
thought the seat of love was the eyes ;
the liver, the seat of desire ;
and the Tongans of Australia believe it resides
in manava ’o fafine ’a e nofo’anga ’o e ’ofa, the womb of a woman.
I’m sure it’s an electrical impulse that travels
our most twisted neurons, axons, and dendrites — or
why would we fall into the trap of doing the same thing
the same way and expect different results, which is
one definition of insanity ? This would explain why my father is
still married to my mother, even after she tried to knife him
just days after coming home from jail
for two other attempted murders.
This definition was
put forth by one Gerald Nadler (Ph.D.), President of the Center
for Breakthrough Thinking, the people who write those books
about how to be a “team player” and your “best self”
for the purpose of making other people rich. When I tried
my hand at financial planning, I did it to help people, probably
another symptom of my psychosis, wanting my neighbors
to be able to send their kids to college, and when other planners asked
what I did the rest of the time, I said write poetry,
and they asked me to write about our company, which wasn’t
at all poetic.
So I left. But not without a huge life
insurance policy and annuities, so that if marriage is
a war of attrition, the survivor will come out loaded — and to me,
this doesn’t seem cynical because I think we’ve both
earned our field pay these past six years. And it makes us better
off than the bushi, who were paid in rice and had to barter the rest,
but not as good as the hatamoto, who received fiefs from their daimayo.
Because after all, isn’t one’s own space the best refuge ?
At least, according to Virginia Woolf, who couldn’t get enough
of her own life, and chose to end it.
I think I’m through with being in love with people
though I’ll love mountains as only a flatlander can. To be awed
by something so big and unyielding that your desire
to conquer it never dies, though you know in your heart,
liver, neurons, axons, dendrites, and womb, that it will
never happen. Because the Rockies, my latest non-human love,
were born 65 million years ago, maybe the same year a meteor crashed
near the Yucatan, rendering the dinosaurs irrelevant
except to squirmy kindergarteners who love them
and to paleontologist Paul Sereno, who was named one of People
“50 Most Beautiful People” which, unfortunately, is
probably how most people know him, not as discoverer
of Deltadromeus agilis, (Agile River Runner) and
Eoraptor lunensis (Dawn Plunderer), although this isn’t entirely true
because these were discovered by members of his expedition team
but have the most lovely names, so I’ve decided to change
history, by writing these untruths, the way
Lydia Howard Sigourney rewrote an entire culture in 1841
with her Pocahontas and Other Poems, following
James Fenimore Cooper’s lead of exchanging Mohegans
for Mohicans and claiming in his novel that they’d become extinct,
which perhaps has caused teenagers in the Hudson River Valley
and Uncasville, Connecticut to wonder if they really exist at all,
the way I used to wonder if I really existed
when I sat with Jenny on the hood of her 1983 Cutlass Supreme
on nights when the moon was full and we’d talk about how
it looked like a good night to die.
That same moon I liked to picture as a baseball, years earlier,
a baseball hit so hard and far that nothing could ever bring it back.
from the book, A Brief History of Time