A little while ago the man to whom I devoted almost the entirety of my adult life phoned me. He was taking a leisurely hike with an old friend he had met and bedded during his student days. I suspect she was in town partly because of his newly single status, but I know little of the ways of others.
We don’t get along. I fell in love with a man; I also fell in love with an idea, a hope, an illusion, a mirror, an escape route… the very word “falling” – well, how can one expect precision from a trip and a stumble? So. I fell in love with a man. He fell in lust with a body, and held out high hopes the body with this troubled but alluring brain might be changeable enough to become a wife. This was his love. I cannot be angry: it was a lie to himself as much as it was to me.
To return to the phone call. It was a one sided conversation, as so many are: he spoke, I listened. The unique element of this call however was that the husband’s words were not directed toward me. They were about me, and spoken to this woman, who was happily echoing his cruel dissection of my character.
In the vernacular we wretchedly name such a communication a “hip-dial.” I prefer to think of it more mysteriously than that, as if Freud and a pissed off Aphrodite had a bottle of wine, and came up with a plan. I know another woman, who used to be my closest friend, who discovered her fiance was gay through exactly such a phone call. She married him anyway, but that is another, probably more interesting, story.
The day Husband called was hot. My two older children were playing with the happy mindless Joy that only the combination of heat and water can evoke. I sat in the shade, staring at the sun creating diamonds in the water, perfect crystal drops flowing off my daughter’s even more perfect limbs. She is named for Apollo and the dolphin and royalty: in the water she becomes all three and it is a sacred gift to see her in such power and innocence. I am all ether; she is all water. Her sister is the sun. Her father… would it be a crime to wish his name Acteon?
I digress. Listening to the disembodied voice, watching the exquisite scene, feeling the cool shade on the hot, hot day… my mind, like an over-taxed bone, fractured from the contradiction. I was fascinated. Who is not fascinated by his or her own self? I was mortified, humiliated, and because I thrive on humiliation, of course eager to hear more, hear everything. He could not be cruel enough: the cruelty is proof of my suspicion, held since birth, that I don’t belong to Love. We’re on the outs, I think we broke up during a past life.
His voice was a contained fury. Words like “claustrophobic,” “shrill,” “horrible” drifted by, just as my gorgeous neighbor, the one who looks exactly like Anita Ekberg, wandered over to give me a hug, invite me to a barbeque. I looked at her astonishing beauty, with her equally beautiful little girl and husband, as I watched my marriage, the remaining ideas I had of it, catch fire like an old piece of newspaper, drift up in flames, light and buoyant, and disappear beyond a fence I could not see. “I at least have a job,” I heard the voice say, as my black haired son dove into the water, searching for a sunken penny.
I did not go to Anita’s barbeque. Eventually I hung up the phone. It was the most reluctant end to a call I think I’ve ever known: finally, the ring of Gyges everyone wishes for and then regrets. I did not regret my ring. Instead, the brief revelations were a relief, an affirmation.
I have lived in this body a good many years now. My hands are veined bone, wrists like a starved hawk. All talon, no prey. My mind has filled and emptied itself like the tide – we are just water and mineral after all, and for all our attachment to the corporeal there isn’t much to it, is there?
Perhaps this is why we are so moved by watching children in water. Joy, Light, the purest love of Now one can witness. Rivulets like run-off from a secret mountain glimmer on wet skin, newly awakened muscle. Laughter drifts through the air, a kite in a dream. These are the moments of an embodied numinous vision. Then it fades, like a once loved voice on the other end of an old telephone line, moving further, further, further away. And then gone.