The thing I really wanted to writhe about here at H&Q from 9:03 a Friday until today was the call that came from out of the blue at 9:00 that yonderday. On the other end was “Lenore.”
“Hi Job. This is (“Lenore”). How are you?”
Until that instant, my outlook on life had been as promising and fertile with hope as the burned out hulk of a house struck by lighting (conincidentally an appropriate synonym for Lenore) and left to rot on a remote desert dune. The mournful croak of a lost frog at 2 am at Washington Park is more mellifluous than the sound that came in my stark reply . . . . “I’m okay . . . . What’s up?”
Thank God for years of Car Talk inculcated into mon brain over the years. Otherwise I’d still be working on what to say back to her.
Her voice was Tinkerbelle, Snow White and angelsong breathed from one pair of lovely vocal chords. In the three minute conversation, she said, pleasantly, as though friend-to- friend, how she wanted to visit Monday to pick up the rest of her clothes and food she had left behind about a month ago. Could she come by Monday night or Tuesday morning?
Monday night would be better. So that was set. I was not the proverbial fountain of gurgling joy which had characterized many of our earlier conversations. My heart was dry, and suddenly I was listening to cool water. I was numb but nominally responsive for three minutes. Then as I started to put the phone down . . . . . . moving it slowly away from my ear. . . . . . I heard her say,
“Job? I wish you well.”
“(Lenore)? I wish you well, too. Thanks for calling.”
There was a slight spring in my slouch for the rest of the day as I wrestled with the journalism tasks at hand and diverted occasionally for the next three days, cleaning up more of the house, relocating her many splendored things away from my typical line of sight to where she could pick them up and carry them away. Her clothes remained in the chest of drawers, but I pitched more of her refrigerated food into the trash because it was clearly dried out or too spoiled for even me to eat. By late Sunday afternoon it was all where it needed to be, I had rearranged a lot of my own semi-comatosely tolerated clutter into more logical array, and the interior looked better than it has since I moved into the digs 12 years ago.
Monday night, Lenore called me about the time I expected her to come buy and explained she’d be delayed until maybe 11. Would that be okay? Sure. I’m a late night guy anyway. She knew it, and there really was no inconvenience. And — not coincidentally — there was still no wine in the house. If I had touched anything alcoholic under those circumstances I would have become a babbling wuss (<– first time I’ve tried to spell that word, though I’ve spoken it often to myself in the last month especially).
Throughout the weekend I placed a collection of (mostly) previously read poems, articles, pictures and cartoons – clipped from copies of The New Yorker, Playboy and State Journal-Register editorial pages collected over the past few years and expediently placed into a large pile in an out of the way drawer — onto my impromptu living room desk, previously used by Lenore for her papers & things. I had also printed many poems from Writers Almanac and saved many poems from poets local and living in Arkansas. Monday night, I decided to go over each item while waiting for Lenore. Articles and poems went into folders marked World Poets, World Poets to revisit (when I have more time to seriously consider poems clipped), Articles About World Poets, Articles About World Writers, Articles About World Non-Writers. Cartoons smaller than a full page were clipped from said pages and taped to clean sides of previously printed computer paper, one cartoon per page. Those pages will be three-hole binder punched later and saved in three-ring binders of which I already have five from over the years.
So when Lenore arrived about 11:40, we greeted each other at 10 paces and I left her alone as she gathered her things. I wasn’t concerned over things of mine getting into the mix. Her honesty and integrity are rock solid, and except for her walking out on me a month ago, she could do no significant wrong from my rose-colored perspective. She was silent as she did her thing, and I was silent as I cut cartoons from pages culled mostly from The New Yorker by that time in the evening. As things began to wind down and she said she was almost done, I joined her in the kitchen for light conversation to be sure all the kitchen utensils, dishes and silverware that were hers found their way to her. She had missed a few things. I made sure she had the muffin mix (I’m not a kitchen maestro), split pea soup, canned vegetables, fruit, chick peas and food that I would likely eat that was hers which she seemed to have left behind. She explained what she had left behind in the cupboard shelves was all for me. She had wanted me to eat what had remained over the last month. She was concerned about my diet.
My heart was another subject entirely (RIM shot), but I was none-the-less grateful for any concern and thanked her sincerely. I even carried a last box to the front porch where she had been placing them. In the last minute or so, she explained she would visit me again early next week to talk — maybe have tea on the front porch — and pick up anything we did not get this time, including a bunch of frozen vegetables, beef soup stock and pork hocks and salad dressings and seasonings in the refrigerator. She also said I could still contact her via e-mail but her cell phone situation was in flux. It could have been worse. It could have been in New Jersey.
As I told a good friend, the last few minutes were first and foremost, a time for me to be QUIET because anything I wanted to say would have only added to my wounded wuss factor. I would have bitten off part of my tongue to accomplish that goal, but as it turned out, I held my tongue . . . . and kept it too.
Left unspoken was the agony from seeing the the collection of Lenore’s things in boxes on my well-lighted front porch and KNOWING — I swear to Jehovah, I KNEW — that somewhere in the adjacent darkeness beyond my front yard . . . . . her boyfriend was sitting in his car. SECURITY. It was something of a rusty dagger to my heart sensing what I so intensly sensed, and my teeth penetrated no more deeply into my tongue (metaphorically) than at that moment.
Regardless, I would be a gentleman about it. I KNEW I was not going to offer to carry things to Lenore’s car because HE was nearby. Besides, she was leaving ME. I had gladly helped her bring a lot of it into my house, but even if the phantoms I call Matt or possibly Sean (their real names) had not been waiting out of sight, I was ill-inclined to helping her carry it all out of my life. I’m sure Matt’s eyes were on me during the 4.5 seconds I was actually out on the porch. I quickly boogied back into the house, left the porch light on and beat a hasty retreat to my distant office as though pursuued by Sitting Bull and his tribe of angry Sioux!
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I creeped out of the office half an hour later and turned off the porch light.
Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.
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