My wife, Nina, and I danced so hard at the Memorial Auditorium we had to call in for work on Friday; I with the achy neck, she with the cranky knees and toes.
Fuzzy warm vocals gnawed the cables. Guitar shards poked out the amps. Nina gave you a nice neighborly wave. You gave us a nod. We were the rabid squirrels waltzing to “Something in the Way,” while everyone else smoked cigarettes and drank beer from red plastic cups.
This isn’t anything I haven’t told you. You make me feel the ripped jeans under my khakis, you know metaphorically discussing it. Polyester turns to flannel, figurative again. I love it especially when I’m eating a falafel at lunch.
With you in the headphones, I don’t fret about juice stains before my next meeting. I channel your energy and center my torso, to help prod the diagrams, thumb the clicker, etc.
I sense you, beneath my buttons, leaning on the shirt-pocket, peeking out the collar. Nevermind my colleagues with their throat clears and their overabundant cologne. It’s our little joke, the peephole.
I hate to be the pooper here. Nina needs help in the kitchen, and I don’t want her in there. She’s making hamburgers; they’re pretty tasty. Just a friendly reminder, you are permanently invited to a sizzling dinner at our studio apartment.
Now where… I was trying to be the pooper here, which isn’t easy.
As mentioned in previous correspondence, this is not a matter of me requiring a stand-in for my wannabe rebellion, requesting an effigy for vicarious youth, or needing an almost-middle- age-crisis icon. It’s more simple, and more important. You helped me realize how alive I am, and how alive Nina…
Through this: we shake our rumps while cooking dinner, just being silly, just being human. Hopping from cushion to cushion, plucking air guitar licks out of the air, kicking stuffed dogs at the fridge.
I crank the volume knob with my toes. This tends to bend Nina over, and she turns into a spinning thrashing ballerina. When extra enthused, I will even leap over the coffee table.
This freaks her out, and me a tad. I’m inclined to stub my toes on our recliner, just north of the scallop dishes and fern pots, then tumble forward. It’s always a rush, playing dead on the carpet.
The last time I danced that way, not too long after the Memorial, I leapt over my attaché case with a big report stuffed inside because I felt clogged and torn; I aimed to pluck myself clean like a huge slimy splinter. Instead, my toes got caught on the latch and flipped it open. No one was hurt, just some papers scattering in the barbecue smoke. A scratch sheet landed on an egg-white, absorbing the oil to transparency. That was liberating. If you were present and had a camera, you would have put it in one of your music-videos.
Don’t worry, we would not upstage you. We, the rabid squirrels, would only be a backdrop, and we’d be satisfied with that. They could superimpose you, Kurt, over the shot.
It’s my inclination to startle Nina by the stove, a pretend I’m-fixing-ta-tackle-ya-into-the-taters, honey. Unquestionably heartfelt, this is a silly gesture. That’s your music to us – I mean, respect it, we respect it, but all the flailing and twirling scrapes away the petty stuff: bills, etc. The last time, I wasn’t doing anything. Neither was Nina.
She was leaning against the counter, thumbing a zine, tapping her toes, waiting for the burgers to steam. I sat around impersonating a regular schmoe after work, the sinking-into-the-cushion routine. It was a really long day that day. I crossed my legs; the blinds were slit to catch the last of the sun. I mumbled something about fireflies later.
Early evening blew the American Dream into our living room, right into the kitchen. There the Dream lingered, the barbecue, the breeze, the placidity between car honks. Gorgeous. You were our kooky cousin, Kurt, splashing and wiggling around the room, with your mucous- blonde feelers out for the nuisances. Blind and glowing. We glanced, blushed, flashed a little tooth. I cannot say whether I heard a clink or not, because that’s a regular part of the domestic soundtrack, a dish shifting, a dish scraping. Commonplace stuff.
If I could describe what happened, I could have prevented it from being something to tell, right? One minute Nina leaned against the counter, reading a zine, hamburger smoke curling behind her.
A knife slipped from the counter. It slid the zine cover, like a snake, and sunk in her foot. The handle wiggled, and her mouth widened. There was a slow moment, we looked at each other, the knife, then each other. I dove to her toes and threw the damn thing in the wall above the microwave.
We know it’s not your fault. Yet while Nina whimpered and got sick up our appetizers, and I gritted my teeth and told 911 this is not a prank, you went on about your problems. You moaned and grunted, just oblivious in the speakers. The fuzz and foam around the speaker holes and notches might as well have been confessional-booth screening, mass-produced, since you didn’t know or care where or to whom you were purging anymore. It was all about you. Like you were not really there. I clutched Nina. All we had was each other.
I stuck the phone between my neck and shoulder, so I could hug her better. The static in the receiver shook my eardrum. Nina didn’t lose a toe, thank heaven. Now I know it’s contrary to reason, how could you have known, right?
If you had been there, if beyond the metaphorical speak you experienced what we did, you could understand our particular thick sadness. The catalyst for this particular sadness was: life flowing past our problems unconcerned. Water under the troubled bridge. Life flows past while someone you love bleeds all over the tile.
You just went on about your problems. Welcome at any other point, these groans became mockery. Sounds and more sounds, and no one listening. In a teleconference they call this a disconnect. Immediacy flickering. Nina hasn’t been able to dance but one day. It missed her Achilles.
All three of us want to be understood. Scratch that – not only understood; appreciated. I am afraid one of us is going to have a nervous breakdown, Kurt, if you do not respond soon. We need to know you are out there.
I don’t want to throw accusations like used and betrayed. That doesn’t seem fair. We simply request that you acknowledge our pain, given how much we acknowledge yours. We ask the real you to try and comprehend the real us, and it is not too late. Clearly we haven’t seen all sides of you. I know you have stomach problems, but seriously partner, we make some great burgers.