I found an old journal from 1996 that I haven’t looked at probably since I stowed it away. Old memories. One of the first entries reads: “No one can play the strings of your song. I realize that now. I realize what I keep playing is your laughter. What I keep playing is your love. It’s you I play, not me.” Though I allowed it to be a painful time, I’m glad I recorded its journey where I had allowed myself to “fall in love” with the most unavailable — and truly the most gorgeous — man on the planet.
How did I deal with my pain? Exactly as I always have: I jumped on a plane and flew away, this time to Florida, by myself. These are the thoughts that I recorded in a brand-new journal.
Wind on the mountain
Solitude of the eagle,
Of the hawk.
Everything trying to merge and
Everything trying to separate
Wholeness held in one hand
Loneliness wrapped in love
Love not knowing its own face
Love not seeing, remaining
Undiscovered and unseen.
(I only write poetry when wounded by love.)
A mockingbird sings, looking for love to touch its soul too. I wait for the sunset in Key West. Still thinking of that man. Can’t get into him. Never will. Can’t get away from him. …But I will. The broad arm of a mahogany leans across the second story patio of Mallory Square, giving shade, but my skin is fried by too much sun. I can’t feel its cool brush. There’s a gentle clatter of ceiling fans in an effort to move air that’s too tired to move.
At the Italian Fisherman, another day, I sit on a patio at the water’s edge. I watch garfish and cat fish being circled by one small barracuda while shadows of pelicans pass over. At the table next to me are two fat women who are bitching about work in Minnesota: that they’re not allowed to wear perfume. The light breeze brings to me a strong odor of overpoured perfume clinging to their clothes as if telling their boss, “Fuck you. Smell me now.”
Later, traveling across the Everglades, heading to Clearwater, I notice a man following me in a gold Subaru. When the highway becomes four-lane, he hovers next to me, turning constantly to stare at me. It creeps me out. My imagination runs wild, as I imagine him taking down my license plate, and though it’s a rental, somehow he will find out who rented it, telling the agency some story to get them to give them my address. Damn my imagination. I slow way down, visibly taking out a pencil and paper while I drive, letting him know to beware that I am now taking down HIS license. He finally drives on ahead.
There are Native Americans in the Everglades that still live in — or at least build — thatched huts of bundled cattails — like the one I built for myself in New Zealand — but they put tar paper across the peak. A canal that borders Highway 41 is dotted with fishermen. The shacks might be their fishing shacks. In the distance a charcoal cloud, heavy with rain, hangs above the swamp that extends to the horizon. I learned later that a jet crashed into the Everglades — not within my vision or point in time — but 109 people died. The nose of the plane, the plane itself, was buried 30 feet deep in the muck. If anyone had survived the crash, the alligators were waiting. Salvage was not discussed.
Farther west, I met the green fabric of fields woven into the blue fabric of sky from which (for whatever reason), I weave in a quote by Annie Proulx: “We face up to the awful things because we can’t go around them.” That man — that man that I came to Florida to escape — is with me again, like a needle stuck in an old record. I must face why I am attracted to the emotionally unavailable. I already know why I get on planes and fly away when my heart is hurt.
I’m airport watching now on my way back to the Northwest, leaving behind plastic-fantastic. Key West is a fascinating amusement, but overall I dislike Florida. Sitting at Delta Gate 54A, a 25-year-old, hidden behind sunglasses, tells me: “…I was 17 then. A long time ago. I was a day late. Didn’t matter if I was a dollar short or a day late, my parents would take care of it.” He takes off his glasses to clean them on his shirt and puts them back on. “But now,” he says, “it’s the real world.” Yes, it is, I think.
I glance away and see an old man, with trembling hands, eating a nacho with jalapenos. He drinks water, it shaking in his hand, but suddenly he stands up and moves away from a young woman who’s drinking a beer, changing tables. Then he changes tables again. He’s moving yet again when a long-haired man with a beeper, looking at each beep, distracts me.
Another man, older, without a chin, is standing nearby. He keeps pulling up his overly baggy pants in a way that accentuates his penis and balls. He looks like a child molester. Two indiscreet Native Americans walk by, carrying ceremonial drums. For some reason, the man I’m trying to erase from my heart and mind re-enters, a constant thrump, like the river flowing over rocks and boulders on its way to the sea. Conversations distract me. “Where’s she going to stay?” a man asks. “In the States,” she answers, jutting out her jaw. I didn’t hear the rest as the conversation blurred into a man talking about back surgery to the stranger next to him.
Yes, there are windows opening constantly in the pulse of time. I take it in, like a grouper’s mouth sucking in the unsuspecting dinner. I notice an elegantly dressed woman in colors that accentuate her aged tan and silvered hair. She sits alone, watching also, her hand lazily drooped over the arm of the chair, while mine is scribbling in my journal.
And then she rises, as do I, when boarding is announced.