a story:

she emerged from the dream, rising slowly like a diver returning to the surface (not too fast or the nitrogen contaminates your blood), vague traces of a sad dreamsong still playing in her mind. Consciousness waking, eyes opening, she was immediately aware a distinct singularity under the weight of her flannel comforter. She was alone. And she hadn’t expected to wake up alone. She had expected to wake up at 4:30, maybe 5, to the sound of the door opening, to the soft slide of skin meeting hers, to his hair tickling her cheek.

there’s trust involved in falling asleep, trust that the world won’t change too dramatically while you’re unconcious and unable to change with it.

“Why didn’t he come to me?” The warmth of the blankets cocooned her confusion and sadness. She thought of the possibilities: a)he’s with the Dutch goddess, b)he’s with the lover from the West Coast who’s visiting for a week, c)he fell out of the tree he was climbing at 2am and broke his head open. Unable to do anything productive with “c”, she wrestled with possibilities “a” and “b” for awhile, swinging from “they need time together” to “they had time together last night” to “she’s only here for a week” to “I told him I was having a hard day!”… the trapeze act known as polyamory. She finally landed on the platform of “If he decided to sleep with “a” or “b” last night, they probably needed it. They’ve been having a hard time. Our relationship is fantastic, and we’ll find more time together after West Coast Lover leaves.” She took a bow for the audience, staightened out her sequined costume, and climbed down the ladder, exhausted and satisfied.

She launched herself into a morning of trying to lead a roomful of kids in games they were too cool to play, then attempted to re-arrange the tofu schedule to accommodate people who hadn’t remembered something very important that they had to do, so they couldn’t make tofu on the day they were assigned. “Sorry, I forgot I’m going to Texas next week.” “Sorry, I forgot I have to clip my toenails then” An hour later, she sat in the dining room (schedules still unfinished), tears brimming, then falling, then wiped away, them brimming again, as the lunch crowd swirled around her.

he walked in the door holding his 2 year old son, wearing the outrageous knitted hat she loved. She was relieved to see him, and the tears started flowing even as she smiled at the toddler in his arms. “How are you?”, he asked absently.

“I hate tofu! People suck.”

then a friend came into the room, vented about her struggles, and he was gone, out the door, off to help her fix it. “He’ll be back,” she affirmed, and continued shuffling schedules for the sake of soy. He returned, engaging in brief conversations with the people around her while she struggled with the tofu schedule. The tears returned. She collected the finished schedules and fled.

She set her alarm for an hour later, then climbed into bed, tears soaking her pillow for the second time that day, her mind occupied by schizophrenic banter.

“didn’t he see I was fucking upset?”

“maybe there’s other shit going on for him”

“why isn’t he coming to find me?”

“you fled, woman. You didn’t ask for his help”

“if he really loved me…”

“don’t even go there”

eventually she gave up the struggle, her inner dialogue melting into a wordless sadness. The alarm ended the hour with classical music from NPR, and she laid in bed trying to convince herself that the dairy barn needed to be cleaned. Really.

four hours in the dairy barn alone is highly theraputic. Spraying cow shit off of concrete and washing giant metal milk cans helps put life in perspective. And then there’s the cows — hulking animals with kicking hooves. When they’re being milked, the distance from hoof to face-of-milker is less than a foot. Milking the cows that afternoon, our heroine blocked a right hook from Santana the Jersey with one hand, and she felt a lot better after that.

walking from the dairy barn in the fading light of evening, she congratulated herself on her lightened mood. “It’s not a big deal,” she thought. “Nothing is. I have a great life.” She climbed the stairs to her residence, wondering where to find her lanky lover in the half hour before dinner. She flicked on the light as she entered her room, and was astonished to see him stretched out under the covers. “I hope the pillow isn’t still wet”, she thought, and then took off her cow shit-covered pants and slipped into bed next to him.

“I’m so glad you’re here” she whispered, as they wrapped themselves around each other and drifted into light slumber.

they wake, make love passionately, then walk up to the dining hall together, smiling, happy, and post-orgasmic.

“How was tree climbing last night?”

“Fantastic! We climbed into the ironwoods over the river and decided that the number of people in trees over a river at that moment could probably be counted on two hands.”

“So who was the lucky one last night that got to have you in their bed?” (said lightly, still smiling)

he opened the door to the dining hall.

“ahhh…. I’ll tell you later”

“Ohhh… I’m intensely curious” (still smiling)

they walked up to the steamtable and get their food. Not much left as they were 45 minutes late.

“I’ll see you later” and he turned to walk away.

“Hey, I REALLY want to know” (still smiling, slightly confused)

“I’ll tell you later” (walking backwards away from her)

her face posed the question “what’s going on?”

“Later”, and he walked away

the sound of her plate shattering on the floor silenced the dining hall. She towered above the broken ceramic and scattered quiche, her Leo fire burning.

“What the fuck is going on?” she demanded, her voice clear and loud, the result of years of training as an actress. “Don’t be evasive with me. Who the fuck do you think you are? Fuck you.” She turned around quickly and walked out the door to the applause of the other diners.

ALTERNATE (ACTUAL) ENDING:

“I’ll tell you later” (walking backwards away from her)

her face posed the question “what’s going on?”

“Later”, and he walked away

she turned slowly, overwhelmingly confused. Her tears bypassed “brimming” and took a shortcut to “flowing steadily.” She walked over to the silverware counter, attempting to remain composed, grabbed a fork, and ran for the back door.

she paced rapidly in the dark on the concrete loading dock, oblivious to the stench of the compost bin. She quickly wiped her eyes when she heard someone approaching from the Tofu Hut. It was her close friend and sometimes lover, a twenty-something woman from California with a great taste in music and a mysterious smile.

steadying her voice as much as possible, she called out to her. “Hey lady.”

“Hey. What are you doing out here in the cold? Are you okay? Ahh… no, you’re not.” (ahh, the perception of a woman!)

she cried, she listened. They embraced outside, snow beginning to fall through the dark sky. They walked down the hill together to another friend and a bottle of red wine.

(not)THE END

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