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1 Woman, 3 Relationships OR How to be Crushed by a Crush

by Elliott BatTzedek

Relationship The First:   
A Complexity Only Haiku Could Describe


           Mapless land, no name
           for route through friendship's watershed.
           Life's oddest affairs.


Relationship The Second:
Journal of a 5-Day Visit


1:20 pm

        The train jerks to a stop and jerks me into another world. What world, I can’t exactly say. Maybe some delightfully awful Niad novel: “Our heroine, Joy, steps from train, into Alexis’ strong arms, arms that promise comfort but also something more. Will this be the weekend that changes everything?  Overwhelmed, Joy diverts Alexis’ strong hands by filling them with her suitcase.  They head towards the parking lot, to the black truck that will take them to... ‘To what?’ Joy wonders, wanting and yet not wanting to know.  Three nuns dressed all in white get into a white sedan parked next to them, and the meaning of this sign is not lost to her:  the sharp contrast of the white purity of the nuns against the thick sexual tension in the black truck.  Alexis sees them too and smiles. Her laugh, Joy knows, will be next.  Her alluring, dangerous laugh.  Still, Joy thinks to herself, the Sisters could be the ones on their way to a weekend full of moist magic, while she and Alexis drive off to another chaste meeting of dear friends.”
        Back in my only slightly-less-unreal world, she is waiting as I get off the train, and does hug me.  I, however, tighten my grip on my pack, in sharp contrast to losing my grip on all my careful denial.  And there are nuns in the parking lot. And she does see them and grin at me. Setting a bad precedent for the visit, I don’t ask why precisely why she is grinning.  I only grin back and try not to stare.

11:30 pm

        She removes her Labrys, touches it to her lips, hangs it on the bedpost.



3 am
        Sleeping would be easy if only being next to her did not make me aware of being next to her in the way that only being next to her makes me be aware.

2:13 pm
         Making lunch, we touch each other as casually as lovers when reaching over shoulders or asking for plates or spices to be passed. We talk freely of our lives and our loves. Once, when I reach to stroke her back, she moves to get pine nuts and my surprised hand slips across her butt. She seems uneasy and distracted. But then she often does.

10:50 pm
       She removes her Labrys, touches it to her lips, hangs it on the bedpost.



11:06 am
       As we run out of things to chatter about, we shift to our most reliable link, a rousing game of “Do You Remember.” 
       “Of course,” I nod, agreeing with the newest version of an old story, “Of course I remember that conference, and of course your girlfriend-of that-time is an ass for now claiming that the simple back massage you gave the woman from Texas was highly erotic.”
       How could I not remember that night? The simple back massage went on for hours, and I was awake the whole time, 10 feet away on the floor in my sleeping bag.

6-6:30 pm
       We drive through deep drifting snow to the Saturday Dyke Social. She takes my hand, under the poker table, and holds it in her lap in a friendly sort of way. The other women at the table are also my friends.  They do not hold my hands in any sort of way.

11:58 pm 
       She removes her Labrys, touches it to her lips, hangs it on the bedpost.



10 am to 4:30 pm
       Refining the art of not talking about it.

8-11 pm
       I sit in her bedroom, Very Noticeably Alone, while she is downstairs, behind a closed door, thrashing about in one of her complicated emotional entanglements. She is Very Noticeably Not Alone. 
        To pass the two hours, and to try to keep myself from trying to hear, I play “Pin The Name on the Emotion:”
        Anger? On the map, but not a direct hit. 
       Pain? No go, too broad to be a single pin. 
       Jealousy? Near miss. 
       Invisible?  Very near miss.
       Ah—Erased! Yes, that’s it, I’ve been erased, and I win again! 
       To pass the third hour, I play “Do You Remember” Solitaire by naming every time I thought she was looking into me only to realize she was trying to see around me to whatever woman she was then wanting.  Rooms and apartments and conferences and festivals full of wanting, but always she thinks it is all hers. 
       Playing “Pin the Tail on the Biggest Ass in the World” would be a very quick game right now even if I weren’t alone in the room.

11:10 pm
        The Emotional Entanglement leaves, and she comes upstairs, sits behind me on the bed, takes me into her arms, tells me that she loves me, and asks what I’ve been doing. I laugh, bitter-yet-too-cool-to-care, a relic from my carefully polished teen-age affect, and tell her I was just playing games.  She knows that this is only shorthand, but she doesn't know for what. Or maybe she does. No one asks precisely what anyone means.

11:50 pm
      She removes her Labrys, touches it to her lips, hangs it on the bedpost.



4:43 pm
       We head for a walk along the river. As we walk, fingers linked through belt loops or hands clasped or bodies curled into one another, she launches into a long story about yet another woman she is wanting (who, yet again, isn’t me). We stop at the spot where she comes to pine for her.  I relax into her warmth and murmur agreements about the tribulations of unrequited love. I feel very gracious. Yet Another Woman might be in her thoughts, but I am here, now, in her arms.
      Further upstream, she pulls those arms away from me to open them over the area where, she says, she wants her ashes scattered someday. Her eyes pull mine over the water and rocks and maples that in some mythical future, her gesture proclaims, will be comfort and consolation to any of us who survive her. I can think of no rules that govern what one might say at such a moment, and am too afraid of how far words would flow if they were to spring from my mouth, so I, yet again, stay silent. 
      After some time, I step up, open my arms, and let her lean into my warmth. After some time, we loop, clasp and curl our way back to the truck.

10:50 pm
     She removes her Labrys, touches it to her lips, hangs it on the bedpost.



8:40 am
        She drops me at the train station and heads off to work. Waiting for the train, exhausted, I stay strictly in the realm of the safe by pondering the mysteries of Amtrak. I study the fine print on my tickets.  Since I bought a round-trip fare, I paid $78. The two tickets are marked differently, though: the ticket up is $50, and the ticket back, $28. If I had planned on winging it, buying a one way ticket up and deciding when to go home based on how the visit was turning out, I would have paid $59 each way. So, visiting is cheaper if I’ve planned to leave before I arrive, and even then going up costs more than going home. What a nice tidy Moral this would be for that romance novel.  Except in it, Alexis would have raced the train in her black pickup, meeting it at the next stop and screaming, “Joy, Joy, I was wrong! It was YOU I wanted all along!

5:20 pm
        Back in my home, with the lover I’ve chosen and choose to live with, huge pink hyacinths are unfolding by the door.

11:40 pm
        I remove the image of this visit, touch it to my lips, but I have no bedpost from which to hang it.


Relationship The Third:
A Desire Unfulfilled

What I wanted to say was
          I love you
what I said was
         I want to kiss you
what she heard was
        I want to make love to you
and so we had sex.


The Moral of the Stories: An Interview

Interviewer:  I think I can say with some certainty that the question most readers have is “Why do you tolerate such ambiguity from this woman?”

Writer: You mean, why does the narrator tolerate this?

Interviewer:  Narrator?

Writer: Yes, the narrator. This is writing, you know, which is always fictive if not fiction.  Sure, I might have had life experiences very similar to these, but the narrator of the poem isn’t me.

Interviewer:  Well, then, why does the narrator tolerate such ambiguity?

Writer: Hmm, well. I think perhaps the best answer to that is “why does this woman tolerate such ambiguity from me?”

Interviewer:  From you? What about the narrator?

Writer: ah, yes, that’s what I meant. Why does the woman tolerate such ambiguity from the narrator?

Interviewer:  So, you’re saying the pieces aren’t really about this woman, but about the narrator?

Writer: Well, yes. But isn’t writing always really about the writer?

Interviewer:  So then why not just write about yourself up front, instead of all this disguising and dissembling?

Writer: Are you asking that of me, the writer, or of my narrator?

Interviewer:  Isn’t asking that just another way of evading answering my question?

Writer: Perhaps, perhaps. I’ll answer it this way: if all writing is actually about the writer, isn’t it equally true that all reading is about the reader? Why do you perceive such ambiguity? Are you uncomfortable whenever you don’t have clear, simple answers?

Interviewer:  Nice turn of phrase. I suppose I should have expected such an answer from someone who would write such a piece. Anyone who reads this work sees the ambiguity. After all, you wrote it that way.

Writer: Well, maybe. I prefer to think of myself as having clearly written a version of the muddle conveyed to me by the narrator.

Interviewer:  So you’re saying what, that you channeled this narrator? That she isn’t you in any way?

Writer: Of course she’s me in some ways. All writing is about the writer.

Interviewer:  Ok, wait, I’m getting this now. It boils down to this: your narrator isn’t going to say how she feels, and you aren’t going to say how you feel. And you’re going to continue to evade responsibility for your feelings by manipulating literary theory?

Writer: Hmm, well, I wouldn’t say it that way.

Interviewer:  Would your narrator?

Writer: I guess you’d have to ask her!

Interviewer:  But she, of course, is fictive and so unavailable for comment?

Writer: yes, yes, that’s it.

Interviewer:  Is there any actual message you or your narrator would like to share with your readers?

Writer: oh, an actual message? Sure, yeah, several of them. Let’s see. First—if you are about to get off a train and into a situation that resembles a romance novel in any way, STAY ON THE TRAIN.  Second—there is no such thing as a roundtrip ticket to lands that aren't on maps.  And, um, third—whatever you do, never ever ever let a writer fall in love with you.

Interviewer:  Ah, so have I heard you admit that the writer, or the narrator, whoever, is in love with this woman?

Writer: Hearing is about the listener, wouldn’t you say? So if that’s what you need to hear...


Read all work by Elliott BatTzedek


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