December 01, 2004


MARE2 copy.JPG

Her name was Mary, but I always called her Mare. I never told her why, though.
I'm sure she just assumed it was a shortening of Mary, but, really, it was because I always thought she resembled a horse.

I never told her that because I was afraid that she'd take it as an insult even though she was beautiful.

It wasn't just her facial features or the nearly expressionless way she looked at what was all around her. It was her entire form that seemed to be full with an inner peace. It was the way she moved. And the way she stood still. With a grace and quiet that comes from a nearly equine-like strength and majesty.

And she needed every ounce of that strength.

She'd been in and out of hospitals and mental health clinics since she was a teenager. Medications helped to stave off the panic, alleviate that crippling worry, and to quiet the voices that scream at her telling her that she'll never be anything - including loved.

We met at college and have been friends ever since. Sometimes we'd go for several years without so much as a phone call between us. But, inevitably, one of us would call the other and we'd get together with some measure of frequency for a couple of years only to fall away from each other again.

We never actually "dated". But, back in college, we'd often wind up in bed together just to lie there in each others arms and relax. Maybe even, often, doze off.

One time she was laying on top of me. I thought she was asleep. She lifted her head, kissed me on the chin, and put her head back down on my chest. Neither one of us ever made a move on the other toward a sexual relationship. We were just very close friends.


Recently, my friend Sid and I went over to help her and her father move some plywood that her father had piled in their backyard. It had been sitting there for decades and he wanted to finally take it to the Asylum Street dump. Sid and I were in his pickup truck heading over to Mary and her dad's house when he asked me a question:

"What's sex?" he blurted as he turned onto I-95's exit 42 off-ramp.

"Well..." I began, shaking my warm Dunkin' Donuts coffee. "It's how we procreate." That was the easiest answer, though I knew that that's not what he was asking.

"No, besides that. I mean, is it for love? For fun? How do we know the difference?" he implored me to answer.
"Is it just whatever it seems to be at the time? If it's just for making babies then why do we fuck with condoms? But it can't be just for FUCKING, can it? It's gotta have a profound meaning other than making babies -- a spiritual meaning that isn't completely subjective -- that we're missing here. So, I mean... What's sex?"

"Well..." I muttered as I stared out the window at nothing. "Some people treat it as a cheap thrill, and others treat it as a sacrament. I don't know that there's a certain meaning to it beyond that which we believe it has."
Sid shook his head in disamy.

"No deeper meaning? I dunno," he exhaled as he turned to back into Mary's father's driveway. "Yeah, maybe it's all just an accident. But, there's gotta be an answer, I think."


Unfortunately, it was a very windy Saturday and moving large sheets of plywood through that windy yard was proving to be somewhat hazardous.
We talked about rescheduling the dump-run 'til the following weekend, but no one really wanted to. We'll just get this overwith while we're all here. It'll be fine, we all thought.

Sid grabbed one end, and I the other, of a sheet that probably measured 4' x 6'. Fighting to get it as level to the wind as possible to minimize it's effect on our maneuvering the sheet of wood, we turned toward Sid's pickup truck.

Then it happened. The wind had caught a sheet that was not laying flat in the truck's bed, and it send the sheet of wood flying directly toward Mary as she and her father were walking back toward the wood pile. It clocked her, edgewise, in the back of the head. She went down.

"Mare!" I shouted as Sid and I ran over to her with the plywood still in our hands.

Mary was on her hands and knees, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular and gasping for breath. Sid and I put the wood sheet on the truck and went back to Mary.

"Mare, talk to me," I said as I knealt down beside her and put my hand on her shoulder. "Are you all right?!"

She didn't answer me. She just looked straight ahead with her eyes wide and her mouth agape -- gasping for air with shallow, rapid breaths. She was shivering uncontrollably. She looked confused and frightened.

"Can you get her to the hospital, guys?" her father asked calmly.

Sid secured the wood in the truck with bungie chords as I helped Mary into the front seat. With her hands out in front of her (as if still hanging onto the grass in the yard) she climbed in. I sat beside her and put my arm around her. She turned to me and put her arms around me and leaned her chin into my shoulder. As if holding onto me for dear life, she sounded her staccato breaths in my ear as she shivered.

"It's okay, Mare. You're going to be fine," I said as I rubbed her back as if trying to keep her warm. Sid got in and drove us to the hospital.


"She's calmed down considerably," the doctor told us. "I gave her an elephant's dose of Motrin. We need to run some tests for concussion, but I'd like to ask her some questions first, and find out anything about what medications she might be currently taking. The thing is; she hasn't said a word yet."

"I'd like to try talking to her again," I said, and the doctor led me to the small room where Mary was being attended to.

She was lying on her back on an examination table when I walked in -- staring at the ceiling. I stood beside the table and looked down at her and she turned to face me and gave just the hint of a smile. I smiled right back at her, took her hand and asked, "How are you feeling?" She didn't answer.

I asked a few more inane questions. "How's your noggin?" "Are you worried?" "You don't have amnesia, do you?" She just looked up at me, smiling calmly, but giving no verbal response.

Then I said, "Well, is there anything you'd like to say?"

She moved her lips. I could hear her whispering something. I leaned in closer asking "What's that again...?"

Then I heard her. Into my ear she whispered, "I love you."

I snapped back up, held her hand tighter and said "I love you, too, Mare. I love you, too. The doctor wants to talk to you now. Will you talk to him?"
She smiled as she started to speak again, and I leaned in to hear.

"I love you" she repeated.

Okay. This was starting to feel like an Edgar Allen Poe poem. Only, instead of a raven who can say nothing but "nevermore", we've got a woman who can only repeat the words "I love you". I began to wonder about amnesia. Frankly, I was never sure if amnesia was real, or just something professional writers invented as a plot device. I tried to get an answer out of her that was something, anything, other than "I love you"

"Your first name is Mary. What is your last name?" I quizzed. She got a puzzled look on her face as she seemed to search for an answer.

"Ch--" she began, looking directly at me as for a sign that she was on the right track. "Ch--... Chain...".
Interesting response. Nope, Mary's last name is not Chain. She must have connected it to Mary because of the band Jesus And Mary Chain. I knew she was a fan of theirs. I asked her to try again.

"Ch--... Christmas..."
She pronounced it like "Tchrismas", not "Krismas". I said simply, "No, not TCHRISmas..."
I meant that it was neither Tchrismas nor Krismas (nor even Christmas), but apparantly she thought I was refering to her pronunciation as she focused on an alternate C sound:

"Srwiss Miss..." she said carefully. Yep, she went for the long S sound of the letter C and wound up remembering a popular brand of hot cocoa mix. I decided to ask a different question.

"What's MY name, Mare? Do you know who I am?"
She let out a chuckle as she took her hand from mine and pointed up at me.

"You're me!" she giggled.

Trying to wrap my head around that one, I wondered if she thought that I'd asked her for my name as a clue to hers, and that we had the same name.
"We don't have the same name," I said, but she just smiled and shrugged as if saying "So what?"

"Well, now," I said, taking her hand again. "How can I be you when, clearly, YOU'RE you and I'm ME?"
She looked at me with a seriousness to her smile as she squeezed my hand a little tighter.

"I love you," she replied.

I was almost certain by then that she wasn't talking about a platonic love. But, still, after 22 years of friendship I still wasn't ready to presume that she felt a romantic kind of love for me. Maybe I was just being stubborn, but I really resisted the conclusions I was coming to.

She began to speak in a whisper again, so I leaned in to hear. Into my ear she slowly and deliberately recited a poem:

"They race on and wrangle their way to the gate
but she'll allow only one, ever, to penetrate.
He, bursting, inside her, they tangle, unite
for only together can either survive."

She put her arms around me. After a moment I put mine around her and we stayed that way, in silence, for what must have been 3 or 4 minutes while I thought about what she'd just said.

"Of course," I thought. Sex is the desire to become One with the other. Not neccessarily just in the form of a different person, a child, but in the act itself. It's the macrocosm of the microcosm. It's the same event at both levels. It always felt that way, but I'd never thought of it that way. Even if it's done purely out of lust, that's still the motivation. A physical melding of two bodies for a desired melding of two spirits. It's so fucking simple!

I let go of Mary, smacked myself in the forehead, hard, and walked to the door of the examination room. I looked out at the doctor, Sid and a nurse. The three of them looked at me questioningly.

"Sid," I said. "I know the answer to your question."
I winked at them and closed the door.

Mare and I came together then. And at the time of our melding I held onto her for dear life; stared wide-eyed at nothing; gasped with shallow, rapid breaths, and; for a moment, I swear I could not remember my own name.

[This was a fictional representation of an actual relationship. Call it, erm... an allegory. Yeah, that'll do...! ;]

Posted by Tuning Spork at December 1, 2004 07:28 PM

I've been trying to come up with something to say about this one, and I can't put the words together (appropriately enough I guess). I love it though, so I hope that's enough.

Posted by: Ted at November 23, 2004 07:31 AM

Like, Ted, I feel the same way. That was exceptionally moving and very beautiful.

Posted by: RP at November 23, 2004 02:08 PM

Wow, thanks guys! I was wondering if anyone was going to bother to get through the whole thing!


Posted by: Tuning Spork at November 23, 2004 07:39 PM

That. Was. Fucking. Beautiful.

Posted by: Kermit at November 26, 2004 07:44 PM

Well. This is a hard one to comment on, but I know you want me to, so I'll try.

Constructive criticism: "It was her entire form that seemed to be full with an inner peace." should be either "Her entire form seemed full of inner peace." or "It was her entire form that seemed to be full of an inner peace." That sentence sort of tripped up the flow for me each time I read it. Also, at the end, it felt rushed to get it done. The last two paragraphs should have more time between them...a doctor and nurse were waiting to treat a head-trauma victim, but willing to let her and a partner have sex first?

Constructive criticism aside, I think it was well-written and nicely insightful.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 29, 2004 01:02 AM

This is how the Rabbi's defined sex as well; the becoming one flesh, a return to the state of our creation (according to some Rabbi's man and woman were created as one entity and then separated) as well as becoming one in a child. I loved how you wrote about it, and I loved the image of the horse as peaceful and graceful.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at November 30, 2004 01:43 AM

That was really moving. The sketch made it seem so nostalgic. I felt I was reading a long form version of a Leonard Cohen song.

Posted by: Mermaid at November 30, 2004 06:48 PM

Constructive criticism welcomed, and I think You're right on both counts. If I ever get around to it I'll re-write the "full with an inner peace" line. And the ending was too obnoxious and abrupt, I agree. I'll rewrite it, er, like I said: when I get around to it...
Thank you for the emails. Me likey Jenny critique... :D

Rachel Ann,
The pastors say the same thing, I hope! (Haven't been to church since 1974, but I'm sure they get questioned in the aisle constantly about this!)

As a frustrated physicist I've always liked the idea that we are the world of opposites that sprung from a world of unity. The science gets complicated, but the truth seems so obvious, eh?

Wowee!! Just being mentioned in the same paragraph as Leonard Cohen is an honor! :D

"Your faith was strong, but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof.
Her beauty, in the moonlight, overthrew ya.

She tied you to the kitchen chair...
she broke your throne... she cut your hair...
and from your lips she drew a 'Hallelujah!'"

--Leonard Cohen, 198?

Posted by: Tuning Spork at November 30, 2004 11:33 PM

Words: Enjoyable. Thank you.

Posted by: Jason at December 7, 2004 02:14 AM
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