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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Coffee shop


The weather has been a bit harsh, though nothing like what they have gone through east of here. We get ice, a little snow, then sun, then rain, then more ice. Today, freezing fog. A few days ago, an inch of snow, hence the photo.

I thought I would be spending the day productively, as I did yesterday, but have crashed in front of the wood stove, unwilling to do anything but eat, read, and fetch firelogs. Nothing pulls the heat out of this sixty-year-old house like these icy fogs.

:::

A man friend, one I'd worked with long ago, took me for a break from work in the coffee shop.

"How is it going?"

"Work? Good."

"Well, I mean, your new life and all that?"

He's almost the last one still asking. Most people are pretty much over the bursting-chrysalis thing by now. Risa is Risa.

His curiosity is personal, though. How I'm doing, not on the surface, but at heart, at soul, matters. There is a fire running around the edges of the room. Crystals are growing in the flourescent fixtures, sending unknown colors into the walls. I really don't know what to say. The answers change when he asks the questions. When did this start? Around him, that is.

I sense danger -- more from me than from him.

"Gunga Din, following me all the way to the bottom of the hill to let me know I've just cut a swath through an acre of poison oak," is what I say.

Meaning, you've always watched out for me.

"Hey," he says, "When you speak like that it spooks me. That was someone else I knew, he was a nice guy, a friend, and a hell of a woodsman; he was in trouble, though, and here you are, this shining, vibrant, happy woman, and you're here one hundred percent. I want to know more about you as you and and how you happened."

"Why?" I'm picking at the edge of the table with my fingers, unable to meet his eyes when he looks at me like that.

"Well, most people don't just up and become themselves, and with very little help from the outside at that. I knew you were strong, but this is almost unaccountable." He pauses. "I'm interested because most of life goes downhill, and you've managed to turn around and go uphill for awhile. Maybe there's something in it to learn from."

I don't really have an answer for him. He's not a girl, for one thing. He's sitting on something, sure, but digging at it maybe wouldn't be good for the choices he's made.

And if it's me that interests him right now, I'd have to ask myself where that's coming from. I wouldn't want to be attractive because of any link to my past. And very few men are able to overlook such a past in forming relationships. They either want a girl-girl or a guy-guy. Not something they may perceive as in between.

Anyway! How did I get onto that train of of thought?

I'm not available and neither is he. We're both well taken and well cared for, and promises have real meanings, as I once learned to the sorrow of nearly everyone around me.

But sitting here with him is unnerving. I can barely breathe.

"Ummmm, well, I don't know, really. One day I just looked in the mirror, and, like, well, okay, this has all just got to stop."

"Meaning the self-deception thing."

"Well, yah. There's almost no more in it than that. You've read the book."

"Most of it." He waves his oh-so-very-male hand. It's definitely his gesture. Not dismissive, not anything definable; a kind of acknowledgement that life is made up of narratives, and we select among them as best we can for those things we choose to call truths.

"Can you," he asks, eyes glinting, "really remember all that, the woods on fire, carrying that big saw over your shoulder and telling us all what to do?"

"Gah, no. I mean, yes. Or, umm, no." I'm twisting the fingers of my hands around each other, a thing Beloved says I do when cornered. "It's like being stuck with somebody else's life in my head. Waking up from a coma, you know, and I'd had my head and body used by this other character for, like, forever, and, and, I'm gonna cry..."

Like I did in the bar in the Big Country town, when the interesting, handsome and very married man who'd bought me a drink asked, "So what was you name before?"

Dammit.

His eyes soften. "Pushed you too hard. You're all girl, Risa, and you were always all girl. Thing is, that's what was so interesting about how you made such a success of that other life."

I'm dabbing at my eyes with a wet hanky.

"Well, a lot of good that did me. I went through five counselors before they gave up on that -- that other person. Hnnnnnnh-uh." Sniff.

He pats my other hand, the non-hanky one. "There's some things you could teach us. That book is okay as far as it goes, but you've seen more than you let on."

"Maybe we're better off not looking too far into it." I roll up the hanky and stuff it back into my purse. "I'll tell you this much, though."

He leans forward, so as not to miss anything.

"What I've got, everyone has it."

"Mnh?"

"Everyone. We're all like blazing stars in a galaxy. There's no limit to what anyone can be."

"Even me?" he's grinning, reaches for his cowboy hat.

"Mmm-hm, even you."

"And what do I want to be?"

"Couldn't tell you."

I'm recovered enough that I'm getting coy again. He gives me a shrewd look.

"Better be getting you back to work, huh?"

And, ever the rough-hewn gentleman, offers me a hand up from my chair.

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