[A re-post of a fictional story written in 2007.]
He was, at the age of 57, was the stupid old guy. Showing up with alarming alacrity at the bar where she worked, buzzing about the same young thing. Beautiful! She was 21. He was old enough to be her dad, but too young at heart for him to resist the urge to make himself available to her attentions. “He drove her nuts!”, she said. He didn’t mean to. Perhaps like some sick malade he could not see his own infirmity. Maybe it was unfair or cruel to act with that same level of controlled familiarity that he did whenever he saw her. Far too easily, and for want of same for so long, she became his muse. No reflection upon anything lack on her part as he sensed that she was in every way a lady of the finest quality and despite her youth very intelligent and exceptionally knowing. Yet she was stricken with all the foibles of youth of tragedy and petty insecurity, all of which that in the greater context of life meant little of nothing in the way of a slight on her character. Yet, such as it was, it was fated to come to an end. Like all the other situations under the persistent curse of naiveté. It was ongoing until his own vulnerabilities became too a discernible element.
She saw through him but not inside him. The moth to the most recent of flames, yet her flame and no one else’s. At one point in the evening he just wanted to punch somebody. Perhaps he was indeed drunk as she said. “Your drunk!” The curse that women bestowed upon men to shut them off and negate any necessity to respond to his believability. It was late now and after he fact. His clothes smelled heavily of cigarette smoke. How should he act? It was the same old dilemma that he had endured throughout his life. A controlled existence which demanded that sort of affection should be surrendered, but to what? Becoming the fool yet again? His heart ached in a manner signaling that it would tolerate no more such interruptions. What was he after all to her but a foolish old sot.
It was the dark of night in the midst of light snow and he was naked underneath a cotton coverlet. A clocher awakened to rise to the fact that he could not continue to sleep thus at the rear of that old sedan without soon inspiring the ire of the neighborhood’s residents. It struck him that he was on the same suburban street as that upon which he had passed the eleventh year of life in the one and only house that the family had held in passing. ‘Tinker’ was the old country Irish term. Landless and perhaps perennially faithless for the fact that most could not hold onto anything for long. He half squatted behind the old rusty wreck’s driver side opposite of the Christmas light strung residences. He thought to climb in but that would mean that he would have to start it up and drive to somewhere else he didn’t know and he might not be any better off.
At one point he found himself in a strange apartment in the embrace under warm coverlets of an equally naked woman. The darkness confused him and he thought that he could recall walking into this strange place like a common thief. Drunk and bereft of common sense he thought to hide in someplace unattended but wound up here instead. The woman languorously embraced him with her slender arms. He looked into her face somewhat surprised and expecting to see his muse. But this was a face as strange to him as the surroundings. Her manner seemed knowing of his dilemma and comforting but equally hiding a sense of an unfulfilled want of her own. She began to speak of the young girl that was the object of his attentions as if she was as intimately well known to her as to him. The gist of her advise seemed to suggest that as a ‘farmer’ he was tending the wrong field.
The dream and what little he could remember of it left him both sad and uneasy. A parable of the situation from the previous night it served to answer what his worst sense of disappointment also seemed to suggest. He was once again playing the fool and at someone else’s expense. Why did it have to be this way his heart raged as it had no doubt in the Fall of so many other former but now long forgotten seasons. Love or attraction or whatever one called it was now a dangerous substance. Society modulated it, moderated its use in a web of prescribed categories and rituals that if not adhered to cause discomfort to all. What a fool he was. It was so obvious! He was fully engaged in an impossible connection with someone young enough to be his grandchild. For months he had shown up and moderated his actions with a thinly veiled feigned indifference. The fact was of course that he was anything but same.
This ‘she’ reminded him of herself in so many ways. Adept with a pen in a style reminiscent of his own in his second decade. Beautiful, eccentrically so, which was all the more unconsciously hypnotic. Full of heart and the fire of youth. He often wondered what the difference was between him and any other garden variety toothless vampire that hung about this place was? Perhaps that it was that he only had eyes for her. The bar was a place for youth that occasionally offered seats to groups of older patrons with their families in tow. A few old faces came and went but it seemed all too evident that he might have held to title of the primary old fossil in the place? He would come there twice maybe three times a week to drink his two glasses of beer. The lack of funds that his moderation in drink and his threadbare clothes suggested verified a lack of status significant of a common variety teacher. No lover of general company he installed himself in some lofty far removed portion of the place and spied the panoply of raging conversations below sports programmed TVs that ringed the place like a barbed wire fence.
If she was there he tracked of her proximity with the quiet vibration of his heartstrings, eyes modestly averted. Her presence summoned a strange sense of affection and shyness that he had known with few, if any. The ridiculous nature of the proportions of the situation and how it could get out of hand ever present in a conscious sense of self-repression in eye and body. What a difficult dance this was and so many times had he vowed that he would finally quit this place and visit no more. And she was, so brassy yet vulnerable. Too easily victimized by what she could sense but was to young enough to understand or know. Her family was her temple and he sister who also worked presented a presence not unlike a guardian of the same. The notion of nuclear family was a flawed notion emotionally to him. Brazed in so many previous intimate relationships that left either he or the other party in trauma, his hiatus from romantic intimacy with the opposite sex now was in his second decade. He felt a persistent sense of emotionally starvation that increasingly suggested that he past hope of any future salvation. The long cycle of joy and corresponding descent into reliable sorrow stretched though the jumble of his life like a jungle vine. He knew enough, or so he thought to stir clear of its python-like grip of entanglement but he wondered at certain way stations of ennui, was he not its slave?
Expectation on his part was thus segmented into reasonable expectation with a glaze of impossible hope. Too many times he felt himself verbally limiting by word of mouth in self depreciating asides attempting to lock his experience in self-applied restraints. The amalgamation of which made him feel as if he was letting not only himself down but her as well. But he also knew with a futile sense of inevitability that he was her dragon that sooner than later one of her many suitors would come to finally drive off to claim her hand. How could he be himself and not lose her? The situation was impossible. It seemed to prove the very limits that his own life had avoided acknowledging. The gap of age and experience was a moat that could not and should not be crossed by intimacy at the peril of the destruction of either party! And was ruthlessly enforceable by the complicit action of all. He was old and ugly and his attentions embarrassing to all spectators as the sight of one’s own father naked might be to some. The extent of the power of the police state prison culture that now dominated his life and the lives of others seemed triumphant over him. At every turn of his life he had sought independence. His family tree was peopled by its usual suspects. Misfits and victims who in life carried forth a corresponding ritual sense of an all too serious parody of its customary operation and most usual effect.
As a young ‘Apollo’, he sensed this menace and vowed that he would keep his distance from its trap at all costs. In the end however he had to surrender to the truth that lie any would be Prometheus, it had scarred him most of all. Inside that hard granite shell lay a soft almost pathetically vulnerable center. Love and affection for him seemed a matter of the soul and not the flesh. Something that terrified those who had surrendered the keeping of their own to the amorphous undertow of the ‘big mama’ cult that fashioned all human impulses into the useful equivalent motions of ants. She on the other hand was his Botticelli’s Venus, risen innocent and still untarnished from the sea. So many times some woman approximating his own age had passed near and upon seeing the reflection of this light in his eyes bowed her own head in a form of disgust and then one betraying an equal sense of self-loathing. Old age in this cult was ‘rightfully’ about spite. This sense of wonder was damned as anathema and was even to her an inconvenient and disturbing phenomena. Who at that age, including himself could ever understand the connection beyond the fear of ownership that society suggested as mandatory part of every relationship? He felt as if driven to the status of cave dweller, ever hopeful of another glimpse of the sun. She wondered about how brittle his vision and could not conceive of how it related to her.
“You just talk to me because I am young!” , she said with a spear point of wisdom whose truth struck savagely deep into his heart. The inevitable questions publicly long avoided had thus begun. And with every definition sought came an issue of fiery brimstone from the molten crucible that encompassed each. Was it wrong then to believe that the soul of one could extend to touch another without inevitable mortal consequence? There was never a hope for him from the start of relations beyond friendship and he accepted that. He was a beast or ogre by virtue of anything more than friendly impulse. But somehow he sensed that it was damned even for that fact alone. He feared that given his experience of age and the sex that was posed ‘opposite’ he was condemned to continue solo and bereft of the possibility of any true connection. Too greedy perhaps to satisfy himself with that occasional pet or a kindly good stroke of empathy that all other in his age group seemed reconciled to satisfy themselves with. He knew her own frustration mirrored his own. Everything was impossible and yet he continued to arrive to sit in a feigned form of indifferent waiting and she continued to approach his table in puppy-like awe? The situation nearly broke his heart.
There always seemed a point in his experience of such things when all things reasonable collapsed into the immediacy of desire and logic flew. This was the point in this the old and perpetually unrecognized cycle when his ship was splintered upon the most obvious and logically deducible of rocks and he was cast adrift again. Where was his Penelope to point him home on his eventual journey? Was he thus so reliably and hopelessly self-destructible?