When your wife becomes a mother,
She will not rest until the decorations are up
Or taken down, for that matter.
Before all this,
Holidays weren’t celebrations
The way they are now.
Before, she only photographed
Things like shadows of ducks on ponds,
And rhododendrons, and the dog in a necktie.
A lot, you once thought.
But boy, oh boy, you had no idea how many
Moments she could capture with that phone.
Thousands in the first year of life.
When your wife becomes a mother,
You enter into a lifelong love triangle,
Or quadrangle, or trapezoid, or whatever the angular shape.
Not a circle like it once was, when it was just she and he.
No, you commit to the third or fourth chair,
Sometimes the other table,
When the little warriors,
Your own blood and flesh,
Have won her heart for the day.
But she’ll come back,
And you’ll be there.
You always have been.
With your cologne on,
That new deodorant,
You’ve started putting on at night,
Lying in wait.
Before I met the Wise One, I joined a group of anglers in the night at an old pier, the concrete docks withered by the elements. That night, though winter, felt like any ocean side night: damp, thick, and invigorating. The four of us cast our reels into the sea with the synchrony of familiar co-workers, in fact, that’s what we all were, why we were joined that night—to work on our fishing skills. I was the least competent of all, and I knew this going in, but my form wasn’t too shabby; my wrist flinging back and out with the right timing, sent my hook far into the unsettled dark water.
We began to pull in our lines, and though I thought I hadn’t caught anything, mine stopped, a hard tug fought back. As I wound the reel toward me, a large glob, somewhat purple and iridescent, emerged from the low tide. It resembled a gelatinous pile of nothing at first, then upon examination by me and my fellow fishermen and fisherwomen, we recognized by its dangling tentacles that it was a jellyfish.
No one dared to touch it, though I thought it couldn’t still be venomous now out of the water. It appeared to be dead, then suddenly it came to life, squirming closer to me, until part of it, a yellowish section of its rounded head, suctioned itself to my back. My blue hooded sweatshirt lessened what I thought would the sting. Only a mild discomfort overtook me, like that of a toy dart sticking to your forehead. My fellow anglers offered no help, said little to appease my fear, or try to remove it. They said vague things like, “It’s part of you now.”
And so it was time for me to leave to see the Wise One. I left the fishing dock in a hurry, and ran toward the streets of the village. All the roadways were covered in a fresh layer of ice, solid and clean as a newly Zambonied ice rink. My flat, smooth-bottomed shoes took to the ice with ease, and soon I was skating away into the night, quick and effortless. I thought to myself how much easier this seemed than fishing, how much more suited I was to this new activity versus the last.
I later arrived at the Commune—it seemed as though several hours had past, or least the night had turned to morning. The sensation in my back had vanished, though I knew the jellyfish was indeed part of me, that we were one creature now. The icy streets of the fishing village slipped from my memory, and were replaced with the steamy interior of the Commune. It was a large space with the air of an upscale health food store. Pungent and sweet smells wafted about, mixing with the body heat of tens, possibly hundreds of people. They were all arranged in groups, camped on the floor or on low, soft furniture. They dressed either in long flowing colorful clothes, or very little clothes. Their hair was long and unkempt, matted and thick, or either very clean cut. They were also much younger than me.
Then, the man I had traveled to see, appeared out of thin air, and came right to me, as though we had made an appointment. No one else moved when he arrived, as though they too had appointments and would simply wait their turn with him. He was just as I had imagined: thin, narrow-waist and hips, bony almost, though sinewy and rugged. Only the top of his fuzzy hairline showed, the rest of his ropy hair was tucked up into his striped tam, which rose off the crown of his head like an elongated skull. He wore a green soccer jersey. Here he was, Bob, en carne viva.
I told him everything. About the fishing and the jellyfish. He listened with care, and didn’t say much. When I finished pouring myself out to him, he said with dignified equanimity, that, yes, it is part of me, that that’s what jobs do. They stay with you and you cannot separate yourself from them. They are you, the way the jellyfish is now stuck on your back for good.
And then he stared at me, straight into me. I sensed he was about to speak again, and though I thought he was about to smile, he puckered his lips a bit, tilted his head, and blinked once.
“Maybe fishing isn’t your thing,” he said.
With that, the Wise One moved on into the crowd, circulating amongst the rest of his disciples at the Commune. They embraced him and he them, and it all felt so natural that we would be with him in this way, that he had transcended death and was so alive as he once was. Someone off in the distance had offered me something to take, but I refused. I had seen who I came to see.
For years, I tried to read Don Quixote,
Revering the Spaniard writer in me,
Skimming a thin abridged edition,
Sophomoric in World History.
Later, greater windmills.
Exotic becomes quixotic.
The bookmark stops.
Dare you go on,
Know the ending anyway,
Some will never get their day.
Tee box talk
Green Room gab