Bar At Milk River
She is breathless and warm, lightly
moving across the floor. She casts
electric shadows like a flailing
an embracing current coursing
energy into the dwindling night.
“You look like a world, lying in surrender.”
For her, I would forever quote Neruda. But I would do it in absurd ways, so I could enjoy her wonderful laugh. I would watch football and movies with her. Barbecue shrimp and conjure homemade mojo sauce. She comes from tradition, but is non-traditional, which means I would do all the work associated with her gender. She would think that I put her on a pedestal, but, in reality, I would only be telling her who she is. She is stunning, but doesn’t understand what makes her so beautiful. I would live to show her this. At night, I would roughly take her in my arms and whisper in her ear:
“I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
If there is a God, she wouldn’t believe in it. But he is a believer. He has always believed. In something. It’s his nature to do so. He once believed in her. But now, it’s like he views her from another time. No. Not another time. Another lifetime. No. It is more than that. It’s like he sees her from another realm, another world. If you remember, the “revelation” of Agent Smith from The Matrix , he says that humans do not develop a natural equilibrium with their environment, that they have to suck up all resources and once they’ve used up everything that is good, they move on to destroy something else. He sees that destroyed world as her world. There is nothing good there. That is the one thing that he believes the most in now.
These were his days of being wild. He was walking on the University of Houston campus, Julianna was reclined in the grass, under the shade of a tree, drinking coffee and reading a short story collection by Donald Barthelme. He was visiting the campus to catch the author’s lecture and interview him, something he never finished because of Barthelme’s declining health and certain events that followed. He just had to approach her, but for a second, there was a tincture of doubt. He can be shy, but she was too alluring. They talked for an hour. He told her his favorite Barthelme story was The Captured Woman. She laughed and said that was her favorite too. He recalls that she was wearing a red dress. It was beautiful. Months later when she unshackled him from the cage in her back room and allowed him to go free, she was wearing that same dress. He stayed another six months of his own volition, genuflecting to her every whim. They have been friends ever since.
“Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.” – Elie Wiesel
There is an evil. she became attached to this evil. For her, it was not evil at first. It was good. The problem with evil, she now knows, is, in subterfuge, it can be positive and enriching, this is how and why she came to know and care for it. It was only when she grew accustomed to this evil that it finally revealed itself. Once this happened, she tried to understand it. Why was it evil? she reached out time and again for answers, but the evil was indifferent. And through indifference this evil became a dark cloud over her. It followed her everywhere. she couldn’t escape it. Yet it never gave her any answers. The more it was indifferent, the harder she tried. The harder she tried, the more indifferent it became. Eventually she came to accept that this was how it would always be. That she would remain attached to an evil, a vassal to its cruel indifference. The experience made her question herself. “What is wrong with me?” “What did i do?” But what she didn’t understand, until much too late, was that you don’t make evil what it is. Evil is evil. With or without you, that is how it always was and always will be.
There is this woman I care for, she runs in the park alone at night.
“I live in the ghetto.”
She is buoyant, softly laughing, as she says it.
For me, it brings out my protective nature. I want to do something. To warn her of the dangers. To tell her everything I’ve learned from reading Ann Rule. But she’s headstrong and knows this already. No matter what I say or do, she’d do it anyway. So why did she tell me then?
I find people just tell me things. Girl problems. Boy problems. Fears. Dreams. I know everybody’s strengths and vulnerabilities. In my head, I always think: “Protect, protect, protect..” You see, I know secrets. They were given to me in trust. And one thing I have learned is that to each person, no matter how big or small, unusual or standard their secret is, to them it is important. Often I don’t even want to know these confidences, but I feel obligated when people reach out to me. That they feel compelled to divulge them to somebody. And if not me, who? Maybe there is no one else? So I listen.
I’ve had women confess eating disorders to me. Heard stories of spousal abuse. Affairs. Criminal activity. Once, I was told by someone from my hometown that her father molested her and her younger brother. One of my relatives told me that while hooked on prescription painkillers he would befriend the terminally ill, sitting with them as they lay dying in their hospital beds. They shared their pain medication with him; in return, he was their last remaining friend. I am starting to give away too much. “Protect, protect, protect.”
Then there are times when confessions are not what they seem.
Years ago, I had a female acquaintance send me a message, asking me to help with a problem. I sensed urgency. Boyfriend breakup? Family trouble? Stress from work? Depression? It could have been anything. I wasn’t in the mood to listen. I was dealing with troubles of my own. But, again, I felt that obligation. She needed somebody. So I sent a message back telling her I’d be glad to help. Her response: “To be honest, I am talking about sex….”
Protect, protect, protect…
Bill Wetzel is Amskapi Pikuni aka Blackfeet from Montana. He is a former bull rider and combat sports athlete who has lost his mind and embarked on a much more hazardous career in the creative arts. He is a board member of the Tucson Poetry Festival and the curator for the Stjukshon Indigenous reading series at Casa Libre en la Solana in Tucson, AZ. His primary genre as a writer is micro creative nonfiction. Which in layman’s terms is known as…. twitter. Follow him at: http://twitter.com/
-photo of Bill Wetzel taken by Sherwin Bitsui
–Foreground art by Brent Bluehouse
–Background art by Ashley Tsosie-Mahieu