Monday, May 26, 2008

Ypres 1918

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Past.

Sometimes living here in The Hamlet is really hard.

Having spent most of my childhood here, my early adulthood, and now that I'm back here as a full-fledged grown-up, it's difficult to dig a hole in the ground, throw memories which I need to forget into a hole, and shovel the dirt back over, bit by bit.

I think of things I shouldn't.

I think of Timmy, who went to college at the Air Force Academy, and who fell in love with me his senior year. Mom says I "underestimated" him, which is true. He was lovely, I know now.

Now he's long, long gone, living in Virginia and married for the last 25 years.

Tonight I opened my cedar chest and found his "cover"-- his hat-- worn on his graduation day from the Academy. "He needs this," I thought, "So his kids will have it one day." Inside was a tag indicating his hat size (ridiculously large) and written inside, in his hand, "Tim G.- (serial number, class)".

On that day in June, 27 years ago, Academy Superintendent General Tallman announced, "Gentlemen, you are dismissed." Timmy, along with his 1000+ classmates, threw their parade hats in the air and hugged each other, cheering and yelling, celebrating their completion of four years of intensive study and incredible pressure.

I was sitting at the top of the stadium with Timmy's parents. I broke away from them and ran down onto the football field, intent on grabbing Timmy's cover. Miraculously, I found it. I ran to Timmy, kissed and hugged him as his parents joined us.

There, someone snapped a picture with my camera. In the picture, Timmy's smiling and his proud parents flank us. We are all grinning. His cover perches rakishly on his thick red-blonde hair, his smile wide, white; his parade gloves removed and crumpled in his hand. I clutch his arm, smiling madly, wearing blue and white for the occasion. In the background, people look upwards with their mouths open, gaping at the Thunderbirds as they fly in formation over the stadium.

Tonight, I stared at Timmy's cover in the cedar chest. The smell of old perfume lifts up to my nostrils. I take the cover out, still in its delivery box. Inside, the cover is wrapped in a plastic bag of a clothing store long out of business.

"This is going to Virginia," I decide.

I go to my box of pictures and find the photo of Timmy, me and his parents that day. I find a card and write, "Darling Timmy, I thought it was time you had your cover back. Yours, T-Bone", put the picture in the envelope with the card, place it carefully on top of Timmy's cover.

I'll mail it tomorrow. He should have it in a week.

He would never call and ask, but IF HE DID, how could I possibly explain the last quarter century? How could I explain that despite all the things we wanted together, I never had children, never married? How could he understand how time just flew by, and suddenly, I was here alone, thinking of the past-- seeing an old hat and suddenly an old movie unwound my head? How could I explain to him-- who probably doesn't even remember that day-- how strongly this memory glows in my mind? How could I explain, and how can I explain to myself, how amazing to me it is that he's lived ten lifetimes since then and I'm still here-- two miles from the house I grew up in, the house he knew then-- so, so long ago?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Deal Breakers

For me to date a man, he must meet certain standards. I want to have a package rather than a project.

As a young lady, my list of standards was terribly unrealistic and ridiculously long. Nowadays my list is shorter; some would argue that it is still unrealistic.

Frankly, I don't care if the list is perceived as unrealistic. I don't ask for a lot from the guys I date. The guy's alternative qualities can often replace those on the list.

For example, I'd prefer that the guy I date is tall-- only because I am tall. Sometimes, though, if I meet a guy who is eye-to-eye or shorter and he's also intelligent or funny or wise or smells good, I'll toss out the "tall" requirement. Same thing for "well-educated". I'd certainly like it if the guy has an advanced degree, but if he's a high-school dropout and happens to also have a lust for books like I do, is curious about the world around him and isn't a mouth-breathing eedjit, I'll cross "well-educated" off the list. It's a weighing of qualities, you see.

There are things, though, that are deal-breakers. This is a short list, but it is carved in stone.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I have a "thing" for feet. It's not a fetish; it's a "thing".

By their very nature, feet are gross. Feet have a way of going wild without one noticing. If one doesn't wash one's feet properly they're gonna stink like corn chips or-- at the very worst-- nasty cheese. Toenails start getting funky as one ages and one must fight that. Thick toenails? Run a file over the top of them. Stained? Lots of products to take care of that problem. Fungus-y nails? Drugs, man! Dirty toenails? Grab a small, sharp implement and clean under the nail. Just take care of your feet, for God's sake.

Pretty simple.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who think no one notices their feet. They let dirt build up under the toenails and around the cuticles. They have patches of thick, yellow flakes on their heels. Most sickening of all-- they don't clip their toenails. They let their toenails grow unimpeded. Lupine. Curved. Ridged. Yellowish-orange with age.

Pardon me. I'm running to the ladies' to have a puke. Be right back.

So anyway, I was at The Hovel with a new friend. He asked if he could take off his shoes. "Of course," I said, pleased he'd feel so comfortable in my house to ask such a thing. He took off his shoes and socks and sat down next to me, his legs stretched out in front of us.

Reader, I nearly shit my pants.

"Uh, your toenails are really long," I mumbled.

"Yeah, they are. I guess they need to be clipped, huh?" he answered.

"Do your feet hurt when you have your shoes on?" I asked, honestly curious. I couldn't imagine stuffing those Raptor-like claws inside an unforgiving shoe.

"Nooo... they really don't," he said innocently, completely missing my facial expression, which I'm pretty darned sure registered complete repulsion.

Deal breaker.

For days following this episode, I ruminated about this guy. I thought and thought and thought about him. I listed his good qualities. I listed his bad qualities. The recall of his disgusting toenails always tipped the scale over to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! I could not work through the toenails.

This disturbed me. Am I really this shallow? Am I such a horrible person that I won't date someone because his toenails make me want to barf?

So I talked to Rebecca.

"I have a question for you, Becca."

"Okay. What is it?" I told her about the toenails. I told her all the other aspects of this guy too-- good, bad, indifferent. I said, "Why am I voting this guy off my island? Is it really his toenails? What on earth is wrong with me?"

She rolled her eyes upward and put her finger on her chin. After a moment, she said, "Tell me about his grooming otherwise."

"Well, he's fine. He shaves, he flosses, he combs his hair-- he cares about how he looks," I said.

"What are his fingernails like?" she said.

Hm! I thought. "This is really weird, but I actually noticed his fingernails. And that's not something I usually notice, either. But his fingernails are so nice, I couldn't help but notice them. He files them, and they're actually buffed," I said, more confused than ever.

Becca said, "Innnnnnteressssssting. And everyone can see his fingernails, right?"

"You're right. Oh my God! And no one can see his toenails," I breathed, all Watson-y to her Holmes.

Other things about this guy ran through my mind-- primarily several shady items he explained away, with which I was having difficulty. He only takes good care of the stuff people can see, I thought to myself. The stuff that he thinks no one can see are the things he lets go, even though these things should be taken care of too.

"Becca, thanks. I really needed that."

"No problem. So you gonna see him again?"

"I don't think so. The foot thing is a deal-breaker for me."

"Yeah," said Becca, "We all have our little yardsticks, don't we?"