Friday, June 15, 2012


The deep glassy black middle of Lake Ozonia is one of my favorite places to swim.  So dark and cool, I feel such peace when I slip into it off the back of a boat.  Peace, that is, until ridiculous scenarios pop into my head that both terrify and make me laugh while treading water.  Giddy fear. The malfunction is this: as a kid, I watched a lot of movies I probably should not have.  Creature From The Black Lagoon in 3D stained my brain with the indelible image of an amphibious man-thing swiping at a woman's feet as she swam, never quite touching them.  She was completely unaware.  That is a brilliant seed of terror to plant, even for hokey vintage sci-fi.  

So, in any body of water, my imagination cannot run too wild as long as I can see my feet.  Be it a harmless fish, snapping turtle, or shark, if I am going to be grazed, eaten or maimed by something, I want to see it coming, dammit.  It is crappy logic, I know, but it is the shock and subsequent heart attack that would kill me first anyway, so at least give me a chance to process the situation for a few milliseconds and possibly alter the outcome slightly.  Maybe end up with a peg-leg instead of being sucked under the waves in one bite, mid-conversation.  

If any of this is a metaphor in my life, I guess it is this:  tell me what I am dealing with, and I can handle it.  Deception is unnecessary.  Just let me trust something again.  

Standing on the edge of the Kokosing River in Ohio last week for the first time in almost nine years, I was reminded why I used to spend so much time in it.  It is almost as clear as an Adirondack stream, not terribly deep, and to the best of my knowledge, non-combustible (in case you have heard the stories).  I can see down to my feet in it.  

Driving by that spot last May for the first time since we moved away, I had a very unexpected physical reaction.  It felt like a mix of intense déja-vu but more like time travel….not in the H.G. Wells sense.  Rather, the kind of thing that happens when circumstances align and take a crowbar to the sealed crypt of memories we unknowingly or deliberately keep in our heads.   

Two days prior to that weird spell, there was a very lucid dream, too.  It placed me in the location of an intensely stressful situation from almost two decades ago, where I could explore precise details of rooms I had not been in since.  Maybe it was because of everything I was shouldering at the time that I had run out of room in my head.  Or maybe, it was my weariness that left me vulnerable to rogue memories that had been jiggling doorhandles for years, trying to find their way out to fresh air and acknowledgment.  The mind, it seems, is not unlike that glassy black lake.  Taking swipes while you swim in contentment.

This time at the river, I parked the car.  Standing there taking it all in, I waited for the vertigo to pass until my head caught up with my body in the present.  It was a place I had packaged away in a big Rubbermaid tub, along with pictures and a shoebox full of broken china and glass.  My daughter, her brother, father and I would hang out there on weekends, starting when she was three or four.  Fly-fishing, swimming, and fossil hunting would occupy us and I would wade in with sneakers on to cool off, walking slowly on algae-covered rocks so as not to disturb the silt.  Somewhere along the line, while my stepson would pull his sister on a tube or they would crack rocks open with their Dad and find fossils, I started spotting pieces of old china and globs of bottle glass among the slimy riverbed.  The sea-green glass chunks were likely from the defunct bottling factory up the river, but the origin of the other bits I still do not know.  

So, summer afternoons in the river became a slow, meditative labyrinth walk downstream, under a bridge and back, reaching for the rare aberration that would sometimes end up being a long-submerged shard of china.  Score.  I suppose you could look at it like some kind of hillbilly treasure hunting but at the time I found it incredibly peaceful.  Hot summer days goofing off with the kids and their dad, my long-time boyfriend.  Over the hump of some past problems and a separation, it felt like we had finally reached contentment……..I thought.  

Looking back (of course!) there were other pieces I should have been picking up.  But that's the thing about trust in relationships.  You either give it fully or not at all.  And when the deception is so complex, intuition fails.  Reasonable questions receive reasonable (fictional) answers and life carries on, merrily, merrily…  

When that last summer ended, we all moved back to New York, and I soon discovered that our partnership was a Lifetime Network movie.  Yup.  Embarrassingly enough, it was a Melissa Gilbert - Valerie Bertinelli doozy, complete with the double-blind, double-life plot line played out over several years.  There was so much duplicity, I started jokingly wondering paranoid things like…"are there life insurance policies or cement shoes out there with my name on them?"  

These are the nutty but not completely unjustified thoughts that come to mind when you suddenly find that you were either a) hated so intensely, or b) loved so erroneously that you were not allowed the simple truth .  I could elaborate, but I have made a strict point of keeping our relationship's demise from blurring into our daughter's bond with her Dad.  They were once beautifully close and are working to get back there.  I would be a she-devil to get in the way of that, and if I am a fool for protecting it, well…add it to the list of mommy guilt.  

Resisting the urge to get in the Kokosing last week, I started walking along the edge once again looking down at the rocks in the water, trying to reconcile some things.  Mostly, can I still let myself cherish our little family's past-life and those summers there, knowing what I know now?  And to be clear, what I know now includes my acknowledgement that despite the fact I loved her father and we got along 99% of the time (as we do now), the absence of that ocean-deep magic love on both our parts is nothing you can ignore or hope away.  You can be comfortable and deeply familiar, but not in love.  That was my unintentional lie to both of us.  My mistake.

Just after I stepped over that shining silver turd of truth, I found a piece of china, pearl white with a crackled glaze.  A few minutes later in a deposit along the shore, a fossil.  All because of a quiet, mini panic attack in the car last year that pulled me back Friday to a really happy place I had tried to forget.  Wow. 

I think if you could buy a ticket for a ride through your own brain, it would put the herky-jerky acid trip of Disney's Space Mountain to shame… The mind is a magnificent, unexplored planet of secrets, tricks, and black and white facts, all of which can lay dormant for sometimes decades in biochemical mine shafts.  Existing, but forgotten.  

Of what we do recall, what can we rightfully take with us through the rest of our lives?  If it is a done deal, good or bad, send it to the dump!  Right?  I am not so sure anymore.  Maybe that policy is more of a betrayal than any crime in the relationship ever was.  Take whatever you want.  Finder's keepers.

As for trust, I still can't do it.  I will be keeping an eye on my feet until I find my way back to ocean-deep magic love and giddy fear.  From time to time, I spot it on the horizon.  And if on a whim I dive in, hopefully there are no more silver turds or cement shoes waiting for me.   

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