The pungent smell of the pumper truck hard at work wafts through the air.
In fact a sort of visible haze seems to hang all over our yard emanating from the vicinity of the uncovered septic tank, as if creating its own atmosphere, something one is loathe to breathe. Though somewhat early in the morning, it’s already hot. This is summer in Topanga!
The Beleaguered Husband, always the gentleman, takes a Mary Poppins-ish purple bag from my hand and places it in my car. The bag contains a magnificent dragon that may or may not be a puppet (to the children I teach and myself, he’s real).
The husband, knowing I am challenged vehicularly, patiently reminds me to release the parking brake before driving off. He watches to make sure no cars are barreling down Old Canyon, then gives me the all-clear sign. I wave goodbye and drive off with a final glimpse of him standing there, surrounded by the putrid air, and can’t help but love him.
I, of course, never meant to love him. I already had, at the time we met, a perfectly good husband, a stand-up comic with a great record collection. I have always described my attraction to Mr. Anapol as being as if I had fallen under some enchantment or a love spell like Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, although, if you recall with whom Titania fell in love (an ass, my dears, an ass), I’m afraid the comparison is none too flattering to Michael Anapol.
I never knew exactly what I loved about him in the first place, couldn’t put my finger on why my heart beat faster or my eyes shone brighter in his presence. I know I loved a jacket he wore. When the stand-up comic husband asked, and rightfully so, what was it about this guy that I was leaving our marriage for, all I could answer was, “Oh, well, he’s…I don’t know, he’s a surfer.”
We actually made it to Hawaii for the honeymoon and I can so clearly remember all these years later, one hammock under the stars and the sound of the waves crashing in the tropical moonlight and, although not young, we were younger and more beautiful then. And, yes, Goddess Pele, I will one day return the lava you let me take with the promise that I would bring it back myself, if only I can find it. I know it’s around here someplace.
I like to think some of that island magic remains with us through the passing years and myriad trials. We still stand together in some form of wedded bliss, despite the challenges of opening a restaurant together, varying episodes of financial ruin, dealing with the cable provider (Frontier), Christmas trees that fall over, septic tanks, and the election of one Donald Trump.
I must, however, admit to a certain deterioration in both our physical and mental states, as some days we seem to limp about in compromised states, looking forward to Medicare and saying arcane, cryptic things to each other, such as this asked by me: “What was that place we went that time?”
“Do you mean the place we had lunch?”
“Yes, but not that place, the other place?”
“Oh, Moss Landing.”
“Yes, yes, that’s it.”
Or from him: “Okay, what was the name of the kid who Riley went to school with, whose Dad was that music guy who had those clubs? What was his name?”
I take a guess. “Elmer Valentine?” even though I know Riley didn’t go to school with his son?
“No, the other one?”
Then I get it, or at least the first name, “Lou…” We both finish the last name together, “Adler.” That simple remembering in the morning smells like victory.
My personal theory of memory lapse is that the older creatures of the herd, when no longer productive, are meant to become confused and muddled resulting in forgetfulness. They can no longer recall which areas of the great veldt are safe and which are filled with predators, hence the feeble ones wander unwittingly into danger and are easily picked off. Although they might not be as tender as younger meat, they are successfully sacrificed, sort of taking one for the herd. When I shared my view with a jocular friend, she suggested I walk around with a sign on my back reading, “Eat Me.”
In addition to the occasional forgetting, there are other signs of just plain degenerative stupidity that, living in close proximity, we are forced to witness in each other and it isn’t pretty. I don’t like to admit it but I used the phone to try to change the channel on the TV and stood there frustrated wondering why it wasn’t working and, yes, a glass of wine may have been involved. The Beleaguered Husband suffered such an unfortunate episode just the other day. Having had his long hair go gray and rather scraggily, somewhat like an old witch, our son took grooming matters in hand and announced he was going to shave his father’s head.
They sat outside, in a father-son barbering, bonding moment, and the result was, we all agreed, an improvement. But because he surfs, sunscreen must now be applied to the dome. From the bathroom the other morning, came disgruntled sounds, snorts and swearing, which either meant yet another plumbing issue or some fresh new hell. Evidently, Mike had picked up the wrong spray canister and instead of sunscreen had doused his head with a good covering of deodorant. At least, he fell short of brushing his teeth with the anti-fungal cream.
An interesting character and amusing writer, sometimes known as Topanga Bob or Crazy Bob, made a comment the other day that he was rather content at this point in his life to live alone, happy with his cat, able to revel in laziness or productivity as he sees fit, unbothered by a partner nagging at him, telling him what to do. After thinking over his position for a while, I shared that neither my husband nor I have ever told each other what to do.
Later, I sat with my husband, outside in that mid-summer Topanga evening under the early stars, overlooking the cover of our freshly pumped septic system, and it felt like a brand new day, and somehow hinted at a promising future.
I shared my observation with Michael about neither of us ever telling the other what to do. We agreed it was true and then both said, exactly together, “Which is why we do nothing!”
And we sat and laughed and I knew why I love him.
Grow Old Along With Me, The Best Is Yet to Be