Waist-deep and Shuddering

Drew stood barefoot on the shore of Compton’s Lake. The moon, a waning crescent, was bright in the sky and reflected perfect and still in the icy mirror of the water. He was vaguely aware of the sharp coldness of the rocks that dug into his feet, and of the subzero chill that cut through his t-shirt.

Tara had hated the water, and he knew it. The thought had burdened him during the long interrogations in the Bahamas. They could see how his shoulders hunched and his head hung with the weight of it. The police, Tara’s family, the public interpreted it as guilt, because, in the end, that’s exactly what it was.

If she wouldn’t love him, and he couldn’t have her, then let the water take her. Let the motherfucking tides claim, and keep and welcome her. Done deal. Agreement signed.

A sharp gust blew through him, made his bones ache, and brought a clarity to the moment. He tested the water with his toes; quick, unsteady jabs at first. Then, he was able to step in up to his ankles. He paused until his legs were numb enough to proceed, then made it up to his knees. He smelled a wood fire, heard Christmas music from a car radio in the distance, and saw the ripples distort the moon.

He made it up to his thighs and began shuddering.

He wondered what it felt like for Beth Walters when she realized that she wasn’t leaving the water. Was she afraid? Or was she sad?

Drew felt mostly sad.

He was waist-deep and the shuddering calmed as a strange warmness ebbed in. The moon danced in the water, now joined by a bright array of stars.

He moved forward into the water until he was submerged to the chin, his arms and legs without feeling. He willed himself to go further, deeper, until he had to push on the lake floor with his outstretched toes to snatch quick breaths from the surface.

He did this for a while until he couldn’t do it anymore.

And as the lake swallowed him he turned his mind to the possibility of homemade submarines and undersea adventures.

Getting to Mary

It’s a quiet, cool morning in Leytonstone, and the early morning rain has given way to sunshine and blue skies. I’m walking from my kids’ school where I’d just dropped them off. I’m on my way to St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery because I want to visit Mary.  When I arrive to the sprawling, statue-laden site, I quickly realize I don’t really know where Mary is. Thankfully, I consult my phone and find directions complete with photographed landmarks.  I’ve recreated them below:

Wiesbaden in July

Downtown Wiesbaden with cobblestone plazas and old restaurants.

Wiesbaden in July and the park across my hotel — the one near the Hauptbahnoff — is filled with topless sunbathers drowsing. Languid, unabashed, content.

I’m walking to the city center to meet a friend, a former student, for dinner and a beer. I pass by another park, this one with a pond, geese and swans, and enormous oak trees that appear ancient, wizened even.

People know how to enjoy their open spaces here.  An old couple sat on a bench.  They’re dressed for church, only it’s a Tuesday.  They’re a movie poster of sentimenatlity, of melancholy.  A little boy runs into a gaggle of geese, dispersing them into a noisy mass of honking complaints.  Only they converge again and this time the boy produces a chunk of crusty bread and has to be rescued by his mother as the geese attempt to overrun him.

I meet my friend at a place in the stadtmitte called Scotch ‘n Soda. It’s popular with expats and the military folks stationed at the nearby Kasernes.  We grab a table outside, and quickly order local beers.

It’s been years since I’d seen him.  He’s one of those rare continually affable people you only read about.  That, combined with his all American boy handsomeness, made him quite popular with his fellow students.

He tells me that he’s married now and living a little further north of Wiesbaden.  He and his wife are having a baby. She has German family. When he speaks of her he smiles involuntarilly,  his eyes light up — even more so when he mentions the baby.

I know that feeling, I think.  Knew that feeling.

We order food.  Me, stroganoff, him a burger or something.  He’s looking for work, and I offer up some ineffectual suggestions.

We’re interrupted by the table next to us — a boisterous gang of Americans are drinking their dinner from great liter-sized mugs.  They’re from Alabama.  They’re here to work on Blackhawk helicopters for the U.S. Army.  One of them, a tall, thick redhead, laughs and I instantly  forget how alone in life I feel in that moment.

Just to know that there are people like that in the world, where their presentness, their laugh could chase shadows away.

My friend catches my attention. He wants to talk more about his job prospects, his wife, and his baby to come and I listen as best I can.  He’s the kind of guy that deserves good things in his life.

I glance at the redhead and give her names in my head.  I hear her laugh, her Alabama drawl and I wonder if one of the burly guys at her table is her boyfriend or husband.

My friend and I finish dinner and drink scotches after.  The redhead is gone and the table next to us is silent until and older couple — maybe even the couple from the bench — sit there and quietly discuss their orders in German. I wonder if I, too, was the kind of guy that deserves good things lin life.


Let’s Call Him Patrick

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Travellers, Patrick and Ramona.

Patrick says he just got out of prison after a 31-month stint for kidnapping. He orders a fruity cider from Viv, while his girlfriend, Ramona, asks for a “cocktail.”

Viv needs more information, so Ramona asks for a concoction of milky liqueurs that, as I hear, included Baileys, Kahlua, and maybe Coke.

Patrick’s full of nervous energy. He wants to talk, but he also wants to drink.  I think, mostly, he wants to be alone with Ramona, which is why he’s at the hotel in the first place. Ramona seems smitten with him. She’s happy he’s out. They can’t keep their hands off of each other. I think Ramona dressed up for the occasion. Did her hair and makeup, like this meant a lot to her. Patrick says he didn’t kidnap anyone.

This is all a mistake. He says he’s a “traveller.” Ramona the same. I’m not quite sure what that is. I’m a traveller, I think. Where are they traveling from? To? “Nah mate, we’re Travellers.” Capital “T.” They’re part of a community of itinerant peoples with a rich culture that seldom inhabit permanent dwellings. You don’t call them “gypsies,” or variations thereof, and you most certainly don’t use the pejorative term popularized in Snatch.

You can tell that Patrick might be as hard “as coffin nails.” I’m a big dude, but Patrick is fearless.  I’m a bit anxious around him. As soon as I’ve met him, though, he and Ramona are out, to their room, enjoying the kind of reunion only those were separated from an almost three year prison sentence can enjoy.

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