We are so Fragile & with Great Capacity.

I fell in love in the museum today with a man named Dario.  This is what New Orleans has brought me to.  Here, today, I found Dario staring back at me from inside the wall.  He knew the blues, sang them into my ear.  In my mind I see Dario now, he is at the ocean, right at the edge of the sand before the crest of waves break. He is naked, whistling.  His body is thin, his long, dark hair grazes his shoulders as he bends down, picking up only the tiniest of shells.  He collects thousands of them, gathering them in handfuls and placing them into a leather satchel tied around his waist.  His pelvis is graceful as he bends down, & back up, again & again.  Slow, gentle, as the waves lap around his ankles.  Simple movement works this way, easy, until the moment is gone.

*

Every day I am afraid one of my parents will die, & I will not be there with them to hold their hand.  We choose love so eagerly, & just as eagerly, we choose to leave the ones we love.  I will be back someday to hold you dearly, in the palm of hand I said, before I left. But then, you realize, time is funny & sometimes people just don’t come back.  You can not love something more than something you miss, said the bird, to his most precious friend, before he took off toward some distant land.

*

Today was a Wednesday when I found Dario staring back at me from inside the wall. Three days ago was a Sunday when I received the early message about the assault, the injury.  How sick it is to miss the ones you love, how perverse emotion can be.  Now, my father has dizzy spells & his brain works in funny ways. It’s not so much that something is wrong, but I know something is not quite right.  I didn’t realize he needed me until one night he hitched a ride with a trucker and asked to go to New Orleans.  Somehow he ended up stuck out by the New York state line, upset and unsure of how he’d gotten there. He couldn’t remember now that his brain is funny. Sometimes I laugh when I think of my dad & his now funny brain.  Love is selfish this way: you laugh at things you shouldn’t when you don’t want to worry.

*

Dario made a replication of two pelvises intertwined. He made them out of crushed & hand ground vinyl records, powderized to a fine dust.  Gender is ambiguous here; he molded each pelvis until it fit into the other perfectly.  He then took the dustings of a deceased relative’s bones and sprinkled the dust atop the molding.  He placed the pelvises together in a corner of the room.  People would walk into the room, & quickly leave, as if staring was inappropriate, because bones especially are often too intimate, too fragile, too brash for the public eye.  I stayed for over an hour. I could not help myself but follow each graceful curve, again & again.  At one point, I could feel Dario come and put his arm around my waist.  He placed his fingers directly upon my hipbone, just for a moment, as if tapping on the door of a tiny closet.  I turned around and he was gone, but there was music playing in the distance.

*

As I get older, I realize the strength of my mother. I didn’t always believe my mother was a strong person. Her own mother died when she was so young.  Sometimes when she cries as I leave again, I don’t think she is just crying for me, but for her own mother too.  I still do not know what it is to be a mother. I hope to someday. I stare at Dario’s pelvi creation & think of tendon, touching my own hip, how someday it will open, separate & release blood & baby.  We are so fragile & with great capacity.  When my great grandma’s brain started to get funny, she always mistook my mother as one of the ladies she used to play bridge with, or even more, as the baker on the island in Greece where she grew up.  Nena would always remark on how my mother needed to dust her chandelier, which she did.  My mother would laugh at this comment, in a sad kind of laughing way.  This is the kind of commentary you miss. When she died, Nena was placed with many of my other Greek relatives in a mausoleum drawer.  I remember the sound of the vault closing: odd & final.

*

Once I fell completely in love. It was the most in love I’ve ever felt.  We spent a summer making love everywhere, in trees, in cars, on top of washing machines, on rooftops, in a school stairwell.  I remember after we had sex on top of a large tombstone.  It was the most glorious sex of my life- ethereal & gigantic & heavy & ever so present.  Then I realized that my grandmother was buried in the same cemetery.  I wasn’t so much mortified as I was confused.  I felt like everything I had ever encountered in my life had been with me in the cemetery that day.  I didn’t want to think she was watching, but somehow I know a part of her presence was there. Or, was it just that kind of touch?  Hard, raw touch, my skin pressed hard against skin, against stone marble.  Why is it we can only sometimes feel so alive?  I want to believe in spirit, but sometimes its hard when all I have is love, moment, & memory.

*

The last time I made love with this particular person there was a lack of compassion.  It was heavy. Angry, sad.
I was hanging halfway out the window the entire time, half bird, I flew then.  To remember that moment is like scalding water upon my face.    You can never love someone more than someone you miss.

*

In my head, Dario is still collecting shells. For every single shell he is collecting a partner shell. He lines each pair across a windowsill, lets them sun themselves for awhile.  He plays Muddy Waters and Dusty Springfield for each pair, again & again, until it is like they’re dancing there together in a tiny room under the sun.  After awhile he takes each partner from its other half, & places them back in the satchel.  Dario is running back to the ocean, his hair is blowsy behind him.  He is crying & laughing at the same time.  When he reaches that crest where the waves break he stops & takes a breath, casting each partner shell back out into the water.  Each one has lost its other half. We will forever lose the ones we love.

*

I remember the moment I realized the extent of my love for my partner.  It was a quiet night, post midnight, the living room was dimmed with only candles, & really we were just sitting there.  There was nothing special about the evening except for its quietness, exceptionally quiet. Some nights are just that way. Subdued.   When he turned to me & said, you know, the saddest part of all of this is that one day one of us will wake up & the other will just be gone, as if its nothing at all.  For some reason, perhaps it was the quietness, but the realization of this hit hard. Someday, there will be only one of us. We cried a little & held the other, sitting silent on the couch  with tears & candles until morning. Letting go only because sunlight & movement forced its way in again, like it does most days.

(This essay inspired by the beautiful Dario Robleto).

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