The 800lb Gorilla met its inglorious end on August 8th, 2008. Dan said goodbye with a video. Of course.
By then I was writing with the Dame, on her blog. I was trying to provide her with the muse and doing a lousy job of it. Her readers weren’t all that receptive to me either, as evidenced by the dearth of comments. I’d get the occasional “Where’s Dame?”, to which I provided a cursory explanation that the Dame was busy gardening or tending to the kiddos or backpacking in Tibet.
The truth of the matter is, I was sans blog for the first time in years and I didn’t know whether it was a blessing or a curse. What I missed more than anything was the ability to slice something up with four lettered particulars, because my jam wasn’t playing in the Dame’s crib. I was like the new age bistro that replaces the landmark steakhouse; peeps wanted the sizzle she provided and were much less interested in my rap, so to speak.
Still, I loved keeping her seat warm because I knew when she got back to it, she was going to wreak havoc on the somethings and lay waste to the everything elses. And without a blog of my own, I felt plenty fine playing the role of David Carradine from Kung Fu . . wandering the literary stars, plucking ransoms out of the minutiae. It’s just what you do when you’re in love with someone’s pen. You wait by the window, shining that light until they make it home.
October of 2008 was a revelatory caterwaul whose presence I could have done without. But life never speaks to us with permission. And so it was that in October, the shit collided with the proverbial fan when Dan confessed to having an affair with bat shit crazy poet girl from Seattle. Yeah, the same writer the Dame had accused me of messing around with the year before. And when Dame wouldn’t stop shooting at my kneecaps with a smoking gun that wasn’t mine, I had turned up my snark index to ten plus and let her have it with something like Of course I took a flight from Chicago to Seattle . . because I have all the fucking time in the world to travel all over the fucking map banging bloggers! Admittedly, I might have tried tact on for size, seeing as how we ended up burning our relationship to the ground thanks to exchanges such as this.
Almost a year later, I was vindicated. Again. That lovable ape the poet girl would write sonnets to wasn’t me, it was Dan. And it made sense that the guy who whined about having to live vicariously through my social life now that he was married, was the culprit. It explained the vibe I was getting from him and Chris, and it explained all the mysterious shit he would post on the blog; which I was thankful was six feet under now.
I’m not gonna lie. I expected an apology from the Dame. I mean, it didn’t have to be served on fine china or anything like that. But I’d been unfairly accused of something, and I figured now was the time to close up that forgettable chapter with some mea for my affected culpa.
That wasn’t how the Dame ticked, though. Because what I got instead served to tear those sutures plumb off the scab of the previous November. After she got done scorching the patch of earth Dan stood on, she directed the rest of her bottle of Jesus towards me for having the piss poor judgement to be friends with such a cad. Never mind that I wasn’t pals with the fucker on the level of vault stories. Never mind that I was left to roast on a spit as he fucked the blog into the ground. Never mind that the Dame, oh by the way, had been married to a serial womanizer and I wasn’t holding it against her.
Needless to say, I was feeling the tremors as another November moved into focus. All of a sudden, the ground we walked on felt as sturdy as gossamer. But this time would be different, because I was going to be spending Thanksgiving week in Chicago. Which would guarantee that we would make it out of that scarred month intact as a couple. Probably . . .
And this is where the Dame showed herself to be one of the most beautifully complicated individuals I’ve ever known. Because that visit will live with me from the moment I touched down at O’Hare until I take my final breath. It speaks to who we are, as human beings, that I can think back on that time and be as in love with her from right here as I was right there without wanting any of it back, ever again. If you look up the definition of complicated in the dictionary, that’s what it looks like.
The Dame’s family had forged an empire in a small Illinois town once upon a time, before sickness and death claimed the progenitors. Her father’s passing had taken the biggest toll on her, after which she kept an arm’s length relationship with her siblings, but she had always remained close to her kid brother.
As in many prestigious families, excess and intrigue are sewn into the seal, and hers was no different. Her kid brother had been a hot shit equities trader until the bottom fell out thanks to a heroin crush that wouldn’t quit. And so me and the Dame went over to his apartment on Thanksgiving morning to get him, because she was afraid he was going to run.
We found him walking down the street and I got out of the car and let him take the front seat. Before he moved inside the car, I could tell he was higher than the planes that were circling above us waiting for their turn to land at O’Hare. He tried his best to play it straight on the way back her place, but he was a mess and I watched in awe as she kept it all together.
Back at her place, we played catch with her son while the Dame finished up her Thanksgiving feast. And then she got him to wash up and refresh himself, and by that evening when we were playing cards, he was the hot shit kid who’d been going places again. Only, he was much more than that. His smile was infectious and his laugh was original and he could talk on anything and I loved him. Just like that. And it was her, it was all her; holding together the last remaining pieces of a family that had gone away. And it just so happens to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my entire life.
I can still taste her smile inside the crisp advent of a winter’s breath that promised snow and far worse things. And maybe I knew we were a mistake by then, but it didn’t matter. Because that moment and that smile thrust me into the places of this universe that do not yet have names. And at least once in your life, you need to feel that kind of Longfellow in your bones.
As if the universe calls only you.