He walked into my talk, body hunched over. An old black stocking cap upon his head, he sat his spindly body into a chair. I was surprised to see him. He wrote all night, didn't go to bed until 7:00 a.m. and slept until 2:00. It was noon. And there he was. I began my talk as always, thanking people for being there. Today's frenzied world tears and shoves upon what little free time we have; it's amazing that people would walk into a florescent-lit room at noon on a gorgeous Taos-spring day to hear me speak. I measure my life by who shows up. The room was packed and there he was.
It had been 15 years since he dumped for me for a 21 yr. old flamenco dancer. Our passion had burned the mail carrier's hands from Taos to my cabin perched on a mountainside in the San Luis Valley. It was before the internet; I had no phone. He pecked on an old manual typewriter and I on a keyboard that produced dot matrix printouts. Stone age stuff by today's electronic standards, as envelopes carried pages of our determination to discover a 'different kind of love;' paragraphs peppered every few weeks with rug-burned meetings between the sheets. He was in his 50's when he fell for his dancer; I in my early 40's. They married in a predictable chaos that lasted only a couple of years; I married too.
I had recently found the inches-thick folder of our letters and sent him a short note telling him of my talk. His pale, peeked presence shocked. I began my talk with the drum, reminding the audience that it is the same vibration of the earth and of its capacity to take us into sacred space. Then we embarked on lively exploration of what makes a place sacred. He raised his hand and offered that he thought the dumpster behind the post office was sacred to the ravens, being that they fed there; as was the gray jay family in the forest that ate organic raisins from his hand.
He approached me after the talk as I signed books. The last available copy of my book in his hand, he wanted to buy it. "It's yours," I said as I smiled into his blue eyes. He said he wouldn't accept it without paying for it. I said no. He said he wouldn't take it for free. I said tell you what, let's trade. He had given me an inscribed collection of his books years before and I had angrily dumped them on the counter of a used bookstore in the flamenco dancer's shadow.
We had a deal. I met him at his house later that day where he signed a half dozen books at his kitchen table that was buried under stacks of papers, files and Alice Walker's latest tome. He watchfully drove us to a local pizza joint in his paint-faded car with a duct-taped tail light. I took his arm and helped him across the street as he began to lose his balance. As the couple next to us each talked simultaneously to others on cell phones he told me about his congenital heart disease; how he must lay down and put his feet in the air when his heart takes off on rampant voyages and he doesn't know if he'll live or die. How he writes like a mad man to finish his final two books. And yes, we talked about love but not about ours. How he believes it's steeped in biology and doomed to fail. I, convinced this was the genesis of his failed heart. "Half of my friends have died in their 60's," he said. He was 69.
Bittersweet is the feel as I re-member our past and how the late afternoon sun cast shadows on his cracked adobe walls. How he rose from bed in the wake of ardor, drew a warm bath, took my hand and lowered me into amniotic waters. How the next morning I reached under his bed to retrieve my bra and pulled out a stranger's 38 DD.