Strapped down

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, New Jersey

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Survey photo of LaGuardia Airport's Marine Air...

Survey photo of LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal, built in 1940. Photo taken in 1974. New York Municipal Airport, Marine Air Terminal, Grand Central Parkway at Ninety-fourth Street, Jackson Heights, Queens County, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: JFK International Airport Español: Vi...

English: JFK International Airport Español: Vista del Aeropuerto Internacional John F. Kennedy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dana actually beats me to the ledge and tackles me around the legs and I drop to the bricked floor.  Stronger hands start restraining me and I take a wild swing and see it connect with a guy’s nose and blood and snot fly everywhere.

That is the last of my recollections.

When I regain consciousness I am being wheeled on a stretcher thru a depot of some kind.  An airport as it turns out but I don’t know which one.  I look around and see Dana glowering at me.  I’m in four point restraints and cannot move even a little bit.  My head aches furiously and I wonder if somebody cold-cocked me.  On past the security lines where guys in uniforms like to stick their finger up passenger’s asses and to an unmarked door.  They leave me there and Dana sits and pointedly does not look at me.

I guess I embarrassed her.  That’s what she said when she thought I was going to jump.  Not “Honey, I love you, come back inside.  It’s dangerous out here.’ or ‘Whatever you’re mad at me about we can work it out.  Just come inside and talk to me.’  No, it was ‘You’re embarrassing me.’

Where am I?  I ask tonelessly.

NYC, she says.  LaGuardia.  Don’t ask why or how.

She continues to stare at the wall.

Presently a young guy in scrubs comes in and ignores me while he talks to Dana.

I never knew he was having an affair with my accountant, Dana says, lying smoothly.  He was around her all the time but I never suspected…until she left and he just went to pieces.  He was ready to jump off a building in Toronto and I just got to him in time…

You’re lying shit, I say contemptuously at Dana.

Anyway, he’s my husband and I want the best for him.  From here i’m taking him to Dr. Kindsvater at the Institute.  But he’s really agitated.  I thought perhaps a shot of a benzodiazepine…she shrugs.

The doctor looks at me doubtfully and says, Well, okay.  As long as Doctor Kindsvater is handling the case…

I look wildly at Dana and wonder what kind of treachery is afoot.

She says, You’ll be alright, Erik, the edge in her voice to make a point that nothing bad is going to happen to me.

I smell alcohol and feel the coolness of soaked cotton on my arm.  My stomach heaves.  A torrent of curses escapes my lips and a description of Dana’s character and treachery.

When I wake this time it’s a plain white room with a mesh screen on the window and doorglass.  Dana sees me move my head and she comes over.

Where am I this time, you washed up old dyke?  I say.

That’s gratitude for you, she says.  If not for me you could’ve ended up God knows where.  Maybe Bellevue.

Is that what this place is?

No, it’s an expensive private psychiatric facility on Long Island.

Then what now?

Now I guess you’re free to go if you promise to behave.

You’ve promised to behave hundreds of times and never kept that promise.

I mean not try to kill yourself.

Alright, Dana.  I promise.  I wasn’t going to jump off that fuckin building in Toronto.

I know that, she snaps.  I realized it as soon as I had time to think.  But you put me in an awful position.  We were in Canada with expired visas because…

Because I forgot to take our passports to the embassy and had to go back to the hotel for them and you know what I saw there.

But…you know, I really thought you’d be okay with that.  It’s not the first time you walked in on me like that and you seemed to like Tracy.  She sure liked you.  She really had her way with you every which way and you seemed like you loved it.  You two were so cute together.

All that’s immaterial, I say.

You take things too hard, Erik, she says, her voice tired and shaky.  You take yourself too seriously.  If you’d lighten up you wouldn’t get so bent.

Where do we go from here, Dana?

Home I guess.  The farm’s where I went to have my minor meltdown.  Maybe it’ll be awhile before anybody comes after me for…

Nobody’s coming after you, Dana.  The statute’s long run out.  Besides, as far as they’re concerned you’re officially dead.

That’s what I mean, Erik.  They’ll come after you if…

Oh, bullshit.  We can leave again if we have to.  Just stay out of Europe for a decade or so until the fascists run their course.  We’ll go back to the farm for a while.

Erik, you’d better…

I am going to behave, dammit!  Let’s get outta this fuckin place!

It may take me the better part of an hour to do the paperwork, she says.  Try to stay calm until I get done.

It’s been many years since we were last at the farm but I am shocked at how bad the house is; it looks like a shack in Appalachia.  The hill in front of the house is littered with all kinds of crap.  Old tires, broken axe heads, fragments of chicken wire, goddamn beer cans.  The porch is missing the first step and I have to pull myself up.  The front of the house in the shade is green with fungus and guaranteed to make me sick.  It’s cool and damp.   The house faces the north with trees and fields behind it.

In the winter snow stays on the ground longer here in the shadow than most places.  In the spring it becomes suddenly green and the air full of pollen and rank with the smell of spring.  Pig shit on the field across the road, clover hay, all things that make me deathly sick.  Now is the only season of good, cool weather.  But it’s humid and I am sweating.

Fortunately Dana had the foresight to call and have the power turned back on.  Inside the house looks like it always has and miraculously has not been broken into.  But that’s because Henry down the road is in our debt big time and agrees to keep the batteries in the vehicles charged and the place looking lived in.  But it’s musty and airless and there is black mold in the bathtub drain and when the smell hits me I heave.

Go take a Benadryl, Dana says coldly.

Fuck you, I say and go outside on the dilapidated porch.

The road outside the house has not changed.  For years we harassed the county not to pave this road because we didn’t want all the traffic hauling ass thru here.  Then one summer day after we’d been gone for a few days we’d come back and it was paved and the county said, Well we’re sorry but now that it’s paved we cant unpave it.  Dana had a fit and I wasn’t happy about it but that was that.

The corn has not been harvested and the stalks are brown and sere.  Banks along the road covered with withered honeysuckle.  Limestone all around this eroded land staring at the infernal sky.  Poplar and oak and hickory.  A purlieu like this one seems to have affinities for all manner of things sickening, gangrenous mold, bugs, stray animals, people hunting on this place without permission.  An enormous lank hound has come out of the corn and is sniffing around a dead bird.

I go back inside.  Dana is on her knees scrubbing the mold off the bathtub drain.  When she notices me she yells, GET OUTTA HERE!  YOU’LL GET SICK!

Sometimes it’s things like that that just get you.  Really get you.

I don’t say another word to her.  I put some things in a frame pack and put on my new $300 hiking boots and get the keys and go down and start the Viper and just drive away.



English: The new terminal 1 building check-in ...

English: The new terminal 1 building check-in hall at Toronto Pearson International Airport in July 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Terminal 3 Building after the EPE opened in 20...

Terminal 3 Building after the EPE opened in 2006 (March 2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Toronto airport we go straight to a hotel and shower and sleep.  In a few hours Dana is on the phone giving orders and somebody brings her cash and clothes and she hums to herself as she hangs them in the closet.  It’s really nice to have money when your ass is in a sling.

The next morning I wake with resentment at the growing awareness that I have to do something today and cannot spend the day in bed.  I explore my sensations and groan at my aching back.  Dana is primping in front of a dresser mirror.

Hey, I say to her.

She turns around and says, Hey, sweetie.  Sleep good?

Yes, I say, yawning and stretching.

Dana has put on heavy trolling makeup.

You look stunning, Cupcake, I say.

Thank you, dear.

I’m going to drag you over here and lick that makeup off, I say.

You will not!  She says with emphasis.  I’ve been two hours putting it on.

She gets up and kisses me at arm’s length.  Smell of Chloe and soapy taste of lipstick.

What RU so got up for, Dana?  Got a hot date?

Funny, funny, she says.  When you get back we’re going out and doing something.  It’s been months.  And you are going to wear those clothes I got you.

Those clothes look gay, Dana.

Do not!

Do I have a choice?

No, Erik, you don’t.

I leave early to go to the embassy to get our visas.  I try to get Dana to go with me but she wants to stay at the hotel.  Turns out she knows somebody in immigration who will give me the visas without her even having to show up.  Since there’s no hurry and i’m in the mood I take a bus.  On the way I brood about the future and am so preoccupied I don’t know till i’m halfway there that I left our passports back at the hotel.

So I have to get off the bus and cross the street and wait for a bus going the other way.  I wait and wait until I get aggravated enough to get a cab.  A few minutes later I am back in the hotel and ride the elevator up one floor.  When I have the key card in hand ready to open the door I pause.

I can sense something is wrong but I don’t know what else to do but open the door and go inside.

I see them a second before they see me.  Dana is lying naked across the bed on her back while a black haired girl has her face buried in my wife’s groin.  Simultaneously they look up at me as I stand there.  Dana says, Hey, Erik, it’s not really as bad as …{giggle}…what you think.

The girl with her is beautiful.  Where does Dana find these stunning women?

The girl recovers faster than Dana.  She smiles a competition smile and walks over to me and gently puts a hand on my forearm.

Hey, uh…Erik?  She says.  My name’s Tracy…why don’t…why don’t you come over here with us?  There’s plenty of room…

And like the passive fool I’ve become I let myself be led over to where Dana is smiling seductively at me.  And I hate myself for wanting to be a part of what they’re doing.  I have walked in on scenes like this so many times I had become callous to them until Dana finally stopped.  And I thought she’d stayed stopped.  Now I feel like an utter fool.  I feel betrayed and hurt the way I did the first time this happened, long ago.  I sit on the edge of the king size bed and cry.

I finally stop crying when Dana puts her tongue in my mouth.  She undresses me skillfully.  As she is pulling my shirt off Tracy is sliding my pants and underwear off me.  Dana shoves me hard onto my back.

And while Dana kisses me Tracy gets on me and together we make some of the sweetest love i have ever made and i actually forget Dana is alive.

I’ve fallen asleep with Dana snuggled next to me.  It’s only early afternoon and I can hear the maids opening and closing doors in the adjacent rooms and running their vacuum cleaners.  Dana looks at me and smiles the sweetest smile.  I have almost gotten away from her when she pulls me back.

You’re not going anywhere, lover, she says and licks my neck.

Dana?  I say softly.

What, sweetie pie?

You love me?

I sure do, Daddy.

Then why am I not enough for you?  Why can you never behave?

Because you’re not a woman, my little sweetheart.  It’s not your fault.  Go back to sleep.

She falls asleep and I get up.

I look at my sleeping wife and wonder if I have any love left for her, any at all.  And I realize I don’t.  Even worse, I have none for myself.  I get dressed and on my way to the bathroom I stop.  On a dresser I see…flowers?  WTF?  Yes.  Two pink roses, one for me and one for Dana and a note in immature handwriting.  A smiley and a  phone number and how much Tracy likes us both and she hopes we can all be friends.  I’m still hazy on what happened except there was a lot of fucking and noise and I was falling asleep as Dana walked Tracy to the door and kissed her goodbye.  How the flowers and note got here IDK but it doesn’t matter.

I go in the bathroom and close the door and turn on the blower for the white noise.  And cry for myself, the cry I wasn’t able to finish.  To survive cancer, and political pogroms and genocide, only to be destroyed by one more of Dana’s indiscretions.

As I close the door and go out to the hall I see there’s a do not disturb sign on our door.  Angrily I remove it and tell a maid outside to go right in.

I am on the second floor, which will not do.  I get on the elevator and ride up to the thirtieth, where there is a wraparound terrace where I can sit unmolested.

The maids have left a dozen or more rooms open and it’s easy to slip by them unnoticed and open a window and go out on the terrace.

There’s an iron wicker chair that I sit in and regard the bright early fall day.  It’s turned cool and breezy and after a moment I go over to the ledge and look out at the city and then down at the parking lot.  Thirty stories straight down.  Out and up a cloudless cerulean sky, demotic street noise of the traffic carried on the wind.  Horns and sirens blocks away.

Overlooking the straight drop is a broad ledge two feet wide.  I climb up and stand on it and look out and down.  Brief flashes of my undistinguished life.  Images of people falling from the towers on 9/11.  Image of Dana’s face as she is coming while Tracy’s face is buried in her groin.  All I have to do is lift one foot up, then another.  It will be so easy.  Just take a bold step out and into tomorrow.

But of course I wont do this.  I am too chickenshit.

I’m still standing on the ledge when I realize a small crowd has gathered in the parking lot, staring up at me and pointing.  I’ve been so preoccupied I don’t even know how long they’ve been there.

Oh, shit.  They think I am a jumper.  I get off the ledge and back on the terrace and wave at them, hoping they’ll lose interest.

But they don’t.  They’re not going away without a show, hopefully a splaaat!

I have to go back inside and get on the elevator and back to our room before anything happens.

Too late.  I see Dana a dozen or so yards away at the far end of the terrace.  She looks at me with her face all screwed up, her visage that of a Tartar.

She walks a few steps in my direction and stops cold.  She snarls, Erik, you crazy son of a bitch, WTFRU doing?  You’re embarrassing me…

And then she does the stupidest thing she could do.  She starts running toward me.

And I react automatically.  I run to the ledge.  I’m faster than she is but she has a much better angle.  Now it’s a race, just me and her.


"Chas. Chaplin". Actor Charlie Chapl...

“Chas. Chaplin”. Actor Charlie Chaplin seated at desk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Statue of Charlie Chaplin in Leicester Square,...

Statue of Charlie Chaplin in Leicester Square, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Herr Schlossen leaves Dana and I argue about what to do.  I’m fed up and want to go back to the states till we decide what to do.  She’s paranoid that somebody’ll be after her for an ancient malefaction the statute of limitations has run out on anyway.

They never had a case, Dana, I say.  It was just harassment and a fishing expedition.

I cant take that, Erik.  I came here to get away from that i’m not going back to it.

I sigh, it reminds me of Chaplin.

What about him?

He was Jewish, of course.  He fled Europe to get away from Hitler.  Then he somehow got on Joe McCarthy’s shit list.  He ran into another version of what he fled from.  He was so pissed he went to England and never came back.

IDK what to do, Dana says.

Dana, we cant stay here.

We could go to Austria or Holland or…

I talked to the Archprefect this morning.  She feels that this movement will spread all over Europe and we damn well better leave.  Why don’t we fly to Canada till we can figure out what to do.  Then we could go back to the US or anywhere else.

The phone rings right in the middle of this and Dana’s friend gives her hell about some imagined slight while her husband yells in the background.   I hear Dana’s friend call Dana a washed up old dyke and Dana hangs up in her face.

We sit together on the peach colored sofa with Dana’s head on my shoulder.  She’s so terrified she might as well have her thumb in her mouth but I guess she’s a little old for that.  She looks at me as if to say, Isnt it great that we’re not like them?

Erik, she says in a little girl’s voice, You think i’m an old dyke?

I kiss the top of her head and say, You surely are.

She burrows closer and says, I love you, little daddy.

I love you, cupcake.

But i’m just a washed up old dyke, she says.

What you are is a hot little bitch and being part lesbo just makes you impossibly and irresistibly hotter.

Awww, honey, she says.  You always know just what to say to make a girl wet.

Dana gets up and paces the floor.  We are both in a real life dangerous set of circumstances, yet the look on her face is that of a teen age girl complaining that her problems are the worst problems anyone has ever had in the history of the whole world!  And when Dana is like this she is utterly beguiling.  When I look at the innocent cast of her face my heart flutters and skips a few beats just like it did when I saw her when we were first dating.  I cant believe how much I am in love with my wife of ten plus years and that in the middle of these despicable circumstances I decide to feel this way.

Still I feel myself on the edge of panic.  I think she is even closer and I decide she needs something to occupy her mind.

I finally hand her the cell phone and say, Get on the phone and book us a flight to Toronto.  Then we’ll start packing.

Just like that?  She says.

It’s either that or sit in an office all day to beg for a visa extension.

Do we really want to leave?

Yes!  Get busy.

Fifteen minutes later she tosses the phone down angrily and says, Full up.  Everybody’s panicking to get out.

Did you try other cities in Canada?

Yes.  Nothing.

Do you know anybody with a private plane that would fly us out?

Once I would have, she says, But they’re all gone now.

We can drive to the border, I say.  They haven’t said anything about closing it.  Not yet.

That’s a twelve hour drive, she says.

Then we better get going.

Wait then, she says.  Maybe…

When she gets off the phone she’s arranged to stay at somebody’s private cabin an hour from the border if we have to stop there.  It’s not much help but it’s something.  Dana says she doesn’t want to deal with a crossing after a long drive like that.

Dana, if we stay that long we’ll be here with an expired visa and I don’t know what would happen.

Then let’s go, she says angrily.

This is the third straight day it’s rained.  This fall is unprecedented for rain and it has matched the mood of this crisis and made it worse.  The hill with the power station is invisible in ground fog and it occurs to me I never said goodbye to Klaus or Metternich.

We cant take both cars, Dana says.

We’ll take my Navigator.

And why is that?  She says, barely controlling the anger in her voice.

Because it has 4WD.

If we need 4WD then we’re probably in a situation that we cant handle anyway.

You’re probably right, honey, but it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.  Besides. we’re gonna have to leave both vehicles over here anyway.  We cant take em on a plane.

You expecting impassable roads from all this rain?  She says.

IDK what to expect, I say grimly.

The dankness is even worse than I thought.  The Navigator barely starts and I know it’s wet wiring from the humid air.

We’re on the highway a few miles out of town when we see the roadblock.  Fifteen minutes and the line of cars isn’t moving.  When they start arresting people I decide to act.

I start to make a U-turn and naturally some jerk wad is behind me in such a way I cant.  Dana’s face is white as a ghost.

Here’s what we need 4WD for, I say.

What RU going to do?

Watch, I say.

There’s a cornfield on my right that has not been harvested, the stalks brown and sopping in the rain.  The asshole behind me has left just enough room that I can drive thru and over the ditch beside the road and into the field, taking the fence down and dragging it with me twenty feet.

You’ll be arrested!  Dana screams and puts her hands over her ears and her face into her shoulder.

We’re far enough away from the roadblock that I don’t think they’ll notice and they don’t.  Once I get free of the section of fence I have to work thru all kinds of gears and get stuck in the mud three times but the stump-pulling reverse low gear always rescues us.  I make it thru and out of the corn onto a gravel road and to a highway without much traffic.

We are so worn out that we decide that visa or no, we’re going to stop at the cabin and rest before the crossing.  When we get ready to leave the cabin and go to the border the Navigator will not start.  I call a mechanic and he says he’ll try to get out here since the rain has let up.  As soon as I hang up it starts raining.  It rains.  And it rains.  And it rains.  In three hours most of the local roads are impassable from mud slides.  We are stuck and will be going nowhere for at least another day.  And by that time our visas will expire and I don’t know what will happen then.

The cabin we’ve been using is in a sort of park in the woods, a kind of gated community.  From looking at the neighbors’ cars they appear to be very rich, but most of them have names like Chandresakar and Rangaswami and Al Habib.   Rich Arabs and East Indians I guess.  Our particular cabin is owned by an old money Beacon Hill couple named Wells that Dana somehow knows.  And we have a car that will not start for shit.

Noise from down the hill in the direction of the highway.  It’s a military vehicle of some kind rocking as it climbs into second gear.  It stops at the gate with a clatter.  A big soldier gets out, wearing camouflage and helmet and goggles, patches of mud drying on his pants.  When he gets frustrated trying to get the gate open he just has the driver smash thru.

Since our cabin is nearest he stops and knocks at our door, naturally.  And, naturally, he asks for our papers.  He smokes and scrutinizes every page and finally says, Your visas expired at midnight.

Our car wont start, I say.  We were on our way to the border when it started giving trouble and we had to stop here at our friends’ cabin.

Who owns this cabin?

Herbert and Druscilla Wells.



He hands me back the documents and says, Immigration is not my problem but I would get across the border as soon as I could if I were you.  There’s going to be trouble here.  Big trouble.  How many people live in this park?

There are two dozen cabins and they’re all couples so…forty eight maybe?  I’m sorry but I don’t know if…

I’ll decide when you should apologize!  the soldier says sharply.  You really don’t know?

I look at his uniform and see that he is Sturmbahnfuehrer Mundt.  Sturmbahnfuehrer!  This is like a bad dream.  Or like we got in a time machine and went back to 1939.  Mundt’s washed out eyes mustve seen hundreds of people strip naked at the edge of a ditch, trying to prepare their living bodies to fall dead in the mud.

Like I said, Sturmbahnfuerher Mundt, we’re just guests here.

Don’t give me that shit, Mundt says.   You sure you’re not lying?

No sir.

What a disgusting backwater this is, Mundt says.  Two days hunting down these swine in the woods.  Let me in, he says, pushing his way past me.  They look and look until they get tired of intimidating us.  Dana is sitting with her arms folded on the sofa, utterly petrified, trying to look invisible.  They ignore her as they march to the front door.

You two can sleep easy, Mundt says on his way out.  Nothing will happen to you.  But if we find a bandit here or a weapon or anything like that…he leaves the threat unspoken.

Mundt goes knocking at the doors of the other cabins while I find an extension cord and a light and a hair dryer and go out to the car and open the hood and dry the wiring around the starter, hoping desperately to get out of here.  Mundt is at the door of someone named Chandrasekar  arguing about nationality.  Finally Chandrasekar is led out in shackles to the vehicle.  A rifle butt hits his jaw and he screams as he is dragged off.  Everyone ignores me.

More dark skinned people are dragged off.  Screams and rifle shots and OMG this really is ethnic cleansing.  And I wonder if they’ll kill me since I am a witness to all this.  Fast moving clouds fill the sky around the bone colored moon.  The air seems dryer and I turn the hair dryer off and put the key in the ignition and the car starts right up.

I run to the cabin and tell Dana to get ready and in three minutes she drags our stuff out and leaves the front door of the cabin open and the lights on.  She gets in beside me and says, Hurry!

We drive off without being challenged and make it to the crossing, a bridge over a little river with a sleepy, indifferent guard who gives us a dirty look for waking him up but he doesn’t even mention the visas.  He waves us thru and we drive into a free country.

And I don’t breathe easy till we land in Toronto.

Better Go

On the Hohenstaufen mountain near Göppingen in...

On the Hohenstaufen mountain near Göppingen in Southern Germany. A wooden bench invites for a rest after the ascent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A view of the Croton Dam, a dam and powerplant...

A view of the Croton Dam, a dam and powerplant complex, built 1907, on the Muskegon River in Croton Township, Newaygo County, Michigan. This image is from location C on the locator map at right, from the Croton Drive bridge across the Muskegon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Français : Éolienne et centrale thermique Nuon...

Français : Éolienne et centrale thermique Nuon à Sloterdijk (Amsterdam) La centrale a une capacité de 1229MW soit 614 fois la capacité de l’éolienne au premier plan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Haus Metternich in Koblenz (Germany)

Haus Metternich in Koblenz (Germany) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where you been all morning, sweetie?  She says coyly.

Up at the power station.  I waited out the storm in the station talking to a guy named Klaus Hohenstaufen.

Dana looks at me with alarm and says, You know Klaus Hohenstaufen?

Well, kinda.  This is only the second time I’ve been up there.

I guess you take walks up there a lot, she says carefully.  They could get us in big trouble.  It’s not just that they’re hiding weapons up there but that young one with the baseball cap…name’s Metternich…he’s nothing but a common thug.

Dana looks around the room fretfully and wrings her hands.

You’re not making much sense, Dana.

I know, she sobs.  I shouldn’t be always hiding facts from you, trying to protect you.

Honey, what do you know?

Don’t ask.  Havent you heard of the underground?  The army left weapons in the woods up there in September.  Metternich was in charge of them.  And he wouldn’t tell the police.  Said he was waiting for leftist troops.

This is all gibberish, I say.

Is not!  Everybody knows this, Erik!  Everybody but you.  Don’t go back there!  And please forget this whole conversation.

There is much to consider.  I go for a walk and avoid the hill where the power station is.  Things change fast, too fast.  When I return there is a nondescript government sedan in the driveway.  When I go inside to the living room Dana is sitting on the peach colored sofa with a man in a suit with a shaved head.

Erik, come here, Dana says.  This is Herr Schlossen from immigration.

I haven’t done anything, I say as I sit beside Dana.

She gives me a frightened look and I say, What is it, Herr Schlossen?

Dana says, Honey, it seems there a problem about our visas.  Do you know where ours are?

Dana’s eyes are those of a trapped animal but only I know her well enough to know that.

Dana, I say, You handle things like that.  Besides, we have permanent resident alien visas.  They are automatically renewed when they’re about to expire.

Erik, that is no longer our policy, Schlossen says primly.  The new policies require weekly registration of all American and Iranian Nationals.

Did you say weekly?  Since when?

Since yesterday.  You will have to present yourself and your papers at an Immigration Control Office within two days if you wish to remain in this country.

I say, Have our American neighbors down the road heard of this?

Schlossen shrugs.  What neighbors?  He says.

Well, there were the Dawsons and…

Honey, they moved three years ago but I never knew about it, Dana says.

Then what about the Honeywells?  The Tranes?

Mr. Trane is deceased, Schlossen replies with extreme unction.  Mrs. Trane moved back to America.  The Honeywells moved when they heard of the new policy.

To the US?  I say.

Schlossen shrugs.  I suppose, he says.

Schlossen’s shaved head glints like a wet wound.

So, I say.  If we want to stay more than two days we have to go to an Immigration office.  That’s no big deal.

Erik, we may have to sit all day from 8:00 to 4:15 to talk to a bureaucrat for five minutes, Dana says.  You have been very sick and you may not be up to it.  Perhaps…

You want us out, I say to Herr Schlossen.  Are we still free to leave?

You’re free to leave any time you wish, he says.


Das Wohnhaus des Bruder Klaus in Flüeli-Ranft,...

Das Wohnhaus des Bruder Klaus in Flüeli-Ranft, Gemeinde Sachseln, Schweiz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Steam turbine rotor produced by Sieme...

English: Steam turbine rotor produced by Siemens, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the gorge I am walking thru rises to the level of the surrounding meadow I find myself near the brick building I have been working toward all summer.  As I draw near I see two guys sitting on the grass in the shade.  I leave the path and cross the grass, gazing into the sullen distance so as to look like a peripatetic wanderer.  One of the two has some kind of soldier uniform on with all the insignia stripped off and the other is a stocky, younger man in a baseball cap turned sideways so he looks even more retarded than he otherwise would.

They don’t see me until I get much closer.  Then they look up and I am staring into two sets of eyes.  I stop and there is an uncomfortable silence.  The soldier sits with his arms on his knees and his muddy boots crossed.

Is this a power station?  I ask to break the silence.

I notice an old man inside the station at the window.  A constant hum issues from inside.  Soldier looks at the old man inside, then at me.

Soldier says menacingly, You better stay away from here.  Hey, you better run!


You better stay away.  There could be big trouble.

Baseball cap cuts him off.  He says, Where RU from, sir?

I live in the valley.  I’ve been walking up here all summer.

Ahhh, he says, Amerikaner?

Yes, i’m an American.  Lots of us live down there.

Lots used to, not so many now, since-well, it doesn’t matter.

I raise an eyebrow and say, I’m not allowed to walk here?

Sure you can walk here.  Why not?

I mean, I say in confusion, Isnt this a power station?

No, says the old man at the window.  Just a substation.

You supply power to the valley, then?

Aaaah, baseball cap shrugs.

Look, can I walk here or not?

Sure.  Why not?

Because he said…I turn to Soldier, who gives me a Deliverance smile with broken teeth.

So I said, he nods.

When I do not leave Baseball Cap says, How was he supposed to know who you were, sir?

Cap turns to Soldier and says, You made a mistake, guy.  Then to me: If I may say so sir, your face is pretty dark.  That’s why.

Oh, I say.  Suntan.

I can see it’s a tan now but it looked…well…

They thought I was Iranian or East Indian.  Hadjiphobia must be intense here.

To cover his embarrassment Soldier says, My name’s Klaus.  Klaus Hohenstaufen.  I work here but not so much lately cause I’ve been sick.

Hohenstaufen?  I say, laughing.  That sounds like a Reichsdeutscher!

Soldier emits a sickly laugh and I am sorry I laughed at his name but I couldn’t help it.  He even sounds like a fuckin kraut.  I all but called him a Nazi.

Amerikaner, he spits at me in simultaneous accusation and explanation but turns it into a good natured laugh.  Why not?  He says.  Everybody knows Americans are so ignorant they cant help themselves.  And I am very glad I am not dark complected.

After we both laugh at ourselves and each other I say, Is it okay if I walk here, then?

Sure, sure, he says dismissively.  Come back anytime.

Well I wont trouble you any further, I say briskly.  Good day, sir.

And I turn quickly away and walk back down the hill.  When I crest the next rolling hill I look back and see them talking as if i’d never been there.

Up the Hill

june garden lookback

june garden lookback (Photo credit: knitting iris)

A high-power electrical transmission tower.

A high-power electrical transmission tower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Green Hill Beautifully rolling hills ...

English: Green Hill Beautifully rolling hills abound here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s another reason I did it, Dana says.

Forced yourself on me?  You just took what you wanted and didn’t even ask me.  Just got on top of me and fucked me and had your way.  How would you feel if I treated you like that?

Erik, you sound like I raped a virgin.  Listen ,you’ve just gotta get well.  You cant if we’re fighting over something like that.

What’s the rush?  I say.  It was aggressive chemo and radio and it’ll take awhile.  A year or five, what’s the difference?

Just get over it fast as you can.  Have you seen the news lately?

No, I groan.  I try not to.

Don’t you turn on the TV?

I get my news online, I say.  But I’ve avoided it since before I got sick.  Why?

Nothing.  It’s prob’ly better if you don’t.  Just more bullshit to upset you.

You sure there’s nothing going on that I should know about?

Don’t be paranoid, honey.

I have to get some walking done before I get too weak.  I try to run on the treadmill but i’m out of breath after a tenth of a mile.  So early on this June morning I dress quietly and go out the back door.  Pale, milky light guides me by the shadowy side of the house in shade of beech and maple.  Stepping out of the grudging shadow into full daylight.  Past vines and ivy, dappled leaves weaving brushstrokes on the canvas of pallid sky as they sway with the  summerwind.

When I reach the sidewalk I have to stop and catch my breath.  Just walking around the side of the house has done this to me.  I walk a quarter of a mile and back to the house and I am inundated by fatigue and sweat.  I take off the cotton t shirt and wring the sweat out.  It seems like I sweated a gallon.  Back inside past Dana watching an old movie to the shower and a skin pop and a long nap.

I walk a little further every day.  June edging toward a heat wave.  Green and fawn woods shade the view of the hills.  Birch trees, sultry evenings, beer colored dawns.  It’s full daylight at five and the birds start and will not shut up.  This part of Europe boasts steep, rolling hills.  Power lines near the house run up a steep, mile long hill supported by unaesthetic towers to a brick house that I wonder about.  I set a goal to walk it by the end of the summer even though I can barely do a mile on the flats.

So I go for long walks in the fields by the woods.  The towers and wires hum like a tuning fork.  When I tire I rest under a tree or sit on a bed of pine straw.  One dank morning I find a place where trees grow in stark solitude on an otherwise barren patch of ground.  Three trees bunched together leaning leeward from a wind that has long since passed.  An oak tree that seems to be standing on tiptoe because the spring rains have washed the soil out from beneath its roots.  A hundred yards up the hill I struggle to where the woods end.

Beehives line the mowed lane running up the hillside along the power lines.   There’s a peculiar echo here.  I yell a couple of times and it bounces off the hill a couple of times and returns in the stagnant air.  The buzzing increases as I walk on up and I realize it’s just the humming of the power lines.

By this time i’m running three miles on the treadmill and doing some very careful weight training.   Dana gives me worried looks but IDK what it means.  She seems scared and recalcitrant.  In the middle of the night I wake from a nightmare of being buried alive and walk past her to the kitchen for a glass of water.  She’s watching old movies and crying.  I know something has to be wrong but the more I quiz her the more anxious and evasive she gets.

It’s well into the summer and I’ve worked myself up to walking almost to the top of the hill where the brick house is.  Middle of one afternoon I come in from stifling heat and she is in the spare room watching TV.  She wears beat up jeans and a faded pink tank top that droops in front.  Her bare feet are up on an ottoman and she is twiddling her toes.  She’s just painted her toenails; I can smell acetone.  Before I got sick I used to paint them for her.  It was a nice and intimate ritual and I feel my horniness emerge from behind a veil of sickness.  But chemo played hell with my sex drive and I’ve been afraid to try.  Since the morning after I came home from the hospital when she forced herself on me we have done nothing at all.

Whatcha watchin?  I say.

I’m watching this.

Want something?  I want something.

Bottled water would be nice.

When I get the bottle of water from the kitchen I can hear movie dialog all the way back there.

Thank you, she says, taking the bottle from me.  Something?

We’ll both watch this, I say.

You don’t know what’s going on.  I’ve been watching it for over an hour.

I’ll catch up.

I don’t want to have to explain!

You don’t have to say a word.

The movie’s not worth explaining.

I’ll catch up by watching.

But you’re interfering.

I’ll be quiet and watch?

You’re interfering by watching, she says.

Her last remark pleases her with its trenchant insight and she stretches, smiling in a kind of coiled yawn.  I’d like to wipe that smile off her.  I guess she wants to be alone with a bad movie.  It’s all she does all day.

You work too hard, I say.

Shut up.  I like my work.

Now that you’re retired you work too hard.

I’m watching this, she says.

I’m enjoying her soprano go up the register as she gets more irritated.

I give up and take a shower and grind up an Oxy and snort it.  They’re getting harder to get but without em life wouldn’t be worth it.  Besides, I am so sore and tight from exercise that without them I wouldn’t be able to move.  My stomach will no longer tolerate Alleve or even a baby aspirin.  The living room is shadowed and empty, the new peach colored sofa yawning at me politely.  I get bored quickly and go stand in the doorway again.

She is watching that movie, body and soul, and working hard to tune me out.  Finally I give up and go to the bedroom.  It’s cool and shady in the late afternoon and would be delightful if it didn’t seem claustrophobic.  She comes in for our conjoint afternoon nap 15 minutes later.  I wait for her to undress but she doesn’t.

What’s going on with you, Dana?

Nothing, nothing.

You cry at a dumbass movie on TV that you poked fun at when you saw it six months ago.  You feel some kind of urgency for me to get well fast but wont tell me why.  What RU hiding from me?

She looks at me carefully and says, It’s your imagination.  All that chemo they gave you has come out of you and you even smell like yourself again.  But you’re still not right.  I have to worry about you on these long ass walks but I know you have to take them to get better.  We may have to-

She shakes her head as if she’s said too much.

You’re not seeing some chickie on the side, RU?  I say.

She leaves the room and I curse her and drop off asleep.



Dana and Corinne

1999-2000 Cadillac Escalade photographed in Cl...

1999-2000 Cadillac Escalade photographed in Clinton, Maryland, USA. Category:GMT435 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Français : Vue de la vallée de Dana

Français : Vue de la vallée de Dana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All Kinds of Everything

All Kinds of Everything (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I see Dana’s face I know it’s alright.  I embrace her and she says, It’s just a cyst.  He did a biopsy and sent it off but he’s sure that’s all it is.

I take her coat off and hang it up.  It’s a long and glossy fake fur of some kind and looks segmented and exoskeletal, like it would be great for the ocean floor.  It’s not that cold but Dana, like every woman I’ve ever known, is always cold, even in the summer.  And she insists on always being a fashion plate.

Did he take it off?  I say.

No.  He wants a surgeon to do it.

Did he call Levinson?

Yes, mother.  He’ll take it off in his office under a local.

When I hear a car door slam I look outside and see Corinne walking to the door.

Dana, I say, WTF is she doing here?  You wouldn’t let me go with you but you let her?

I told you, Erik.  If it was bad I was afraid you’d have a fit and I wanted Corinne there to drive me home.  Don’t get your feelings hurt.

Does she have to be here right now?

You want us to have some privacy?

Yes.  Is that too much to ask?

Dana says, Let me talk to her.

For the last five of the fifteen years we’ve been married Dana has decided to be a promiscuous lesbian whether I liked it or not, which I didn’t.  Finally she decided she was getting a little old to be out chasing girls all night and when she found one she liked she just moved her into the spare bedroom and went in and fucked her whenever she liked.  They all simply worship the ground Dana walks on.  Corinne is Dana’s latest conquest.

Corinne is approaching the front door now, pushing her hair out of her eyes.  Unlike when Dana first moved her in, every small gesture has become highly sexualized., but she’s only imitating Dana, her hero.  Dana’s never been able to walk across a room without being heavily seductive.  She meets Corinne just out of earshot and they converse briefly and Corinne nods her head and walks back to Dana’s Escalade and drives off.

I didn’t want  you to say anything to her, Dana says to me as she closes the front door.  She likes you and I didn’t want her to think you’re an asshole.

Is she angry then?

No, no, she’s fine.  I know how to talk to her.  She is my lover after all, Dana adds, needling me.

Is she your only one, now?


What’s wrong with Corinne’s mouth?  I say.

I made her get her lips botoxed so she’d have a prettier mouth.  You don’t like her mouth?

I love her mouth.  I just wondered.

Want me to get her to blow you, Erik?  I know she’d love to.  Make you come your brains out.

Get in there, I say, pointing to the bedroom.

Is there something?  She says, fluttering at me.

Take off your clothes.  But keep those heels on.

The house is dark but the venetian blinds are open and the galled light from a rimshard of moon dapples the bed.  I cant believe my wife is thirty five.  She doesn’t look over twenty five and by a stretch of wishful thinking I can see her as she was at twenty when we shared an off campus apartment.  In a way it’s too bad.  She doesn’t have to face the fact that we will soon be pushing forty, and that’s old.  And that she cannot keep doing the same shit to me she’s done since she was thirty.

I hear a rustle at the side of the bed and she says, Close your eyes.


The lamp comes on and hurts my eyes.  I blink and see her walking to the bathroom with white streaming down her thighs.  She smiles and says, I told you to close em.

I bury my face in the pillow to get away from the light.  I hear flushing noises and the bathroom door opens and she comes over and turns off the bedside lamp and gets back in bed.

She buries her face in my shoulder and says, Life is good, Erik.

What brought that on?  I say sullenly.

I just felt like saying it.

Feel better now that you did?

I have bad dreams, she mutters.  Then she looks at me and says earnestly, I think i’d want to die first.  I cant…

Dana, please tell me you’ve realized you wont live forever and neither will I.  That we’re getting old.

We aren’t near old.  I don’t mean that.  I nearly had an accident on the way to the doctor.  If I hadn’t looked up…anyway nothing happened but…

What, Dana?

I guess I feel like the only reason I wasn’t killed was that you need me to take care of you.  If anything happened…

You think you will be magically safe from harm as long as i’m here for you to look after.  Magical thinking.

Don’t be mean, honey.   I take being your wife very seriously.

Enraged, I say, You coulda fooled me.  You’ve been fucking every woman you see for the last five years and I’ve been letting you do it cause I cant control you.

You have a point dear.  That’s why I stopped chasing and just brought them home, like I did Corinne.

Corinne has to go, I say.

What?  Oh, Erik.  We’ve had this fight before and I always win.

She has to go.

Because you’re jealous?

Because you could’ve had terminal cancer and I will not share your last days with any little bitch you drag in.  We are old!  Not much time left for either of us.

We’re both perfectly healthy.  We look ten years younger than we are.

She has to go, Dana.

Forty is the new twenty five!

Thirty five is thirty five.  Get over it.

You really mean it, don’t you?

Yes.  Tomorrow.

Finally she says, Well if you like me so much you want to be with me all the time then let’s not stay at home so much.  There’s a concert at the IU auditorium tomorrow night.

You wanna go, huh?  I say, miserably.

I told you about it two weeks ago.

I don’t remember.

Of course not.  You tune me out.

I sure do.  If we go will you behave?  Promise not to stay all night with some bitch and make me drive to Bloomington the next day to get you?

I promise.  Do I have to throw Corinne out?

Yes.  Tomorrow.  You moved her in, you get rid of her.

Alright, she says in petulance.


Don’t yell!

I fall into a sullen sleep, wondering if the Faustian bargain I made with her will bite me on the ass.