In the middle of July, leaving the lawn unmowed for two weeks is to invite flashbacks from any veterans of Viet Nam who might be passing by. In the middle of July, two weeks is enough time for some strange vine to come up three or four feet, for the grass to evolve intelligence, and for a colony of monkeys to begin breeding in the thicket. But this is the last part of August and even if there are some spots with fairly thick grass there are more spots where it’s not bad at all. It’s too dark to mow at seven in the morning and even the sunrise seems a little diminished.
It will take a little more time but I’ve cleaned out the carburetor and the air filter so the engine is humming. I’ve got my safety gear on, I’ve got my hearing protection on, and suddenly I think of a woman, from a very long time ago, and I wonder where she is. It makes sense, actually, because she was one of those women would wanted protection during sex and I suit up pretty good just to mow grass. Back then I was smoking a lot more grass than I was mowing, and I thought condoms were like taking a shower with a raincoat on. But had she asked me to wear a long evening dress and a football helmet, to get her naked and in bed with me, I would have. I was a very young nineteen year old. I wanted pot, alcohol, and a woman. I had a minimum wage job and she worked as a waitress. She was very petite, very cute, and I remember when this older guy that worked with us pulled me to the side one day and asked, “You aren’t screwing that little girl are you?” And to me it was a stupid question. Of course I was, every chance I got, and every chance she would give me. Now, I look at some of the people I know who are that age and I understand his consternation, a little, but I also remember what it’s like to be that young and to feel the fire that hot. It’s difficult to image today’s young people, connected to their electronic devices as they are, taking time to explore a much deeper connection with someone’s body, but surely that hasn’t stopped happening.
We would stay up late, miss work, and always there was this drama about condoms, and eventually I realized that she, too, would forget we needed them if I could just get the right switches flipped. It amazed me the chances we took, the places we took those chances, and the frequency that we managed to find time to take the chances. But this was the life of shift work and we sometimes didn’t get forty hours a week at work. What else was there to do? But mostly it was because we were young enough to handle the long nights after long days and there were no consequences to our actions, until there were.
We had a scare, once, just one time, and that was enough for her to pull back from the fire. She realized she might be getting half of the pleasure from what we were doing but she was taking all of the risks. It’s not that I would be the kind of man to bail out on her, but I wasn’t the kind of man who could have taken care of a baby. She would wind up having to raise us both and there comes a point when even the right buttons pushed in all the right ways can’t make up for a serious doubts about the future.
The thick part of the yard is out front and furthest away from the house so I start there and work my way back. Back and forth and around and around, no, it isn’t odd at all to think about sex while mowing grass, but then again, if you’re so inclined, you’re going to think about it anyway. She was at a friend’s house babysitting a six month old baby who had fallen asleep. We were both tired and we both needed sleep and I was all for napping. But the fire would not be denied and her friend came back just as we were getting dressed. We didn’t know that would be our last time together, that we would break up in just two days and it would be forever.
The wasps have all stuck to their nests all Summer long. There are four of them on the eves of the house and they’re all on the northeast side of the house, too. I have no idea why there are none anywhere else but this yet they’ve all lined up like condos on the beach. We did the beach thing once, the eighteen year old and I, going out far enough in the water so no one could see us. Salt water and sex doesn’t mix very well but the young cannot be stopped by mere oceans. I stop to move a fallen branch out of the way and wonder why this woman is haunting me this morning. I tried to find her on facebook a few years ago but it’s hard to think someone I knew for six months nearly thirty years ago will remember it other than the way I do. She was the first woman I never said, “I love you” to when I wanted to and I will never know why. Those three words never passed between us. I made that same mistake years later, with a woman I’ll never forget, and it’s a mistake that once it’s been made doesn’t seem to get any easier to correct.
I stop mowing and think about this. I know I’ve said those words far too soon and spooked a woman before but which mistake is worse? To rush into something that hasn’t have time to develop is a mistake born of fire and fancy but to stand there with someone and think about it and think about and think about it yet to not be able to or be unwilling to express the deepest emotions you can feel, why? There comes a point in time where youth cannot be blamed for all mistakes in the past. I crank the mower up and keep going. I’m getting closer to the house now and begin a circle, with the grass being tossed to the inside, where it will be cut again and again into fine mulch. It bothers me and it bothers me a lot now, the scar tissue coming apart and the wound reopening even though I know how futile it always will be. I make myself keep going because I know if I stop and think about this subject I’ll bog down the in the tall grass and weeds of the past and in circles I will go forever.
It’s not hot enough to bring exhaustion out in an hour or even two, and I refuel and keep going, looking for some point of numbness that will relieve me of the past. It’s like a poison that can be sweated out, melted away in the salt water of sweat, but not tears. I remember a tipping point that I missed, that I thought about telling a woman what I felt and how I felt and I think she felt the moment arise and stood there holding her breath. I remember the wrods coming to me, perfect words, heartfelt words, words to bind two futures together forever but the moment slipped away and turned into decades of space and time and emptiness and the moment is just another moment with another mistake.
The mutts all come to greet me and Tyger Linn, when she is allowed around the Cousins, now throws herself onto her back in front of them and wiggles. She wants to play with the big dogs and they aren’t sure what to think of Tyger Linn quite yet, but at least there’s no growling. Lilith remains aloof and the Cousins remain a little edgy about playing with Tyger. I wonder if they want to play and just aren’t sure how to start or if they’re truly uninterested. If only they could say it that would make things so much easier, wouldn’t it?