There used to be a TV show where a husband
(or wife) was asked to guess the wife’s (or husband’s)
answer to some risible question like “What’s
your favorite intimate fun?” The lesson
seemed to be the same, on its level of televised
yayhoo entertainment, as the one we took
from M. and E. that night at the bar, on the level
of friends whose sufferings are broadcast
straight to the woe receivers built into our hearts.
“I just,” he said — bewildered, after eighteen years
of marriage — “don’t know who you are
any more.” She’d joined a cult. She lived
for the cult…or “my new family,” she said.
And he started to weep, right there, unashamedly.
On the level of the body’s betraying its unity,
there’s “Capgras syndrome,” a brain disorder in which
“one misidentifies the most beloved [an especially
pernicious cruelty you’d think that only one of the classically
evil gods of the ancient world could formulate]
— normally a spouse, and insists the wife or husband is actually
an imposter.” This is, of course, the underlying fear
in so much shlock sci-fi: “pod people”
take the place of lovers, parents, surgeons, civic leaders,
perfectly. Perhaps it’s so pervasive a motif because
we understand that every morning we leave behind,
on the pillow, a face — a petal
so thin, it’s invisible — and then blithely enter
the new day, with its twenty-four hours of new face.
And the snow said, “Don’t you recognize me
in my chains?” And so I knew it was water speaking.
The breath in my lungs said, “Every now and then,
to humanize myself, and to renew my pact with the Earth,
I require this tiny carbon stayover,” and I saw
the sky was saying this, on leave from its original domain
that has no limitation and plays with the planets like toys.
“My name is Rainbow Bearer,” said M., and E. said,
“M! You’re M!” and Rainbow Bearer looked at him
from a hundred miles inside of M.’s eyes. And when Nigel
the parrot, who spoke a British-inflected English,
flew away in 2010 and then returned to his owner Darren Chick
in 2014, he spoke Spanish. Nigel! And yet
not-Nigel. Clawed to a branch: “Qué pasa?”
One day he accompanied her to a meeting.
“A solstice ceremony,” she gently corrects.
When her turn came to speak on behalf of the rainbow,
it was such…gibberish! Martian. Robot talk.
And yet there was her subtle lisp, that he’d fallen
in love with twenty years before, and the way she tilted
her head to one side, in the silence between her words.
“I can love people” — there, you see? that silence — “in both
of my worlds,” she tells us. What can we say in response?
They’re at the table with us, sitting a hundred miles apart
from one another — and holding hands. If the stillbirth
didn’t rip them apart, or the year his jackass brother
got divorced and camped in their basement,
then maybe neither will this weird sadness.
On the level of my wife and myself, it’s March,
the snows of Wichita, Kansas are yawning awake today
as slush; we’ve been out walking — also hand in hand —
and talking over…things, that don’t need to be detailed
here, but are tough, and important, and get said
with the patient love we still have after all these years,
despite the dictum “Change!” built into everything, and
I’m knocking for luck on paper, the paper
I’m writing this on, this afternoon — paper being another face
of wood’s. When China’s space explorer
Chang’e 5-T1 returned, it brought us a stunning picture
of the dark side of the moon. I’ve lived now into a time
— our first time — we can see the dark side of the moon,
yes, we can start to look into its other, alien face.