The sky is brush stroked with rivers of grey clouds interceding the passing blue of the day. I feel breathed, my heart exhausted, and my spirit is groping for remission, like an Advil into a hangover. I remember my childhood, my first kiss, the day I announced to a class of fellow writers that I was a writer too. Our teacher, Emily, instructed all of us to stand up and say it. I resisted internally, and afterward the effect was as she promised, and it became second nature.
I don’t know how I will remember the Dragon episode, which turn in the labyrinth will remain most vivid; until now, imagining a folder and how I would label it, The We of Me, the phrase borrowed from a Carson McCullers short story, “The Member of the Wedding.” I read all of Carson’s books when I lived in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Carson spent several seasons as an artist in residence at Yaddo Art Colony in Saratoga, and was known to escape at night down to Congress Street, and sit in a saloon sipping brandy. The story is entwined around Frankie, a young girl in love with her brother, who has just married and is moving to Alaska. Frankie wishes to go with them: "A sweet momentary illumination of adolescence before the disillusion of adulthood. It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old. This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world. Frankie had become an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid."
Last summer, I was not hanging around looking out at the world, I was on the porch, serving wine and crispy chips, while Rudy loaded Pete Rodriquez in the CD player. “Can I play it one more time?” he shouted. John basted chicken over the barbeque, draped in my William Sonoma apron, and I am drifting through the epilogue unaware that these moments will turn into sculpted memories, of a summer in Santa Fe. But for then, we lasted until the sun melted in the horizon and Rudy ran out of Kelly’s Cove stories. We were joined; we had our own club. Sometimes Jewels joined us, or LimoLoren, and there was a ribbon around the house, and all of us were tied to the harmony of “the we of me.”
John won’t be coming back; there is too much brittleness, and astonishment in my life. As before, but not the same, Rudy is here. He just appeared in the doorway: “Come see what I did in the garage.” Our garage was transformed into a movie theater after I mistakenly poked the wrong button on the gate remote, and the automatic doors crashed into Rudy’s van. Yesterday, he strung red lights along the perimeter of the adobe building. He does these things to cheer me.
A lot of people I know are falling out of love, or have been asked to stop loving someone they thought they loved. There’s a group of us at La Posada; Victor the Cuban singer just broke up with Ruth. “I’m going crazy. I’m Latin, without a woman. I cannot do it,” he said. And Eddie, who just broke up with his girlfriend. “Two years. Oh well, I just move on. What can you do?,” he asked. And Tobey, who has figured out how to forget his girlfriend’s fatal fall from a hillside where she was hiking, is now the master of mingling. Then there’s Sam Shepard, whose pain is transparent. Without a spoken word, it’s in his vigilant Mustang eyes, and in the angle he looks at the world. There are a lot of us who have fallen from grace with someone who thought they could love us. Then, comes the reoccurring incident. Whether it is about money, lovemaking, or the act of communicating with anger or restraint, it suddenly bloats up to the size of a thundercloud, and bursts through all the promises and collective dreams.
After my burst with John, I went over to La Posada to escape the chattering in my head. My pal, White Zen, who I’ve named for her constant calm, joined me at the bar. Raul was on duty; he’s been there since before all the Anglos discovered Santa Fe. He’s seen the white lightning of movie stars, and the Indian Shamans with feathers and folklore. Raul takes all of us in his stride; which is slow as molasses. Don’t try and rush Raul, because he will ignore you, and your drink will be watery by the time you get it.
I was sitting there, with a glass of wine, when I recognized the man next to White Zen. At the same moment, the juxtaposition of reckoning beckoned us off our stools and we hugged. Dancing Bear, I’ve missed you, I said, or something like that. Dancing Bear is a New York Santa Fe success. Unlike so many people I’ve met, he lives here, works globally, and he’s in big demand right now.
Dancing Bear smiles even if his mouth isn’t smiling, but you know he is inside. He’s in the tidal wave of dreams coming true, but not without their own claim ticket on your soul. Someone is always disposed if you’re catching big tuna. Now this night, it goes like this.
“Look if I don’t screw up this dance, if I don’t screw it up, it’s going to be something I’m really proud of,” he says. He emphasizes this with one hand, raised eyebrows and a slight bend in his neck.
“And you didn’t,” I said. “How long have you lived here?”
“Do you know how I ended up in Santa Fe? I was living in Los Angeles, driving on that freeway all day, and a friend said, ‘Hey, you otta come to Santa Fe.’ Never even heard of it, so I came, that was 1983 — I think it was 83 — and bought a house, and moved here permanent a few years ago. I could live in New York — in a minute, I love New York, Los Angeles. No, what for, my daughter’s not growing up in the Palisades.”
He looks at Raul. They share another story because they’ve known each other years, and then Dancing Bear slaps the wooden bar with one hand, and his face creases into a private memory. “El Farol!” he shouts. “Those are the memories, everyone was there, and it was the most amazing time.”
“John and I used to go every Tuesday,” he said. Dancing Bear wasn’t listening; he was swept into the memory. His eyes looked right through the mirror behind Raul’s bar. I wished I had seen it then. I didn’t get to El Farol until 1998.
“ Now — O.K. — I mean right now, after all these years,
I have my ex-wife-ex-wives, and their children, husbands, whatever, and they are in my life — O.K. — they are in my life,” he said.
I tried to speak, but his bear mouth wiped me out.
“They are in my life … forever,” he said.
“What does Dancing Dora say about that?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you what she says; they all sit down to her table at Thanksgiving. All of them. And it’s cool. Not all the time — this one with that problem, the kid with that — but in the end it works. It works,” he said.
“It didn’t work with John and me,” I said.
“You got nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of people cannot handle it. My friends think I’m crazy,” he said.
“So do mine,” I said.
We closed the bar and each went off in our different directions of lovingness.