Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
By the time we left, I'd not only forgotten who I was wondering about, but had forgotten I'd been wondering, and apparently Cecelia had too, for she never brought it up. Instead, she asked, as she turned up University, "What did you think of the featured poet?"
The professor lived in a really nice neighborhood called Spruce Park, where there were a lot of faculty members – at least you couldn't park along the street without a UNM sticker, though for the gathering that night we'd all done it, there not being enough room in the driveway. I looked left past Cecelia at the houses in the dark, thinking how to formulate my response. Finally I realized I wasn't going to find a graceful way to diplomatic, so I just said it. "He's got talent, I think, but he needs to get away from academia."
"On what basis do you say that?"
"You heard him. He's so self-consciously using all the techniques he's learned in class that instead of poetry he's producing diagrams on how to write poetry."
Cecelia nodded. "I noticed the same flaw, though I hadn't phrased it in that way."
"Also," I said, "he needs to use his real name. Although I guess if he's got to rip off someone's mythology, I'd rather he did it to the Greeks than to the Indians."
"You remember Solomon Bear, do you?"
I laughed. "Yeah, I remember him – pale skin, freckles, blond hair, and claiming to be the reincarnated spirit of Sitting Bull. He didn't even have talent either. What got him places wasn't his poetry, but his New Ageness."
"The last I heard, he's now claiming to be Geronimo."
"If Goyakhlay gets hold of him," I said, using Geronimo's Apache name and probably mangling the pronunciation horribly, "ol' Solomon'll wish he'd never heard of reincarnation. Which is, by the way, a notion the other sort of Indians buy into, not our Indians."
"That is also true," Cecelia said. "So you found Mr. Gaia personally pretentious, and his poetry lacking in spontaneity, though with potential for improvement?"
"Yeah, that's a good summation."
"Would you complain if I invited him over to discuss poetry with you?"
"No, I wouldn't complain, but I'm pretty well tied up with this case right now. It ain't something I can leave lay a day here and a night there and feel good about it. I think we've got a bad deal just waiting to happen."
"I shall certainly not invite him tomorrow, Darvin – I am capable of density, but not to that degree."
I glanced at her, wondering at the sudden ice in her tone. "I never said you were stupid, Cecelia. I was just remindin' you that I'm in the middle of things here."
"Thank you for the reminder – I shall post it next to the note suggesting that I not forget to attach my head before leaving the house."
"And what," I flared, "is the matter with you all of a sudden?"
Her mouth opened, and then shut so sharply I thought I ought to hear her teeth click together. "I'm sorry, Darvin," she said in a milder tone. "I didn't mean to become angry. I thought I was perfectly clear to you, and that you were accusing me of muddiness. You weren't – and I failed to note the fact that this case has you on edge. Please forgive me."
How could I not? "Cecelia," I said, "I suppose I ought to have been a bit more perceptive. After all, I know you're not stupid – you're smarter than I am. I should have realized how I sounded. And," I concluded, "one of these days I'll catch myself in time to keep you from apologizing when I'm the one who's wrong."
"Neither of us is perfect, my husband. Both our tempers burst into flame just now, for no good reason." She was quiet for a few seconds. We'd turned onto Indian School somewhere during the discussion, and I could see the B'nai Israel Jewish congregation's building not far ahead at the intersection with Washington. We were on the southern edge of my old stomping grounds. I'd walked along here plenty before I'd met Cecelia, though mostly I'd roamed further north. Still it was familiar territory, even after living in Cecelia's house since 1995. "Perhaps your tension communicated itself to me," Cecelia said, picking up the conversation. "It has happened before – one of us will be upset or on edge, and the other will unconsciously become likewise in response. And I know that, even when you enjoy the poetry or even the conversation with a friend, you find these social affairs wearing; they are not your usual milieu. Perhaps that was a factor as well."
I grinned, though even if she'd been looking at me instead of the road she might not have seen it in the fitful illumination from street lights and business signs. "C, you spoke French!"
"And now you will proceed to plant kisses up my arm to my shoulder? Feel free," she said, extending her right arm toward me.
I contended myself with a lingering kiss on her fingers, and another on her palm. "You're more beautiful than Morticia Addams, either version. But you do use French words so seldom it's an event when you do. I would have expected ambiente instead."
"I, like you, find French an unpretty language; I much prefer Spanish, though on this occasion the French word has de facto become English, and so I omitted translating it. As to Morticia, which version do you prefer?"
"Oh, Carolyn Jones, of course. Anjelica Huston did a great job, but she's not the same – for one thing, she didn't glide, she walked."
Cecelia chuckled. "Trust you, Mr. Carpenter, to notice such an invisible flaw in an actor's performance." She turned her head briefly toward me – briefly, because she was making the turn north onto San Mateo. I-40 interrupts Indian School just a little further east, and so we had to duck and dodge to get back onto it on the other side of the freeway. "I trust that we are now reconciled?"
"Cecelia," I said, "however mad we may get at each other now and then, we're always reconciled. Can you reconcile a hand and an eye? Can you reconcile the brain and the skull? We're joined closer than that."