Rusty finished high school with a test
two mornings at College of the Redwoods.
We stayed at a motel in Eureka.
Sheets of January ice covered the car.
We scraped but didn’t have time to defrost.
The exit dipped under part of the building
but most of the road was nearly level.
I couldn’t see behind or to the side.
My front view was the size of a dinner plate.
Somehow we reached the college without crashing,
climbed the icy steps to the testing room.
The second morning we allowed more time,
and the freeze wasn’t quite as hard.
That afternoon we came home to a house
so chilled that there was ice in the sink.
Of course the waterlines were frozen.
We kept our coats on through hours of burning
the hottest driest firewood we had.
That freeze was armageddon for house plants.
The peanut cactuses mostly survived,
but the Christmas cactus was never the same.
Rusty managed to perk up some
of the spider plants and creeping charlies.
One of the wax begonias came back.
The fuscias only started sprouting
by the end of summer, and didn’t bloom
till spring of the following year.
The problem, stated simply—
I don’t want to be celebate
for the rest of my life, but she
won’t even think about sex.
Opening the relationship
to secondary partners is
totally against her rules,
so it’s either cheat or break up.
When a spiky haired man of anime
accepts a big eyed girl’s profession of love,
that’s usually it. Their love will endure
despite any potential rival loves,
being on opposing sides of a war,
or even a science fictional mishap
making one of them twice the other’s age,
even if they seldom share a kiss.
Without lovemaking, my own heart faltered.
The crack of difference became a rift
spread wide like the Atlantic Ocean.
Before I knew it, we were here and there
on opposing sides of our own dispute.
We’ve both become older than we should be,
but the aging effects of my heart attack
are less than those of her fall down concrete steps.
With pinched nerves growing painful bubbles,
idiot doctors who either won’t treat her
or won’t stop treating her when it doesn’t work,
she’s packed in pillows watching soap operas
and mediocre Star Trek clones.
I’m supposed to devote myself to her,
no matter how boring or cranky she gets,
even if I can’t see or touch her skin.
There’s no way I can make myself look good.
I’m doing dinner and movies with someone else,
cuddling in bed, whispering in the dark,
wondering how much any love can endure.
You want me to sing to you
but my voice cracks.
You want me to dance with you
but my back hurts
and my knees are weak.
You’d better make love with me
while I still can.
When I touch your knee,
you pull up your skirt.
The best part was playing together
in the shower before going out.
We ate at the Oriental Buffet.
This woman packs in too much food
for anyone in my opinion,
but my lighter eating habits
maintain just as large a belly.
Then we went to Moonstone Beach,
where she had ecstacy fits
swimming for hours in the cold waves.
Most of the time, I couldn’t see her.
I sat on the beach, drawing the scene
on the back of a bank receipt.
We went home to her apartment,
and sort of partly made love.
The music kept being wrong, she said.
Then she had to eat some chicken.
Is this any way to have an affair,
which I’m not allowed to call an affair?
Meanwhile, my not-quite ex-lover,
who’s made love to me only
five times in the past two years,
suddenly wants more of my life,
wants to try spending a night with me.
What’s this all about? She noticed
I’m almost gone and wants me back?
I’m used to doing other things.
Somehow her mother’s impending visit,
the second time ever, inspired this.
Last time her daughters swept Mom away
into their worlds, and that was that.
I stress that this time, there will be
no life-interrupting house cleanup.
She’s coming over later today.
I have to hide my journal.
The recent pages are filled
with one unacceptable truth:
I’m touching another woman’s skin.
copyright © 2009 Carl Miller