She was walking away, paused, half-turned back. “I don’t run into you enough.” Then she waggled her head, shrugged and walked on as if abandoning a random fancy. My thought was, that was flattering, Elizabeth, but I run into you just about right. Some connections should be moderate, moderated. Meaning, I enjoy you in carefully titrated doses.
You see, Elizabeth, not Liz or Liza or Beth, is a rather formal person in a blousy, shambling body. That’s part of her attraction: the contrast between her flowing skirts and Goodwill clashing scarves and a rather prim diction that makes its way into her writing. She writes poetry. Rather well, actually. Not that I find most of it accessible, as they say. Still, it is of a certain rarefied caliber.
So, what brings us together, if only occasionally? I’m not sure. But Elizabeth is easy to talk to and finds it easy to draw me out. And after a long lunch at Louie’s…she likes to meet there for some reason. Well, maybe for a number of reasons, first among them being she enjoys the attention she draws from the burgers, tacos and beer crowd. I also suspect she enjoys slumming—soaking up atmosphere, characters, smells and patois below her station. I’ve watched her slowly circle her shell in the wet puddle over the deep scars in the marinated table tops while I rattle on about the peanut stuck in my grandson’s nose and the groundhog holes in my yard. If I’m honest, I realize, she’s slumming with me too, wriggling her fingers in everyday life…through my life.
I watch her slide into her ten-year old, gold, rusted rocker panels Honda. Starving artist? Who knows what her circumstances are? She’s never invited me to her place. Not that I’ve any great desire to see it. But I imagine her house…apartment? is cluttered with veils and jewelry and jangly clothes waiting to be reassembled in an outfit of kaleidoscopic colors and styles for her periodic encounters with the likes of me. Beyond that, I picture in one spot, perhaps dead center in the room, like say the dining room, there’s a desk. Not a dining room table, because as far as I can tell, Elizabeth never invites people over and I doubt she cooks. But that desk stands out like the monolith they recently spotted in a desert in Utah—sleek, clean except for one sheet of paper and a sharpened pencil. The stage is set for creativity.
Can you imagine? Here’s her sitting down in the middle of the confusion and clutter of her scattered life and turning on the intense focus of word play. Like flicking the breaker on an electric panel. OHM! How can she do that? How can she grab all those floating particles of pizza boxes and ruptured pillows and sagging drapes and hungry cat and shove them into silent orbit around her while she descends to the sere surface of rhythm and words? Maybe she needs the chaos to find the center, the contrast. But the pressure to perform…it must be intense. It’s not like she strolls in the park or along the sea shore and waits for jolts of inspiration to seamlessly slide into poetic pentameters. This is like an Acapulco cliff diver, standing on the rim, drum roll…perform.
Or not at all. I sit at my wheel, prod a scrap of gristle with a toothpick and suddenly wonder if my imagination about Elizabeth isn’t at least as good as hers in the service of poetry; just not as disciplined and directed. How do I know what her life is like? She never tells me, never shares, beyond her published poems which I don’t mostly understand. So, yeah, maybe she doesn’t run into me enough. But that’s all right. I guess.