The Bluebird of Happiness
Well, here we are in the month when we both celebrate birthdays. I’ve faithfully wished you happy BD every year for the past fifty-five, and now that you are actually old, as am I, may I say you are a genuine Fucker and I hope your bladder is giving you tizzies.
I’ve never thought I’d ever stoop to use the F bomb. You’ve driven me to it. Maybe you’ve forgotten that once you were my true love. What I wish for now is a complete erasure of your smiling Swedish mug. Don’t think for a moment that I’m impressed that you are currently the head of the Bluebird Clinic. Who cares? Tenville, Nebraska – what a tin-horn berg. Hear tell it’s so dry that when someone kicks off, the funeral guy sharpens their head and screws them into the sod.
Word has reached me that you’ve been married to the same woman forever and raised four kids. May I take issue with you raising them to be flag-waving Republicans and sending each and every one of them off to serve in the military? I hope you sweated those months when they were in the Middle East, buzzing around in Blackhawks. I’ve also learned via the grapevine that you converted to Catholicism.
Just because you were blonde, and still are (or almost) and have blue eyes, and at age 72, cling to being handsome in a Paul Newman kind of way, doesn’t give you the right to trample me. Time was when you gave me little gifts. A gold heart-shaped locket and matching expansion bracelet, a record of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo,” a huge ring you won at our local carnival, your blue satin letter jacket, and, most memorable of all, a bottle of “Tigress” perfume with a fake fur top. This probably means little to you, but I can still smell the perfume and the scent of the enormous carnation corsage that arrived in a see-thru plastic box prior to our very first real date. It loomed large on my pale green lace gown, with capped sleeves and a peter pan collar. I felt like June Allyson, all modest and demure. I see now that you were a fake, you Fucker!
I watched every move you made on the football field and almost died when you were knocked cold during a boxing match staged at our high school fundraiser. When you came home from your summer job covered with asphalt you were spreading on county roads, I felt bad for you. When you wheezed and had terrible asthma attacks after baling hay for your dad, I felt bad for you. I felt worse still when you let me drive your new red Cushman motor scooter with you sitting on the back on a saddle we were hauling somewhere. I was two miles down the gravel road before I realized you’d fallen off. It was the only time I ever heard you swear.
Last night I went online looking for your address and noticed a posting in the Tenville Times that you’d received a letter jacket for 40 years of physician services to the local football team. You are quoted as saying you’d been knocked cuckoo by an out-of-control player, and felt dizzy for days after. Get a life. Drop dead. Fucker.
But did you ever really feel bad for me, the girl you left behind? I doubt it. I imagine you’ve forgotten how willing I was to participate in acrobatics in the back seat of your dad’s Roadmaster. How scared I was that we’d get caught, or that I’d get pregnant, though I have to say, for one so tender, you were an expert with Trojans, which likely you copped from your dad. To my mind, the best time we had was on a blanket under a full moon out in the pasture south of your house. The stars in Orion were huge, and I could feel the damp grass thru the blanket. I can smell that grass as I write.
I loved you, Fucker. And I know you loved me.
After I moved to Missouri, I rode a bus up to see you and slept in the spare bedroom of your family home, reveling in bathing in the claw-foot tub simply because you also bathed there. At night I listened for the creak of the floorboards as you navigated from your room to where I waited, pretending to sleep. We didn’t fool your folks. They knew what the creaking floors meant. Eventually, I stopped riding that goddamned bus, and by the time I was in college my dad began harping about Sadie Hawkins Day.
My best friend sent a clipping from The Review when you married. I married almost immediately after I received it, but my marriage bombed because, well, I married only because you married. It was the end of the world, and I figured what-the-hell, I might as well. I guess the last time we were ever really together was when you came by on the day we moved to take me for a final spin in your yellow Jeepster. The top was down. I had hope then, and for many years thereafter. Hope dies hard. Fucker.
But there you stand at class reunions, secure in your seersucker suit. Don’t give me any crap about being happily married, because you never were, were you? I say this because when your wife was pregnant with your first child you moved to Missouri to enroll in medical school. And who did you call? Why, me of course, but only when your wife was out of town. It still gives me the creeps to think I screwed you in the bed you shared with what’s-her-name. Believe me, it wasn’t exactly a thrill to see her row of nail polish containers lined up in precise formation in your bathroom. I came prepared with a tube of baby-prevention gel, purchased en route, and you inserted it as if you were filling a puff pastry with whipped cream. Just so you know, I was the one who left the big hairpin alongside your wife’s nail polish bottles.
The first time we danced at a reunion party and left in a hurry to speed to the nearby Blackoak Motel, you signed in as who-knows-who while I rushed to the room to prepare myself to spend at least one whole night with you. In all our years, we never had a whole night together. Salt of my wounds, here I sit writing and still alone, waiting for you to rescue me. Fat chance then, fat chance now. We’re both old, but well, you are a bit older. How does it feel to be a geezer with a shrinking time span and an expanding prostate gland?
Not good? Four years back, there we stood, the only two in the entire town square. It was a noir moment when I spotted your car arriving for the reunion. Odd isn’t it, how one lover recognizes the walk of the special other, even two blocks away? Even with failing eyesight? I ran across the square that day, directly to you. Caught you off guard, did I? You stammered “I love you Judy, I’ve always loved you. You know that don’t you?”
We had a drink with the reunion folks in the VFW Hall, and a couple more after the class dinner. Your eyeglasses seemed so thick they startled me, and for a moment I thought I saw my face reflected in the lenses. I am loath to admit, you were fit and trim, and the only one at the reunion wearing a suit in 95 degree weather. I asked you pointedly, (finally, after so many years and numerous guilt-ridden couplings), if you had any vices, and you said “Well, only one. Maybe I drink too much.”
And then you asked, “Do you remember when we were kids and used to hold hands as we walked along the alleys dividing the houses?” Our former classmates leaned forward, waiting for my answer. Are you having a Four Roses nightcap as you read this? Go ahead, have two or three. Down one for me. And one for the wife and one more for the kids. I hope your grandkids grow up to become screaming left-wingers with all the boys wear earrings and high heels.
June is quite beautiful in these parts. All is full and beautiful. July 4th is the All Class Reunion, isn’t it?
So anyway, Geezer, here’s hoping you fall off your treadmill and break your sagging neck. That will solve the problem of seeing you one last time at the coming reunion. Will I be there? What for? The Blackoak motel burned to the ground a few years ago. I’ll probably stay put on this side of the Mississippi.
Though maybe you haven’t seen the last of me. I often fantasize (we writers do that), about visiting you at the Bluebird Clinic. Nebraska isn’t too far and I can still drive if I pay attention. It would be a snap to sign on as a new patient and sit in your fancy-ass Bluebird waiting room… waiting. That’s a discipline I’ve honed to perfection. Now and then my thoughts include murdering you once we’re on the other side of the examination room door.
A big splotch of red would look great on your white coat, don’t you agree? Beating you senseless with a cold speculum or strangling you dead with your stethoscope would do my old heart good. Enclosed is a snapshot of myself taken from the neck up at a wedding last month. Please note that I’m smiling as if you never existed.
Happy Birthday, Fucker.
Next week: Part II – The Reunion.