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I’ve always liked the Boy Scout philosophy – be prepared! Perhaps it simply strikes the now-grown child of a military man as an elegantly simple truth that the frequent chaos of life can be made manageable if one only has the proper tools and knows how to use them.
Perhaps in that sense I could view our relationship as shock training. I could say that I’ve managed to drop myself into the middle of a dessert and that I’m trying to work my way out with my bare hands, alone. Do I know how to turn the prickly pears of your compliments into sustenance? Can I take these barren silences and wrap myself up in them -- like turning sand into a blanket and pillow – without drowning in shifting subtleties? Can I track your oasis solely by the guiding scent of buried streams? Or have my senses been addled by the glare of your harsh sense of humor – is there any hope or belief still running beneath the hard scrabble of your disillusionment? Is there any kind of tender oasis within you, at all?
Or perhaps this isn’t fair. Your only real error is in taking up with a crazy lady poet who can make metaphors out of anything. This last bit, for instance, drawn out of a humorous portrait we had taken as we attempted to distract ourselves from a senseless argument we were having in, of all places, a shopping mall. You had suddenly switched from grumbling about your upcoming court date to launching into a tirade about the illegal nature of traffic court based on some fragment of the constitution you would not specify. You know how your tirades, particularly your political ones, tire me and that I always suspect you of trying to pick a fight when you bring up the constitution. I couldn’t decide whether to toss out a quip (“It’s not the constitutions fault you can’t be bothered to look down at your speedometer”) or flee down the nearest emergency exit in order to find some quiet little spot where I could smoke five cigarettes, simultaneously, in relative peace, when I suddenly noticed the friendly sign of a children’s portrait studio. I dragged you in, still grumbling about relative freedoms and the nature of sham democracy particularly as evidenced by the outrageous verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial, all of which very nearly gave the otherwise pleasant-looking man behind the counter a heart attack, when the sight of my putting money on that counter and pointing resolutely steadied everyone’s nerves. You settled into the scenery not just easily but with the contented look of someone who has just been given candy. We both liked the dessert backdrop and the pith helmets which we popped on our heads, immediately, even as we also decided in conjunction that the pick axes were not only anomalous but down-right silly. It was your idea to strike a pose of apoplectic horror – I simply played along by reaching out in an overly-dramatic emotive fashion. I still have no idea what the photographer thought of the couple of lunatics who wandered into his studio, but the picture is priceless. Funniest of all, the fact that you can’t quite tell if my hands are reaching out to rescue you or strangle you.
The truth is, it would be easier to prepare myself if you were a dessert – I’d be better able to see your wisecracks coming if they flew across a barren landscape. Yet, you are not a dessert, you are a shopping mall and the tragedy is absurd. Just because the juxtaposition of your offerings addles me doesn’t mean that there are sensible reasons for my choosing yet more lingering in witty metaphors over the ready availability of emergency exits. There is no excuse, except….
You are not a shopping mall or a dessert. You are the world’s most exotic plant and I am Frieda Kahlo and I just can’t leave well enough alone.
They say that when the only tool you have is a hammer after a while every difficulty you encounter begins to look like a nail in want of a beating. I suppose there is a parallel to that notion, that if one’s only tool is wit every available scenario begins to look like a life lesson in want of unnecessarily complicated metaphors or a picture just waiting to be captured in five dollar words or an unsensed point in want of being driven home with a pithy wisecrack.
We’re not that complicated. You simply aggrandize your distrust of authority figures by fuming over the worrisome actions of the government. It’s not John Ashcroft’s fault your father was a drill sergeant. It’s not the Boy Scouts’ fault you remind me of my father in ways that inspire in me, simultaneously, both these states of absolute love and out-right defiance.
And as the photographer can tell you, there is simply no preparing for either you or I but especially not the both of us in tandem.
"All the darkness in the world
cannot put out the light
of one candle"