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Thirty-nine

Talk about walks? We took a zillion of them. I can’t say we were romantic, we newlywed walkers. But the strolls were sweet. We held hands, didn’t talk much, puttered around town. We walked to Dairy Queen and got dipped cones. She got vanilla and I got chocolate. We shared. Two peas in a pod. One pea, Althea, shaken up pretty good, subdued. I felt, at times, like I was helping an old lady across the street. In fact, if you consider age to be a function of the mind, I was.

We walked in the white sunlight, walked under the shadowy moonlight, and walked in the strength of the cloud light.

It took a few months – I think the summer solstice had something to do with it – before Althea snapped out of it. Then she was off to the races.

The Playboy Magazine also had something to do with it. Honestly, I liked reading the articles! I left it out, sitting on the table beside the window, gathering light.

“Aha! Already! You’re masturbating!” she screamed.

“No, not at all,” I said.

She tore that sucker to pieces, threw it all over the place, told me to go for a walk, “By yourself!” Then, as I was bolting, I looked back, and, lo and behold, Althea was smiling like hell.

So I did what all good husbands do after a little tiff with the wife – I got drunk. Walked over to Gracie’s and pretended like nothing had happened. Sat at the bar and had a little conversation, enjoyed the cool lemon taste of the lager, watched superstars on ESPN. Came back home several hours later to see if she had left me or not. She was in bed, awake. Naturally, I climbed on top of her, tried to get her interested in me, caught an elbow in the collar bone.

You want a happy ending? Some lyrical conclusion that ties-up all of this shit, makes you feel good before I give you the au revoir? I wouldn’t bet on it. That’s not in the stars, here, I’m afraid. Some people, who work at life in a logical way, might give you just that. But not us, not Althea and I. We go at it the best way we know how.

In the morning Althea said she was ready to get the hell out of this worthless town. And she had a good point, a great point. You can see it as well as I.

“Why do we stay here?” she said. “Why?”

You’ve been thinking the same thing. Why stay here, in Templetown?

“We stay here because we don’t have much money,” I said. “We have doctors, and no money.”

“They have doctors and no money in other places, too.” she said.

“It’s easy here,” I said. “We have a place to live.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice to start over fresh somewhere? Make something of ourselves?”

I could see where this was heading. To the moon. Or rural Montana.

“Atlanta!” she said.

“I’m going out for breakfast,” I said.

I went to the Round House – coffee and pancakes. Came back, and Althea was packing.

“There’s so little theater here,” she said. “If I’m ever going to get my big break, I need to be in a big city, but not New York. I need a stepping stone!”

“I want to stay here,” I said. “All of my stepping stones are right here.”

“Well mine aren’t. You know, you’re way too content. You could be out there, working somewhere. You have a college degree. You used to be a teacher.”

She was right about that. Dot dot dot.

One time in my classroom, a two hundred and fifty pound white guy, a football player, took this skinny black kid and picked him off the ground, slammed his back against the wall – twice. I didn’t say a damn word, didn’t know what to say, couldn’t relate. End of dots.

By that afternoon, she was still packing, but now it was London.

“Sometimes an American actress has to take drastic measures,” she said. “She has to go to the real Mecca of theater. Sometimes Americans don’t recognize their own until the British have given their endorsement.”

And that night, it was Moscow.

“There’s more to acting than technique. A woman needs real depth, real breadth. A woman must understand the forces that drive our history.”

And in the morning, Ethiopia.

“The family unit is alive and well in Ethiopia.”

That afternoon, China.

That night, California, and still packing.

Smiling like hell with each new idea.

In this world, one must sometimes take second best. In fact, perhaps that is the key to a happy life, if a happy life is anything worth worrying about. Second best. Finding what’s best, seeking it, and thereby learning what is second, then accepting that. It’s attainable.

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