She came into my life like thunder when I recited my poetry at the Taylorville, Illinois public library, in March 2009. Lenore is not her real name, but I’ve referred to her by that name in Honey & Quinine before, and though she’s been out of my life since May of that year, I still respect her.
After the recital, Lenore and I shared some happy conversation and soon after, she moved into my house just a little bit which is to say clothes in a chest of drawers I emptied to accommodate her, some food she often shared with me, a few towels and things. She slept on my living room sofa, I slept on my bed, and that was that.
If I had been smart, we’d still be friends today, but I was not smart; I was about as dumb as I could be. We had so many things in common, so many reasons to be friends — love of poetry, love of photography, pretty urbane outlook on life — it took me about two weeks for me to start dreaming of more than friendship. I wrote more poetry and songs about US than for any woman who inspired that kind of ardor. We were connecting intellectually in a way that I had not connected with former sweethearts, and the prospect of a future with her had me panting like a hungry Labrador, pulling on a chain that would keep me “at bay.” That was exactly the wrong thing to do. It became not a passionate interest in affection, though that was a part of it. It became an interest in more time. She had other ideas, told me she wanted me as a friend and nothing more. I should have accepted that, and I didn’t. The parting of our lives was not pretty, and I remain sorry to this hour for things I did which no gentleman should do. Suffice to say I didn’t lay a finger on her, and I didn’t utter an obscene or hurtful epithet at her. She left me. I don’t blame her. I was certifiable shark food for my part in the coming apart.
Since then, I have held on to a part of her.
Lenore didn’t care for water from the tap. She drank it from bottles purchased at the supermarket. Since she left, I’ve not touched the bottle, not even to clean the shelf.
Keeping it provided some miniscule solace in allowing me to be close to a small part of who she was. I thought of her — and missed her . . . and thought I was a blithering idiot — every time I opened the refrigerator. After four years of this angst and regret and absolutely no hope of ever speaking to her again, or seeing her . . . I decided it was time to say “goodbye.”
How should I say goodbye? Slit my wrists? The thought probably crossed what was left of my mind a time or two in the two or three months right after she left, but it didn’t occur to me on the 4th of the 7th of the 13th. I didn’t want to just pitch the thing into the kitchen waste basket. I wanted to do something symbolic. Plunge a large knife through that bottle and letting it drain into my freshly cleaned kitchen sink? Too violent and not really my style. I know I was less than princely during our parting ordeal. For her anger toward me in the withering tumult, I took my revenge as well, in ways I won’t share here, but I say again, I did not put a finger on that beautiful woman. I did not raise my voice to her. She is right to think that to this day I am pond scum. I had to find a way to say goodbye via constructive outcome of the inevitable.
So I drank Lenore’s water and then threw the empty bottle into the kitchen trash.
Yes, there was some concern for the outcome of drinking four-year-old bottled water. If I had writhed in agony all over the kitchen floor as some viral toxin from the water ate me up inside . . . . . I would have been okay with that. Such a fate was not to be. The last trace of Lenore in my refrigerator nourished me. In penance for this act of saying good-bye I have fasted all day today except for four cups of coffee and Lenore’s water. I’ll have dinner at sunset today, about 8 pm, and I’m okay with that.
I’m sorry I waited so long to say goodbye. I hope Lenore is well and happy wherever she is.
This has been my Independence Day lesson lived the hard way. But I am the better man for having lived it the hard way . . . . . . than not to have lived it at all.
Live long . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.