Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Tall, Cool Drink

“Our usual spot?”
His car slipped into the parking stall while he chatted, seemingly engrossed, in animated conversation. He emerged leisurely, sauntered slowly in ritualized pacing through phone calls: toes sharply angled to forty-five degrees precede a decisive heel strike. His movements are liquid and graceful. Gravel grinds underfoot and, leading with his hips, he shifts forward. The trailing leg swings, toes angle, decisive and deliberate, strike, plant, soles scuff, hips shift, trailing leg travels. 
The cut, warp, and weft of his garments often catch my eye as they mime his movements. Pleated, chestnut, poly-blend slacks top cordovan loafers. A cotton, pullover sweater in navy opens at the neck; white striping edges his upturned collar. Only the diamond stud piercing his ear hints of the radical rocker contained and constrained beneath conservative couture.
I love watching this tall, cool drink of a man.
I left him pacing the parking lot to snag our usual spot, a high table next to the window, our overlook of the river reflecting the welkin slide from blue to peach, to cayenne, to gray, to blue - midnight blue. High, striated clouds suspended in opalescent fire, forecast the changing sky.  
I had barely settled before Tall Cool Drink flowed in like a surging tsunami, flooding my present, short-circuiting every synapse, obliterating all but Now.
Geron is a soft spoken man of few words. Muted, tenor tones march out in crisp and carefully selected sentences. I like to say he is long and lean: six foot four, broad through the shoulders and narrow of hip. Honed, European features are softened by curls highlighted in silver. Geron doesn’t walk - he glides: chest out, shoulders back, spine straight, only his legs move in the practiced gait of a ceremonial soldier. He is meticulous in appearance and thought. Presence - it is that that floods the bar - heads turn, forks fall, and a hush descends upon the din.
I vaulted from my barstool to hold him briefly, brushing his cheek with my lips, inhaling his scent, absorbing each biometric, drinking him in in every sense, with every sense.
We ordered our usual: a Hefe Weizen for me, a Marzen for he, and chicken nachos with extra condiments.
Our beer arrived - amber ale in chilled, sweating pints over which we exchanged niceties, the how was your day dear trivialities that update and warm one to conversation.
I slipped my iPad from its tote for a Keynote demonstration - Apple’s version of Power Point. Opening an insulin presentation, I started through the slides.
“And look, you don’t need a pointer.” I pressed my finger to the screen, “See the red dot?”
“Oh, I’m probably blocking it with my finger.” I rotated the tablet and he watched the red dot travel across the picture with my fingertip.”
“Cool,” he exclaimed between sips.
“I want to ask you about writing,” I wasted little time.
“In December, we had a conversation about writing. You hosted that Deck the Halls program and wrote your talk and a poem.”
He nodded, “You asked me to share that with you.”
“I did and you didn’t.” Truth be told, he denied several requests and multiple people. “People want to know you Geron,” I’d said at the time. “Your writing is one way.” He was unrelenting. 
“You said you weren’t finished with it,” I returned to the current conversation, “That is was written for that time, for that performance, and it wasn’t the kind of thing to share.” I paused briefly.  “And you said you worried a little - wondering if you wrote well enough, if you were good enough. So my question for you is this: what do you want to write?”
Geron exhaled nasally, noisily, and blinked long as he is wont to do when a thoughtful or troubling response is required. 
“I don’t know, that’s one of the problems,” he frowned, “I don’t know what I want to write. I liken writing to playing the guitar, which I long to be skilled at but,” he exhaled again before the remaining words tumbled out in a rush, “That desire is often fleeting. And... and I don’t know if  I can bear to hear myself play poorly. And,” he cocked his head and raised a brow with an expression of surprise, “If writing was in me - I’d write. I’d make time for it. Most writers are compelled to write; they have to write.”
“Exactly,” I nodded. “I often write because unless I get the story out of me, I’ll not sleep.”
“Yeah, I’m not like that,” his head quivered in a nearly imperceptible shake no. “You know, I own a fraction of all the good poetry that’s been written and when I read it I think; what’s the point?”
Our nachos arrived: a steaming platter of chips drenched in dripping cheese, dotted with square chunks of chicken and ramekins of sour cream, salsa, and guacamole on the side. We hungrily pulled sections away; hot cheddar stretched unbroken to our small plates. I scooped out large dollops of sour cream and guac, and drizzled salsa. 
“You may see it differently when you don’t have the pressures of work. Who was it that became famous in retirement? Michener? Clavell? Clancy? One of them. Things may look different in retirement, which quickly approaches.” I opened wide for a fully garnished chip.
“It gets closer day by day,” he said, head tilting left to feed himself.
We lapsed into silence for a short time, feeding our faces with our fingers. 
I licked mine clean and continued. “A friend of mine began to blog. He writes corporate policy so technically, he’s proficient. But proficiency is not what carries the reader forward. He posted to his blog and asked me to critique it. And - it has no heart.” I stopped prying and chiseling my chips apart and laid down my fork, brow furrowed. “There is nothing of him in it. His writing is mechanical; it lacks soul. And that’s the thing Geron,” I leaned in, “You write for yourself and then - can you muster the courage to share what is deeply buried in your heart with others? Coz that is what carries the reader.” 
I straightened and leaned back, “It takes something,” I paused. “That fear in me?” Wide-eyed, my extended hand signaled Stop. “I don’t think it will ever go away.”
“No,” he interjected, “It probably won’t.”
“And I post anyway,” I said in earnest, “I post my piece anyway. To be a writer that’s going to touch people, you have to be authentic and transparent. And then,” my  hand covered my heart, “You must be willfully courageous to share that which is at your core.” 
His head shook, “I don’t share my writing much.”
“I know,” I folded my arms, briefly tucking fingers beneath my chin, “I’m inviting you to, encouraging you to. Coz really Geron, if you can’t share it with me?” My sentence trailed off.
Geron wrinkled his face and swiveled a quarter turn, throwing his left arm over the back of his chair to look away. It is a posture he assumes when our conversations penetrate. Pivoting places the sinew and bone of his shoulder between us and shields his core, ostensibly providing some semblance of safety. It is unconscious and automatic, a clanging bell, a red flag - a call for kindness and kid gloves though he fends for the uppercut.
“I know,” he stared off to his left, “If I can’t share it with you,” he turned to bore through me with dark eyes, “Who can I share it with?”
I nodded in tacit agreement.
Our waitress openly flirted, disclosing her schedule, inviting his return.
“She’s dangerous,” he said with a wry smile, gesturing with his chin once she left.
“Your pretty face opens many doors,” I smirked. Geron scowled and growled.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know and don’t notice." I sprang forward, instantly animated. "OH WAIT! You do but you pretend you don’t!” I cackled and clapped, applauding my veracity before lifting a line from Saturday Night Live, “Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket.”
He grinned sheepishly, shoulders bobbing with laughter.
I want to see The Descendants,” I abruptly changed topics. “The people of Hawai’i love that movie.
“It was too much like real life,” Geron grimaced, “And you don’t need to see it on the big screen. George Clooney gives a strong performance though; if you like George Clooney.”
“C’mon!” I gave him a look of incredulity. “What’s not to like about George Clooney?” I shrugged, “He’s easy on the eyes, in any case.”
“You would say that.”
“I’d say that about you too,” I was sophomoric and giggly, batting my lashes.
“You need your eyes checked,” he scowled again in feigned disapproval, loathe to be mistaken for one who adores being adored.
“You won’t like it,” I sing-songed back, grinning Cheshire. “It’ll be a bummer for you-u-u-u,” I sang. “You’ll say, ‘You mean I’m not drop-dead gorgeous anymore? Bummer man, I loved being drop-dead gorgeous.’”
“Doink!” his finger poked in my direction. “Okay!” his tone was one of exasperation. His arms spread in a wide, welcoming  gesture, opening his core to the sucker punch. “Any other buttons you wanna push?”  We laughed heartily, uncontrollably, uncaring if we disturbed others.
Just then our waitress returned to light the table votive. “I’d like to light your fire, if I may.”
“Sure,” he said absently, “Please do.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed, “You’ve never said that to me!”  We doubled over in peals of laughter. I dabbed at tears with my napkin.
“It was the ‘if I may’ part,” Geron defended.
 My turn, I poked a finger in his direction, “Doink!” 
“Yeah, right.” He was at least bemused, if not amused.
Note to self: use phrase “if I may.”
Nachos snarfed, he waited while I guzzled my brew.
“You look particularly dapper tonight,” I said, lightly clutching his arm as we exited. “You look lovely,” I smiled, “If lovely is a word that can be applied to men.”
“I’m used to it,” he was jaunty, “You’ve trained me.”
“Yes,” I shoved him, “Cringing all the way.”
“Hey,” he stopped in his tracks, arms splayed, “I’m still here!” 
“Goodnight honey” he said as I kissed his cheek and pressed into it with my own. 
Goodnight honey, it was an unusual thing for him to say.
“Goodnight Geron.” I stood behind my car and watched him go, slurping the last of the Tall, Cool Drink. 
He turned, “Talk Thursday?”
“Yes, take good care,” I called out. “Goodnight sweet man,” I whispered.
Flood waters receded as his car raced uphill toward home. I sank deeply into the leather of my car. The wind blew, the night deepened, the moon rose and pulled tides, and earth assumed its onerous rotation once again.
The aftermath is always the same. I am beached with the flotsam and jetsam of our rendezvous - tasked with sifting, sorting, remembering, uncovering, discovering, retrieving, and treasuring. Some days later, I may write. Once called, I write because to do less dishonors that which brings peace. Often something is revealed that was there all along, hiding in plain sight.
Such is the nature of writing authentically, transparently, and courageously sharing that which is at my core.
“What’s the point?” he asked.
The point: There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you...  and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any medium and will be lost... the world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions... it is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”    ~ Martha Graham

Capiche?  ~ L