Sunday, April 13th, 2003 4:36 pm
(I guess if you are blocked on what you need to write, and flounder around first here, then there with what will come, eventually you flow again... At least at present, I am pleased with this post, even if I don't know where/how it fits in... It has valuable insight in it.)
(What I do know about its placement: Despina has been with Cu for a week, pieces already written somewhere, including her return to the campfire. The dance is over. Mickey needs to have tried to arrest Cu once in the cave, but not twice, when he offers to dance with her and does, at least until Cu comes up in wedding dress, holding out his hands as if to put manacles on them...)
Despina walks slowly and carefully through the trackless dark, heading toward the campfire she can see flickering from the level places. It felt glorious -- being CHOSEN, carried off, but not hurt... So, why did he reject me? Why did he leave? I thought things were going SO well. I didn't mind catching the rattle snakes, nor did he seem to mind cleaning and cooking them. We each did what we could do best. Where's the harm in that? The whole situation is non-traditional. Why should non-traditional roles, undertaken in private, matter?
Maybe I just tried too hard. Maybe my neediness drove him away. That's what led me to leave and return here. I couldn't face the dawn, catching another rattler, but not having him there to skin and cook it. Not having even the silent camaraderie available. And being utterly clueless as to WHAT is really going on now.
"Ah, our wanderer has returned," hails Paul Peter.
Despina does not respond. She stalks to her smoky spot in the circle and drops dispiritedly into her hollow.
"Hurting that badly, huh?"
She curls away from Paul Peter, closing her eyes. Her body is rigid with tension.
"Despina, what's wrong?" asks a gentle voice from the edge of the firelight.
Raising her head, she peers through the smoke. "Mickey, is that you? Are you real, or just a figment of my imagination?"
He steps forward into better light. "I'm part of your dreams?"
"You're in jeans! I've never seen you out of uniform!"
"Let's move your log over there out of the smoke."
"Can't. She already tried that," says Paul Peter gruffly.
"I'll help you, Pina."
She rolls back over, like a night blossom opening to the day. Hope fades from her face. "I wish that were a broader offer. I need far more than a log rolled."
Her head droops, her eyes staring at the fire, but not taking it in.
"Let's at least solve one doable thing. We can put the log up wind in that bare spot."
"I had it over there before." She pauses, then continues, "I can't go back."
"Yes, and fire ants."
"Okay, I'll pretend I'm a firefighter rescuing a beautiful lady from a burning building." He settles in Cu's accustomed spot on the end of her log.
Despina looks at him sideways without turning her head.
"Tears? Did he hurt you?"
"Not the way you mean. I seem to have caused a problem."
"Problems have solutions."
"I can't seem to see one. I guess I tried too hard."
"To do what, Pina?"
"Most people enjoy having their mates try to please them."
"Only if they do it the right way... only if they are successful."
"Pina, he ought to be able to recognize your intent, even if the execution is flawed. Failing to please is not your fault."
"I'm not so sure. If you know you are in trouble, but are weak enough that you allow the perfectly predictable future to happen because of your unwise decisions... Even though you knew what a negative impact it would cause on far, far too many others who didn't even know they would be involved..."
"You need to cut down what you feel responsible for to a reasonable level."
"Mick, I seem to be 'emitting'."
"Evidently. You are here in jeans, and I am extremely grateful. She risks turning her head toward him.
"I'm glad to see you, too. So why the upset?"
"I'm not just affecting you and Cu."
Mickey makes an encouraging sound.
"PP keeps giving me 'presents'."
"Which YOU keep returning, unused, when you NEED to use them."
"See what I mean? He's accepted that we're over, yet the protection, his involvement, continues unabated."
"Friendship is generally considered to be a good thing."
"He didn't deliberately cause a problem. Who could have predicted Cu's reaction?"
"I wish he'd talk to me. Was he angry that PP gave me protection, that I didn't refuse it, although the way it was done, I don't see how I could have, as I was not consulted, or that I was possibly willing to use it outside of marriage?"
"Could you have?"
"Probably not. My morality seems to be internal, not imposed by religion or society. Not that the heat of the moment couldn't overwhelm me..."
"Maybe he left to honor that idea -- it is my impression of you, too. If I felt inclined to wear down your resistance, thought I was succeeding, and respected you, leaving might be the best solution. Even leaving abruptly, while I was still noble enough to get it done..."
Despina sits up, twisting around until she faces Mickey fully. She can read what delivering this reassurance to her has cost him in the flickering firelight. She understands instantly that it is true and fitting.
"Great. We're still a triad."
"A triad? You've lost me."
"Remember how I told you flat out the first night that I started to fall in love with the writer of the letters, especially the English ones? I've seen NOTHING from either of you to indicate that the PAIR of you aren't my ideal man. I initially thought I was only dealing with ONE person."
"You want to share us both?" Mickey reiterates incredulously.
"No. I can't. I am monogamous, or at least serially monogamous. I can't accept parallel hookups; they're morally reprehensible to me."
"You react to Cu on a gut level."
"I don't deny that. You see it plainly. But what you don't see is that I also react to you. He is mercurial, incandescent, then frigid; you are a warm fire in a comfortable pair of slippers. You are good conversation and contentment. And, possibly, unexplored fireworks without the constant fear of being burned or consumed."
Mickey's eyes widen, his face even ruddier in the glow of the fire.
"Now I've embarrassed you."
"I thought I was unflappable. I've seen it all, heard it all."
"Ah, but LIVING it... now, that's different."
She contemplates the fire until he regains his composure, then says, "Jacques is afraid of being seen alone with me for fear of damaging my chances with Cu, afraid that if we become friends, I will be judged unsuitable."
Glancing around the circle at the faces avidly following every word of the discussion, she nods to Horst, "Horst wants to have a romp, a fling while his wife is tucked safely away in Germany where she will never hear of it."
Smiling fondly at Bruno, she continues, "Only Bruno seems to be able to handle it with dignity and respect. He's a wonderful friend."
"May we all age with his grace," adds Mickey.
"He is honorable and recognizes that trait in others. Like Cu. He once told me 'He is honor.'" Her smile fades ruefully into sadness. "Incandescence is nice at the time, but it burns out. I know that. Once the fire dies down, the companionship becomes even more important. I've never put much faith in unsupported pyrotechnics. I'm at sea, not knowing if I'm reading the right meaning into the cut of his jib and the amount of top sail he's carrying."
Paul Peter interrupts, "Maybe a quote will help. 'Speak for yourself, John Alden.'"
"I've thought of that, I admit. I can't decide which is in sway at present -- that, or 'When you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with'. I met them thinking they were one, and seem stuck there." She reaches over and touches Mickey's hand tentatively.
Grasping her hand, he stands, pulling her up with him. "I think a walk would be a good idea."
A companionable silence settles as they walk.
"Silence doesn't seem to scare you."
"No. I value conversation, but I don't need or want idle chatter, noise to fill a void. I value shared experiences, verbal and otherwise."
The last time I took someone's hand and followed them into the desert, Cu and I... No. Mickey is his own man. If I can't even focus on him when we're alone together, get to know the man behind the badge, then I at least owe it to him to let him know it.
A long sigh escapes Despina.
Giving her hand a gentle squeeze, Mick misreads her, "Yes, the desert can be healing."
Shaking off her introspection, doubts unspoken, Despina returns the squeeze, "This was a good idea. Thank you."
Turning toward her, he catches her other hand as well. "Did he leave, or did you?"
"He left first."
"Odd hour to try that. It's more as if he bolted. Your feeling about his sense of honor fits, the more I think about it."
"And now that you have?"
"I'm still content here, now, with you, even with you being so blooming noble. If Cu saw me now, the translation would be 'betrayed by my best friend'. What bugs me is that I don't know. The fireworks, or the comfortable shoes. I think you must be the only man in the country I haven't danced with yet. I don't know if you have fireworks. This is a true Catch-22. If you had it all, and truly offered it to me; if he has it all and is truly offering it to me -- how do I choose correctly? You both are such honorable men. Am I destined to be wrong, no matter what? Be haunted with 'if only's' or face you, or he, plagued by doubts? The wheels just keep spinning endlessly. I want to act honorably. Once, I even thought I knew how."
Last updated 2/6/04.