Bucks County Writers Workshop
Dressed in the body of a young man -- blonde hair, blue eyes and a sense of humor that complemented my own -- she came to me on a California spring when the trees were blooming to early flowers, and the air was still sweet with the smell of recent rain. And I, suspecting nothing, fell for him because he was strong and gentle, and he made me laugh.
Then one day, many springs later, I saw her staring at me in hate through his cold angry eyes. "You have changed," she said. "You are depressed and boring. It is true that many bad things have happened in your life and I feel sorry for you, but, to preserve my sanity, I must leave."
Her voice was still his voice, her hands still his hands, and I believed her words, out of custom, trust, or love, or any other reason you give yourself to cling to your shattered dreams, still for a little while. I believed her because, like the Little Mermaid of the Scandinavian tale, I had lost my voice trying to please my prince and without him I was like the foam drifting on the surf.
Still I fought to gain him back, convinced that somewhere inside this frigid statue the heart of my prince was still beating. I wrote to him, but he ignored my letters. I asked him for reasons but my words echoed against an unyielding wall of frozen metal.
"You are not logical," he said. "You make no sense. I will not talk to you."
"Logical? Why should I be logical," I wrote to him, "when life is not? What logic could it be in the death of a child who never saw a smile? It is not logic that governs nature, but instinct and luck. Fish don't lay millions of eggs thinking that only some will survive. It is the fish which lay more eggs the most likely to perpetuate itself in its off-spring. But there is no logic to that.
"You may think the world is logical because the planets follow patterns in the sky that can be predicted with numbers, because an apple -- when it is ready -- will always fall from the tree down and not up. But there is no logic in life. There is no logic in the fact that life took millions of years to create giant lizards too specialized to adapt when the weather changed, nor that in the world that was to come small mammals evolved into human beings.
"There is no logic in war, and yet men have been killing each other since the dawn of time. There is no logic in love, as we know at the moment it starts, it is going to end. And there is no logic either that now that we are no longer a couple, I feel less lonely. No logic either in telling you this, because you have judged me and condemned before I had even started."
Again he didn't answer. He had rejected my arguments -- any argument I could have offered -- before hand, with his refusal to talk.
Wounded and confused, I retreated inside myself and mourned. But the world didn't stop just because I wasn't looking. And when the truth caught up with me months later, I was, once again, unprepared.
Through the phone, a woman's voice, somehow distorted by the wires, gives me the news. Gleefully triumphant in her victory, she shouts them in my unwilling ears.
It is a lie, her wishful thinking, I tell myself trying to postpone the awakening. But it is no use. I can feel the pain already welling behind my eyes, tearing through the thick veil of my denial.
I run to my computer. "John," I type, "I thought you'd find the following interesting." And as my fingers fly over the keyboard, the filthy lies fill the screen.
"New Definitions in the Computer Age.
"Whore. Prostitute. A person who engages in sexual intercourse for money. In place of money should read stock options.
"Adulterous. Person who performs sexual intercourse with someone other than the lawful spouse. Should read: 40 year old going through middle life crisis.
"Bad Taste. Bragging in a business meeting about having sex in the work place."
For minutes that seem hours, I stare at the words, at the ugly lies I so much want him to deny. My anger pushing me to send them; my fear to delete them. I know that, if they are true, he will lose his temper, as he has before, every time I have opposed his orders, and that he will make me pay. I am afraid of his anger. I have been for so long, the feeling has become ingrained in my very being, blocking my freedom to decide. But this time I'm also angry. Angry at his lies -- there is nobody else, he told me when I asked him directly -- angry at his betrayal, and angry, above all, at my fear of him. And so I hit SEND. The text flickers in the screen and disappears. But my anger remains. And something else -- that takes me a moment to recognize as shame -- gnaws at me.
I haven't made it up, I tell myself as I trudge along the snow that even now so late in March covers the neat sidewalks of my perfectly designed neighborhood. My suburban neighborhood he used to say it is so bad for your soul. How could he know, anyway? Did he ever have one?
He calls at night, waking me up from an uneasy dream of dragon fire and stormy seas. Screaming at the top of his voice, my valiant prince, my golden boy, has lost any pretense of being human. At his words, that confirm my fears, my anger breaks like the waters over a dam that had reached its limits. Suddenly I'm screaming back.
"Why are you mad at me? Why should you be mad at me just because I know what you did last summer? You were the one who did it after all, shouldn't I be the one mad? Mad because you did it, and not only last summer for that matter, but also last fall and last winter. Actually and, as far as I know, you're still doing it."
Out of breath, I stop. It is no use pouring my anger into the cold mouthpiece. He, the intended receiver of my wit -- my only and pathetic weapon -- is not listening. I heard the metallic click at the other end cutting me off a while ago, just around summer time. I hung up the phone now dead in my hands, and return to my room. Upon the wall, on the side of the bed where he used to sleep, the seawitch, narcissistic and vain, stares at her reflection in the mirror and smiles. Further to the right, on a moon shaped beach, the Little Mermaid holds his hapless prince in her arms and glances longingly into his eyes.
And so the story begins.
A door cracks down the hall, and light, hurried footsteps approach my room. I look up. The knob turns silently and the door opens. Framed on the doorway Natalia pouts. "I had a nightmare," she says. Then, as soon as I tell her to come over, she runs inside. A mischievous smile in her face, she crawls into my bed. "I love you, muchosito," she says in her broken Spanish. I caress her face, pink and warm like the skin of a peach on a hot summer day. "I love you too, Princesa," I say and lie by her side.
Her blonde hair loose over the pillows, laughter in her pale blue eyes, she chatters happily about pink unicorns and flying horses and about what she wants to be when she grows up. Then she puts her little arms around my neck and curls herself against my body. Soon her breathing slows down and her grip relaxes. I inhale deeply the air she has just used. Drunk in her musky smell, my mind sways to the rhythm of her breathing. My prince is gone, I know, forever. But inside this beautiful child he left behind, his heart is still beating. And his soul rests in her dreams. Tonight my life has come full circle and, in the nonsensical babbling of my daughter, I have finally found its meaning.
Many nights I lay awake thinking why.
Now, I know.
Now why has another meaning.
Why is now a dirty lie you told me once when I asked you why.
You told me lies, and with your lies you broke forever my trust in you.
I lost in you, not only you, but my trust as well.
My trust in all I once believed.