Your Own Special Brand of Magicbysteamer5139©
In those early days, I had you, the whole kit and caboodle of you. Now, I have nothing but memories of our short fused life, a life shattered too soon. In my youth, I expected a future filled with you and you and you, found much to my chagrin it was not destined to be. Since then, I have loved just as well I hope and pray, but never with the longing, the passion. You branded me with your magic and then went away.
The magic, your breathtaking beauty, your sexiness, your natural and forthright self, and for too short a span of time, it kept me fixed in your orbit. I never tired of your charms, your eager intensity. Ash-blonde hair shifting about your face, falling down your back, kept pulled back and tied in a ponytail, made me sigh, wonder how I deserved such good fortune. In my eyes, your rosy round face was a work of art; your expressions ranging from bemusement to wanton, pole axed me from the first moment we met at the VFW dance on Coronado.
At night in the comfort of our connubial bed, we played; we paused to laugh, to drink in each other's needs with an intimacy licensed to newly married lovers and no others. Our youth and yearning for each other was all we truly owned. Oh, and lots of bills. Sometimes when you had your period you could be such an irredeemable bitch. Me, I had that way of never picking up anything, letting the dirty dishes pile up until you were mad as the March Hare, loony as a crazed bed bug.
We spent as fast as we took it in. You complained about my books. Books I bought in dusty warrens on the square. I criticized you for having your nails done at Nails Aglow on the Strand, spending too much having your hair done. For our first Christmas, I bought you a delicate gold cross hanging on a too fragile chain. You got me Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and A Small Town in Germany by John LeCarre. I still remember the crisp smell of those new books as I opened the gold foil Christmas wrapping next to the tiny plastic Christmas tree planted in a margarine tub sitting in the center of the coffee table.
Newlyweds with not a centavo, a farthing in the bank, a 1962 Rambler purchased for six hundred dollars sitting in the parking lot out front, a hideous flesh-toned vehicle noticeable by its scruffiness, its leaky oil, a black Rorschach on the pavement, its constant maintenance woes.
How many times did you drive me mad with desire? You'd be barefoot, wearing those ratty, thread bare jeans, and the tight white t shirt. For some reason seeing you bare foot, your ankles dressed in dangling threads, I could not keep my hands off you.
In that one apartment we shared; we'd sit close on that little black divan made of glossy vinyl, watch Walter Cronkite on the black and white portable, reciting the latest body count from Vietnam. It was compressed, honed down furniture perfect for a camper shell or a single-wide domicile for trailer trash. One easy chair also black, a scratched coffee table, two mismatched end tables, two lamps we found in the thrift shop for a dollar a piece. Most of the time the apartment was dark and even at noon it remained dim. The bedroom and living room windows half below ground, corrugated tin cupped around them to keep the ground from coming in, allow a bit of light to filter in. Through the living room window we could see the parking lot, car tires, legs, and the passing parade.
One night in mid November, in the middling room, we slept under the bedroom window in our full-sized bed. It was coming down like proverbial cats and dogs. Big drops of rain smacked hard against the window, ran down the pane, soaked into the ground. Then Niagara Falls time--a torrent of muddy water, a virtual cataract, and a veritable flood tide poured through the window, ran down the stucco walls, and soaked us through and through. As if that was not enough, it drenched the bureau in which we kept our meager number of clothes. All this stormy water turned the carpet into a fetid swamp with only the alligators and boas missing from the foul mix.
At first when I said, "abandon ship, take to the life boats" you wanted to kill me. You cried looking at the mess, then seeing me smiling, you started laughing and so did I, and we fell back on the bed and made love, ignoring the river scent, the odor of the earth come from deep down and the mud painting everything.
We had such freedom of movement in that apartment with its two tiny rooms, the stink of a nearby Chinese restaurant always there with us. Remember the kitchenette no bigger then a closet in which you had to cook. We had the silver Sunbeam toaster my parents bought in 1948, the silverware purchased for a mere pittance. How I'd come up behind you while you stirred spaghetti sauce or sautéed onions in that beat up skillet. I'd feel you up like a newlywed husband is supposed to do to his bride. My hands cradling your breasts, my tongue biting an earlobe, you'd push me away as you fixed dinner, but not too rigorously, as you stood at that crummy stove with several eyes on the range top never working one hundred percent and the damned oven getting about as hot as an easy bake oven.
You were learning to cook. You may not have known exactly what spices I liked, how much salt and pepper to dab in the green beans or even how to boil water. Your coffee sucked and between the crappy oven and your witless ways as a baker, if I wanted cookies, I either bought them off the shelf at the commissary or Mrs. Shepherd, the kind old lady living upstairs tossed some my way. I especially liked her peanut butter cookies.
As my lover you already knew how to make me happy. I could care whether you could cook, whether you had the wherewithal to fry chicken. I sat back in that squatting easy chair; looked at you in the kitchen wearing red high heels and nothing else. Maybe some faux pearls dangling about your neck, your ash-blonde hair down, sometimes looking limp and lifeless, yet you looked so scrumptious, so hot. I scrambled into that efficiency kitchen; we made love leaning on the stove. Then I carried you back to the bedroom not caring in the least if something burned on that pathetic excuse for a stove.
I was a seaman in the Navy, a run of the mill hospital corpsman assigned to bedpan duty and changing linen, doing lots of things your standard white smocked orderly in a civilian hospital never does. What did I earn at that time? Not nearly enough. I had to moonlight at a pizza joint. I'd come home one of two ways: with blood stains all over my starched white uniform or reeking of flour and mozzarella.
In our tiny kitchen, we'd have dinner, you'd tell me of your day, the part-time job you held at the city directory. Then you lucked into that job working from seven to three, forming plastic catheters. What fun we had telling each other of our days away from one another.
My work schedule bounced all over the place. Long nights working coronary care, taking blood pressures, looking at little streaks of light burst on an oscilloscope's black screen, then die in their tracks as they monitored a patient's hurting heart. These constantly beeping machines made it difficult to stay awake and I drank oceans of black coffee. Patients died, patients were transferred, but patients never went home from CCU.
I worked evenings, readied patients for their nights sleeping under our watchful gaze. The ward quieted down after the busy day watch of lab rats carrying needles, tubes and rubber tourniquets for drawing blood, x-ray technicians huffing and puffing pushing portable x-ray machines into the CCU. Doctors made rounds, whispered at the end of a patient's bed, LCDR Grace, the head nurse or one of the other finely trained Navy nurses, trailed behind the assortment of docs, took precise notes, deciphered written orders scratched on a standardized form.
Wives, husbands, parents looking gray and tuckered out stayed close by in the nearby waiting room watching the wall clock scarcely move. They all maintained brave faces and stoic dispositions, but their agony and anxiety always seeped through their waxen faces.
I faced a tour in Vietnam, humping the bush with black Marines, country boy Marines, inner city Marines. Toting my medical gear in a green satchel, a 45 hanging on my hip, dealing with what passed for routine injuries, the traumatic amputations, I see all too often, the heat stroke, headaches, the puncture wounds from punji stakes and Gyrenes getting way too many Dear John letters from back in the world. 13 months trying not to get killed. Nick Malone, my buddy in hospital corps in Great Lakes got himself killed five days after he stepped on the ground. Five days. He was blown right out of his combat boots.
Most of all I worried about losing my family jewels in a rice paddy. Getting my dick and its equipage blown into nothing but a bloody mist, the idea of being blinded, I feared more then death itself.
I could not come back to my sexy, young wife in such a depleted state. No way.
That was all in the future and now we were together. Your father, a ferocious, crusty, hard drinking retired Master Chief looked in on us on occasion; we had Sunday dinner with him and your mother, my mother-in-law, an Italian from Naples who spoke in a thick Neapolitan accent and cooked some phenomenal spaghetti and perfectly baked lasagna.
At night in the privacy of our place, I sat on the bed, watched you shave your legs, we yammered about having two or three kids in quick succession. Of course our finances had to be in a better state, but the Navy would pay the freight for your maternity check ups and the delivery. Everything was so good, so perfect.
Then you started getting those headaches, the pain in the side of your head not going away. We turned off the lights, I padded around the apartment in my socks, trying to make no sound, took over cooking dinner.
One morning you screamed and in starting out of bed, you fell back and could not lift yourself up. Five months 23 days following that hellish morning, you were gone. It was as though a crocodile lurking in a calm flat pool of water had noisily leaped out, snapped you in its death dealing jaws and returned to its bailiwick with nary a motion, a ruffling of the air.
I commanded the morticians to bury you in your cornflower yellow sundress, the white brocaded sweater, yellow high heels, the delicate cross, I gave you for Christmas. Finally, the two books you recently wrapped with your hands.
"Dad, dad, dad to earth, come in Dad."
"Dad, you were zoning out, someplace else.
I turned to my left. Much older, gray hair painted in my temples, too many wrinkles on my face. Emily, my eldest daughter from my second marriage, stood next to me in a Parisian bookstore off the rue d'l'Odean. Emily, my Sorbonne educated progeny, the wife of a Parisian physician who thought Paris was the center of the universe.
"Mom wants to meet for coffee next door soon as you're done. Have you read it?"
"Read what, honey?"
"The book you are holding in your hand Dad." Emily studied me, trying to decide if my body had been occupied by an alien life form.
I looked down; I was holding Portnoy's Complaint in my scared hands. My left hand was missing several middle fingers. Digits I had left in Vietnam.
"I think you were in the Twilight Zone."
"Why don't you buy the book? I read it college. Good book."
"No, I don't think I could read it, someday, but not now. Let's go find your mother and have coffee."