Back in Chico, Jack and I rent a house and fight in it. Jack isn't much of a fighter, but I can cause enough conflict for both of us. The central argument: money. So Jack gets a job, bartending at another restaurant, not La Salles. I'm now working there again, feeling like I've failed, gone backward, gone nowhere. I apply to enter graduate school in the fall semester. This is May. Three years have already passed since my B.A. degree. I begin to doubt I will ever do anything in life besides serve someone a Tequila Sunrise.
I read and write poetry. I read novel after novel. Short stories. J. Krishnamurti. Right before we left Santa Barbara, I drove up to Ojai and saw Krishnamurti. He was giving a talk in a grove of oak trees. He sat calm and solemn on a straight-back chair. His words shook me, just like the wisdom in his books, but it was his presence that taught me the most. It made everything go still. I never felt more alive. The light of the sun through the oak leaves, the light of the sun on the ground around his chair, the light of the sun on the shoulders of the crowd around him, the light of the sun on his silver hair, his brown face, his clear, direct gaze. I didn't listen to his words as much as I listened to what was behind or inside his voice, that sun, that light, that essence. He talked about many things, but what I recall the most vividly is the word immensity. He was immensity, it was in him, his being. And through him, I felt it in me.
To use the word God bothers me because we have done so much to render it meaningless with our endless wars over religion and our limited definitions and divisive beliefs. But listening to Krishnamurti that day, I felt God. It was an immensity and an entirety. Complete and utter peace.
I left the oak grove that day at peace, aware. At least for the drive down from Ojai to Santa Barbara. But I didn't know how to keep that awareness, that peace, and my patterns and unconsciousness were too deeply hidden.
In the house on Spruce Street, I tell Jack I want to break up, and he should find another place, move out. He tells me he loves me, he says we can get through this, and our love will be stronger for it. We are just in the hard time, the dull high noon of our relationship, and it will pass. So I try again for a few days, a week, a month, but then I can't any longer. I want him to go. I tell him I feel friendship for him, that's all. Jack moves out, he writes me letters, draws me pictures, runs long miles in the park, he loses too much weight. He visits me on Spruce Street where I roll around the lonely house like a stone, and I want to begin again with him but I feel nothing. I loved him so much; where could that much love go? How could it disappear? I search everywhere, memories, poems I've written him, his drawings and paintings, his letters and cards.
I remember sitting in a bathtub with him the first summer we met. I was house-sitting for friends who were in Europe. The bathtub was one of those big claw-footed tubs, an antique. Jack and I sat in the bubbles and looked at each other. We didn't say a word. We heard the wind chimes on the porch. Other than that, it was so quiet. We sat until the bubbles dissolved and the water got very cold, but it was warm out so we didn't mind. We didn't mind anything. We didn't have wild sex in the bathtub. We just looked at each other, through the quiet.
Jack gave me a notecard with a bathtub painted on it. Inside, he wrote, "That was a great day. I will remember it on lesser days."
I stare at him now, his jet black hair, dark brown eyes, quick smile which I rarely see anymore, wondering who he is, he is not the same, or I'm not the same, who am I? I don't trust love; it changes. It turns to poison. Look how sick I got with this man. I don't trust him. It's hard to admit, but I don't trust myself, either, but I can live with that, it is enough fear to deal with. Jack has become someone who is too much to deal with, and love is only a burden.
Jack is moving to Alaska. One day he comes by Spruce Street to tell me. I'm back in graduate school. I'm teaching two sections of Freshman Comp at the college, taking classes, and working at La Salles. My friend, Maureen, has moved in with me, so I'm not so lonely in the house. My health is gradually returning. I went to a doctor who was a Seventh Day Adventist. I follow his advice: stop drinking alcohol, start jogging, start meditating, eat small high protein meals with green vegetables six times a day. No sugar. Practice an art, and I told him I was a writer. "Write more," he said. I'm getting better. I'm getting closer to my Master's Degree. Jack stands on the dandelion lawn under the maple tree and says, "That's great." He has left behind the paintings he painted of me. They are stored in the garage. He says I can have them.
I don't hear from Jack for a few months. Then I receive a postcard from Alaska. He writes that it's the most beautiful place in the world. He is painting the beauty. He is bartending. The place he rented didn't have any heat for awhile, so he learned to juggle. It kept him warm. He says he's the same old him, he hasn't changed. And he will always love me.
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