(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)


(Copyright " 1997 Brenda Frazer)
If I thought he'd listen, I?d say, "don't go!" The spiraling lift of emotions, he's here one day then gone, we're married only three weeks after we meet and then he drives away, leaving with voices that interrupt our life, shouting up to him from the street, he looks out the balcony window. But my words fail, my voice hangs just short of speech, thinking he must know how I feel. No wonder I'm lonely. "C?mon Babe, don't be that way." "But I feel so trapped!" His friends come loudly up the steps to my apartment and he says to them, "That's my ol? lady, but don't even look at her!" They laugh and look at me in awe, a poet's wife, who would've thought? "Thighs like you've never seen before, and never will see since," he says. I'm quiet and so they continue making their plans about the trip to New York. Their talk is like single-celled animals, amoebas under glass, bumping each other, patting each other on the back in the galactic pond. I'm the only serious one, going into my low cycle that prepares the heart for pain, closing everything off except for secret messages like this, low singing under my breath, inside ear echoing, who's to notice?

He's on his way home, Jersey City, New York, what's the difference. The poetry reading that brought him here to D.C. was our meeting place. Now I guess I'm staying here, thinking how moments ago we were so close to talking. Before his friends arrived. "Let's talk," he had said, as he sat cross-legged on the bare wood floor, the whole night ahead of us, the park across the street, the federal buildings of the U.S. government looming all around my 13th Street house that would probably be steelballed soon. "I like your quietness, you know? and holds me close to ease the hurt. "Other women talk too much and it's meaningless. I can hear things in your silence." And later he had said, "Quiet people are usually writers." I had thought I would be whatever he was, whatever he wanted me to be. And we had made a pact, together we would be against the world, just us. 

But now his friends, our friends have already come in.  They smoke a joint. It goes round to me. "Love's our religion, it's holy, man." He gasps the smoke in, his arm around my shoulder as I lean forward giggling, the floor is covered with old cigarette butts and cans. "But our system kills it, you know. Kills it and eats it for lunch like sandwich meat, our wounded heart!" "Yeah man, that's right," one of them says, learning from Ray already.  

Some of these friends of his are poets, some have cars, or grass, or money, some are just friends. They seem to manifest these relations from the momentary scene, the cosmic vibrations interdependent, you lose your wallet, I find it, someone starves, another finds a job, unwilling. Showers of gold sunbeam energy stronger than normal influences transmute to compassion and 

'Don't say
you love me
and then leave me behind!'

send all of us looking for communication, streets, telephones, getting high. And once in a while I say something when we're all tuned in and it's so much funnier than I thought, and everyone breaks up and it's momentarily ok because our friends love Ray and me too. And now they're leaving me behind while they take Ray off to New York.  They, the friends are really part of that outside world I fear.  

Now everyone's gone and my mood is irritable. The buzz of thoughts like an ache that won't let go. So painful. "Don't say you love me and then leave me behind!" I should have said it. "I'm not hurting you Babe. You're getting hurt," he would?ve said. My mental conversation becomes bluesy. "If you love your woman, take her everywhere you go. Let her see what you see and don't ever leave her waiting?" Door? waiting at the door, at the window? Will I wait?

"You're not paying attention honey. You ain't high or somethin, are you?" Maggie sits facing me, our typewriters back to back between us. I tell her I can't concentrate, my husband went back to New York last night and it's the third time I've had to redo this letter. I like this woman very much. One nice thing about the government jobs, there are lots of black people. But I can't escape her notice and the piles of work beside me, no place to hide, not even in my dreaming where I'm marching slowly ahead of the sun, secure in my vow to Ray. The night was spent in dark sleeplessness and now I'm deciding things in a moment's time that probably require careful thought. "Maybe I won't go home for lunch today," I say to the room in general. "Maybe I'll work straight through and leave early." Maggie and the other women there are supportive of me, I know. Just a few days ago they gave me a party when they found out I was married. The gift of a crystal candy dish Ray used for chips with our beercan drinks. "Yeah, honey, go get your man, that's the important thing," says Maggie.

Later I call Myrna Coven's apartment. The phone is busy so I know she's there and go. You couldn't really call it a social visit because I don't like her.  Maybe because Ray had  told me that at the poetry reading he'd been choosing between us.  So I'm jealous, but then I don't want to go back to my apartment either. I hope to run into Giltbloom there, he usually shows up with some weed every night. "I just got home from work," she says, and I wonder where she can work with her eyes painted so black and pale blond makeup on the pink face? She's looking at me too and does a charcoal sketch of me while we're sitting there. Maybe she thinks she's an artist. I get really offended when I see the picture, her rendition of my skull-short hair and navy surplus sweater. "You're so lucky to be married to Ray. Will you live in New York?" she asks. I forget to tell her that Ray's gone. Finally we hear Giltbloom's motorcycle outside, and he comes in catalyzing everything, making things happen as he always does. "I've got some pot," he says, smiling at me. He doesn't ask about Ray and I'm glad.

We're all part of D.C.'s growing artists? scene. Giltbloom knows a lot about it because he gets around with the grass. I'm thinking how many more of these people I know since the poetry reading. Even now though I'm shy and only communicate intuitively, sincerity in my eyes and heart, my sense of friends expands now that I have Ray. It's like we all mix in an elemental way, growing with connections, vibrating like leaves on a tree. We're smoking now and I'm wondering how to get Giltbloom to help me without thinking I'm using him to get back to Ray.

Giltbloom already has the plan for the night. We'll go to the Carousel Jazz Club on North Capitol Street. So Myrna and the others take a cab while I'm on the bike with Giltbloom for the thrills. We all arrive together, piling out of cabs and off cars where some are waiting for us. We get introduced. "This is Bonnie, Ray's wife." Self-conscious we stand around a little silly on the sidewalk in front of the club, counting our money. There's me, Giltbloom, Eddie Nile and the young paintress he is courting. I know he would normally take any woman he wants without preliminary, but Lorna is rich and gets special treatment. Eddie suffers under the imposition, his gentle thief's honor causes him to speak complaints to anyone who'll listen, softly putting her down. "Eddie's a second story man," Giltbloom told me before, and I think of Ray's convict life. Myrna and a bunch of other art students are in the company too. As we go in, Giltbloom stops at the cigarette machine, his brand, we smoke together at the table, his friendly come-on,  which I know he withholds out of respect, creates a pleasant tension.

A small stage right next to us, the bass horizontal on the floor almost touches my leg, which I've propped up on the stage. The red entrance curtains cover the wall next to the stage too and brush against my back. Nightclub aesthetic. We drink one round of beers for a very long while. The bass player arrives and hands up his instrument in the colorful lights, no mistakes in his playing even when he sweats, blue dripping on the metal strings, making the fingers slide. The carousel spins like a piloted stage and then goes down, low-down.  It sinks to the level of the bass player who's now bowing it introspectively.   The audience responds with applause and Betty Carter comes to the stage, in a dress of metallic lame? color, her mouth open to sing, sound and color mix, the first notes visible in cheeks and teeth and inside lower lip warbling to slide out solid in the air. The bass rips apart the patterns and then she steps up on it atop the tempo and spreads arms to fly, spouting, spewing long twirling lines of song, she sings so hard her dress changes color.

After that we sit with our long-finished beers watching some traveling magician perform. Maybe we'll wait for the next show, two hours? The music and lights remind me of my red light bedroom with Ray there yesterday. The music full-blast on the old phonograph. Coltrane breathless, I'm flexible cross-legged on Ray's lap in yab-yum embrace while he touches my back in patterns of the bass. Giltbloom's watching me. "I want to go to New York," I say, almost crying. "I know," he

'. . .my apartment,
belongings, job
all left behind. . .'

says, "I can see that. But when?" "Now, tonight, that's all," emphatically. "But I don't have any money," he laughs. "And me neither," I say giggling at our empty beer glasses. "Wait here a minute, maybe Eddie's girl will want to pick up something," and I'm watching for him as five minutes later he's back and with a nod to the others we leave.

We leave D.C. at night, the late west moon another light on the Capitol dome behind us. Scenery reflects in the blue windshield.  I'm watching over Giltbloom's shoulder. The cockeyed slow lifting plane, the flying saucer perspective of north D.C. and the Carousel Club and friends, my apartment, belongings, job all left behind.

In Delaware at dawn we get breakfast in a touristy bus station with turnstiles and a cafeteria. The long night in my bones, already had to stop once before dawn, he'd made me walk to get the circulation going. "We'll go backroad ways now," he said, "so we can stop more often." The New York Times spread out on the restaurant table. "We are the responsible generation," he tells me. A bus comes in and tourists line up. Our toast and bacon breakfast enough, we leave. Across the road from the station a farmhouse with peculiar whiteness in the dawn. A dog out back on a chain. The strange simplicity of window casements and house in fine outline of white catching the sun. Giltbloom is young, my age, nineteen, tall and blond, his beak face forceful.

Into Pennsylvania, we're bounding on hills of side road, even the ditches are hilly and dangerous, and I?m getting dizzy. It gets to be afternoon and we're still negotiating traffic circles on the truck route U.S. 1. The slow motion and frustrated delay. Stop beneath a billboard to rest awhile. He goes to call Ray and I sleep. Sunny fantasies of Giltbloom, I dream, my leg stretched out, reaching. The bass alongside, horizontal, like last night. Only now it's in warm sunlight. Giltbloom wakes me irritated. "Ray's pissed," he says. "I should have known."

Jersey City, Railroad Avenue, Ray's mother's house, philodendron pots catch my attention. Has he told her yet that we're married? "You just don't understand how it is!" He's telling me. "It's not so simple, getting out of jail, there's the parole officer to deal with. I have to be cool, you know? I'm not supposed to be out of New Jersey." And so I'm figuring out now that he expected me to stay in D.C. while he lived here. And yet what about all the poetry readings in New York? "But see Babe, they can't know that we're married, that's all, or I'll go back to jail." I'm thinking that my fears are more fundamental than his and though the foreign atmosphere of this place, the tenements, the clotheslines from fire escapes, is a shock to me, I know I can't go back. "I'm staying," I say, and "I'm not going back. They can take my belongings from my apartment, my chest of stuff, my violin and my pots and pans and throw it all in the garbage. I'm here to stay. So figure it out!" For once he has no words and just looks at me, his thin eyebrows high over the Pisces eyes I want to touch with soothing cool water, now raised with surprise. I think they're telling me, "You can't do that."  ##




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