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Sixtieth Sitting

...Like the fact which the Woman of Deepest Despair, the one who will read this first, pointed out, concerning my characterization, or lack thereof -- not in general, but specifically of Her. It's not that I haven't tried in this respect, but my impressions of Her are so... well... "non-cognitive?" Overwhelming? ...that it's hard to convey them... I guess "wonderful" isn't really a descriptive adjective. Plus there are privacy issues, and issues of thematic presentation (i.e. She should remain just mysterious enough so that You can posit Your ideal Desire-Other qualities on to Her, but a lot of it does come back to my feeling too self-absorbed and/or isolated to really... my Me I'm enjoying this coffee! But perhaps that's because I'm writing at work (my last day). Hmmmm... there's a thought. She the work-a-holic and coffee and the world of work (which Bataille says is fundamentally opposed to the presence of eroticism)... Unless a "thought" has to contain a predicate as well as a subject... Hmmm...

***

She was called up to join him in the second of two songs that he played. He was very good -- older, reserved in manner and visage, but his songs had a soft poignancy that rolled out over the quietly-seated audience that the lights were too bright in his eyes for him to see. His last softly-strummed chord faded, and he stammered a bit, peeking out over dark-rimmed glasses and muttering in a low voice: "For my next song, I'd like to bring up my friend She..."

She walked down the short aisle to the stage and stood apprehensively behind a waiting microphone. As She waited through the instrumental introduction, it was clear that She didn't know what to do with Her hands. After being softly clenched behind Her back, then folded in front, they finally retreated down into Her pockets... large pockets of what might have been a kind of green overalls. Her face was pleasant, and Her voice was very soft and wispy, harmonizing with a very slight hint of a lisp in a relaxed alto range. Her eyes tried to focus somewhere above and beyond the vague outlines of watching figures, but kept slipping down to Her shoes.

When I spoke to Her afterwards, She was shy but friendly. She had a certain openness about Her... maybe it was the way that She took in what I was saying... It was so... relaxed, and focused, with an interest that was genuine but not contingent, it seemed, upon Her "purposes" of the moment (e.g. "wanting to be social"). But to get beyond these appearances, and to avoid having Me analyze them to death in idiosyncratic and probably objectionable ways, you've got to meet Her now, or more recently, at least. At last, with My generally inaccessible omnipotence, which makes up the rest of the iceberg of which certainly I, according to My present ontological status, am... and maybe, according to some models of the Unconscious that sprinkle through a number of different religions and might be helpful to you... so are you... At last because of this power, I might be able to fit just a little bit of Her on these pages, though I hesitate to really show you that which I hold so sacred... Please do not abuse My trust, or I will have to destroy you.

***

We were heading north, on the road that was supposed to hit all the beautiful heights from which you can look down on the rest of Alaska, hold hands, and simultaneously surprise each other by rubbing snow in each other's faces. I drove; I was the only one officially insured for Our car.

She spoke:

"Yeah..." The word was drawn out by a smile somewhere near Her chest that made Her eyebrows scrunch up in a low-key rendering of something between mischief and wonder. "I could dig the idea of summers off, or something like that. Like my father and step-mother... But..." The word was staccato, leaving in its wake tiniest gasp and a quick movement of the eyes that regressed Her ten years and brought Her back again. "...I don't know if I could handle being a teacher... I mean, they totally got burned out, which is mostly why my father eventually went into customs year-round. But it would still be swell to have a few months a year to just get away. I don't know..." this last with a quick disassociation, a shrugging off of Her train of thought, which for Her constituted the swift act of pulling Herself back to earth. "...get a cabin up here maybe? I don't think I could deal with that kind of arrangement all the time," Her eyebrows rose considerably on this last italic. "I guess I've just been..." melodramatically: "...spoiled by modern conveniences." A slight chuckle got Her face straight. "So that's why I did the natural resources thing for school. I probably would have gone straight into art, though, if my parents hadn't been so down on the idea." The last was spoken without trace of irritation, but only a grim acceptance, which then dissolved as She began to defend Herself: "I did a lot of drawing in high school, and I did get into art school, but I wasn't really encouraged to follow through on that... so I didn't really do any for my first few years in college." Her confidence increased to more confidence. "But I'm really glad I missed it enough to start taking classes in it again, especially the photography and pottery... I hadn't really done those before." Her jaw dropped in mock terror as She remembered: "Ah! Don't remind me of that weaving! I wasted too much time on that thing at the beginning of the summer... but you know me... I had to finish it, and I had to do it right. Always the perfectionist." and that's why..." --These words drawn out like the resolution of a cheese-dip murder mystery. "...I haven't done anything artistic for you, or Him for that matter... recently, that is. I did start writing that song to him, which you so treacherously looked at... though I guess it was only four lines... but I know I'm not going to like what ever I do to it." A short gasp of frustration and disbelief, then: "It'll be months until I do anything that's perfect enough for my standards...," but then that smile began to grow back... "and, yes, I'm worthless and... a bad person and..." She laughed. "I know. I've been trying recently to `merge my intentions with those imposed by the medium' as you suggested..."

She began an exposition which She knew sounded like a grump old person lecture, but pressed it home despite this, or maybe because of this: "I remember when I started pottery, and was having just as much trouble as you were. So it became this big challenge, and I pulled this twelve-hour session just trying to get the first few steps of the throw, really just trying to get it centered in the way you couldn't. I was so ticked by the end... Finally I just asked someone to show me and guide my hands and tell me what I was doing wrong, and that eventually worked, so... So..." Here came the moral. She relished it: "you should have listened to me..." Distracted without the slightest pause: "You know... we'll get better mileage if We shift out of low. I know." With erudition and increasing cuteness: "I did a report on it for this energy demand class I took. I think I was the only undergrad in that..." And, you know, we won't skid as much if you pump the brakes..."

It was soon determined that the north pass was going to get increasingly snowy, and that even if We could get through, We probably wouldn't be able to get back... not in time for My flight anyway... not that this seemed like a horrible thing to happen.

"But I don't think I could be a teacher anyway, `cause then I might have to deal with kids." She snickered. "I'm sorry..." She wasn't. "They're just little monsters. I mean yes, some can be very cute and nice... Did I tell you about the little granddaughter of one of the presenters at that native American hat-making seminar? Wellah... She made me look at her cold sores... She just turned to me completely out of the blue and said `Have you seen my lumps?' I honestly replied `no' at which she then took great pleasure in grabbing her upper lip with both hands, turning it up and inside out, then showing her exposed gums inches from my face and half enunciating, `see...see?!' I was totally shocked and mortified by this point, but I did see a canker sore and told her so... foolishly. `But there are two... do you see the second one!?' ...She was only appeased when I formally recognized the second one, which was much further back. I guess I could have just pretended to see the second one, which would've ended the matter much earlier, but somehow I thought that would've been... what? morally reprehensible???

"...So..." She reoriented Herself for another moral. "...even she was from outer space, even though she was a sweetie. Most are worse. Boys. I bet you were totally unbearable... Hmmm... Now, I'm sure if I did have kids, I'd be a very good mother, because I would have to do it right, but gosh... Once you do that, your life is pretty much over... You can't just take off... It's worse than a DOG. There are just so many things I want to do... I guess I'd just press my biological clock and try to do it as late as possible."

"Yeah... I don't mind being a hermit for a while... I mean not totally... I would like to share my life with someone, though I don't think I get as worked up about it as you do..." Her face reacted as if to a bad taste as She thought. "...well, sometimes. As you say, `I have the anchor' now, with Him, so I guess I can't tell. God..." Her bad taste turned to a bit of real anguish. "...you don't understand how bad that year was when He and I were broken up... I just got totally psycho, and did things that... no, I'm not going to risk that again. But I've told you all this..." She looked out the window for a while. We had reached the beginning of the northern road and were now just driving around semi-randomly... going wherever We hadn't been yet... which was just about everywhere... We passed the Alaska pipeline; We turned on to snowy back roads in the forest with little cabins in them.

"Yeah... I could see living here. Location is key. I think I would have gone insane at school if the Arb hadn't been there. I would never, never live in a city, not after living in Washington DC for that summer, and driving there... getting traumatized by having to parallel park every day. Whatever... I know it's irrational. I just need to be somewhere like this... or maybe the American Northwest. Definitely not the East. You know..." as if speaking of preparation against some inconceivable tragedy, "we should try to engineer going to the same grad school... God, it'd be depressing if I thought I'd never see you again. It's depressing anyway. But I need to deal with this thing with Him on its own terms... I've said so many times that I'm not going to make a choice between you two... and that what I decide with Him has to sustain me even if there are no ready alternatives. I wish you were giving me more space to do this, and not trying to force yourself into the arena for a show down. And I don't like this great build up to my big decision at Christmas... you holding your breath `till my statement of intent. I don't think it's going to happen like this. I will neither devastate you or elate you overnight... I actually never want to devastate you... What-ever. You do have a lot of influence over me, but I just can't let if affect this decision. I just hope you can understand the complexities of the situation. God... I don't think I could deal if I were in your situation...

"But no... I I'm not going to have anything to do with jealousy any more. I think I'd prefer to die an old maid than to fight and compete for someone's attention and devotion... which I realize is unfair, and I can't and won't ask you to wait for me... but... I don't know... Don't say that you're going to wait or something unless you really will. I hate that... people who say they're going to do things but don't It's probably better that you just don't say anything at all... If you want to wait, you will."

She thought for a moment, then: "You asked before if I might be willing to sacrifice location so that we could end up in the same place... I was thinking about that. Yeah... I think that I would be flexible in the face of true love... if I was convinced it was so true. ...I guess that's probably the most important pursuit of my life..." She said it in sort of a glib, offhand manner, but couldn't help the gushiness flowing through.

"I'll probably end up an old maid though... I just have these very high romantic ideals: that there should be someone out there who will find everything they need and could ever want in me... that's why I can't deal with competition... the fact that someone else might become an issue would violate a core requirement of mine... That's what makes me wary of you... how do I know I'm not just the next in a long line of people you get hung up over? I just... I'm very committed. Obviously. That's why I've got to give this thing with Him every chance it has... and as much as I care about you, and as many latent feelings as I have for you locked within my subconscious... feelings that would generate unbearable dissonance if they surfaced... I want things to work out with Him. I'm bound... no, devoted to working things out. I feel as though I'm trying to save a marriage... does that offer you any perspective? I know it's not a marriage... if it were you would not have visited me here, as in I would not have asked you to come. But I care so much about him, and I trust Him completely... His heart is golden... She had been getting more uneasy by the word, and finally expressed it: "You did tell me before that you wanted me to tell you more of his good points, so as to make him seem more real... I still don't know if I see the point in that...," but quickly snapped back into her defense: "But He's so down-to-earth, unpretentious... and really does what he says... like with the environment... He actually obeys all those environmentally-sound directives, even if they seriously inconvenience him... even moreso than I do. I has... values... He looks for the best in people, which makes a good foil for my critical tendencies...

"I know... I hold things against people too easily. It comes from my father... who is basically a control freak, though he has mellowed out a lot in recent years, mostly from living with my stepmother, who's also a control freak. Yeah... the divorce didn't bother me, I guess... I was pretty young... but getting the evil stepmother... that created some major turmoil and rebellion. Ach... I just never want to deal with that kind of mess. I've made a commitment... maybe I did get back together with Him out of weakness, but it didn't fell like it at the time... Look! A mountain!"

It was true. There in front of us was an honest-to-goodness mountain, and Our road was climbing up it. And yes, the snow was getting thicker, but manageable.

"I don't know..." She began again while I concentrated on not needing to invoke the aforementioned auto-insurance. "I just don't operate socially like you..." Her tone was not critical, just slightly baffled: "I mean, I don't feel compelled to launch into some story about high school unless it comes up. I t just seems like a lot of the ideas you come up with... like that whole existential anguish thing... Millions of people get through life perfectly happily without ever thinking things like that." She smiled in reassurance, and the car grew noticeably warmer... maybe it was just me sweating. "...but I do like talking to you... I just don't read as much, because... well, it always just seemed more fun when I was young to go do something, like a craft. I did win the young author's competition in junior high, though..." This was much to good-natured to sound like a boast. "So just don't you get too haughty... Hey... I have a joke. Do you want to hear it?"

I grunted and nodded as the car swung in and out of a skid.

"Wellah... My sister told me this, so I guess it's, like, a family heirloom. There are these two calcium atoms like... hangin' out, and one says to the other: `Oh no! I think I've lost an electron.' And the other one says, `Are you sure?' So the first one says: `Yes, I'm positive.' Do ya get it? You took AP Chem., right? When she told it to me, she actually screwed it up and said `ions' instead of `atoms,' which doesn't work, but I corrected her..."

There was a silence as I failed to react, being somewhat occupied with not careening off the great white snowy cliffs as I was.

"Awww... I was just inking' of Duke. We should have brought a DOG... You know, you're obviously not from the north... You don't know how to drive on ice."

"Really?"

"Would you like Me to drive?"

"Please."

"Okay, friend." I stopped the car.

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