“I think romance is actually a problem for intimacy. Because it comes with so many projections that it’s not very liberating to be the object of those projections, because it puts you in a place which is not free. In both directions. Women project onto men . . . and vice versa. I don’t think you’re really seeing the other person, able to see the person, because you’re much more fascinated by your own projections. Either way you don’t get seen. And intimacy is probably about being seen.” -Jane Campion, Interview, CBC Radio, "Writers & Company" with Eleanor Wachtel
I wake in the night and pad downstairs for a pill. Coming back up the street through the front window glistening under lamp light. Only a sheen. Magic. Women are seen as magic Jane Campion says in the interview. Men are “brought to their knees by the feminine.” But I’m too awkward. More like Anne Lamott who talks about being ghosted after “three perfect dates.” Who says she is too “big and juicy.” Lord, yes. I said I am a loose cannon. And he said, ever tactful, I think you are enthusiastic. I asked the Tarot directly about him, because it’s come to that. I got the Five of Wands in which everyone’s trying to knock each other down with their leaf-sprouting sticks. Men—but they could as well be women. I tried three different source books to get an interpretation I liked, but here is what they all said: “You got competition, girl.” God’s Narrows in Manitoba. Winnipeg, where he grew up. I don’t even take Minnesota seriously because the people wear flip flops in winter. My whole dream life occurs under three quilts— even in summer— in the tropics. Ugh. The cold. The nightside. Northern Ontario, where my dreamy lover resides. Sarah, my strength trainer, who has listened to the blow-by-blow, the crushers and the crushees, the ghosting, the dangerous threats from the one I had formerly cherished—for the two years and counting since my husband left— he said he didn’t care how many times I’d dislocated my hip he wasn’t going to pay for Sarah—which I of course ignored—said, Yeah you got competition. It’s the woman the Canadian loved who died. Though I admire liars in the way they grab the power in a given situation and just commandeer it, I’ve never developed the skill. So much to keep track of. I told him the truth about what happened in my marriage. He said, Are you ready to start a new life? Has he become another person? And I said Yes, fantasizing of course that this was a direct invitation—visualizing my former husband standing on my (formerly, our) deck the week before, when Eleanor was here and Dan from New England was visiting. For the first and only time to date we’ve shared a “social space.” I observed the giant gold watch that I was positive his girlfriend had given him—I’d read that watches were a love gift—didn’t Jennifer Aniston give John Mayer a Rolex—or was it vice versa? The watch gift means something along the lines of, “Yours is big.” Or “Mine is big.” But basically he looked small to me. Women are exotic, says Campion. And men are trying to bash down the barricades. But can I do it? Can I sustain it? Even for a minute? I like the nightside. In which I project onto my love as if he’s a drive-in movie screen. He speaks well (okay, I haven’t heard his voice; I’m guessing). He writes well. He speaks French. He loved a woman. He didn’t just play at it. He has those smoldering eyes. He’s sick and lies in bed a lot. He’s beautiful, like an odalisque. The Wabash River flows. Sludgy river where my former husband puts in his canoe to paddle with his lover. I wanted to jump in it when my husband and I moved here. My marriage was that good. My “self-esteem.” I knew someone who did jump in but was fished out, he told our AA meeting—but then later he was picked up for strangling his girlfriend. Rivers are like that. The nightside. My husband—okay, damn it, my ex-husband-- lives in a luxury apartment just across the Wabash. Train whistle, clacking on the tracks, two car bridges and one bricked pedestrian connecting the eastside to west mark his days. My girls have been there. The garish yellow and red painting of a foregrounded palazzo outside of Valetta—all curves—that my uncle gave us as a wedding gift lives there. Apparently, a weird glittery shawl is draped between it and a wall sconce— a kind of “new life” canopy over the bed. My girls will never live on the nightside again. Free-wheeling dreams and magic carpets. Or at least the younger one won’t. Lucy, here in dopamine-nation, consumer-addled U.S., the younger, labored at holding the damn marriage together. Now, left holding blank air. I’m going to keep with the Manitoba, the dark apartment where my love’s eyes glow like coals from the OKCupid photograph. His other photos. But really the one. I showed my therapist the picture. I made a crack about my lack of purchase/valence on the men I find myself wanting. She took one look and rolled her eyes. It was like she said “You’re toast. You’re getting knocked down by those wands one way or the other.” Muddy, churning river where he puts in his new blue canoe to paddle with his love. We were given a lot of date instructions by our marriage counselor. He did a good job with those I learned when the bank accidentally posted his statement with mine. Restaurants, outings, air bnbs . . . flowers! You’re toast. You’re getting knocked down by those wands one way or the other. My cyber man’s OK Cupid green light is always on. I’m flying like the Little Lame Prince at night on a cloud. No, wait, he sailed around on a magic cloak. I’m the one who wants, studying provinces and maps, trying to discern Covid border regulations. My would-be writes to me of propinquity. How we don’t have it. Stateside, I dream under three fluffy quilts, my tropical paradise. Not a mile away, the man I lived with for thirty-four years lowers his canoe into the milky water.
DANA ROESER‘s fourth book, All Transparent Things Need Thundershirts, won the Wilder Prize at Two Sylvias Press and was published in September 2019. Her previous books won the Juniper Prize and the Samuel French Morse Prize (twice). She was a recipient of the GLCA New Writers Award, an NEA Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and several other awards and residencies. Recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Poem-a-Day, North American Review, Pleiades, Guesthouse, Barrow Street, and others. For more information, please see www.danaroeser.com.
Artwork by Austin Veldman.
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