Mystic Writer

Peeking out to see if there is a real world out there...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dark wandering

About an hours drive south there is a park that is always empty and I knew I would be able to roam for miles in solitude. Intellectually I knew it would be a good choice for my full moon hike, but unfortunately as I was driving to the park last night I felt a tugging toward a more remote ravine. I resisted the urge, reasoning that exploring a deep, little known ravine in the dark with large amounts of snow on the ground was verging on insane.

I was about a mile from the turn to the park when my cell phone rang. My little boy was calling to laugh with me. I happily giggled with him until he abruptly said "Beep!", beeped a phone button, and hung up.

I laughed a bit longer then realized I had missed my turn and was heading for the ravine. I reflected on how I'd found it - when my little boy was an infant he would nap most of the time and I would take him in the car for long drives while I explored the countryside. When he would wake up I would take him for a walk wherever we happened to be.

He roused one day as we were driving in the flatland and I found a stand of trees optimistically labeled 'State Forest'. I carried my son in amongst the trees and did a little exploring and found the ravine. I looked down into it but it was too steep to descend. This spring I had come back when everything was in bloom and gone for a hike but couldn't see anything but leaves and bushes.

Back in the present the sun set over the crazily carved snow, dipping below the horizon with just the faintest touch of red. I knew the night would be clear and cold and when I arrived at the ravine it was full dark. I walked the edge of the roadside snowbank until I could see the depression of some old footprints, then stepped into the snow.

In the woods the trail was invisible but I could sense a different texture with my boots where someone had walked before. The footing was masked and I felt my way with poles and the touch of my feet. The hidden footprints headed to the ravine and then curved to skirt the edge, thankfully far enough back that I didn't need to worry about cornices.

The footsteps turned downwards and followed a break in the cliff for a steep descent. The snow had drifted deeper in places and at times I slid in a small avalanche of powder. At the bottom the trail led to the river and I saw to my dismay that there was a mishmash of flood torn trees square in the middle of the only way to cross.

I had serious misgivings but didn't want to end my hike so quickly so I carefully started climbing and threading my way through the ice coated trees. The snow hid everything and underneath me I could hear the water rushing. As I slowly worked my way through the tangle my fear grew that I would slip and snap a leg or drop into the river and be pinned underwater by branches.

At last I reached the final tree and I used my pole to probe the unseen ground. It felt firm and I stepped off. With a deep breath I looked up and was astounded at how bright the stars were. Orion was decorated with millions of stars. The Milky Way sprayed itself across the center of the sky and the Big Dipper hung vertical. The seven stars of the Pleides were easily visible amidst the backdrop of a myriad of others. I lost myself in wonder for a long while till the hoot of an owl brought me back.

The trail followed a bottomland for a ways then ascended the cliff - my cold congested chest made plowing through the snow doubly hard and I felt relieved when I made it to the top. The valley spread out below me, dimly seen cliffs crowned by frozen waves of snow, the trees tracing black lines against the star filled sky. The only sound was the rustle of branches in the light breeze.

I slowly started moving again and realized I was following the path of my earlier spring hike. Rememberances of that nettle strewn and mosquito filled day made me appreciate the winter a little more, and I walked in revererie for a while.

I turned a corner and stopped, my vision suddenly overlayed with bushes covered with bluebells. I had turned this same corner last spring and seen the bluebells and simultaneously had the first of my moments of connection with TB. It was as if she were right beside me, sharing the wonderful scene. For a brief second I hoped for a connection this time, but it was not to be. I descended again into the ravine and everything was tinged with thoughts of her.

The path curved to follow the river between the cliffs, and I was starting to struggle with exhaustion. The snow was smooth as it filled depressions and hid fallen trees, and each step sucked a little more energy. Ahead the rivers path flowed directly against the cliff and I was forced to pick my way across the water on ice coated boulders.

I ascended the cliff through deep unconsolidated snow, moving slowly and deliberately. The moon rose up over the trees and I was finally able to see my footing and I picked up speed for the last mile of my hike.

I entered a small moonlit filled meadow and spotted my car at the far end. The meadow had blown clear and I knew it would be a short easy walk to my car. I thought about the drive home in my fever sweat soaked clothes, thought about the fresh shirt and jeans back in my car.

I looked round the meadow, entranced by the pearl glow, then stripped off all my clothes. My body steamed in the well below freezing air and I stood for an endless moment of joy clothed only in moonlight.

I sang praises to my car heater on the way home.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I am still suffering rather greatly from a fever and cold and I think I'll write about a happy thing from when I was about 5 years old...


Dad loved a cookout. He had created a picnic area by clearing out the foundation of an ancient collapsed farmhouse. The two walls that remained provided shelter for the pile of rubble he called a firepit and the stacks of gray wood he deemed benches and tables.

The ritual would start with some mumbled orders. "MW get the ax". "Joe get some plates". He would rumble off to the woods. My mother would roll her eyes and quiver as crashes and obscenities echoed around us.

He would emerge snorting, dragging a complete tree behind him. "MW, start breaking branches. Joe, hold the tree trunk". He would lever himself on to the largest branch and start jumping. My mom would blink back tears of laughter and look solemnly at us kids.

My dad would go sprawling when the branch broke, coating himself with dust and grass. My mom would hold her hand to her mouth, covering a cough that sounded suspiciously like a giggle.

He would pick up the enormous branch, and with a spin would smash it in to a foundation wall. Rock and wood shrapnel would pepper the area. My mom would squeak as he wound up for another blow.

Eventually the branch would break, whipping around to rap him in the knuckles or bash into his legs. With a grumble he would toss the wood in the pit.

Pain would cause him to glare around. Spotting the tree would give him a target, and he would wrap his arms around the trunk, strain for a while, and then step back for us to admire his handiwork.

We would look goggle eyed at the sight of a thirty foot tree draped across a three foot firepit.

As my dad lit the tree, my mothers control would crumble, and howls of laughter followed the flames into the night...

Monday, January 24, 2005

River run

Late last week I ventured to the near wild for a walk in the dark. The night was overcast and newly fallen snow lay inches deep along the trail. I walked in altered state from high fever and shortness of breath and the trail and trees wobbled and twisted as I walked.

I dropped to the river following a three quarter mile ravine, tapping poles and gently feeling with the soles of my feet. The trail looped back riverside for a couple of miles and when I spotted a bench ahead I decided I needed a rest.

I sat down and shut my eyes and the world closed in and swirled. Dizzy feelings welled up and I snapped them back open. I started counting breaths. one, two, three, four, one, ... The dizziness slowed and I watched the air come through my mouth and into my lungs. ... three, four... A coyote ghosted along the river in front of me, panting loudly and moving like the wind. I couldn't hear his feet. He glided out of sight.

one, two, ... A second coyote slid past, no sound of feet. ...four... time passed, then a third and fourth, then two more.

More breaths, and slowly a coyote ambled back, sniffing the air and twitching his ears. He stopped for a moment, sensing something wrong, then silently walked away.

I sat a moment longer, breathing in, breathing out, then rose without thought. I drifted through the dark to my car and beyond, floating homeward till the city made everything concrete.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


My mind was frozen as I listened to the phone ring. A rattle sounded and then "Hello?". I recognized her voice instantly. An unexpected surge of happiness welled up and still operating without thought, I said "Happy Birthday!".

"Why are you calling?" she said and I sensed some tension in her voice.

"I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday". This time some of the odd happiness I was feeling slipped into the phrase.

"Well, thank you". I heard some impishness in her voice now too, and it made me want to giggle. "I've got to go now" she continued "there's a big party here and I've got to get back".

"OK" I replied happily.

"Goodbye" I heard the twinkle in her voice.

"Bye" I said, and gently hung up the phone.

I felt bouncy and relaxed for the first time in a long time. What the heck was that about? Had some question been answered? Did I have such a strong connection that after 12 years simply exchanging a few words could make me happy? I didn't get it, but after the earlier pain I was willing to just enjoy the feeling. I'd think about it later.

I went to the door and looked out. The storm was slackening a little and the plastic on my car window still looked sound. I looked up to see if the moon might be ghosting around up there but saw nothing. I realized I was sleepy and with a last deep breath of the wind I gently closed the door and went to bed.

The relaxed feeling lasted through the next few days. Elsa called and left me the name of a counselor and the time of the appointment. I chewed over the conversation with Karen. Nothing important was said - why did it make me feel so good? Maybe I had my connection with her confirmed? Maybe that happy year and a half so long ago was real. Maybe love was real? I didn't know what, but something had been resolved in me. I didn't feel any real compulsions about Karen anymore. For the first time in years I thought about her and our time together, and it was fun to think about the happy times we'd had.

I met with Elsa at the counselors office and I felt distant. I pretended not to notice her overtures for a kiss and when we talked with the counselor I was polite and truthful but didn't feel like I cared very much. We never discussed Jeff. The counselor concluded that we probably could make our relationship work but we had issues to resolve and we set up another appointment. On the way out Elsa asked if I'd like to come over to her house and I told her I had plans and I left without touching her. I drove the long drive back to my house in the country watching the sunset in my rearview mirror. I didn't think at all.

The days passed, and one evening I was again sitting in my rocking chair with the windows open and grooving on the birdsong and golden light of my living room when the phone rang. I snatched it up "Hi!".

"Hi!" her impishness ignited something in me. It was Karen!

"Well, this is an unexpected..." I waited for her to think 'pleasure' then said "".

She laughed "I'm sorry I couldn't talk on my birthday. Fred was right there and he'd lose his mind if he thought I was talking to you. I really wanted to talk...".

"Karen, are you doing OK?" concern welled up in me. Something about the way she talked about Fred worried me.

"Fred and I have our problems. We've seperated a couple of times but we've got kids and I always come back. He's pretty controlling..." her voice was tense as she paused. "Hey, I've seen where you live" she said, changing the topic "Did you plant all those flowers? You live alone, right?"

"Yeah, I planted the flowers but now I'm letting the gardens go more wild. I want to have the feeling that the garden is doing what it wants instead of what I want. I do live alone - I've become pretty much a loner although I'm seeing someone now. I'm pretty sure it's not going to work out. Why would you ever drive past my house - it's really out of the way". That last point struck me as pretty odd.

"I go past there pretty often. I always fill up at the gas station near your house. I've been hoping to run into you for years but it never seems to happen..." again she trailed off, then changed the subject "You write software now, right? You're a programmer? Do you like that?".

I laughed - she knew about how I'd struggled trying to settle on a career - first math, then physics, then settling for electrical engineering but hating that. "I love it. It has all the things I liked about math and physics and people are willing to pay me to do it. It's the greatest thing. How about you. Did you-".

She cut me off with a mock indignant tone "Yes, I got my nursing degree. It took me 10 years with the kids and all, but I did it".

I started laughing and she joined me. After a bit she said "Hey, don't laugh! It wasn't easy for me!".

I knew she was joking a little, but I went serious "Hey Karen, you know I wouldn't laugh at you. I know how hard you worked at it, and I'm really proud you were able to get your degree. Karen... I'm really sorry for all the wrong things I did back then".

I heard tears in her voice "MW, you never did anything wrong. Don't ever believe that it was your fault MW. You were perfect...". She sobbed and I cried with her.

After a little while she said "My son goes to school with your nephew. He seems like a great kid".

I loved my nephew and agreed with her "Yeah, he is. I take him on hikes with me and he is so into everything. I love talking with him". We talked about my nephew, then about her kids and then she had to go. We finished our talk with simple goodbyes.

I sat for a long time in a warm glow, then threw on my coat and went for a walk under a moon softened by wispy clouds. I felt like all my questions about Karen were answered, all the doubts I had about that time resolved. I knew I had loved her back then and that I still loved her, and deep inside me, at a place where there is no doubt, I knew she still loved me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


The tape machine clicked a couple of times, then Elsa's voice "I don't know what I can do, but I really want to try to make this work. Please MW, just call me. I'll understand if you just want to say goodbye". She started to cry. "Please. Jeffy misses you. I miss you... I love you". The answering machine clicked, then started the next message "Hi MW, It's Pat...". I paused the machine again.

Jeffy and Elsa. Damn. Images of the summer swirled in my head. Wrestling with Jeffy in the grass. Carrying him on my shoulders. Reading him stories and then Elsa and I kissing him goodnight. Elsa and I undressing and getting into bed. I felt like his Dad. I felt like the two of us were parenting together. It felt so good but it always went so bad.

Every couple of weeks something I did would bother her and she would explode in anger. Was it me? Did I love her? Had I ever loved anyone? Maybe the problem was me. The wind rattled the house and I remembered the broken window and soaked floor. My temples pulsed. I needed to talk to someone. I knew I'd never sleep. I dialed Elsa before I could think any more about it.

"Hi Elsa".

"MW? I'm so glad to hear from you. I didn't think you would call...".

"Elsa, I don't know what I'm doing. My car was broken into, my carpet is soaked, and I don't think you and I are good for each other. I miss you and Jeff but I need you to stop calling me" I blurted without thinking.

"What? I miss you too. What about your car?".

I told her about my car and my day and I calmed down a little. She finally ventured "I have an idea for us...".

"What." I replied stonily.

"Maybe we could see a relationship counselor. Maybe we can work through our problems".

All the sudden my head hurt again "Can you hold - I need to think". I set the phone down and started pacing. 'Our problems'... Maybe it was me. Maybe a counselor could help me.

I got back on the phone. "OK, but if that doesn't help or if the counselor thinks we aren't good together I don't want to keep trying. This is too painful Elsa, I can't keep doing this".

"Do you want to come over and we can talk?"

Someone drove a spike into my temple "Elsa, no. I don't want to see you until we meet at the counselors office. Do you have someone in mind?". She said she did. "Why don't you make an appointment and let me know the time" I continued "and I'll see you there. I don't think it's a good idea for us to talk till we've had our appointment".


"Elsa, I like the idea and I have a little hope, but not much. This has been really hard on me. I'm sorry. I need to get going". I trailed off lamely.

"I'm sorry too MW." She replied, and I could tell she was crying again. "I don't want to hurt you. I'll call about the appointment. Bye... I love you...".

"Bye Elsa." I gently hung up the phone. My hands were shaking. Love? Dependency is more like it. Broken people looking for someone to prop them up. I jumped up and paced to my bedroom. I've never loved anyone. No one has ever loved me. Susy? Susy wanted anyone to like her. Jean just wanted to lose her virginity. I was just a body. ...and I just wanted someone to convince me I was good. Damn! I paced back out of the bedroom and glanced at the calendar on the wall. My feet locked and I swayed. I couldn't move and I felt scared. The pressure in my head was unbearable. Love. No one. The calendar. What was it about the calendar? I could feel my brain starting to veer and this time I was able to stop it.

Karen. I waited for the screaming to start, but it didn't. It felt like a long missing tooth, empty and broken, but not painful. Karen. It was Karen's birthday.

My feet walked me back to the phone. I pulled out the phone book. Fred's last name popped into my head and I looked it up. There he was. In fact, they didn't live all that far from me.

Slowly my hand picked up the phone and dialed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


A slithering rattle echoed above me and I glanced at the ceiling. The TV antenna wire must have broken loose in the wind. I opened the door to a howl and saw the wire hanging down, then peered through the rain and could see that the plastic over my cars window still held.

I checked the carpet, thought it might be OK and sat back down to resume my reverie.

Elsa. I'd been sitting in my office last spring with the window cracked so I could hear the birds singing. The phone rang, and after so many weeks I was surprised to hear Elsa's voice. "Hi MW, would you like to go to a B&B? On Friday?". For some reason I found that hilarious and started laughing uncontrollably. Finally I got myself under control. "Hi Elsa, what are you talking about?".

"I was given an assignment for a story in a small town". Elsa was a feature reporter. Her words were a little clipped and I wondered if she was mad about my laughing. "One of the residents in the town has built a restaurant next to a B&B, and he has plans to totally redo his little farming community into a tourist haven. I'm supposed to interview the guy and see what the other community residents think. I know you love small towns... Part of the assignment is to try the restaurant, so we'll get a free dinner".

I processed that for a moment, then asked "And the B&B part?". She replied with a laugh "Oh, we'll look at it but I wasn't planning on staying". I was actually relieved by that statement. I had made a date with Lisa for a Saturday morning walk and I didn't feel like telling Elsa that.

Friday arrived and we set off with Elsa driving. Out of the city the fields were just sprouting and we rolled through the green velvet hills without talking much. I became comfortable and lost myself in the play of cloud shadows racing along the ground.

She interviewed the owner of the B&B and restaurant first. I was amazed at the transformation. I had concluded that Elsa was pretty mild and somewhat boring and now she was aggressively questioning the guy. She had a knack for finding areas that he didn't want to talk about - she was half his size and she dominated him entirely.

Somehow the interview finished on a positive note and we were led to the restaurant. The food was wonderful and the atmosphere was comfortable and we talked in intense whispers about the interview and the guys plans. The conversation continued after dinner as we wandered through the tiny town. I was incredibly excited by this new image of her and our talking was fun and animated.

We drove back to the city under a sliver of moon, and when we arrived at her house she invited me in. I sat on the couch while she bustled around putting music on and getting drinks. When she came back she sat right next to me, her leg touching mine, and I said "I think I should kiss you". After a while she took my hand and placed it on her breast and things progressed till she was naked. We explored a long time and then somehow mutually agreed to stop. I was glad - I wasn't sure how I felt about my resolution made so long ago, and I had never dreamed I might have to think about my feelings about sex that night. I left as dawn was breaking.

Elsa and I had a date a couple days later and we did OK by filling the awkward moments with kisses and on the next date she introduced me to her little boy Jeff. Jeffy and I played together and he sat on my lap at dinner and when it was time to go home he gave me a kiss and a hug. I couldn't get enough of him and he filled Elsa's and my conversation and time together.

Thinking of Jeffy agitated me and I got up from my chair to check the carpet again. I couldn't decide if heat would help dry the carpet or cause the mildew to grow faster. I settled for running the furnace motor without heat.

Again I stared at the blinking light on the answering machine. I thought of Jeffy missing me, knew he'd be crying and asking his mom when I'd be coming, then asking her again when she gave him an answer he didn't like. How could I have done this to a sweet little three year old? Why in the hell didn't I just call it quits with Elsa? I knew it couldn't work after the first date. Every time we somehow connected she ended up screaming at me about something. I knew there was something wrong with her... Maybe there was something wrong with me? Did I miss her? I missed Jeff. The blinking light was getting to me and I couldn't stand it any longer. I pressed the play button...

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rain falling

The agent paused as he saw the alarm in my face. Thoughts of my rubber checks were racing through my head and I had a momentary image of a life in prison. 'Hey, maybe I'll finally have a good relationship' I thought and then snapped back as the agent cleared his throat.

"I was just biking into the parking lot when I saw a tan Ford leave the vicinity of your vehicle. It accelerated a little too quickly which made me suspicious so I checked out your car. It looks like the only damage is the window. Did you have anything valuable in the vehicle sir?"

I thought about that for a moment, still not sure why a treasury agent was handling my car break in "No, I think I had a couple CD's and that was about it. This is the second time I've been broken into and I learned from the first one...".

"Well, that's good." he replied. "I'm staying with my mom while I'm on vacation and then I'm heading back east. I wrote down a description of the car and some numbers where the police can reach me. I'm going to run before the storm hits - you should get going too". He nodded toward the broken window and handed me a page torn from a road atlas. I could see neat block letters and I thanked him.

As he hurried away I opened the door and gingerly swept the glass off the seat. I plopped down and removed my rollerblades then raced to the nearest hardware store. The wind was gusting fiercely now and the clouds were close. The air had a breath of the winter to come.

The storm broke before I got there and I was instantly drenched. I ran inside, grabbed some duct tape and a roll of plastic and ran back to my car. I started to unroll the plastic but the wind kept whipping it around, so I threw the roll in my car and started home. 'My windows!' I remembered. I'd left them open in my flight from the house.

The roads were flooding as I pulled into my driveway. I ran into the house and slammed the windows closed. The curtains hung heavy with water and the carpet was soaked halfway across the living room. I ran back outside to tape up the broken car window then back inside to deal with the water damage.

Hours later I sat in my chair and looked at my living room. It no longer comforted. Thoughts of mildew and floor damage and dealing with the police tore at my mind. The answering machine light blinked and blinked. I wanted to call Elsa and talk about my day. I wanted to call her and scream but I didn't know what to say. Why were we together at all? She was the fourth woman to respond to the personal ad I'd placed last spring and our first meeting was for lunch at a hip little bistro.

I had arrived early and was looking the place over. Elsa entered in the middle of a group of people but somehow I instantly knew she was who I was waiting for. I walked over and murmured "Elsa?". "Hi" she smiled and her hand floated up and lightly touched my chest. Later I would ask her about that, and she said she knew when she saw me she had to touch me. I could feel the touch for hours afterward.

The lunch was awkward - we'd try a topic and then it would falter. We didn't have many common interests and we differed on the few we shared. As we finished our meal I decided this could never work and I prepared to leave. She differed with me on that too and reached for my hand as she asked if she could see me again.

After our third date we still were faltering and when we said goodnight I could tell the awkwardness was getting to her too. I wasn't at all surprised when several weeks went by without hearing from her - I was pretty sure I'd never hear from her again. Elsa, of course, had different ideas...

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Fleeing the wind

The rollerblades whir slowed as I hit the base of the hill and the stroke of my legs became choppy as I powered my way up. At the crest I relaxed a little and concentrated on making each motion perfect - slow squat on the left leg while pushing out with the right, arms parallel and moving to counterbalance, then glide on the left while standing back up and shift to the right foot. I watched my muscles with my mind, making sure everything flowed smoothly.

The trail darkened as I went under the six lane freeway, and a memory of Jeffy's laugh broke through my discipline "Yay! We're in the tunnel!". I laughed out loud and almost yelled "Yay!" and then it all hit me again. The darkness slammed into my soul and I fought despair. I shot out into the light 'Stop it.' I thought 'You know how to fight this. You've had 12 years of practice!'. I emptied my head again. Little thoughts of Jeff kept attacking and I realized I needed something more interesting to focus on.

The field to my right was lined with trees and I scanned the tops looking for hawks. I knew they hunted this field. Nothing. The tall grass in the field had turned russet and the purple of the thorns and lustrife contrasted with the goldenrod and black eyed susans. White butterflies floated above the flowers as I swept past and I noticed the prairie flattening and moving in erratic patterns as if the wind was dancing.

The motion combined with the tension I'd been feeling in the air and I realized a storm was coming. Maybe a big one. I sniffed and could feel a hint of cooler dampness. I knew it wouldn't arrive for a while but I wanted to be in my car when it hit so I again concentrated on my stride.

The eight mile marker flashed past and I started slowing down. I could blade like a bullet but I turned like a turtle, and I needed to be fully stopped before I could turn around. I thanked god no one witnessed my ineptitude and soon I was flying back towards my car. I could see the clouds on the horizon now and they were purplish black as they engulfed the late afternoon sun. The breeze started to pick up and I had to strain whenever the trail turned towards the west.

I felt relief when I arrived at the parking lot, and I threaded my way through the tangle of people hurriedly loading bikes or removing blades. I spotted my car and was feeling a wave of relaxation when I saw the glass on the ground. 'Damn!' I thought. I knew what it meant, my car had been broken into six months before and I'd been harassed continuously by collection agencies as the thieves bounced my checks all over the midwest. Frustration boiled up and I screamed "DAMMIT, did all of you just stand there while they broke into my CAR!". Heads looked for a moment then turned away.

I heard a noise to my right and turned. A huge man loomed up and I rolled back a step. He flipped a wallet open and I saw a flash of silver and gold "I'm a treasury agent sir..."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ending and beginning

Well shoot! I had hoped to add the final Karen detail in a short little post but after a couple days of attempting that, I realize it doesn't make any sense except in context. It might not make much sense there. I really didn't want to start another saga but it appears I have no choice. I won't even hazard a guess as to how long it will take me to write this completely. Forgive me...

I clutched all four bags of groceries in my arms as I looked over my little garden. Some grass had popped up behind the marigolds and I liked the way it looked from the steps. I laughed a little to myself as I mused that gardening is a lot easier when you like things to have a wild feel. I popped my shoe off and balanced on one foot while I opened the door with the other. I hooked my shoe into the house and then stepped in and tapped the door closed.

I thought about the mornings hike and how I felt a little tired but really pretty good - probably the best I'd felt in twelve years - In fact, the last time I felt this good was... My brain automatically veered away and I set the bags on the counter. I filled the empty cupboards and refrigerator and opened the big windows on both sides of the living room.

The September air riffled the curtains as I sat and looked my living room over. It had taken me years to furnish it with second hand and home made furniture and I loved the way it made me feel. The early afternoon light filtered through tan and gold curtains and made the wood in the couch glow. I listened to bird songs echoing through the windows and tried to empty my mind.

The little space I had created demanded answers - why had I decided to leave here? Elsa and I weren't good together - it seemed like it should work, but we grated on each other. Was it Jeffy? The smell of his three year old hair filled me and I just wanted to hold him. What had Elsa told him? How long would it take for him to forget me? That thought made me start to cry and I bit it off.

The answering machine light was blinking. Maybe Pat had called back and wanted to go out. I didn't really feel like it but I was determined not to get mired in despair again - I'd wasted too much of my life already. I punched the play button and the tape started to rewind. It took a long time and I wondered how many people had called.

"Hi MW, it's Lisa... I've been thinking about things and I think you're right - I'd like to be your friend. I know you're busy with Elsa and Jeff, but maybe we could talk on the phone sometimes. Give me a call. Bye".

Lisa was one of the dozen women who had responded to a personal ad I'd placed in the spring. I had really enjoyed her sense of humor but realized after a while that we had seriously different ideas about life. I loved how she made me laugh and asked to be friends. That had probably been a mistake.

The next message started and there was a long stretch of tape hiss, then finally "It's me...". My heart tore in two. Elsa... I had started moving into her house last week and before I'd finishing putting my clothes in her closet she was screaming at me. I had repacked my car and come back here and I'd spent the week fighting thoughts of her... and Jeff.

"... I know you told me never to call again. I'm miserable. I'm sorry I lost my temper at you. I don't know what's wrong with me... what's wrong with us. I need you".

I stabbed the answering machine and cut her off. I ripped the closet door open, grabbed my rollerblades, fled to my car and screamed away....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tying off

When I started this series of posts, my intent was to do it in 4 parts with the final two being posted on New Years. I haven't really thought about these three relationships much in the last couple years and deciding to write about them now came about in an odd way.

I wanted to give TB a present for Christmas that said something more than 'I went shopping' (Although I did go shopping too). She is heavily into symbols and ceremonies in the same way that I am and is well aware of how actions and objects can be used to focus personal energies for growth and change.

At any rate, as part of this present I took a special feather out late at night on the solstice into a wild area that has a 'thin' feel to it. I made up a little ceremony whereby I used the feather to erase the boundaries between the inner me and the outer world. It was a profound feeling at the time and I felt myself spread out and touch the trees and snow and all the surroundings.

I was gone for quite a while and when I came back I started walking without thinking. After a couple miles I was back at my car and somewhere during that time I had the notion placed in my head of blogging these three relationships. It wasn't anything conscious.

A couple days later I started writing and as the posts unfolded I was profoundly shaken by what I was writing. Over the years I have sampled these memories one piece at a time, chewing them over and finding them terribly distasteful, but I have never before tried digesting them as a single piece. What a difference that makes! The change in my feelings is still progressing, and I'm not sure where it will lead, but it sure feels good. The amazing and supportive comments I've received have added tremendously to the change that is happening and I am profoundly grateful.

There are several people that know parts of the story but most of it has been locked in my head all these years. I was so ashamed of the middle of the night trysts that I never told anyone about them at the time - in fact most of my friends didn't realize that Karen and I had ever had any contact after I found out she was engaged to Fred.

Of course freeing myself from Karen didn't miraculously make my life perfect. Karen was an integral part of my social circle and breaking myself free required that I sever contact with most of my friends. I couldn't stand to hear even the slightest detail about Karen, and I avoided anyone who talked about her.

I had a blue collar job, but that took only 8 hours of my time - after that I would hit the bars. I didn't really care much about anything, and when I wasn't working I just hung out. I ended up sleeping wherever I happened to be when I couldn't stay up any longer. I have a very distinct memory of joy when I discovered that the newly introduced lighted billboards were warm and had a comfortable catwalk to stretch out on. It was a weird time. I think it only lasted a couple of months.

After I started to straighten up a little bit I bought myself an Atari 400 computer and taught myself to program. Not too long after I got a job as a programmer and I become the classic computer nerd - no social life and up for days on end hacking. It was probably great therapy and it certainly was a fantastic career move.

I've never seen Karen since. I found out much later that the last time we were together was probably the night before she married Fred. I *hate* that thought and I hope it isn't true. I also learned that the reason Karen's house was always empty was that Bonnie was spending all her time at her boyfriends house, and Karen had her own apartment on Fred's families estate. The only time the Karen's house was occupied was when she wanted to be with me.

I hated Karen for a long time and the feeling sickened me because it didn't feel true. After a long while the hate died and was replaced by a lack of any feeling at all about her. That felt better and I thought it was all over, and I was almost right.

Monday, January 10, 2005

and I go home

Riding it out took it's toll. The sick feeling I had during our second nighttime rendezvous slowly permeated my entire life and I felt broken and ancient. When I would call her the phone just rang and if I drove by her house she was never there. I was forced to wait till she called me and the waiting knotted my stomach and made me jumpy.

Food tasted like ashes and the knotting made everything turn to lead, and soon I gave up eating and started living on beer. I began to lose weight.

I thought often of simply turning the buzzer off and moving on but repeated calls from Denise and Bonnie kept me believing that if I could just hold on Karen and I would eventually be back together and normal again.

I never knew when Karen would call and sometimes nights lying in bed waiting became too much and I would go to the bar or visit friends. If I did that too many nights in a row she would start calling all the places I might be. Somehow it evolved that she would let the phone ring once and hang up and I became hypersensitive to phones ringing. I always broke away from whatever I was doing and went to her.

Karen would rarely talk, preferring to have sex or sleep curled up in my arms, but over time I learned that Fred was the direct descendent of one of the early industrialists, and his family had wealth beyond my imagining. Karen would occasionally have crying jags and would mutter things like "You made my daddy go away" and "Your just like daddy, you'll start hitting things". The latter was bizarre - the only really violent impulse I've ever had was in the kitchen with Fred and nothing happened there - regardless, it made a lasting impression on her.

Time passed and even at it's glacial pace spring arrived, then summer and fall. My GPA plummeted as I couldn't focus enough to take the tests and eventually I stopped going entirely. I went to work but wasn't very useful - I'm guessing they kept me on because it didn't cost very much to employ me.

By Christmas I was down to 135 pounds from my previous very fit 200. A chance christmas conversation with my cousin Reb somehow progressed into her, her sister PB, and another cousin Jane coming to visit me just before New Years. I have loved these three since I was a kid and had fallen out of contact with them. The thought of them coming was the first positive feeling I had had in months, and for a moment the gray lightened.

We decided to attend Kirk's New Years eve party, and I liked that I entered with three beautiful women - a blonde, brunette, and redhead. I even felt a little interest in things. Just before midnight Karen arrived and as the ball dropped she pulled me to a room in the back and started kissing and running her hands over me. It bothered me and I was pulling away when I saw Fred walking through the party looking for her. Karen saw him about the same time and pushed me away with a laughed "MW!".

I couldn't bear to be around her and fled to find my cousins. Jane was on the phone and as PB and Reb fought to calm me, she gave the phone to me. Somehow the woman on the other end distracted me with her bizarre humor and as the conversation ended she elicited a promise from me that I would call her. Seeing her was somewhat out of the question as she lived a half dozen states away in Oklahoma.

The evening gave me a grim resolve and I disconnected the buzzer when we got home. My cousins soon had to leave and as I watched them go I felt the gray return. The first night without them I watched the little light blink as Karen tried to call, first at 2am and then again at 3:30. It became a nightly ritual as a week and then two passed. Midway through January the light lit up at 1am and continued to blink, hour after hour. Around 4am I picked up the phone and simply said "I'm coming". We had sex and I didn't feel a thing.

Two nights later I was at a party when Karen and Fred arrived. I watched her as she entered and she immediately spotted me. I held her eye as I got up and went to the sliding glass doors of the apartment and with a long glance that I knew would be the last, I stepped through the curtains and out on the balcony.

I looked over the railing - it looked like it was about 30 feet down. I put my hands on the top bar and hopped over, twisting so my toes landed on the outer edge of the balcony. I turned and leaned forward, hands holding the railing and examined things. The snow looked pretty deep and there were balconies below. I looked up and saw the moon. The crescent floated in the treetops and I was momentarily lost in the beauty.

I heard some noise from the sliding glass doors and I turned around, grasped the vertical bars and stepped off the balcony. I let my hands slide till my toes touched the bars of the balcony below and I let go. I balanced for a second and then jumped out a little, falling and punching through the crust of snow. I rolled backwards and came up on my feet and ran lightly out to the road in front.

I settled into an easy lope but was quickly winded. The fact that I couldn't run even a half mile now somehow struck me as funny and I started to laugh. I started walking and decided I'd go to my brothers house and sleep there. I knew at my slow pace it would take a couple hours and as I walked I looked at the sky.

I marveled at Orion, felt a connection with him up there. The milky way arched across the heart of the sky. The breeze was out of the south and I knew tomorrow the snow would start to glisten and in the afternoon little trickles of water would be everywhere. I couldn't wait to hear the gurgle of streams under the snow. I decided I'd call Thea and see if she wanted to go for a walk. I'd throw the big toboggan on a backpack and we could slide and have a picnic somewhere out in the wild. It had been so long since we'd done anything

I spotted a phone booth and called my brother "Hi, do you mind if I crash at your place tonight? Jeff drove me to a party and I wasn't having much fun so I left and now I'm walking. I'll be there in an hour or so - You don't have to stay up. I'll just let myself in and sleep on the couch...".

"You don't have to walk." he replied "I'll come get you. Laura's been worrying about you for months and she would love to see you".

"That's cool" I said, holding back tears I thought had long dried up. "I've got a story I'd like to tell the two of you if you can stay up for a while. I'll buy you a beer... Umm, you do have beer in your fridge, don't you?".

He laughed and we hung up. I took a deep easy breath and walked a little bit till the moon called to me again.

I smiled, looked upward, and lost myself in the sky.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The party dies

The door opened as I approached and I could see she was only wearing a loosely tied bathrobe. She took my hand and led me down the stairs to where we had lived for a while, and when my feet touched the floor she pulled my clothes off and dropped to her knees. Time passed in spasms and I joined her on the carpet and with increasingly extravagant contortions we worked our way to the bed.

With a final triumphant effort I was spent and she spooned herself into my arms. I tried to find peace in the moment but after a while I needed assurance. "Karen?" I whispered, but she seemed to be asleep. I lay awake for a long time and then noticed the cold light in the window.

I got up to go to work and while I was dressing she buried herself in the covers. On the steps I looked back and saw only a spray of hair. I thought of our first night together and the synchronicity of the image gave me hope and I left satisfied.

I didn't have access to a phone at work and had to immediately go to classes afterward, and it was past 4pm when I finally found an unused campus phone. I called but she didn't answer. I attended a couple more classes and called at 7 - still no answer. I drove past her house on the way home and there were no cars and I spent another confused night lying sleepless and hoping the phone might ring.

At work the next day I was paged for a phone call. It was Denise, one of Karen's aunts that I had gotten pretty friendly with. "Hi MW, Karen was here last night and she said she'd seen you. She was a little short on details and I've been worrying about you. I hope you don't mind my calling you at work - I don't know where you are living now. Are you OK? Are you and Karen back together?".

I answered as best I could "I'm not sleeping well, but I'm OK. I don't know what is going on with Karen. I saw her the other night but nothing was resolved. I haven't been able to get in touch with her - no one answers at the house. Where's Bonnie?" (Bonnie was Karen's mom) "Where's Karen?". Denise answered "Bonnie is on a trip with her boyfriend Ron for a couple weeks. Karen was here till about 9 last night and then rushed off. The way she was acting I thought she was going to see you...".

"She didn't see me." I replied "Denise, do you think Karen is OK - do you know what is going on?".

"I think she's OK. I think she is just working through her parents divorce and the problems you two were having. I think she has cold feet and is trying to figure out some things. Have faith MW. She talks about you all the time and it's obvious she loves you. You just need to give her some time."

"I think I can do that..." I choked out. Denise heard the stress and said "She brought Fred around to meet the family and Mom spit at him. After he left we all laughed about it". That made me smile and I felt better. I had always liked Karen's grandma and now I think I loved her. Denise told me I could call her anytime I needed somebody to talk to.

I tried calling Karen several times and never connected. I went to bed that night and finally fell asleep hard at around 1am. At work the next day I was again paged for a phone call, and this time it was Karen "I tried calling you last night and you didn't answer...". I asked "When did you call?" and she replied "Around 2am. I really wanted to see you". I was exasperated "I've been trying to call you since I last saw you, and you never answer!".

She said she'd been at work and school and probably had bumped the phone off the hook, and I didn't really believe it. She seemed hurried to get off the phone and I was worried that I was going to get fired because of the calls, so we hung up after she told me "I want to see you tonight. I'll call you when I get home from work. Please don't miss the call MW".

I stopped by radio shack and picked up the parts to make a gizmo that would buzz and flash a light whenever the phone rang in the other room. The buzzer could wake the dead and at 2am it went off. It was a virtual repeat of the earlier night but this time I wouldn't let her drift off to sleep "Karen, I need to know what is going on!".

"I don't know MW, I just know that I need you and I love you... Everything else is confused".

"What about Fred?" I asked woodenly.

"I don't know about him either. Please MW I can't talk about it - can you let me work this out my way? I just need you to hold me".

I tried to find some calmness in me but fretted as I lay there. I felt sick and didn't know what to do and as she slept in my arms I decided I'd just try to ride it out. I left at dawn in a world turned permanently gray.

Friday, January 07, 2005

and horrible crash

The glittering tore through my brain and without thought I slid past Karen into her kitchen. Karen grabbed my arm as I went past but I twisted against her thumbs and easily broke the hold. He was tall, much taller than me. I stopped in a balanced stance and snapped my right hand back, wrist locked upwards. The idiot was still on the flats of his feet - he didn't have a clue what was going to happen. It wouldn't take any finesse at all.

Karen whimpered "MW, please don't hurt him". "Hurt him?" my brain replied and the sarcasm and his helplessness poisoned my gleeful image of destruction. Rage turned to frustration and I howled out the door, breaking into a full run.

I flew past a lake and thought I saw open water - I flipped the ring towards it and pounded on. Gradually I realized my cheap indoor shoes were starting to tear and I could feel my feet blistering. A small bit of sanity emerged and I turned towards my parents house, finally slipping on some ice and collapsing two miles short. I got to my feet and my legs started to cramp. I realized my car was back at Karen's and it was at least six miles away.

I spotted a pay phone and hobbled to it trying to decide who to call - I had only one dime. I thought of my mother and tried walking again. Nope. I called her: "Mom, could you come pick me up? I'm at the funeral home on Margaret". I silently pleaded for her to just say yes.

"Is your car broken? Maybe you could find someone to help you with it so it gets fixed right...".

"Mom, I just need a ride, my car is fine" I said, and after several more exchanges she agreed to come and get me.

I slumped to the ground and realized my toes were frozen from the snow and slush. I started shivering uncontrollably and it seemed an eternity before my mother arrived. She started the second I got in "Where is your car?".

"It's at Karens." I took a deep breath and continued "She broke up with me and I needed a walk to clear my head". "Did she give you your ring back? Where is it?" my mother asked, and I blurted "She did and I threw it away". Too late I remembered she had given me the ring for my high school graduation. She was furious and I consented to go look for it before she would bring me to my car.

The lake was far off the direct route between my parents house and Karens, and my mom started to accuse me of lying about my walking - I couldn't even have a mental breakdown in a way she approved of. My throw had been wimpy and the ring was lying on the ice a short way from shore. Mollified mom dropped me off at my car and drove off. I stood for a moment thinking about going back to Karens but realized nothing good could happen. I set off driving towards no destination.

After a while I realized I was still shivering and drove to my parents house where I had been staying since Karen and I separated. I slunk to the basement and tossed and twitched the sleepless night away. Work and school dragged in a black haze the next day and I realized I had to get some sleep. I grabbed a six pack of beer on the way home and drank it in bed. I couldn't force myself to eat anything.

Sleep didn't come. I turned on the TV until they played the national anthem and signed off. I turned off the lights and lay in darkness. I wanted to disappear. The phone rang in the other room and I ran and picked it up.

"MW, I'm so sorry - I don't know what's wrong with me. I miss you so much and I really need you. I want to see you. Can you come over..." Karen trailed off uncertainly. Drunk and exhausted I managed a "Now?...". She leapt into the pause. "If you could MW, I want you so much". I simply said "OK, I'll see you in twenty minutes..."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

and slip

Life without Karen was very different, but it wasn't bad. Thea and I resumed our nightly talks and I found out she had stopped saying no to everyone who asked her out - now she was just saying no to everyone after they asked her out. I started hitting the bars with my friends a couple nights a week and had a lot of time to talk and think about where I wanted my life to go.

I decided to drop out of the internship, stop doing janitorial work, and when I started seeing Karen again I wouldn't stop seeing my other friends like I had before - I needed them to give me some balance and Karen some relief. I was satisfied with my new wisdom and was looking forward to being with Karen again.

Ruth, a friend from grade school that I hadn't heard from in seven or more years called me out of the blue. We had dinner together a couple of times and when I realized she was interested in something more, I made it clear I was committed to Karen. Ruth and I stopped going out for dinner but called each other occasionally just to chat.

The months passed and in November I called Karen and asked her out for a date. It was fun - dinner and a movie and parting with a long kiss. The dating became more frequent and more physical and as the new year opened we were in that same happy place we were before I moved into her house. I was seeing her several times a week as well as hanging out with friends. We gave each other lots of space and I knew she had friends she saw as well.

At the end of January she said she couldn't go out as much and started acting oddly. Whenever I asked her what was wrong she would bring up random things - her mom, her schoolwork, too tired. More pointed queries always brought assurances that we were OK but she wanted a little space again. Unlike the first separation this one worried me and I started to act a little odd myself.

On Valentines day I broke my bank account and gave her a gold necklace with a small diamond - I thought it would thrill her but it made her mad "You don't need to do things like this for me. You should be spending your money on classes". The night just got worse and when I dropped her off it was without a kiss or any plan for another date.

I stewed on that and then decided to stop by her house. I knocked at the door and when she answered she looked shocked "You shouldn't be here!".


She hesitated, then blurted "I've got a friend over..."

"What kind of friend is it that I shouldn't see?" I asked.

She wouldn't answer and I kept pressing her until finally I said "Are you going out with someone else?". The tears started to flow and I said "Karen, this isn't right, we're engaged." and looked towards her left hand. I realized she had kept it out of sight behind the door during the whole conversation and I realized my ring wouldn't be on it.

Frustration boiled up in me and I demanded to see her hand. She turned white and looked scared. From behind Karen I heard someone say "Show him your hand Karen". Karen reached into her pocket with her right hand and pulled out my class ring and gave it to me. I was speechless and again the voice said "Show him your hand".

Her left hand came slowly into the pale February light and to my horror I saw an enormous diamond, glittering from the finger where my ring used to be...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A dip

She stopped talking and I rolled to look at her "I believe in visions...". My statement didn't seem to help her nerves but she continued "On my first day of high school I walked into the auditorium with Sherrie, Cara, and Darla, and I saw you at the far side, talking with Jeff and Kirk...". She hesitated again and I interjected "The same people that were at the New Years party". That seemed to actually make her more nervous and I decided it was time for me to be quiet and look encouraging.

"Oh yeah. That's right." she said "Anyway, I saw you talking and laughing and you smiled in a certain way, and suddenly it seemed like I had seen that smile a million times before, I felt like I had known it and you forever. The echoes of you were everywhere in my memory. Without thought, I said 'I'm going to marry you someday'. The moment ended and my friends were curious to know what had just happened. They said it was pretty creepy...".

She trailed off and we looked at each other. The nervous look took on a different character and she said "I know you now, and I know I really want that to happen". I watched the nervousness return and with only emotion guiding me I replied "I want that to happen too".

We held each other and after a long time eased back to cloud watching. I asked "What thought did you have when I mentioned the party?". The answer didn't come and as I turned to look at her, I got it. "It was a setup?" I laughed incredulously. She looked a little stricken and said "I kept waiting and waiting for us to meet and it never happened. You met Darla and I think talked to Sherrie, but you never seemed to see me. When you went off to college I didn't know what to do and so Darla and I decided on the New Years party." She again trailed off.

I assured her that I was very happy with her setting up the party and that I was more than a little flattered. We decided to use my class ring as a placeholder for an engagement ring as we were both absolutely broke and I was struggling to pay for college. We decided to wait until we had graduated before we married.

Slowly the realization that I was with the woman I was going to marry rose upwards from my sorely underutilized parts, and I convinced myself that I could be true to my resolve and still have sex. We were both virgins and it started out painfully but rapidly improved and soon it was adding a lot of joy to our already happy relationship.

The months piled up and at the end of my sophomore year I decided to take an electrical engineering internship. It meant that I had to take 9 months worth of credits in 6 months and it also meant I was working 6 months for a minimal wage. I took a second job doing factory work and a third doing janitorial. Our relationship was put on the back burner and the only time we saw each other was in between jobs. We used the little time we had to have sex.

Sometime during that summer her stepfather sustained a pretty devastating facial injury and was put on disability. He became increasingly depressed and goofy, and sometime in the early fall he started getting violent.

Karen's mother and I had become pretty close and Karen and her asked me to be there when she asked her husband for a divorce. I stood there looking big during the confrontation and when he started to look frustrated and violent I somehow managed not to look scared and asked him to 'please, just leave'.

I started staying at Karen's house to provide some protection. Karen and I set up a little apartment in the basement with our meager furnishings. I became increasingly a part of the family as I got to know all of her relatives. I finished my academic quarter in the spring and started my work quarter in the summer.

My boss was Roland Green and he apparently had come straight from hell to make my life miserable. He didn't want me in his department and he gave me every reason to avoid him. It was terrible and I brought my troubles home with me. Karen was also having a pretty rocky time with academic troubles and the divorce and we weren't able to support each other.

As summer came to a close we had an enormous fight and we decided to take a break from each other. The understanding was that we would stay engaged but give ourselves a couple months of being mostly out of contact so we could sort out our troubles.

I packed my stuff, kissed her tenderly and tearfully said "I'll see you in a couple of months...".

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Dancing around

I opened my eyes to a pre-dawn light that flared and tormented with each pulse of blood through my head. I started to groan but then remembered I might not be alone. The thought triggered a flurry of self inspection - still drunk, rumpled, mouth not even a little fresh and no toothbrush available, embarrassed about the spilled beer, and a little nervous about her reaction when she saw me sober. No doubt about it, I had to get out of there.

I slid carefully out of bed and grabbed my shirt and shoes, eased my way through the door and just before it shut I peeked through the crack. A spray of lush brown hair emerged from under the covers and that was all I could see.

The cold outside was brutal, but it stopped my head from spinning. I stopped at a diner and choked down some food, then went home and slept till late afternoon. When I woke I thought about all that had gone on and decided it was just drunken silliness and the kissing didn't mean anything. I hoped she wasn't hurt by it and wondered who she was. I seemed to remember seeing her back in high school, but I couldn't quite place her. Maybe she was on the volleyball team? Sharon Something? Didn't matter I guess.

I put on my jacket and went out for a bite to eat. When I pulled my wallet out to pay a slip of lined paper fluttered out and I grabbed it. "Call Me!" it said, followed by a number. A brain cell fired before expiring, and I had a vague recollection of Darla and, her, telling me I had to call and giving me the paper. Maybe it did mean something to her after all.

When I got home I called Thea and asked her if she knew anybody that fit my vague description. Thea laughed at the situation but couldn't help. I got down my yearbook and looked through my class. Nope, Sharon Something wasn't there. I went through the other years and didn't find her, then looked at the volleyball team group photo. There was a Sharon in the picture and she looked somewhat as I remembered. I decided it had to be her. I looked up the number in the phone book and it didn't match the number on the slip. I didn't know what that meant and I was tired so I went to bed.

I put off making the phone call on Monday and on Tuesday evening I found myself in a bar with some friends. After several drinks I had some courage so I went to the phone and called. A female voice answered, and I said "Hi, this is MW". The voice replied "Hi MW, Karen is in bed, but she really wants to talk to you - hold on.". I had a moment to try to figure that out and then there was a breathless "Hi MW. Mom, hang up the phone". Social lubrication slid me into the conversation and we talked a while and she asked me if I'd like to go watch some friends play hockey on Thursday. We agreed on a time and I let her go.

I worked on my car on Wednesday and Thursday and had it running almost well and somewhat clean when I picked her up. We drove to the parking lot at the ice rink and when I turned the car off she was in my arms. We kissed until the lot was empty.

Months passed and we talked and played in a halo of endlessly falling snow. As March drew to a close we were lying together in a post tobaggon crash tangle and she kissed me and declared "I love you". Everything in me surged together and without hesitation I happily declared my love for her.

Winter turned to summer and we were lying together watching clouds and talking about mysticism and she took a deep breath, and hesitantly said "I had a vision once..."