Charles’s Very Good Point

February 17, 2013 § 1 Comment


On Thursday, Charles opened the champagne he bought me for Valentine’s Day and filled the glasses. My sister gave us these champagne flutes 30 years ago; they have outlasted all our other breakables, even the avocado-green mixing bowl from Charles’s first marriage, which I thought would be buried with us.

We were sitting on either side of the stubby, stained coffee table, surrounded by boxes, piles, stacks, shelves, cat-hair-covered black tee shirts, socks, towels, pens, knives, dental floss, two guitars, three cats and assorted detritus. This is Charles’ room. Mine is colonized by chocolate wrappers, books, papers, jewelry apparatus, lipstick and cat vomit. I lifted my glass and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

He lifted his glass, thought a moment and said, “Let this be a lesson to everyone who thinks falling in love will solve all their problems.”

“This” being us, our life, etc.

“Can I put that in my blog?”

“Of course. I never remember what I’ve said until I read it in your blog.”

We drank, listened to Bill Evans, talked about the things we always talk about. Is it like this for you? Each time you relax and have a little wine, the conversation finds the old grooves, the child Goth merry-go-round, no matter that each person is (face it) bored by the other’s tales and obsessions?

Charles used to say he didn’t mind hearing my stories over. And over. Philip never remembered that I’d told him before. I’d say, “I told you that” and he’d say very forcefully “No. I would remember,” or sometimes he’d try, “Well, your family is so weird I can’t believe half the things you tell me and so I forget them.” My family was especially weird between 1966-1980. Not in the grand scheme of things weird, but weird to an Italian boy from Staten Island, whose own family suffered no deaths, divorce, untoward sex, over-indulgence in alcohol, or Southern relatives.

My family’s not so weird now, if you don’t count my mother’s home décor. But Charles and I make up for it. My peculiarities are well known to my readers, and Charles thinks the cats talk to him. “Mouchette told me I had beautiful eyes,” he said today.

He also dreamed last night that he was making jewelry out of dead bodies.

A cousin I hadn’t seen since childhood died this week. I didn’t really respond when I heard, but it affected me. I’d rather it didn’t. When you have suicidal thoughts with depressing regularity, the deaths of one’s peers seems so unfair. I would have taken that for you, I think. It would have been my pleasure to barter my remaining time. Why can’t that work?

I’d always meant to connect with those boys (men), my father’s nephews, but was for so long nervous about any connection to my father, who gave me the crazy gene and then made sure it was fully expressed, that I kept putting it off. And then there were other family dynamics I won’t go into, but I missed out on Mike.

His brother Arthur I knew a lot better because he came to New England as a young man to see a specialist for his diabetes. He was a wild boy, and it killed him eventually. But when he was in his early twenties and I was maybe 19, we had a few drinks together and then kissed in my brother’s room (the only downstairs bedroom in my mother’s house in Newcastle, N.H.).

Arthur said, “We can’t do this! We’re cousins!” I didn’t really see the problem, but we stopped. I kind of regret that, though I wouldn’t have wanted to make him feel like a pervert. On my side of the family it was a badge of honor but Arthur was raised Catholic in the South.

That’s all I know of Mike: his brother. Not really anything.

I was talking to Charles tonight about the Cathedral, and various people in religious orders. He thinks religion is on its way out, like the pope, that people are sick of it. I think that will never happen. I said, “I understand why people like religion. Believing that some deity cares, that their lives matter. It would be comforting to believe in Jesus, but I can’t.” I took a thawed chicken breast out of the fridge, stared at that bloody slab of meat with its caul of yellow fat and wished we could go out to dinner.

Then I noticed my cat. “Look at Fitzroy, “I said. He was curled up on the couch like an animal from a storybook, all neat curves and shining fur.

“Fitzroy will always mean more to me than Jesus,” said Charles.

Song to Celia

Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
And Ile not looke for wine.
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise,
Doth aske a drinke divine:
But might I of Jove’s Nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath,
Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered bee.
But thou thereon did’st onely breath,
And sent’st it back to mee:
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare,
Not of it selfe, but thee.

Ben Jonson


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