little white owls

‘WHERE IS HE? WHERE DID HE GO?’ At about 10 am this morning, my friend’s girlfriend, as I suppose you could call her, strode into my living room with only the faintest attempt at politeness or civility. I was sitting calmly at my typewriter, a fresh coffee beside me, and only then turned my head to see the distressed middle-aged woman walking my way. She had knocked, I guess, but that was merely to announce her arrival. I had not let her in but the door was open. Perhaps she thought that because the door was open, she could let herself in? “He’s not in here,” I told her. “Well, his car is here,” she harrumphed. “So then where could he be? Tell me where he is!” “He’s in the apartment across the hall. The neighbor let him sleep on her couch.” I dared not venture out of my own place until I heard the door slam later. Then I went in. He was rubbing his face and there was a half empty bottle of bourbon on the table beside his makeshift bed.  “Is it safe to come in?” I asked. “Yeah, she’s gone,” he said and sighed. If this was the first time I had this experience I might have had more empathy. But this was the third time. The third time an angry woman has chased him into the far corners of my abode. “You two need to decide whether you will make up or end it,” I told my friend. “My patience is wearing thin with the two of you. I won’t tell you what to do with your relationship, but this is getting old.” “I know,” is all he could tell me. “I know, I know. Women, you know,” he said. “Women, women. All they want is this constant outpouring of love and emotion from you. But I’m tired! I work and I am so damn tired. I can’t just give her it all the time. Do you know why she was mad? Do you? Because I didn’t hear something she was saying in the car about her dentist appointment. Then she lost it. ‘You don’t love me.’ It’s probably true. I just don’t know if I love her anymore like that.”

***

Yesterday he was in no mood but I was pungent with springtime joy and fervor. Two sloppy fresh coffees from the local roaster (who has a sort of on-the-down-low coffeehouse speakeasy thing going on the side) then to the psychologist who guided me through a release ceremony for this girl who has been in my heart since forever. All we had was some cathartic, geothermal one night stand ages ago and yet she haunts me because it’s the last true intimacy I experienced. The girl is a traveler, you see. She cannot sit still. In the past two months, she’s been in three countries. God knows how many other men she’s had in addition to me. I am just a sordid knot in her pretty belt. Sometimes though when it’s late at night, I just want to crawl up back inside her embrace. I can feel it on me in the mornings still, a kind of primal, sexy heat, like the hot blood and steam a dead seal gives off when the Inuit cut it open. “This young lady is a Gemini,” said the psychologist, who also dabbles in astrology. Her office is on a balcony overlooking the town. You look out and see blooming trees, laundry lines. She is an older woman, a grandmother, and her walls are covered with her grandchildren’s art. There is a mug of hot tea on the table steaming. “Do you know long ago, when the Mongol nomads roamed the steppes, riding over the wild expanses, stopping in different villages, how the women would line up when they arrived on their horses? There. That is your wild Gemini energy right there. This woman is a traveler, a nomad. You cannot keep her. Your subconscious wants to feast on her, but she cannot be kept or tamed. But you must be sure,” she said, “you must be unequivocally sure you want to let her go.” I nodded. It was time. I had to pick from a box of figurines for a vessel or representative. For the traveler, I chose a little white owl.

***

We placed it in the chair opposite me and began the ceremony. “What is it you wanted from her?” she asked. “Intimacy,” I said. “And what do you want from her now?” “I want her to be free of me. I want her to have a man who loves her, for her to have children. I want her to have a happy life. I want her to be happy. I cannot give her these things as I am.” “But these are nice things to wish for someone,” said the psychologist. “These are actually loving things. I hope you understand that everything that happened between you two was actually a loving experience. It was all very normal. And I want you to tell anyone who ever questions it this, that it was all normal. You are a man, she is a woman, and your energies combined. Now, stand opposite me.” She held out her palms facing up, and I held mine over hers. “Repeat after me. Say her name.” I said her name. “Look at me as if I was her.” I looked. “Tell her that you are taking back any hurt or distress you have caused her. Tell her that you are leaving with her only the love you gave. Leave the love with her. Take back the hurt.” I did as I was instructed and I found myself nearly unable to look in her eyes. Instead I glanced at the little white owl, its tiny blue dots of eyes. When it was over, I fell down onto the soft couch. I was quiet for some time and looked at the small owl, but it felt lifeless, remote, distant, just some play thing. “The story between you and her is now over,” said the psychologist. “That does not mean that this nomad might not return to your village in 10 years’ time. But for now, it’s done.” She instead suggested I focus my energy somewhere else, on a new focal point with the depth of the blue ocean. “You must be able to free yourself from these old ties, so that you can give your love to someone new. Only then can you be pühendunud. Devoted.”

***

In the evening, my friend returned bearing a gift, a sort of conciliatory move for disturbing the peace with his relationship drama. This time his significant other waited outside and I could see her standing there alone, head facing down, broken and sad. They were together again, but who knew how long it would last. His voice cracked a bit when he handed me the gift, as if his sorrow was sincere, genuine, and deeply felt. But he didn’t really owe me anything. All I gave him was a couch to sleep on, some support. One way or another all of these things end, whether it’s a long, drawn-out death, or on a town balcony focusing on a little white owl. You hold your palms out, leave the love, take the pain. Then the story is over. That does not mean it won’t resume again in 10 years. But for now, it’s done.

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