If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.


"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chapter VI.5


The Afghan Communications of Isolde and Tristan


An attractive aspect of Afghanistan never mentioned in war reporting is the Afghan love of flowers. Even in front-line positions soldiers dig small trenches, fill them with water and plant geraniums.



From: Recondo

To: Gwen

Subject: Back in the Stan

Was wheels down on the 15th after flying through Delhi. Didn’t see much of the city but was surprised by the poverty I did see. Although it is nowhere near ‘Astan, I honestly expected Delhi to be closer to Hong Kong, say, than Baghdad. Seems I was wrong.


In any case, got into Kabul and realized just how tired I was, suddenly 30 days didn’t seem like that long and now 90+ seemed like an eternity.


For more reasons than I can go into now, that is pretty much how I have felt for the last three days. However, this AM, following a dude who was lost; (I ended up taking us into the site because I had prepared) through the near-vacant streets of Kabul, watching the rising sun paint the lightly snow-capped Hindu-Kush a dirty, yet appealing, orange; I remembered a small bit of the happiness of the this place and what brought me here in the first place. On top of that, the smiles of the guys that I have trained and worked with, to see that I was back, meant a lot.


As tired as I am, I can still dig a little deeper because there are still guys worth being here for and I can’t let them down; and to let them down to would be to let me down. However, am starting to see the importance of something that trumps the Astan’s- call me a sucker or a romantic.


This has all been said badly, and it is all I can do to not delete the whole email and try to start over again, yet I know I won’t do much better than this…so it stands.


In any case, it was great to talk to ya and again, am sorry that I didn’t make it out there to see ya. Counting down the days till I get back.


Cheers,


Me



From: Gwen

Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 1:25 AM

Hey,


Glad to hear you made it into Kabul... I couldn't even take the plane ride, I'd go nuts. I remember coming back from Moscow, and that was almost 15 years ago now (was it really? yes. it really was. man.), and I was climbing the walls of that plane. Man I hate being on planes.


Do you have an address there or somptin so I can send that book? Otherwise... you have to wait for Gwen’s literary award of 2005 (best of the 4 books I read last year, one of which was "Harry Potter", and that just so outshadows the rest in fantasticness, that I didn't even put it in the running. It wouldn't be fair to the other books).


I have a short week at work until I leave for home on weds. I am both exited and nervous about going home. "THE DIVORCE" rules uber alles- I just don't feel like dealing with a lot of questions, especially when everyone except my immediate family has completely ignored the issue so far, at least towards me.


Anyway, I haven't had any contact with Ivan’s family since the divorce so I don't know what their feelings are at all, and this is making me more nervous than anything.


Anyway, yeah, the offer still stands to come to Sandy Eggo. Book yourself a flight more than 2 hours in advance, eh?


:) G



From: Gwen

Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 8:44 AM

Hey,


And anyway... out with it. What's up???


From: Gwen

Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 8:53 AM

No. Sorry. sorry sorry sorry sorry.


Ignore me. I've had a (in my world) rough night.


Sorry. really. Ignore me.



From: Gwen

Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 6:55 PM

I refuse to explain recent and goofy series of emails. I don't even think I know what it’s about, really, so, too bad for you. :)


I’m on my way out the door, forging Ty's vaccination records as I go so that the kennel will take him.


My home address is xxxxxxxx


Take care,

G



From: Gwen

Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 6:55 PM


THE FOLLOWING IS A TYPED TRANSCRIPT (PERHAPS WITH RE-CONSIDERED INTERJECTIONS) OF A LETTER I WROTE WHILST WAITING FOR PLANE IN PHOENIX. COULD MAIL THE STUPID ACTUAL LETTER, BUT THIS WOULD RESULT IN YOU HOUNDING ME ABOUT REGRETFUL AND RUM-INDUCED SERIES OF EMAILS SENT EARLIER IN THE WEEK UNTIL IT ARRIVES IN AFGHAHANISTAN OR UNTIL YOU ARE ABLE TO DECIPHER IT...WHICH MAY BE NEVER.(HANDWRITING ON THIS THING IS NOT VERY LEGIBLE). I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M DOING THIS.


*****

The Rum Coma - Day 1


You know, I was out on Monday night with a guy- 1st Date. Dude was a "musician/painter" we have v. little in common, except 1) he's from CO Springs and 2) turns out, has a sister. He's got weak lips though, and no guts. He called yesterday {to wish me a good trip, Merry Christmas, etc} and I hung up on him. He called back - told him "sorry, must of dropped signal". {evil smiley face drawn here} He's all gushy and I can't stand the guy. What am I supposed to do? {I know, I'm not being nice. I’ll try to let him down nice.}


I'm at the Phoenix airport - 2h delay in my flight home. Working on my 2nd double rum and diet. Am so out of drinking shape that I am too bleary-eyed to people watch anymore, and this, perhaps, explains the handwriting. Matter of fact, I just wrote on my finger. Perhaps this also explains the brilliant idea to compose the following letter.


I picked up The Kite Runner in SD airport on my way out. And even without reading about Afghanistan, it wouldn't matter. Truth is, I've been thinking about you a lot since we spoke last. Weird how we just picked up like we never left off- but Bygones. I say we leave it.


The Tuesday you left, I walked into work and we have this guy in our lab, Jim. He grew up in Canada. The dude is a miserable SOB and a prozac candidate if I ever saw one. He's moping around the lab, and our technician says (innocently enough) “how are you?” To which any normal person would say "ok", but Jim always delves into the pitiful state of his mundane life. So the tech says "well, if you're breathing and you're not getting shot at, it's a good day". I don't know why he said it or where it came from, he has surely never been near to being shot at. (that BTW, was almost "neer"- gawd... what rum does to your spelling). Well, anyway. I lost it I mean I absolutely just fucking lost it. And the two of them get up and look at me, and are like, “what? What did we say?”


*******


AND THEN THE LETTER GOES INTO SOMETHING THAT I DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE NICKNAMES I'VE TAKEN TO GIVING PEOPLE THAT I'M DATING AND WHY AND IS REALLY VERY UNINTELLIGIBLE, EVEN TO ME, AND I ONLY WROTE IT, LIKE, 8 HOURS AGO, AND THE END OF A PRETTY LONG PARAGRAPH GOES "just looked. I have to start that whole sentence over again due to hyper-parenthetical inclusions".


Anyway, the point is (do I have one?) is that Rich the musician/painter/lipless wonder sort of just tripped me off. Like, I just kind of got all sulky and depressed and then drunk and punchy. So the "demand" email was just that... you seem to be alluding to something you want to say and I pushed for it. Then, immediately realized that a) I might be crazy (scratch that- I AM a total nut job) and just be pretty bored and insinuating things that don’t exist, or b) that you'll get around to saying something about whatever whenever you're good and ready, and that I actually HAD considered that you just MIGHT deserve some sort of break, hence, the "plea for retraction" email which immediately followed it.


Was good to hear your voice on Sat- I survived Christmas with my family but just barely. This will be content for another email.


Take good care of you,

G



From: Gwen

Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 2:01 AM

Hey,


There really isn't a whole heck of a lot going on here. Time at home was ok but a week was long enough. As I suspected, no one said much about the divorce or anything, which was OK, and then it got me really mad. Like, these people are my family and they didn't even bother to call me when my life was super crappy and I needed people to say, “Hey, your life is super crappy… but it will get better.” So, they suck, my family, and that's that.


Anyway, I want you to know that I really and sincerely do appreciate your overwhelming effort to provide moral support over the past couple of weeks, and regret that satellite communications, my lousy cell phone, and cheezy mall muzak in the entry to the Pancake House where I was having breakfast with my folks when you called the 2nd time made it difficult to really talk. You really went to a lot of trouble to be a friend, and in reference to paragraph above, I really do appreciate that. When you come out here, I'd like to buy you a couple of drinks to shove around. :)


Hey- you know what.... I got a package in the mail from Amazon the other day with a lovely book in it! Thanks! I haven't really sat down with it yet... Anyway, is nice of you to think of me.


:) Gwen



From: Gwen

Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2006 7:02 AM

My point was (which I didn't get out well, either, because I was crazy at work today, mmm, and I'm rethinking what a crazy day at work is) is that if I am, in someway helpful to you, then let me be helpful to you. You needn’t carry the world, and you don't need to carry me. I am OK. I am working, living my life, I am dating losers with weak lips (once...weak lips don't get twice) and I am OK. I am losing my house keys and spilling my coffee and forgetting my gym shoes so I can't go kickboxing. This is the extent of difficulty in my life.


Are you OK?


When you can, let me know where you are. Get some rest, and take good care of you.

G



From: Recondo

To: Gwen

Subject: Question

Woke up yesterday morning (Friday’s are our SAT/SUN in the Muslim world) still buzzed if you can imagine that… and smiling. Felt inspired, that sure ain’t the right word, but anyhoo, scribbled out a letter to ya. Did I mention that I was still buzzed? Well, that may actually have not been the “technically” correct word. In the lexicon of those afflicted with the inability to moderate their intake of intoxicating beverages, I am sure that they have a word that fits the middle or at least right of middle ground between “buzzed” and “still drunk”- kinda like how the Eskimos have way too many words for snow. Whatever that word is, that would be the technically correct one.


Ah well. So after finishing said letter, being too tired to actually type the damned thing up at the time, went back to bed, which is also incorrect because I believe that you, meaning me, have to get out of bed before you, ibid, can go back to bed. You, I mean you now, see my problem here?


Be that as it may, when I finally did manage to extricate myself from what they here at the embassy refer to as a mattress, which is also is wrong because depending on where your back is hurting the most, it more closely resembles a piece of plywood or a sway-back nag- but I digress- I set about doing a great number of things which weren’t really things at all except they were meant to pass the time and hopefully ease the travails of the previous evening; to whit, I researched sea kayaks for no good reason; but will now likely buy one.


Writing for the undisciplined (me), at least when you really want to nail it right, is a matter of mood; and as I was researching sea kayaks, in the back of my mind, I was waiting for that perfect confluence of factors (to numerous and nebulous to go into here) to create the mood before I started writing said letter. However, I am sure that you are laughing to yourself at the obvious error of my logic: why would you have to wait for “mood”, you already wrote the damned thing and all that was left to do was type it up?


I think it was Frank Sinatra who said, “Always do sober what you promised to do while drunk so you will learn to keep your damned mouth shut.” If he didn’t, he sure should have. So I finally sat down to have a look at what I had been so inspired, there’s that word again, to write.


When it comes to writing for my line of work, my greatest problems is that I write like I talk. The technical, lawyer-ese with which almost all of my professional writing has to be done in gives me headaches. No kidding.


I recall a scene from Burroughs’s (for some reason I want to say Edgar Rice but he did Conan, among other things) The Naked Lunch. Peter Weller, who also played Buckaroo Banzai in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension- a great movie by the way, with an all-star cast- is sitting in some café arguing with god only knows who about writing; to whit, is it better to go with the initial inspiration and stay true to the first cut or draft or do you go back later and edit. If I remember correctly, Peter Weller argued, and not unconvincingly at the time, that you stayed true to first go. And, at the time, I was inclined to agree. I can point out to some earlier poems where I had the idea, the feeling right but the words, or maybe the way they were put together just weren’t there. But, as I have grown (older) I have come to find, at least for me, that sometimes, editing will create a far better product.


Anyway, it wasn’t the style that started to give me a headache but the scribbling, mine— although I didn’t write on my finger. However, it was very obvious that I had been very much writing like I talk and I had to laugh because even I could see me verbally “pushing a drink around” even though I wasn’t drinking…anymore…at the time.


When it comes to interactions between people on topics that are deemed “important”, particularly if there is room for ambiguity (see paragraph above), and very particularly if said people can’t read each other minds or at least come close via time and understanding, then e-mail is about the very worst form of communication, followed more distantly by the phone…at least in my humble opinion, and I can, while trying to get straight to the heart of the matter be so ambiguous that at times I have to stop and figure out where I was going.


I knew what I wanted to say, or ask actually, and could easily summarize the whole thing in a more grammatically-correct-than-not, one-sentence question. But where’s the charm and personal-ness in that? Exactly.


It has not been my intention to torture you with some “mystery” letter which you think you may or may not ever see and I am truly sorry if I have. If you ask, and if you do (I am very serious), I have no reservations about sending you said letter- just ask, if not I will be more than happy to show you said letter when I can see your (smiling, confused, and probably ultimately laughing) face.


Also, I realize that I may have unintentionally implied that this was a LONG letter, because I believed that to be the case, hell, in my notebook it came in at four pages…with some margins. However, have realized, probably not for the last time, that there is a big difference b/w “Ariel #10” font and “Drunken #18 Scrawl”.


I hope you have (had) a great weekend,


Gwen,

Once again— so much for wisdom?— I feel like I have strained the credibility?? of our re-new-found relationship; and it pains me to no end. …I can’t tell you how much I regret not saying “fuck it” and getting on a plane to see you. …In anyone’s life, a panoply of people stand apart for any number of reasons. You however, in my life, stand out singularly— and you may not believe this— as being the only person who has truly understood?? me; and you’re beautiful. Things you have said, written, and done have sliced through all my armor, lies, and illusions and cut/touched me to the quick, to my naked soul .But the question— I knew I’d get around to it (this on pg 4) – why in god’s name did you give me your phone # so I could call you?? I am the last person on this planet who deserves it and have been wracking my brain all AM for an answer with no success. …I guess I have always been a little braver than smarter ;)



From: Gwen

Sent: Sunday, February 05, 2006 3:27 AM

Subject: Hell, Recondo, I dunno.

Hey you,


I got into work today and had a good laugh in my email inbox. You are absolutely a riot, you know that? Okay, okay. I know you're not necessarily TRYING to be so damn funny- I get it (well, I THINK I get it.


I'll warn you now, just because I think I got it, doesn't mean I got it. Got it? Anyway... I'll cut to the chase in case my fish-tacos-and-black-and-tans inspired rantings become too long winded and inconclusive later...if we have a mutual "understanding" why the f* do we spend so much time with apologies? That really has to stop. You know?


So I'm sitting at my desk drinking my latte- no less than 4 shots of espresso liquefies my stodgy brain to lucidity anymore- and I'm having a good chuckle. You really shouldn't make fun of me for being overtly concerned that you had been shot, you know? That's just not fair! I can't help being over-interpretive. In my own defense, I got it right the first time with the first email- I understood that was a story. What freaked me out was the second email. The scenario went something like this: I get a story that I think is a story, I get a second email that reads more like, “Maybe I wasn't being clear. That wasn't a story.” That's what I got out of it anyway. So, you see, just because I think I got it, doesn't mean I got it. Got it?


Anyway- 1st comment, unless dictated by governmental regulations (e.g. embassy reports etc), I think all writing should be written in author-speak. It is more real this way, it is believable and humanizing. To write as someone else, or not in your own voice is pompous and fake and reads that way. Great authors write this way, it is a requirement for the enchantment and lure and immersion into a good story.


2nd comment- Once you are aware of the fabulous variety of sea kayaks available, it is impossible not to want one. Are you getting the on-top or sit- in kind? Before I moved to San Diego I told everyone I knew I was going to take up kayaking. I took one lesson and absolutely loved it. I wanted to go all the time. Even before we left the lesson, I had my kayak all picked out, right down to the color scheme on the gunwales. But then Gwen can't be afloat on the open ocean in a little boat all alone. That's all there is to it, I never went again. But- the light at the end of the tunnel is that I have a little money from the sale of the house and think I will take some lessons, etc. It will give me something to do. Maybe we should plan on a little paddle around mission bay when you come here?


3rd comment - To write sans editing, prior to type (or scrawl, as it may be) hitting paper is impossible. Absolutely impossible. And to revise later, and how much, is a choice one makes according to intent of audience, level of ambition, and size of kahunas. It’s a fine line whether to omit or include stuff. But I think revision is not always bad; it's not always good either. 2nd guessing can be detrimental to the creative process, I think. But is maybe a good idea where relationships are concerned. Maybe not. You just never know, do you?


Last comment - about "the letter" - Hell. I dunno why I gave you my phone number. Perhaps because I thought it would be okay if you called, and nice to talk to you. Turns out I was right. It's not so bad, really. :) You're NOT going to make me take the personality test again, are you? Really?


About the part where you say you feel like you've jeopardized this relationship again, I can only say "KNOCK IT THE HECK OFF". And I mean that in the nicest possible way. You're right when you say that email isn't a good method of communication, and gosh knows I don't want you to get the wrong idea, because it just takes too long to clear all of that up.


I get (meaning I understand and I also am) lonely and separated too, and really out of touch with everyone. I get it. At least I think I get it. And to want someone to understand, really understand what that is like, that is a want that is universal and human and necessary. And to know that, for the past few months that that is some part of your every day is hard for me in some ways, but I am glad to hear from you when I hear from you. Maybe, really, that's why I decided to re-instate this, against warnings of friends etc. I'm alone too, you know, and you know me. You don't think I'm a monster. And I need that now. So, I'm leaning on you too.


Take good care of you,

G



From: Gwen

Sent: Friday, February 10, 2006 8:46 AM

Hey,


How's things? Did you get my monkey? Everyone else responded faster-than-immediately to the monkey... although, I will say that no one else got a monkey in Afghanistan. I hardly ever laughed so hard as your stupid email volley about red rocks. I walked around the lab giggling to myself all morning. My boss was at my desk looking for things I haven't done yet, and I am giggling like an idiot. You are seriously a piece of work, you know that?


Take care,

G



From Recondo

Sent: Tue, 07 Feb 2006 12:54:25 +0000
Subject: Re: A sad, sad day

Yep, sad to say, but me an Bill can out Ricky Martin Ricky Martin any day of the week...just ask all the patrons of that bar that was by his old place whose name I can't remember, not to mention all those assholes at the Reggae Fest. Go ahead, ask em!

Here we go...olay, olay, olay...


Kid Martin



From Billman

Subject: Re: A sad, sad day


Reggae fest...I remember it like it was yesterday. Recondo's booze spilling all over the truck because of the faux bottoms that he installed on his "sealed" water bottles o’ rum. Recondo almost beating up the 13 year olds who called him out. Recondo getting so drunk in the hot sun that Bill had to leave early and didn't get to listen to the "Cops" theme song (the standard by which all Reggae is gauged). Not to mention Recondo running up the side of Red Rocks and taking the most epic dive in the history of drunken acrobatics. Recondo believed he could run up the side of the rock face, a feat difficult before cocktails...wearing shorts, boat shoes and carrying a heavy back. The run up was nice, the crash and slide down was absolutely awesome. Everybody around him ran to his rescue...while his buddy Bill stood there with the look of shock at what he had seen. Concerned that Recondo was dead...And disgust that he would have to drive his drunk and bloodied body home in his new truck......A nice relaxing day at the Rocks.....


I miss ya man.


The Billman....



14FEB06— Letter to Gwen

Heya,


So here it is Valentine’s Day, I’m some 8k miles away and all I can remember is that you find Chrysanthemums pretentious.


Not much of a place to start, so I hope you can cut me a little slack. Regardless of anything else, just wanted you to know that someone was thinking about ya today.


And that reminds me…had been waiting till I could see ya to tell you a story, but what the hell, can tell you at least half of it now, seems somehow appropriate. This story has always stuck with me, like some things just do, and I have never been able to shake it. I am certain that I will not do him or the story justice, but, a few drinks to the wind, am feeling inclined to try tonight.


…So, I knew this kid back when, Navy, intel guy- imagine that- and one night over waaaay too many drinks he tells me this story. Damn near saddest thing I ever heard. If Mikey’d been there, he’da been crying in his drink for damn sure, and Dave, well you know Dave, he’da probably just throw his cigar and stalked out into the night to do whatever it is that Dave did when he threw cigars at people and stalked out into the night. Some things are just better left unasked. But I digress.


Story starts back a few years before that night. Kid was in A-school , getting by and doing alright. Met a guy in passing, who was in the class behind him. Didn’t think too much of him, a little self-absorbed maybe but okay; and besides, everyone in the classes below were takfir, beneath contempt so to speak. So, the kid graduated from A-school, finishing third in the class if I remember right, and went on to his assigned ship- an aircraft carrier.


Fast forward a little, for the sake of some brevity- the kid and his ship are about a third of the way through a six-month cruise. The self-absorbed type guy was attached to an air wing that was attached to the aircraft carrier and for reasons that neither could describe, they became good friends.


Fast forward a little more, and the aircraft carrier is returning from its cruise. The kid has no one waiting for him and is looking forward to getting back to his favorite watering hole. His buddy, who we’ll call Fred, for the sake of argument, has a wife waiting on the pier for him. No big deal.


So anyway, the kid gets out of the Navy not too long after returning from the cruise.


Fred, out of the kindness of his heart, lets him spend a couple of weeks at his place while the kid gets his ducks in a row. Fred, and his wife; who, since we are in a name-giving mood, we’ll call Sabine, couldn’t have been nicer to the kid…even though they make him watch Ally McBeal instead of Monday Night Football.


I told you this was a tragedy.


The kid finally finds a place to live, a sofa if I recall, ahh, but it has been some time and the bar was loud that night so I could be wrong. In any case, the kid invites Fred and Sabine down to his parent’s place for a small vacation, seeing’s how they’ve been so damned nice to him.


I should add here, that by the kid’s own account, his life was very reasonable, focusing mainly on talking less and drinking more…coincidentally at the same watering hole where I heard this same story.


So, Fred and Sabine drive down to the kid’s parent’s place for the weekend, which due to the weather precluded any fishing but was conducive to drinking.


Before I go any further, for the record, and the kid made a point of this, in spite of all his interactions with Sabine (and he was sheepishly sorry to say this) he didn’t remember much, if anything beyond Ally McBeal…that although kind, there was no real connection between them, at least not that he was aware of, and like I said before, at that time, he was more inclined to “more drinking, less talking.”


So anyway, the wind was blowing and no fishing, the kid said he was disappointed by that but what can you do? However, the drinking was so good Friday night and Saturday day that he has no recollection of either, though he seemed to recall driving around on scooters and yelling at people.


It was Valentine’s Day, or so he says, though based on his description, I think it was more likely the 16th, or President’s day. Be that as it may, he, Fred, and Sabine were walking down Duval Street, headed east on the south side of the street. Fred was on the left, nearest the curb and Sabine was to his immediate right with the kid walking behind Sabine.


So, the kid tells me, “…I could take you to the exact fucking spot. We had just passed an open area to the right where the shops are set back, which is unusual. And we’re abreast of this dark little pawn/head shop joint that had knives and Chinese throwing stars in the window on black velvet and I see this bum. He is walking directly towards Sabine and looks drunk, though largely old and harmless. However, I don’t have a good vibe. Fred, as far as I know, doesn’t see him. I step to Sabine’s right, around her, to put myself between the bum and her, passing the bum off to my right side…”


“Yeah,” I ask him as the next round comes in cheap plastic glasses- why he likes to drink here I will never know.


“…and then it happened.” His voice all at once carries the weight of fate, sorrow, and hope.


“What?” I ask rather annoyed at his obtuseness, over my drink.


It,” he replies, drawing a circle with the base of his glass in the condensation.


“…yeah?”


“I fell in love with her.”


“What!?” I actually put my drink down for that one, though not for long.


“You heard me. Prior to that second, I had never given her a second thought. After that second, she was all I could think about.”


“Simply because you walked between a drunk bum and her?


“That’s what happened.”


“And this isn’t just some excuse; that never, ever before had you thought about her?”


“Nope!”


“Christ!”


“That’s what I said…once I got my breath back.”


“And what did you do?”


“Panic…,” he said, setting his drink down, “in the most subdued way that I could. If I hadn’t of been hopped up on painkillers and bad rum, I probably would have asked her to marry me right there.”


“That would have been bad.”


“You’re telling me.”


“Well…”


“Well what?


“Well, what happened?”


“What do you mean what happened?”


“Well…”


“Oh for fuck’s sake, what do you think happened? Here I am, looking at the most beautiful and smartest creature that I have ever seen on God’s green earth and she is married to my best friend. What could I do? Nothing! There are some lines you just don’t cross.”


“I guess I can’t argue with that.”


“And the crazy thing,” he said, with a half smile, half playful grimace, “was that…”


So, that is where I have to leave it. Although the kid did finish the story, he made me promise to never tell anyone else. I have half broken that promise tonight and will, as you guessed, break the rest, but only when I can tell you personally…the kid deserves at least that much.


In any case, hope that you manage to get out to your conference/meetings in spite of the blizzards. And if not, consider yourself lucky.


Happy Valentine’s


Me



From: Gwen

Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2006 2:53 AM

Dear Recondo,


Considering that my valentine's day last year consisted of the receipt of the bill for a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast by my now-ex-husband and his then-new-girlfriend, gosh, this was a heck of a valentine's day.


I am really (for once!) speechless and dumbfounded, but cannot say completely surprised by the story of your, er, friend. He's been shoving that drink around for quite awhile, yeah?



They sat too quietly under the moon

The night slowly, slowly, slowly,

moving away


There were no words between them-

No sound but the exhale of palm leaves

displacing empty space after being upset by the wind


And as the light from atomic explosions

very long ago

and impossibly far away

came silently towards them with imperceptible speed

she looked at him and in the seccade he had changed

it took her a blink to feel the gravity

but she knew


For years the amorphous shape of it stayed burned in her memory

like the silhouettes of fish swimming in darkness under Mallory Pier

If they were not illuminated from below

to become reflections of themselves in shadow

after the sun went into the folds of the ocean

with a soft and instant flash of emerald green

They would have passed silently on and into the endlessness

of the deep blue sea



From: Gwen

Sent: Thursday, March 2, 2006 6:48 AM

Hi Recondo,


Right. That is a 3am idea alright.


In a way though, it's really nice of you to invite me to a war zone.


No, I'm not trying to be a smart-ass.


Wait, wait, wait. Let me say in complete and total sincerity that I appreciate the thought, because I can tell you've put some thought into it, even if it is the woozy 3am sort of thinking. I know you mean it and mean well by it, but.... I have to tell ya buddy, it ain't gonna happen.


There's a huge list of reasons I just deleted... you expect them and know they're coming and probably already have a counter-argument ready to retort. I know I know I know.


Yes, I really do have to work.


No, I don't have any more vacation time (I haven't told you I'm going to Germany next week).


Okay, okay you're right. I believe you when you say it’s beautiful and the place is great and the people are great, and yeah. I think you're right about the opportunity of a lifetime thing. I'll make you a deal, okay? If someday things settle down some there, no matter what, we'll go, huh? Don't roll your eyes at me like that. I'm trying to make a compromise here.

Huh?



From: Recondo

Sent: 14MAR06-ish

Heya,


Hope that you are having a good time in Germany. Have to say that I miss you and your emails but have managed somehow without.


Good news, Amazon finally got around to finding AND mailing Desert Solitaire so, who knows, it may be waiting for you when you get back. Just a recommendation, but I would save it till you go camping, Joshua Tree, or somewhere similar. I read it for the first time when I was down in The Maze in Canyonlands with Mr. Zeep, which is actually where most of the book is about. I think it was the last book I laughed out loud while reading.


Anyway, I seriously toyed with the idea of sending you some more flowers but just couldn't do that the bearded Pete so you can blame him.


Don't want to be too morbid (but hey, The Jewel of the Nile is on, though I am not listening to it) but want you to know that the last will I amended (if you can do that when you are drunk) leaves all my writings to you. Guess it won't get you rich, but wanted you to have all my old journals, books of poetry and whatever else falls under that category. I don't know; it may be a curse....which it was not meant to be. But I can state for a fact, that (and maybe wrongly so, am potentially reconsidering here) when you are contemplating not coming back from somewhere you are of two separate minds: on one hand, you want to talk to everyone, and on the other, you can't see your way clear to lay that kind of crap on anyone. Rightly, or wrongly, to date, I have sucked it up and said nothing to anyone- which ain't the right answer, but the best one I had at the time.


When does baseball start? Do you like it?


Read the first chapter of Revolt on the Tigris last night. Written by the CPA PGC (Provincial Governance Coordinator or something like that) for Wasit province HQ’d out of Al Kut- a brit. Although I drove by there, never got into town- you tended to avoid as many places that you didn’t have to go as possible- I couldn’t stop smiling. I was always on the other side (the wrong, yet correct side) of the patriotic jingoism that drove Iraq, especially in the early days, and ironically, the brit’s point of view, an outsider himself, is much closer to my own. Some of his descriptions (riding in Suburbans- fast) brought back memories and I was really struck, suddenly, by how far away and unreal it seemed, like my memories weren’t even mine but those of a book I had read on some warm summer day by the beach.


It really hit me. That place and time had such a profound effect on me and I was a wreck when I got back in AUG04, for more reasons than I care to go into here. I really believed that I would carry the gravity of that place with me forever- marked- like a shadow you can’t get away from, and suddenly realized that most, but not all, of the heaviness was gone, or at least not as noticeable. The truth is that in reality, I will always be marked by that year and I can’t honestly say that it is gone; I may have just learned to live with it and faded into the background like the white noise of traffic. It can’t have hurt that I was able to spend a year in ‘Astan, where there were still some of the same factors, but no where near the same intensity- immersion training in reverse I guess.


Ah well, and so it goes. Looking back on it though, wouldn’t have traded it for anything…other than the whole catastrophe never happening in the first place.



From: Gwen

Sent: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 3:21 AM

Hi,


I'm still digesting the mammoth email that preceded this one; you're going to have to give me a little time on that one. I'm somehow groggy and slow today and not processing any information any too quickly. However, on some points you're right- I am unanswering you. It's not really fair or nice or considerate, but I have my excuses and reasons, and when I'm up for it, you'll get um.


Nothing too much going on here. I made it out of the lab yesterday and managed to get Ty (and by default, me) a bath. He is now soft and fuzzy and smells very much nicer than he did. He even got a new collar, which I think is way cute (red with white stars) but still kind of manly so he doesn't look like a putz. :) Yep. That's the extent of my world at the moment, second in depressing only to the part where I spent all day Sunday working.


I gotta run, I promised I'd make gym class tonight since I bailed on my buddy yesterday. I have penance to do on the treadmill for a weekend of sitting on my sofa and eating Lindt truffles.


Take Care,

G




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