“You are wonderful.”
— Arthur Conan Doyle, at age 71, standing in his garden one summer afternoon, turned to his wife and said, simply, “You are wonderful.”
Then he clutched his chest and died.
What started innocently enough ended up defining the galaxy.
In the working-class charcuterie fields laid out on the Ikea kitchen island or out on the old bar I’d bought from a WWII vet once upon a time. Around the house, we sat together and picked our way through the chilled wedges of broccoli and the cool slivers of red pepper/ dragging them through the supermarket hummus/ careful not to leave tiny gloops of it on our chins or our lips.
Silver dollar sized slices of genoa salami. Dijon mustard. Pretzel chips. Vegetable chips. Feta cheese dip from the nicer market and baby pickles from Walmart. Small melon buildings tossed by an earthquake/ whole towns ravaged and dumped down into tight glass containers with locking lids. Pineapple apartments. The strawberry dead. Civilizations crumbled to the ground and I could see it all laying there before me as the Rioja landed in my veins and the warmth of falling in love moved down over me/ over me/ over me/ and through me/ pushing through me like spears/ like bayonets/ hard bars of evening sunshine jamming through my ribs and heart.
We would play the records then. Taking turns spinning what we thought so long and hard about. I would stand at the turntable by my kitchen while she kept her back to me in her seat, just a few feet away and I felt scared and nervous and impossibly curious. But also sure that it could never happen to me like this. Not now. Not after everything that had happened/ that was still happening. The hauntings of a past life. The relentless pursuit of the hyper-starved ghost. The Life and Times of the Trauma Bond Boy.
He felt unable to move.
Unable to speak.
Then: here she was. The Red Headed Stranger.
Someone new. Someone gentle. A shipload of soul that I could sense before I even touched her. Steaming off of her/ the just knowing/ the just feeling it/ when you don’t want to trust anyone and you have every right not to/ but fuck. I mean: oh fuck, man. Now what, you know? ‘Now what?!’ I was screaming to myself when we sat together on these Friday evenings when her kids were with their dad and mine were at their mom’s and it was Billie Holiday and Billy Idol/ Bob Seger and Bob Dylan/ John Coltrane and John Cougar/ Bright Eyes and The Nils. Half a house rented on a country town street where so many had lived out their days gone by.
Salami coins dipped in hot sauce.
Wine burning on my lips as it slid across the Sriracha.
Me trying not to think about it when it was all I could think about in a thousand years.
Something possible. Could it be?
This soft opening of a brand new shop.
I only wanted everything.
And that’s exactly what I got.
I get the feeling that love will be the last thing standing. When the sun is moments from bursting and this world is seconds from nothingness, I get the feeling that – if there is anybody or anything still here living some kind of life – that they will glance over at this other one that they have stared at and glared at and held and hurt and died for a thousand times/ a thousand micro deaths all over the goddamn house or the cave or whatever/ and that will be it. A squeezed hand. A squeezed paw. All the words unsaid. All the things unspoken. All the strata from down in the dark cavity/ from The Heart’s Lair/ creaking off the bloody walls/ a little chip at a time at first/ and then raining here and there in simple sudden bursts/ shattering down on the heart itself like morning ice off the slanted roofs of a time so long ago when the kids would wait for the school bus on February days when the snow had already come and gone and the nights went on forever/ and the stars were ignored by the young hot fever.
Instants are underrated. Popping-off milliseconds? I say: think of life as nothing more. And, oh, to stand there in the ultra-fire of the dying sun. You and her. You and him. You and them.
Calm, hard, on-and-off squeezes from an old familiar hand.
Then the thunder sky eats itself as the violet waves roll down out of the smoke. The sharpest cracking starts and never ends. The land evaporates. Your skin liquifies. Your bones fly off in a dustbowl puff that is over before it even has time to register in the Book of Time. You melt into one another like perfumes colliding.
Late Summer Lilac and French Avenue Breeze.
The Christmas Eve Sea and The Still Summer Trees.
A Wisp of Bread Baking and A Peach Whiskey Tart.
The Dr. Pepper in the Straw.
Wet Twenties Falling Apart.
Somewhere from down in my nervous breakdown wilderness, at the worst time of my life, freakin’ Arle walked out of the Apocalypse with a bunch of vinyl under one arm and a bag of charcuterie under the other.
Smiling her nebula smile/ her Northern Lights tap-tap-tapping out messages on the dark over my head/ her tender smile/ that smile baked up out of some drunken Pirate’s stash of epic pearls/ and her brown eyes molded so very carefully with freshly plowed medieval Earth/ and then her pink lips carved out of the strands of muscle staring up out of the gaping wounds of dying Civil War soldiers/ and then her lean tapered fingers descended from the dripping wax of the gnarled fists of the old Scandinavian witches/ and then her red hair tenuously dripped down from the hard wine mixed with seal blood leaping from a Viking’s chin/ and then her endless legs fever dream traced from lost island sand by Amelia Earhart right before she dies/ and then her mind dropped from the talons of a wild English falcon onto the thatched roof of a poet in a village by a river in the morning one cold winter many, many moons ago.
Then the sun explodes and we are one.
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Serge Bielanko lives in small-town Pennsylvania with an amazing wife who’s out of his league and a passel of exceptional kids who still love him even when he’s a lot. Every week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War and whatever else is rattling around his noggin. Once in a blue Muskie Moon, he backs away from the computer, straps on a guitar and plays some rock ’n’ roll with his brother Dave and their bandmates in Marah.