The Emergence of Slow Purple

Here I was, forty-five years later, coming back to Saugus, looking to find something I had lost. Though I’d been told I was still considered somewhat quasi-handsome for my age, a place in the world carved by my love of and for tools, enfranchised in a hardware business that offered heady spoils and wealth beyond first dreams, I felt hollow. Empty. Concave. I didn’t know what my loss was; I could bring no tool to measure it, me, the master of tools, helpless, exposed at last.

My wife Cricket, dead for these long and lonely 15 years, had gradually receded but never really left me. She would not allow herself to leave all at once when she died, for there was so much to hang onto. But the separation grew, lengthened, managed to steal some of me, then lots of me. The hollowness came in tow, like nothing follows nothing. Air stretching a balloon. The fabric of an idea. My Cricket on the move, a thermal as tiny as an idea.

The fishing plagued me with perplexity, nagged at me as I looked down at my old hometown from a window seat on the plane. The shape or force of that perplexity had earlier come with a full-bodied question mark, feeling it was worn outright and visible on my person… a costume complete with epaulets, chevrons, insignia, all parts of it. Times came when I swore I could feel the drape of that costume settling on my frame.

Below our flight path I saw the spread of the Rumney Marsh, the blast north of Route 1 as it blew out of Boston, the hills I ran free on as a kid. On Baker Hill the standpipe was gone, houses crowded themselves in realtor fashion. I remembered blueberry patches on the slopes.

For some time I had accepted a number of things about myself. One of the acceptances came often, stayed longest, dug deepest: loneliness, it said, comes with silence, darkness, a cold river, a thick forest, anyplace at odds with activity or brightness or a day running with itself. I had been through all those elements, whatever the name presented or image given, and was coming home, I hoped, to escape the loneliness shrouding me, my soul beleaguered. Discomfort is a strange bedfellow.

Yet I had a slim hope, home. In promise, the plane dipped its nose off the horizon.

Some decent friends say I appear pleasant enough in a rugged, individual way; a face chiseled a bit by time, chosen of a good lot, hair dark and full, but eyes perhaps not saying what I am thinking, not read of them. Those eyes, in fact, might have made me a stick-out on this trip. While I wore a dark and neat blue blazer and a light blue shirt without a tie, my pants were rugged jeans atop rugged boots. In some other light I could have been a contradiction, or in some circles. A small mole, perched on my right ear lobe, appears as an almost decorative but dark earring, catching the inquisitive eye immediately, a wandering eye almost as soon.

Loneliness is a place. I went there again, in my search. And came up again with a void.

How long I had been aware of the nature of the void, I could no longer remember. At times I accepted it as my shadow acting out at high noon… in me, with me, but unseen in the vertical existence. Back behind an indistinct form or structure were a scattering of stray moments of my early life; not many, but enough to hang onto. Apparently a few of those moments had swept me up, sent me on this journey.

As the plane nosed into a long curve at approach, the sun screamed on the horizon as though it were yelling out the name of the town, but all I heard in that swift separation of sun from horizon was “home.”

Images from the past flew at me and reflections rose as the plane tipped lower; I swore I could touch some of the images, even in their quick rush. I went backwards in thought.

Schoolmates and pals had called me “Tools” from about my seventh year. The decision of name-setting had been easy; at play after school I continually walked around with a leather tool belt slung on my hips the way other kids might wear a cowboy gun belt. Every day I ran home from school to don my belt, snug it tightly in place, check the belt’s components. I never said bang at a pistol or revolver shot, but at the proper burial of a nail by a hammer in one unerring smash. The belt and the nickname, like character development, fit me in a pivotal way. Later on they said I had the appropriate hands, and the eye, and knew all the theory of mechanics and its classic relatives. Thus, the name stuck with me all the way through adulthood, the way a scar hangs on, at times a neat diversion, at times nothing more than a jaunty embarrassment.

The flight today had been serene, though I had slept fitfully for an hour or so at one stretch. Now, in the baggage claim area at the airport, at the end of a row of seats, I rested my bothersome knee. All my life, away from this city, I’d been a people watcher, and at this break I studied those in transition about me, the fellow travelers, the lost now homeward bound, the celebrators, the newly wearied with the foreign look in their eyes, and slack set on their chins. I marked a turbaned man, a young man in military uniform, a pair of lovers so engrossed they saw nobody else, and nobody knew if they were coming or going.

I always wondered about their stories.

My eyes, random at first in their search, settled at length on a stately gentleman and a very neat and tall female companion dressed in casual gray slacks, a pale green sweater and earrings I had not seen before; gentle travel wear, comfortable but without obvious style. Once, I was sure, she had been a radiant blonde. The combination of the couple attracted me, the woman at first athletic and graceful in movement; the man slower, searching for steps. Their hands were alert for each other’s.

Something of the woman’s youth remained in place at her hips; slimness, perhaps grace, practice at good health, weight management, activity. The display was subtle but legible, a combination speaking about confidence, surety, need. The couple to me was real; in them I could feel some kind of energy on the move. The woman’s facial light, her shine, said she was a care giver, deeply invested in a current case; her hand not letting go of her companion’s hand all the while. Not for a second had she let go of his hand since I had first spotted them coming down the concourse, her partially elegant, him partially unsure of some of the surroundings, each step of his worried, measured, practiced.

The intrigue, and the curiosity, crept through me as sure as welcome warmth. I loved the supposition of goodness in all such subjects, especially at airports and railroad stations. In my time, I’d been at a thousand places, seen a thousand travelers, I supposed myself keen at their make-up.

A word unnerved itself from my vocabulary, broke loose, said devotion; as if I had sent for it, the word coming across the air like a small pennant waving for attention, touching at my mind-set, bringing images. I had seen the same coupling at a few nursing homes when visiting two long-time employees at the last edges of life. This wasn’t all new to me.

Then, a voice, barely intrusive, mellow, with a built-in pardon hanging in place, came from a man sitting a seat away from me. “I spotted them too, but her first,” the voice said, and quickly added, “Some days I sit here half a day just looking at people in their passage, wondering where they’ve been, where they’re going. I thought at the outset you were a people watcher too. Saw it in your eyes, the interest, and,” he paused again, “in your facial expression. You care for strangers, or have deep wonder.”

There was no embarrassment in his words, at his intrusion. “You spotted that in her, didn’t you? The simplicity that generates life, then holds on for whatever comes along with it. What we’d call a keeper keeping up, like the marriage vows unfolding all the way open.” It might have been a sermon I was hearing.

I turned my full attention to the source of the voice. It had come from a quickly pleasant man with a wide forehead cut short by thick black hair perhaps colored for effect. The hair seemed to be too dark to be the real thing. There were contradictions. Somewhere in this stranger’s past there had been a confrontation, a fight, a meeting with a hard object, for his nose was marked by harsh encounter. But it was marked in a rather insignia way; the man was a survivor of something. And the face was an old and worn face, the eyes older and then some, but at home for a late turn at comfort, for ease, as if patience bore well or wore well with him.

Assessing him as a long-retired teacher or professor with years in front of students, I guessed him comfortable with words, saying them with venerated practice, moving gracefully with chosen words around a classroom, his stature evident, measurable, his footsteps nearly silent. No other evidence of age or infirmity loomed visible, though he was well into his 80s; no cane or crutch, no dropped or discounted lip or droopy eye, no slur in the voice, no hand cursed by a half-grotesque knot and held helpless at his side. Hale he was, and apparently in one good and decent piece.

A quick plunge of favor found its way in me, a sudden warmth, a catch at an inner spirit of joy. I believed that I liked the stranger without knowing any more about him, as though, in some measure, he would count, would matter. If the sun had popped up on a dark horizon, I would have felt the same way.

Nodding agreement, studying with interest the nose of the man with interests, I said, “You are correct on that point, sir. She bears the care of a nurse, the grace of a lover, the patience of a mother. You, I assume, nameless to me at this point, agree.”

“Yes, I do. On all points. Oh, they call me ‘Rags,’ sir. And that’s just about everybody I know. They’ve done so for years, for things I did as a youngster. Believe it, I was an early recycler of useable goods… cloth, newspapers and magazines, aluminum pots and pans, copper and lead, anything the junkman would buy from ten cents a pound up to the really good stuff, like copper, mercury, enough scrap lead for tin soldiers by the thousands, armies of them.” I saw the imagery

in his eyes. “But mostly my payment came from old clothes, worn clothing, so I was ‘Rags’ to one and all.”

Heartily, still warmer in my appreciation, I started to laugh. I held out my hand to the old man, the new acquaintance. “Rags,” I said, “meet Tools.” Two men of this world laughed easily, in an unconscious way, provoked a bit but totally reactive. We laughed loud and long, so long that the stately couple had disappeared, apparently gone off into life, while my suitcase still floated on the luggage console, the final piece to be claimed. People along the concourse eyed the two of us; some smiled at the noisy gaiety, some merely nodded with understanding.

“What brings you here?” Rags said, standing beside me as I grabbed my single suitcase from the console. Rags seemed nimble enough, getting to the console as soon as I did, knee and all. His khaki pants, government-issue color, were pressed with distinct iron edges down the sleeves, and his checkered shirt, open at the collar, exposed no chest hair. The belt cinching Rags’ waist had no sudden bloat to its circumference. A quick shine came from his shoe tops, and I registered care, neatness and preservation for the man. A sudden sense of synesthesia, in my growing awareness, came on me. I welcomed it like a gift.

“You been here before?” Rags said. “Coming for a reunion? I tried to figure out what you were doing here, besides watching people like I do. I’m not prying, but observing; it’s a way of life with me and will end in my journal, if you will permit me. Saw you come in earlier, the limp evident, the quick seat you took for that reason. I’d rather sit here than in a bar with a cool one, though I’ve enjoyed that fare too.” He nodded a distant assent.

Rags answered his own question, shook his head, smiled, and said, “If you’re going off to Saugus or near there, I’d ride out that way with you if you have the wheels. I live there, about 12 miles out from here. I don’t drive anymore, or I don’t keep a car. Too damn expensive for me. I hustle rides, if you can believe it. I’m really a ride hustler. I love this airport, the comings and goings, new faces or old friends.” He facially measured his last statement, and then appended, “Though there’s damn few of them these days.” Came then a throaty assessment of self agreement, a small cough, almost a word. He would bear some understanding, I knew.

I nodded my answer first, then vocalized it. “One hustler to another… I am going to Saugus. I have a rental waiting on me here, down the line somewhere. But the trouble is, I really don’t know why I’ve come back. Come home, in a manner of speaking. I grew up in Saugus and left the day after high school graduation. I’ve never been back. The whole journey feels like it began yesterday, though, or, perhaps, late last night.”

Rags recognized my whole bit of facial punctuation as a question mark.

Wearing the look of another new care giver, Rags said he was still curious. He wore an aura I could feel the way one senses a source of heat in the darkness, a sterling emanation.

“I love a mystery, that’s for damn sure,” he said. “It leads me to say you have a haunt working on you, an old face, a kiss you can’t forget and can’t remember, at least not all the way? You wear a tunnel in your eyes, yea, a pair of tunnels. I haven’t seen that look in a long time. It’s the way a person might look at a house he used to live in, and can suddenly feel the rooms collide inside himself, the noise coming back, the faces almost gone but hanging on for the catch of a memory, somebody long gone but back for an instant.” He held up both hands in a sign of halting, as if he had proceeded too far too quickly.

“You’re right there on the mark, Rags,” I said. “Will that go in your journal… a man found, a look at, a discovery or revelation? I’m not sure what brings me back. I keep looking for a good concrete reason and can’t find one. All my old pals, such as they were, have moved on one way or another. I bet I haven’t heard from a single one of them in 20 or 30 years. Could be more if I was a counter all the time. But I lost my wife about 15 years ago, after a damn good marriage. We had no kids and she let me get buried in my work when I needed it. That’s where I really took myself when Cricket died, deeper into the work. Been there ever since.”

The smile when I pronounced her name came warm and sincere. “Something brought me out of it. Perhaps it’s only the promise of a small adventure. It might be the river here, upstream on a cool morning, or a breeze coming across the marsh, carrying something in the air, sending something.”

My pause was a dominant punctuation. “Whatever,” I said, as if in partial measurement, “it got me here.”

Rags shifted about on one leg, searching out balance, found it. “Cricket? Like a little chirper? A cute little trick with lots of energy? You give her that name, Tools?”

Rags asked questions, I thought, that made his approach warm, the way he framed them, softening an otherwise harsh impact, gaining ground on his own. Rags had quickly changed the direction of the conversation. I took him by the arm, and nodded toward the car rental counter.

He continued. “You know there’s not much to pick from room-wise in Saugus, if you want to get away from the real commercial stuff, away from the Pike. I have a pal who has a furnished rental available. I get a cut if I land it for her, as long as I do my one chore a day on the place. It’s not too expensive either, but you have to take it for a month anyway.”

“You’re the Saugus Welcome Wagon, Rags. We’ll take a look.” Much further down the concourse, and through a wide window, I saw the tall care giver woman in the green sweater and the gray slacks guide her companion into a taxi. She placed her hand on top of his head the way a policeman does it. With a silent praise I saluted her.

“And you have to tell me about one chore a day.”

Retrieving the rental car, we two new friends, and old strangers, set out for Saugus, Rags noting quickly the easy and comfortable driving skills I possessed on the circuitous drive out of the airport proper. “On more than one occasion,” he admitted, “I’ve ridden with a driver who had made a wrong turn and headed back into Boston. Took the new tunnel to get lost.”

I said, “Tell me about this one chore a day and who’s the party that established it. Makes me think it’s a pretty sound concept. One chore a day, in a month, can get a lot done, never mind a whole year.” I thought over the options and added, “As long as some of the chores have teeth in them, make demands on the person doing the chores.”

The traffic was thinning alongside us we came across the Marsh Road, the Saugus sign a solid black on gray cast iron announcing its perimeter on the saline and brackish spread of the Rumney Marsh. Rags slowly turned in his seat. “You are perceptive, my man, very perceptive. She’s a niece of mine, though at some distance. Inherited the house from within the family. It’s no great place, modest in fact, and needs a ton of work, but it’s cheap enough for her to handle as long as I do my one chore a day and try to keep down extra maintenance costs.” His pause was selfless. “For what that’s worth.” He laughed again showing a hand marked with a few harsh knuckles.

That exposed edge of his thought I caught. “You’re saying she has more motive in her madness, Rags? She has a plan? She thinks ahead? Sounds like a helluva woman. What’s your take on her?”

“Let’s face it, Tools. I’ve seen the raw edges of life, day and night. Felt them too, day and night. All the raw edges. No place not seen. No deed not done. Not on my road everywhere and nowhere. All over the world, being my own enemy, as you can imagine. This simple demand on her part is not retribution for my storied past, but it’s maintenance at work or maintenance assured. Simple and positive, if you stop to think about it. If she keeps me going, if there’s a daily demand, I get some longevity out of it. I get additional life. I get my own kick in the ass. There were times I could have folded it all and laid down, even as recently as a couple of years ago. But she gave me this dictate. An opening. And here I am, moving on, finding things in this life I never knew. Like seeing that tall lady at the airport taking care of what we assume to be her frail husband. I would never have noticed that before. Mine eyes have seen the glory, I could say.” He slapped his knee, let his eyes light up.

“Well,” I countered, “I get the picture of her. Or pretty close to what makes her tick. She’s certainly understanding. She cares, she loves and she has patience. Now what shape’s her house in? As bad as you paint it? And what’s her name?”

First he snickered and then laughed loudly and slapped a knee again. “By God, man, you still got the ginger, and we could use a man like you for a month or two. I can see the hammer flashing in your hand, nails getting knocked home in one swing, the skill saw abuzz on the morning air, the crooked fence down and a straight one up. Our own Habitat for Humanity on the morning prowl. Get coffee, go to work. A dozen chores a day. A dozen, man!” He laughed loudly and slapped his knee. “I damn well knew this dawning was going to be special!” He chuckled anew, more words buried in his throat. Then, spilling his feeling totally, he shook his fist at the windshield, or at the horizon, or at the blue sky, at whatever.

I decided the fist shake was at the blue sky, a signal, a promise at truth. And I was warmer. I found an old comfort, felt my sort of undernourished body settle into a long-forgotten groove. Knowing myself again. And old movements, old sensations and awareness, were making themselves known deep inside me, like one part of my body talking to another part, telling it how to act, how to get along better. A meter could not have made the parts any more accented; now and then a wire leaped in concert, a loose end in contact with the past, or the future. The possibilities loomed again where they had lain dormant for so long. At least this would bring about a meeting, a confrontation instead of the old daydream of newness. The options, hope said, might be limitless.

“Tell me what she looks like, Rags. How old she is. What’s her health like?” I wondered what made me ask that question so hurriedly, trying to clear the decks of worry, and something else trying to take hold, more than plain curiosity. I was back there again. Pictures of Cricket rushed me… her arms thin and getting thinner, her whispering, her stubborn smallness becoming the biggest thing in my life, her slow departure bringing a new rush of agonies never really put aside. Now, on this piece of an old road, she sifted away again, thinner, more shadow, a question rising of where she existed, in what realm.

“Hurry gets you no place, Tools,” Rags said. “You know that. Not so fast on the approach, man, though the lady is hale, in her fiftieth year, or close to it.” He paused to make a point of it; “I might say it’s more or less what a woman makes of the difference. She’s inventive as we agreed, and where we think we have something different in Tools and Rags, she goes by the name of…” His response, a gathering of breath, a shift in his seat as well, was a shift in dramatics, his head turning ever so slightly as he said, half in a pause itself, “Slow Purple.”

The name, I thought immediately, came with colors attached, a host of them, ablaze in intention, sunlight and moonlight, a bloom in a side yard a whole house lives for, the air filled with a suggestion of simple purple essence, presence of the violet, yet a soft bloom, the coy lavender of it.

I looked at Rags, an inquisitive nod almost taking place at the same time. “Slow Purple?” I mouthed the name a few times, felt it come back in a sweet sensation, the color running at my mouth, the taste of it. A softness flowed with the name. “Slow Purple?” There was a tint on the far horizon, an acuteness I could feel. Without me starting them off, images of her began to take shape.

We took a left through an intersection, after a stop sign, before I spoke again. The river ran beside us as we drove and a fleet of lobster boats floated on the high tide, their colors brilliant blue and brilliant red in the slanting sunlight. I felt an old sense of energy and adventure, even as the river and the marsh and the brackish odor pulled me along once more.

“No kidding about that name? That’s her real name? It seems to go with the idea of her. I never heard a name like that before. It grabs you. It really does.” My eyes were talking too, as if shaken loose from some old post or station of the past. “That’s a name to remember,” I said.

We rolled up a slight incline, passed through another traffic light, drove by the long curving stone wall of a cemetery. Soon, we passed over idle railroad tracks, went by blocks of stores and through the center of town where a statue and a flagpole stood tall. The traffic and motion were abuzz in the sweet day; townspeople out walking alone or with dogs on leashes, maple limbs hanging in proper disorder, new scents rising in the air. A huge delivery truck double parked on the main street, the engine idling. Two boys on bikes delivered their newspapers, taking turns at houses, flinging papers in a high arc. I thought I heard somebody whistling a tune. It was not Rags.

When we turned the corner, at Rags’ direction, the house was directly in front of us. The fence loomed as a first order of business, for it leaned crazily in a snaky way. Then the lack of paint announced itself on just about most surfaces on the front of the house. It was as if the place had been decorated in drear and drab. The porch was half painted, two of the steps were newer than the others, a tall thin flag pole, without rope or flag, had proceeded in many spots to rust.

But there was a distinction about the house, and it was standing out in front of all the need. A shapely woman on the porch facing us was regal, but in a softened way. I parked the rental about twenty feet in front of her; a short walkway of deep gray cement passed through a small patch of good lawn. She was a blonde with mostly interest on her face; eyes, cheekbones, square teeth white as Kilimanjaro, a chin not to push around. There was nothing skimpy about her. Curvy and full-bodied, a mischievous aura was working its way through her presentation. Of course, I knew she was a message center, at her best work, broadcasting herself.

As I looked at her, as she looked down at me with a slight twist to her head, the loose wires in me that had been fumbling around for over a decade made newer connections. Ignition was immediate. There came the near insurmountable old urge to touch myself, to gather all complements, to cup and to measure. It ran through me with its electric charge, its quick vitality. The redness of embarrassment measured me anew. A small gasp caught in my throat. My thighs tightened at the same moment, the sympathetic wires in more connections. Warmth flooded my extremities. I couldn’t remember the last time all those muscles had shuddered themselves awake this way. She was penetrating me.

And she smiled. Slow Purple smiled. It was a new radiance. A blossom.

Standing on her porch steps, not quite as soft as an evening sunset, she was close enough for admiration at that very first glance. Blonde hair swept up on her head, clearly showing blue eyes set fairly apart and a full brow, matched by a tugged-tight blouse and skirt. She didn’t need to wear stripes. Another wire touched, flared a spark. Her wave, in spite of the house’s cry for more of my attention, was at Rags but her eyes quickly fell on me. I felt a long-gone fever also come at abrupt quickness. With hands on her hips, curiosity abounding, she nevertheless had marvelous legs, inviting hips, and hallmark cheekbones that for a fifty-year-old widow sat up as high and as mighty as hope. The loose wires came onto more serious play. They frisked, they gamboled. Static climbed the air.

Slow Purple pointed at Rags, talking brightly at him, her voice musical. “You being my agent again, Rags? You capture this man at the airport?” She laughed, a kind snicker of a laugh. “You kidnap this one, too?” She nodded a nod of approval. “You saying he’s a new customer, a paying customer?” Her voice was as warm as a sun ray across my brow; throaty laughter sincere and not forced. Smiling deeply, she looked at me the way an old friend fields recognition… no hooks, no curves, no reservations, an open book for readers.

For one moment, believing in a kind of play land of the mind, I did not perceive her as real.

Certain aspects fell and rose. Suddenly, as if informed by another being, another mind, a co-host within my body, I saw that her clothes had not fallen upon her, but were being pushed from inside, the mass of her moving inside pressures. The real parts of her made entry under cover, shaping her, designing her in my mind, thrusting parts onto the field of fabric. Oh, I thought, the fabric of her. The fabric of her. I searched my mind for a caliper of sorts. I found none. In a rare moment of secession, Cricket’s slightness fell away in a halting bound.

Inside my psyche, someplace elemental, aching against unknown edges, I was conscious again of the existent hole, a black and unnatural hole that had been hanging around for a long time. Yet I had no tool or gauge to measure it, its depth, its width, its emptiness, and that lack of measurement bothered me endlessly. But the hole was there, drawing on me with tenacity. How long I had been aware of its nature, I could no longer remember.

There was conveyance, however. Her house, from that moment, became the bridge from the void within me, my passage outbound. I shook her hand. Felt her eyes. So, in short order, after Slow Purple accepted me as a new boarder and with the same conditions as set up with Rags, the tools came to my hands, the artful tools, the powerful tools, the tools unused by me for so long. And I realized there was something undefined about her, not so mysterious or purely feminine, but an unknown quality that came off all her parts. I might call it an aura, but I might be mistaken, yet it had a glow coming at me with force.

Energy gathered, as from a storm, in one grand hurry. The fence came down, the fence went up. The flagpole came down; the flagpole went up, to stand keen as a white arrow. The old front porch, torn from its moorings against the house, at my hand became a new spread thing, a gateway in itself; new deck and railings, new balusters, steps, white paint where white was wanted, schemed at colors otherwise. And flower boxes, a neat half dozen to each side, bright red ones to boot, bloomed almost instantly against the house. On another morning I stripped away the front door and replaced it, a whole new entryway including all the side lights of Colonial glass framing the doorway.

And every move I made, with every tool employed by an unearthed energy not used in a long time, Slow Purple was at the end of the line as I sized things up; straight lines or curves where curves became important. Whenever I set a line only for my eyes, Slow Purple from the other end smiled back at me her agreement, her warmth in fabric, a part of herself delivered each time. It was the everlasting gender push and I sweated with pleasure. The blue in her eyes sent accord, sent acceptance, sent messages. A hip, one morning at window replacement, cocked me back into the everlasting dreams, her legs, strong and tanned in white shorts, urging movement. The aura at work. Static. The wires connecting again and again. Slow Purple had a way of saying yes without saying yes, a gift if there ever was one. She could freeze me in place when she sat with her solid legs crossed, a hemline stretched. But I was in no hurry. I bent evermore to the task; the tools had recalled me and the job remained.

For sideline work, for diversion, to push my thoughts afield, I taught Rags how to drive again, in a rental pick-up truck, the straight line from the house to the local building supply center, gave directions, took hints, made adjustments, cocked my eye on a new line, saw agreement and accord, felt the light descending or rising some way, somehow. He found old traits and tricks again, and I became new.

A great listener, a student, Rags smiled endlessly, nodded, spoke little, silently gloried as a matchmaker. He was like Barry Fitzgerald, in his black topper, at the same prospects. “Sure, you swing that hammer like a demon, Tools. A regular little demon of energy. Oh, I could rent you out, but that would not be favorable to the lady of the house.” He sounded extraordinarily like Barry positioning himself in The Quiet Man.

Then, one bright morning, I was rocked! It happened overnight. In one leap it ran through me, knocking things out of place, knocking others where they should have been all along with this job; I was in love again. It came before the sun was up. It came before being fully awake. It impelled me from bed half asleep, urgent, leaning on the day all ready.

And I quickly marked the contradictions that flooded the recent empty me: there were things inside loosening up, while others tightened; I knew Slow Purple in my room while she was in the kitchen or at the other side of the house at a task; caught the most basic odors of her from her room or where she passed by in the hallway, and those lifted with flowers coming in from the porch. She was everywhere, and making things happen.

From all the way where love hides and plays its eternal games, it had burst upon me. Breath caught itself in my throat, at first threatening me, and then letting go, knowledge flowing free. And Cricket, lovely thin Cricket, Cricket going to waste, Cricket from too many long nights alone, said it was okay. From all the way out there, where she hung out, she said it was okay. I walked into the kitchen where the sun burst around us, everything in the room lit up; including Slow Purple and me. In the glow of a golden slab of light, eyes searching my eyes for acceptance, all the fabrics of her moving the will of her body, we acknowledged our distinct needs.

The emptiness in me was gone. Cricket had called it away. Willed it away, oh the wiles she had. Cricket, out there wherever, waving goodbye, telling me again and again it was okay, moving my hands the way they moved for her, a touch and a stroke carrying my whole person with it. No man had ever been as lucky as me… and here I was with a second chance. She waved to me, Cricket did, and was gone.

Slow Purple, as beautiful as they come, turned her face to me, eyes wide and alert. Her lips, pink and puffy message centers, parted slowly to let more of the message escape. She took my hand home. Then she came fully into my arms, the warmth from wherever, the powerful frailty that is a woman in love.

We did not talk; we accepted.


Projected Letters is a literary magazine dedicated to publishing the best new and established writing from around the world.