McAllen, Texas - Maybe it was the soulful Nina Simone song coming from the dash radio, or maybe it was the longing for a woman who once was a huge part of my life ("Say Yoooooooge, Dad." is what my daughter Gabrielle says about that word). Rebecca is her name and that's her photo atop this story. She teaches Art at a university in the DFW area. We met at my favorite coffee shop in Fort Worth. One night, when I was footloose & fancy-free after my breakup with the lawyer Maria Isabel, this lovely woman smiled at me from across the room and I smiled back. What followed between us that winter is what makes for great wheelhouse romances - the best kind of love, in other words.
I've lost track of her since our goofy breakup - what? - a year and a few months ago, about the time of my mother's death and after she'd left her home in Dallas for a university sabbatical in Vermont. Confessions of the heart are not my cup of coffee, but I seem to have my reflective moments. I believe they come from my previous life, when I was a Catholic priest in Rome, when my last hat came in red and my name was preceded by the name of a well-known bird. Quien sabe, as they say along the Mexican border where I presently reside.
Anyway, Rebecca remains as the lantern of my last serious romantic encounter. Why we drifted apart has much to do with the dynamic of our great and sorry American culture. I was writing and she was doing her best with the visual arts - something about strapping a video camera on a cat's head and seeing what his world was like out in the neighborhood. It seemed funny to me, but she didn't laugh when I said what would come next, a string of homeless people eating spaghetti? She actually liked the idea, she said while I sliced celery and she worked the Wok we both loved like crazy those November nights in her kitchen, the moments we savored with our palate ahead of what we savored with our loins in the adjoining bedroom of her home in the Oak Cliff section of Big D.
I was, of course, antsy about a relationship that would come with an "exclusivity agreement," something cowboys used to the open road rarely chase, much less sign. In any case, Rebecca flew off to Vermont and I came down to the Rio Grande Valley. That was a year ago last March. A few months back she sent me a note via Email that read, "Where are you, darling?" I didn't reply, thinking something's died so that something new can begin. And then last week I shot her a note saying I'd be in New York next month. As is often found in the best of Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton movies, it seemed she, too, would be up there visiting a college friend. And so I'll see her again.
Where we left off was me walking out of her house at dawn on a frigid, wind-blown morning, when I readied my lungs for the frozen outdoor air after we'd both looked at each other with faces that said, "I may need a break from this..." I drove west to Fort Worth on desolate I-30, the old DFW Tollway, listening to Nina Simone sing Mr. Bojangles off a CD Rebecca had burned for me. I've always liked that song, but Simone does something special with it in the same way that Ray Charles sings America as if he owns it.
I think I loved Rebecca back then. Yes, it was great sex, but I saw it as meaningful. I mean, I didn't just climb on her back and go for a ride in the sky, as the song says. I kissed her a lot, and that, to me, is the difference-maker in any relationship worth a damn. If a guy doesn't kiss you a hundred times a day, he doesn't love you. That's carved in stone somewhere near the summit of Mt. Ararat, is what I've been told.
What I said to Rebecca in my Email was that I'd meet her outside a Gray Papaya's near the 72nd Street Subway Station in the city's Upper West Side, close to where I'll be staying. As for anything else, what she said was that we'd pretty much have to wait and see...
- 30 -