Along This Road Goes No One, This Winter Eve
The World, Post-Bildungsroman
[It would have made for a putrid title]
Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun nor to fly too close to the sea. One wonders what the horizon seemed like then, to Icarus, as he gazed out at over the water at sunset from the Cretan island.
Sometime before now but after the fall of Daedalus’s inquiring son – perhaps some forty begetting generations of or so ago – Teddy’s Norse ancestors rowed westward toward the sea-horizon, certainly less than sure anything other than ocean, sky, and occasionally maybe the sun would ever appear on it.
And only two months after vowing not to date anyone who’s favorite movie was “Harold and Maude” ever again for at least six months (it, too, is complicated), Teddy now faced the horizon himself, and did so with both the curious exhilaration of Icarus and the blunted skepticism of his distant oarsmen forebearer. Ever since the death of his sister Teddy had spent a lot of time looking at the sea and being near women who were fond of Harold and Maude. No one else could ever know just how the sea, that film, women who liked it, and the death of his kid sister were so intricately connected in Teddy’s mind; but that they were connected one could not question.
The Devil knows how to row.
But Teddy never cared much for poetry, though it, like verything else, stuck in his mind. And it wasn’t as if “Harold” was that terrible of a film, but he already had a favorite coming-of-age film: “The Graduate.” And there was that novel, too…
BARTENDER. “What can I get for you?”
“Whatever whiskey. Rocks.”
BARTENDER. “Jack Daniels ok?”
“Yeah, J.D. is fine.”
BARTENDER. “And for you ma’am?”
SALLY. Wine… red. Please.
BARTENDER. “Cabernet or merlot?”
SALLY [smiling, distantly]. Cabernet, please.
Teddy’s fumbling found only tens and higher in his suit pocket. No damn ones. So he flitted a ten toward the tip jar, giving time for the bartender to spot it and understand when there was no tip next time because he just didn’t have any damn ones. And, Teddy figured, there would be a next time. And probably one after that. It was that kind of wedding.
“Want to head over to that table?,” Teddy asked, nodding, hands full of drinks, to some deck tables overlooking the water on the porch of the beachfront reception house.
The table rocked. For furniture, imbalance is a cardinal sin. Teddy wondered if placing some cocktail napkins under the table’s short leg would be declasse. It would be better than furniture with uneven legs, he thought. He had once dated a girl who uneven lengs. Surgeries, not cocktail napkins, were used to fix that. Poor girl. They had watched Harold and Maude several times while she was recovering from the surgeries. Shortly after she recovered, she ran away, claiming that through the whole leg surgery ordeal he was too unemotional. Unlike poetry. Turning his focus away from unstable furniture, Teddy’s gaze shifted slowly, and his mind rapidly, toward the sea. A splash out near the horizon. Perhaps just a stray white cap. The edge of the sea – concerned – with itself. The other edge of the sea. The far one. Was it exhilaration or vanity that doomed Icarus? It was often easy, for Teddy, to tell what others were thinking. Mythical Greek heroes were less transparent.
SALLY [softly]. “The floor.”
“Huh?,” replied Teddy.
SALLY. “It’s not the table. The floor is uneven.”
Instead of responding immediately, Teddy took out a pen and began writing on the back of a cocktail napkin. He was always writing things on things, even at friends’ weddings.
Words and phrases to Google tomorrow -
SALLY [slightly annoyed]. “You seem quiet today.” [pause] “Or disconnected.”
Next, he feared, was coming some emotional bit about him being too unemotional. Weddings. Even ones on a boat in winter. Or especially that kind.
SALLY. “Thinking of what?”
There was no way Teddy could or would want to explain the uneven table legs, his thoughts of sea – of a mythological Greek plunging into in or his ancestors rowing across it – and of the entangled line of connections between those thoughts. There were things, however, that seemed to bridge the incommensurable chasm between minds. God, et cetera. He talked about it all more when he was younger. With age, one grows tired of the same logical reactions of people to such discussions.
“What time to you think the sun sets tonight? It will be pretty from here,” Teddy asked.
Sally began looking it up on her phone.
Teddy wanted to go to the rail, closer to the water.
The paths humans wander are complex. Teddy’s Norse ancestors returned East and waited thirty-six or so generation before finally coming back to this “Western” part of the world, via Ireland.
SALLY. “Six thirty-seven.”
“What’s your favorite movie?” he then asked, suddenly not caring about wonderously tunneling into the sun, suddenly not caring if he fell back to the sea. Sipping J.D.
Life was too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment.
Adieu. (loudly, please)