Vote for Larry
Beth told me later that what we had done didn't change anything, that we had important work to do, that she was serious about Simon . . . blah, blah, blah.
But everything changed.
I don't want you to think I reverted to some dopey guy following Beth around like a puppy. I was cool, gave her a boost up out of the hole after the rain stopped, waved goodbye with a smile.
You know when you finally do something you've been obsessed with for years, and somehow afterward it feels anticlimactic, not worthy of all the hype?
This wasn't one of those times.
The term "slow-motion" doesn't begin to describe the care I took in playing back my afternoon with Beth. Her kissing my chest, my muddy hands pulling her toward me, the sky opening up and pouring down on us afterward.
It was messy.
It was beautiful.
It ruined my vision quest.
I went home and ate a three-egg omelet with half a jar of salsa, then took the longest, hottest shower of my life.
I had been happy with Janine--she was kind and gregarious and fun--but this was Beth. As for Simon? I didn't care what Beth said about her commitment to him. His reign was over.
I wanted to play it cool, so I didn't rush over to Beth's. I grabbed a notebook and a handful of markers and headed for the basement.
In the cocoon-like safety of my swing, I outlined several ideas. I got so carried away mapping out various projects, I ran out of paper in the first fifteen minutes.
I left the swing for the larger space of the workroom. Cans of paint lined the walls, probably leftover from Peter's jobs. I rolled out a giant drop cloth until it covered most of the basement floor. I took a brush from the tray next to the sink and began graphing my thoughts. Soon the tarp looked like an abstract expressionist painting with chunks of color representing possible avenues of action.
When it was dark, I took a break and cleaned up. Peter had left a message saying he was in Worcester and wouldn't be home until tomorrow. So I figured enough time had passed for a non-desperate visit to Beth's.
In all the turmoil of coming home, I hadn't made Beth a Christmas present. She and I had always celebrated the holidays as non-materialistically as possible--we made each other presents. So I sat down and spilled my guts in a letter, detailing how I'd felt about her for years and the new level we'd taken the relationship to. The thing was mushier than a stupid pop song, but the words just wouldn't stop. I took the Ganesh statue from its box in the closet and wrapped it carefully in one of my T-shirts. I headed over to her house.
But what I saw from the edge of her yard froze me in my steps.
She and Simon were making snow angels.
They were lying on their backs, holding hands, and naming the constellations. Our constellations, the ones Beth and I had named a hundred times before.
But the most painful part of watching Beth and Simon? They looked happy.
I'd witnessed Beth with Todd, with Charlie, with Dave--but never this relaxed and comfortable with someone else.
She was right about one thing she'd said earlier today: Nothing had changed between us. Nothing at all.
I shoved the letter in my pocket and trudged home.
I tried to hate her--for using me, playing with my mind, cheating on him--but I couldn't muster up the anger. Whatever she did to me from here on in was nothing compared to what I'd put her through. She had me over a barrel and she knew it.
I hurried to the basement to put my pent-up energy to use. But this time, the paint splattered and flew across the tarp at warp speed. Where my work that afternoon had been meticulous and well thought out, this was wild and raw. A Pollock of pain.
Copyright © 2004 Janet Tashjian
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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