sidebrow

They’ve Been Bringing Them Here For Decades

“Can you see?”


“No, it’s too dark.”


“Hang on to this railing.” 


“It’s so desolate here, like a corral. It feels like I’m holding on to something people tie their horses to.” 


“It’s true. People bring their horses here. They’ve been bringing them here for decades.” What were we doing in a corral? I had agreed to spend time with my friend; I hadn’t agreed to be in a place I couldn’t see. Lately he had been doing versions of this, asking me to participate in one thing or activity, and then putting me in another situation. I should have been used to it, but I wasn’t. To be in this place in the horses’ absence was…what? My friend knew this; it was why he had brought me here.

I tried to take everything in; I tried to be in this place. I think my friend wanted us to be in the place without talking, but I wanted to talk, so I did. “Last night I went to a dinner party,” I said.


“Really?”


“Really. The table was set up outside in the grass, not far from a hive. We sat there; we ate. There was a conversation about a book I had actually just read, but I didn’t join in.” 


“Why not?”


“I liked listening. I thought it was such a nice coincidence, a long conversation about a book I had just finished; it was as if something or someone had brought this to me, said after you are done there will be a conversation for you to listen to.”


Who would’ve brought it?”


“That doesn’t matter. After dinner I went to look at the hive and saw the bees flying in the air. They were so small. It was dark out by that time, but not as dark as it is now.” 


I turned to my friend, but I couldn’t see him. I could see a shape of him. I stuck my hand out and hit his sleeve.


What is the book about?”


We could see each other now; we faced each other, at a table. Lights were on. 


It’s about a man and a woman who spend time together, but in a way that most of us don’t spend time. He is repulsed by her because she is a woman. She doesn’t care; she wouldn’t trade their kind of relationship for another. She says, ‘it suits her very well, what she’s going through with him now. She wonders what she would have done instead if they hadn’t met in the cafe. It’s here in this room that she’s had her real summer, her experience, her encounter with hatred of her own sex, and of her body, and of her life.’”


“Did you like it?”


“I loved it.”


“What did the people at the dinner party say about it?”


They thought it was funny.”


“How is it funny?”


The female character puts black silk over her face and says she’s a writer. Listen to this part: ‘One night she asks him if he could do it with his hand, but without coming close to her, without even looking. He says he couldn’t. He can’t do anything like that with a woman. He can’t even say how he feels about her having asked. If he agreed, he might not want to see her any more, ever. He might even hurt her.But he wants her to be there, every night, just lying in that room. Just lying there.” 


Would you like to be in that situation?”


Yes. Well, I don’t think I would like it while it was happening, but afterwards I would.”


“Why after?”


Because from that safe distance I could appreciate what had happened.”


“What do you think would happen?”


I would be intimate with someone in a new way. Or, I would at least recognize our time together as intimate; admit to its qualities of intimacy. I would experience those qualities.” 


Is lying in a room every night intimate, if you and the other person are strangers, aren’t even attracted to each other, and are possibly even repulsed?”


It’s intimate because of the repulsion.”


I don’t know if I see that as intimate.”



Later it was dark again. I thought I could hear the faint sounds of something, some animal, drinking water. I imagined its tongue making contact with the water.Can you hear that?”


“No, I don’t hear anything. I think I was asleep. Aren’t you tired?”


My challenge is to relax with another person in the way I relax when no one is there. Sometimes I can’t let go when I’m with my friend. Some part of me stays stiff, and then that stiffness seems to expand over the whole surface of my body, even when I am moving.

Again I listened for the water, but I couldn’t hear it anymore. I thought, “It’s already gone.” Then I thought, “Let yourself go.”

I said out loud: “I’m trying to relax.”

“Is it working?”


Yes, but if you weren’t here it would be easier.”


“Should I leave?”


“No, that would be a failure.”

Relax, like the animal relaxes when it is drinking water. Relax, like I relax when I drink water.Once you took me to a movie. This was years ago, when we first met.”


I remember.”


“On the way to the movie it was windy, but the wind was warm. On the freeway, our hair blew around our faces. I remember the inside of your car, which was messy. From the lights on the dashboard I could see all the things you’d thrown on the floor. For me you hadn’t shaped yourself into a full person yet. You were someone I could introduce myself to. I know how to do that.”


Do you know how to stay friends with someone for a long time?”


I’m not sure.” 


That night, while we lay in bed after we had finally stopped talking, I had a vision. Someone went crazy in a community, but was supported by everyone and everything around her. In the vision, the support was palpable in the green grass people walked through to get to wherever it was they were going. I could see her. And I knew she could see me.