- You Could, and: Other People, and: Forgiveness Poem
I stood in the middle of my kitchen eating butter.It was eleven AM on an overcast morning.I was wearing an undershirtand pajama bottoms. I don't makea habit of this—I'd never done it before.It wasn't a whole stick, though a goodhalf inch. Popped it in and let it meltinto the flesh under my tongue, the placewhere you'd insert nitroglycerin if that'swhat you needed. I won't describe the taste—you'll have to try it for yourself.
Perhaps when you've found yourselfthinking about goals, that would bea good time to let some butterhave a ride on your tongue.My father wanted to retire by fortyand we all heard that bomb ticking.Each night before heading to bed, as hestood at the stove triple-checking the burners,he could have tried some. Hotel Bar,lightly salted, I believe my mother bought,but the brand doesn't matter—they never need to advertise.
You could stick a thumb in a bowlof icing, scarf a pie with no handslike a wolf—whatever pulls you in fromor shoves you out on the ledge you might [End Page 404]
need to come in from or go out on.You don't have to climb Everest—unless you find yourself in front of it and can'tcome away. Unless something's calling youto do something your friends wouldn'tunderstand in a million years.
I don't understand butter.I know it comes from cows, whohave given so much for so long.But it's a person I picture, the first to try it.Others in the tribe discardedthe floating globules, but this oneopted to taste the world, the same worldthat has us so worried and confused.Maybe you have heart trouble—you couldstill, just once, do it
and write it down: Today was overcast.I stayed in my pajamas just because. Oh,and I ate butter—incredible! Long afteryou died they could find your journaland say, "This one lived!" or "What an idiot!"No matter. You don't have to fly to Parisfor chocolate—though you could—and youdefinitely don't need to retire and attendbaseball games in every major-league stadium.Instead you could devote yourself to masteringthe dance sequence in Michael Jackson's "Thriller,"which is what my UPS driver has done.What a performance Arnie puts on,to a beat in his iPod only he can hear. [End Page 405]
Once I executed an impressive escapefrom my bicycle. I was speeding downhillwhen the front brake locked, vaulting meover the handlebars and in oneof those moments of grace or luck I hitthe blacktop in full stride. Jogging to a stopI watched my bike slide by. "Holy shit,"said George Eggert, my lone witness.George was skinny, awkward, left-handed—though not really any-handed if youknow what I mean—with enough frecklesfor ten people. In our town your reputation,if you were male, consisted of your athletic prowessand little else. I played varsity everything,and this stunt only added to my statusin the eyes of George, who kept repeating,"I can't fucking believe you."
What I didn't know for a long timewas that George played piano. I heardhim one day after high school while walkingpast his clapboard house, a dozenivy-choked steps above Harbor Avenue.He was playing in the front room,playing jazz, the blues, playingwith such power neighbors had gatheredin the street to listen. Then he started singing—a booming voice I didn't recognize.Sometimes discovering other peopleis like touching down on a new planet—at first, you're not even sureif you can breathe the air. [End Page 406]
The other thing I didn't know about was Lucy.Lucy Cassidy, whose deep feminine laughgave any male in the vicinity an instant hard-on.Lucy would come...