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Nothing good ever comes from envelopes with windows.  The table once had a surface but the windows were clean once, too.  Things change quickly in the fall.  It’s hard to believe we had a spring this year but it had to be so.  Calendars, especially those on refrigerators, do not lie.  That’s for people.

Six months ago we celebrated three years on the mountain, three years of 4,000 feet above sea-level, though the nearest saltwater is a two-day drive away.  Still, nice to think about the ocean as you are high above the desert.  We called the house “The Guest House” though we rarely had visitors.  It was from Rumi:

“This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.”

Additionally, indubitably, we knew we, too, were temporary, temporary in the grand scale of existence, and, more to the point, fleeting for each other.  In retrospect, three years was longer than either of us would have guessed.  Had there been an over-under, we would have lost.  Instead, we won, somehow making it work from one spring to the next, and the next, and the next.  The house had something to do with it, giving us both space and intimacy as needed, along with the daily cloud pirouettes to the north and east, and the whispers of sunsets in the west.

I performed distance bookkeeping for three clients.  Not many hours, and not much money, but I didn’t need much.  That income paid the few bills we had.  Albert’s early-retirement got us the house.  Two men, astride a hill that had snagged itself a mountain name:  Mt. Coronado.  Looking back, it was about the same time as that movie but we were not cowboys, never had been, never would be.

Albert painted, not for money, though he could have marketed them.  I suggested it more than once, but more than twice I did not dare.  He said he’d loved all things paint since he was five, the smell, the texture, the mess, the light, and he refused to let the taint of commerce get anywhere near his canvas. I want to dance with the mystery, he told me, I don’t want to kill it. Fair enough.  He painted, kept, burned, repeated.  As I said, we had what we needed, and how many of us can say that?  How many of us recognize it, much less say it?

This spring Albert made the two-day drive to the coast, to be with his brothers, to honor his mother, to make a family donation in her name to the hospice she had founded so many years before.  Ordinarily, if one of us went west, we both did, but I’d been ill much of that winter, and though I felt fine by March, we both knew the best place for me was our sun-filled rock garden.  We also knew his brothers and I were never going to be buddies and there was no reason to dance that dance again.

Albert stayed in L.A. an extra few days, which was not unusual.  When he did return, the Toyota pick-up kicking up dust on our dirt road a full three minutes before he reached the house, I welcomed him with warm coffee and a warmer kiss.  I told him about the nothing he’d missed by not being here.  In return he didn’t tell me about his visit to his ancient family doctor to learn that he, not the ancient physician, was quickly dying.  It was the spring that Albert learned – I did not learn until September – how well he could lie, even to the one he loved.  He always was talented.

Junk mail urges me to buy life insurance.  Too little, too late.  And it’s just another lie, too, isn’t it.


Tony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does. He’d love to see his words return to Halfway Down the Stairs, and he’d be thrilled if people purchased his recent story collection Crossing the Lines (published by Big Table).

© 2012, Tony Press

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