You made it!! This is the conclusion of Feanor's fate, and away we go.
This is part eight of an eight part series. If you are just joining, it's best to start at the beginning.
"Day 4, Mid morning
"Are you joking?", she turned to look at me sidelong from the passenger seat, both her hands were working behind her head on the hairclip she had pulled from her purse.
We had spent the last 10 minutes discussing the musically aesthetic quality of national anthems, and were at a sudden impasse.
"I think it's very noble, and very... I don't know, catchy", I unconsciously craned my head to peer as far as I could around the next bend in the road.
"It sounds like a war march and probably was too! German music is always so hard edged and mechanical, I like the Canadian anthem, it sounds more like a song."
"It's a good hockey opening anyway..."
I felt a sudden, and yet soft impact to the side of my face. Looking down in my lap, I saw the "stretchy" fabric hair loop ammunition that J had also pulled from her purse.
"Rude...", she muttered with an irritated, but amused tone as she reached to retrieve her salvo.
I grabbed it up just as she was getting a grip on it and held it out of her reach in a juvenile, yet sophisticated manner.
At that moment, another sharp bend came up in the road and with one hand on the wheel; I suddenly realized that turning as far as I could one-handed, was causing me to drift across the centerline.
J dropped back in her seat the moment she saw the look of panic on my face, saying my name over and over again quietly like an anxious mantra.
Negotiating the corner finally and easing back into a steady driving rhythm, I finally exhaled and tossed the culprit back over to her.
"That would have been death by stretchy item", I tried to sound completely calm
"Be careful please"
It was quiet for the next 20 minutes, with the exception of the CD player, which J had previously had spinning an old KKSF sampler, but was now playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which she loved.
She was sitting silently and listening, turning the object of our near destruction over and over in her fingers. I wondered to myself how like a drive to some destination relationships actually were... Some people laugh and sing the whole way, some sit in torturous quiet, Some ride along in perfect contentment, with only a few "scares" along the way...
... some die instantly in a head-on collision that no one saw coming.
"I wish the USSR was still the USSR...", her words snapped me back into the 'now'.
"Remember the old Soviet Union anthem?", she began to hum the bars in perfect pitch and with surprising enthusiasm... She had a beautiful singing voice and was accomplished on the piano as well. I reminded her laughingly on occasion of the time that she sang and played the piano at one party, and, as a joke, I told her Father in that "male bonding tone", that she was well versed in the "feminine arts" to which he nodded in total agreement as if he seriously approved of my observation.
When she got to the refrain, which was truly poignant, she began to actually sing the words, in Russian.
I sat up a bit straighter in mild surprise as she continued and eventually returned to humming the bars after the refrain, apparently only knowing that one verse.
I had already had some humorous quip to offer at her suggestion of the anthem being the most beautiful and heartfelt, but after hearing it in her voice, the desire to be funny, faded.
I just smiled at her as she looked straight ahead, lost in her own thoughts, and I agreed silently. It was more beautiful than the other anthems.
Both of us knew the drive to Mendocino well, but J had an almost savant like skill at remembering directions and landmarks. I would always stifle my outbursts of astonishment when she would make comments concerning, "that bent 25mph sign around the next corner" or "There was a tree here somewhere that had a broken branch... Oh there it is!" even years back in time and hundreds of miles from home.
This time she remembered the small steel bridge with the red X spray-painted on it to the left. It spanned the stony bed of the small river that wound its way below where the road cut its way thru the curving hillsides.
It came into view around the next turn, right on cue, and just as "The Four Seasons" was opening with the Spring Movement. I turned up the volume slightly with the wheel mounted control.
"Look! Its the famous 'Springtime' bridge", I announced as the music crescendoed in the background like a perfect music soundtrack.
J laughed and was also tickled by the seemingly perfect timing of the music. Her laughter being so much more of an event than Erianna's, who almost made it a point of it being part of her everyday vocabulary. Eri had a wonderful laugh, but J's was more beautiful, because it was rare.
"die BrÃcke", she offered suddenly
"Sehr Gut!... 'Le Pont' ", I replied proudly
But then, suddenly, something happened... almost in the echo of her mirth, she grew strangely still.
"What's wrong, J?"
She undid her seatbelt quickly and suddenly wrapped my arm tightly with both of hers, leaning as close to me as she could from her side of the car.
"When I hit you... I'm so sorry...", she had her head buried in my shoulder, her words escaping just barely over the ambient sounds of the car.
"It's ok... I know how upset you were... Where did it come from? We've fought about that exact same thing before, and it was never that bad"
"I don't know... Maybe it was just a timing thing too... It always felt like...", she paused for a moment to gather her thoughts, she seemed detached and almost unreasonably calm.
"It felt like the other times it was just enough to shout, or swear, and that was enough to keep the rest of it from coming out."
She eased back into her seat, still holding my right hand with her left...
"Put your belt back on, ok?", I offered, still remembering the moment we had just recently... She reached over without releasing my hand and the *snap* of the clasp sounded almost like a signal of some kind.
"So it feels like there is a lot you're still holding back?", I wasn't certain, and felt a rising fear, at what kind of response she would give...
"I think I'm like my Mother..."
"Your 'Mom' ", I chided
"My 'Mother' ", she said with the determination of a constant casual conflict we had over the virtues of calling one's parents "Mother and Father" as opposed to "Mom and Dad"
"She let your Dad get away with a lot", I tried to present the well known family fact with as easy and respectful a tone as I could, but in any language, "womanizer' was not a complimentary term.
"Yes... Do I let you get away with a lot too?", I suddenly felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and a strange tingling sensation in my chest.
"I don't mean to hurt you or shame you J... Nora didn't tell me a lot, but it was enough to see certain things that I didn't know before, or maybe didn't want to see", It was an odd sensation I felt inside, not knowing at that moment if I was saying what she wanted to hear, as a form of my self-defense, or if I was really telling the truth I felt inside.
I was dwelling on that fact as she continued.
"I know, I know you haven't been with any other women... Gina was hard though, that took a while, but I really like her, and I don't think she would actually know HOW to have an affair"
In the split second pause, we both suddenly filled the car with a burst of laughter. It was all I could do to steer straight and maintain my speed. I noted a minivan behind us who probably surmised by my driving that we were both drunk.
"Stop that! She's a great girl!"
"Girl is right...", she concluded
"We're ok, right J? I mean, sure you beat me into submission and all, and hurl objects from time to time, but we're doing alright..."
She smiled sheepishly and nodded a silent yes.
"I know how things look, but I've always liked socializing with women. Maybe it's some weird ego boost, or maybe a neurosis, or maybe even just dumb-luck, I could never tell, maybe their conversations are just more interesting to me."
J was listening intently, her eyes occasionally looking down before returning to meet mine.
"Nora said something that made me think...", I said in sudden recollection.
"What was that?", Did I suddenly hear J's voice break a bit with emotion?
"She said I 'push things right to the limit' about the way I can be with other women sometimes..."
"Yes, you do that... In the beginning it got very bad, but Nora says more nice things about you then you know... She told me that she didn't think you would cheat on me."
I made a mental note to "smirk" at Nora the next time I saw her in the office...
"I never have J, and I know you haven't either..."
I meant it as a closing, as a reassurance so that we could move on to a nicer subject... But instead I felt my hand suddenly being squeezed harder...
I made certain to clear the next turn before I looked straight at J... Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but she never looked away from me....
Sunlight was rippling through the crest line of the lowering hills as the sun drew higher into the sky. The alternating light and dark punctuated the feeling that my life was roaring past me at break neck speed... A small dirt turnout came up at the side of the road and I dove the car toward it and stopped. The small minivan passed a few seconds after that and I wondered what other parts of my life it carried away as it disappeared around the next bend...
J was crying openly now... and as hard as I repeatedly tried to pull my hand away from her, she wouldn't let go...
Beginning when I was about 12, there was a time that I had some problems with the "truth".
To put it more bluntly, I lied a lot as a child... And unfortunately became rather good at it; Grades, dented cars, where I was going, who I was going with, who had thrown the rock, and on and on.
To my mind, what was the truth anyway, but an opportunity at interpretation. Now, granted, I became as skilled as a youth my age could become at such endeavors, but it didn't mean that I didn't get caught in lies often. Otherwise, how would I have ever gotten the reputation?
My Father was a disciplinarian who had no qualms about corporal punishment. "The Belt" was more of a scheduled torture than a rare event. I often wonder to this day the value of pain as a parental aide, because I always respected my Father, and his disapproval and disappointment of things I had done in my life, and the ways that made me feel still haunt me to this day after the memories of the belt were long forgotten.
But it was my Mother who approached the problem differently. If I had respect for my Father, I had a consuming adoration for my Mother. When I was old enough to know more about the ancient civilization of the Spartans, I was convinced that my Mother had been one in a previous life.
She had no need for decorative, ostentatious things, in home, or in life. Our home in Piedmont as I was growing up was incredibly spacious, yet the interiors were functional, tasteful and efficient. One less painting on the walls might prompt a visitor to wonder if the occupants had spent the day packing up to move. In her life she did everything "the rest of us" should have done. There is an ancient saying, "The Greeks all know what is right, but only the Spartans do it" That was my Mother in a nutshell.
Where my Father spoke loudly and frequently in long flourished speeches filled with power and indignation. My Mother was concise, direct, and to the point. It was extremely rare for her to sit down with one of us, taking time to "explain" things, which is why I remember and live by the advice given to me from each and every time.
She and I were standing in the living room one day... There were 5 large cathedral windows overlooking the sloping grounds behind the house. If my Father had allowed it, she probably would have had the masonry broken away, and the windows replaced with white wooden rectangular boxed window frames. We had been talking about my penchant for "not telling the truth" so often, and were moving predictably thru the lines of "lying is bad..." The sole reason for my attention to that point was that she was my Mother, and deserved the attention.
But I remember she unexpectedly moved to one of the windows and placed her hand on the glass, as if she were watching someone. I tried to follow her eyes in the silence and saw nothing.
"You have to be truthful in everything you do..."
"Why?", it really was more an inquiry as to purpose, then it was the typical childish response.
"Because someday, someone you love and trust very much will betray you, and that pain will be with you for the rest of your life... I don't want you to be the one to cause so much pain"
It was the first time I had ever heard my Mother use the word "Betray" and even in the dullard years of age 12, I sensed that her words were meant to hover over me until later in life, rather than be truly understood by a boy.
I turned off the ignition and sat as still as I possibly could, even trying to stop my breathing. She still held my hand tightly, which I found increasingly more disgusting.
In my mind, an image of making a phone call to my Mother in the afterlife began to form...
"Hi Mom! It's me! Hey, guess what just happened? And yes, you were right! It feels like SHIT!"
I took the keys from the ignition almost as an instinctive action and tore my hand away, throwing the car door open roughly, I got out and hurled the keys toward the hillside, over the car.
"Wait, it was only once, just one time..." She was choking back tears, calling to me thru her own weeping.
"Just once?! Oh great! I feel SO much better!", in one concerted effort I kicked the door as hard as I could and it slammed shut with an impressive sound.
J took off her seatbelt and opened her own door...
"Don't... Don't come out here! Get back in the car!", I'm not certain how such a thing was possible, but I truly thought I saw flames spurting up from the ground.
It's difficult to explain what it feels like to be in an uncontrolled rage. Unless of course, you're in the midst of one. Even then, it feels very much like being an actor following a very precise script, which could not be deviated from in the slightest... Oh, and with a large steel claw ripping the flesh off your back.
Reading the script you follow the instructions to:
*Pick up large rock and throw it in random direction while cursing...*
*kick side of car repeatedly while calling occupant a fucking bitch*
*Yell out random expletives, while asking the sky how it was possible to be working so hard at faithfulness only to be shit on*
*Wonder inside how you could ever touch her again without your skin crawling, knowing someone else had and she kept it from you*
*Grab wife by throat and strike her in face with fist repeatedly until she bleeds profusely from the nose and mouth*
I knew that day, that moment, what "Crime of Passion" meant, and how I could see it now as a valid defense when previously I took it as a cheap, lying, legal "out".
I stared at her from in front of the car, if my fists had been clenched any tighter, my fingernails would have drawn blood from my own hands.
With my heartbeat pounding in my ears I kicked the cars front fender one more time... Frustratingly, it left little to no mark... But there followed a crunching sound...
The car was moving...
With an exasperated curse I walked over to the driver side door and lifted the latch... It slipped from my fingers and snapped back into the door with a *clack* The car moved a few more feet and began angling back toward the roadway.
"J, open the damned door..."
She was in her seat with her finger still on the door lock button, her shoulders rising and falling as she cried... I'm not certain why, but my mind filled in the sounds of her weeping, and it entered my mind almost with a deafening roar. The car was moving now at the speed of a slow walk.
"J, J!!! Open the fucking door!"
She took her hand off the latch button and placed it back in her lap. The car was at walking speed now despite my ridiculous attempts to hang on and slow it down.
"Jocelyn! PLEASE open the door!", I pounded on the window with my fist.
The downhill curve beyond J's, "X Bridge" had no guardrail and judging from the previous curves, was an impressive drop to the rock bed below. As we had been driving up I had commented about previous turns with, "Whoa, look at that drop off!" Simply to frighten her in a childish way.
I heard a voice in my head and the proverbial voice of the devil..
"This is your chance! She's even going to off HERSELF! Then you can have any woman you want! Let her do it! If not now she'll just find another way! That's what the X on the bridge is for! It's a mark to commemorate your freedom! DO it!"
Who knows what state of mind I was in because I didn't hear the counterpoint from the "Angel" though I waited...
and had to form the words myself...
"She loves you, and as fucking pissed off as you are, you love her too, the X on the Bridge is the point in your life where you forgave her just as she did for you a hundred times before. Every time you pass it from now on, you'll both be stronger for it... and more"
Before the Devil could compose a reply, I mentally willed the image of saying "Fucking Dick", flicking him off my shoulder as he screamed in freefall over the edge and onto the rocks below.
I let go of the car and ran to the side where there was a large dead branch and I dragged it quickly in front of the car, convinced it wouldn't work, and ready to simply slide down in front of the wheel myself.
The branch splintered as the shoots got sucked underneath the fender... when the wheel hit the meat of the branch, the car ground it into the dirt and gravel 3 feet from the pavement, and the car stopped.
I stared at J in disbelief and renewed anger. She began to pound on the dashboard with her hands trying to rock the car back into motion before finally collapsing in her seat.
I looked in the area where I had thrown the keys, but knew it would be some time, maybe an infinite amount of time before I could find them again.
I walked over to her door and simply stood there. The tears still fell and she occasionally wiped them away with the sleeve of her coat.
"J, open the door please", I couldn't believe how completely exhausted I was.
"DOOR", I repeated loudly but with as little malice as I could.
She sat there motionless, and I had no idea what was going thru her mind.
I looked around on the ground at my feet and found a fist-sized rock. I held it up at shoulder level just long enough for her to see what I intended.
With a *pop* all the latches unlocked at once...
I opened the door and as I reached in with my left hand I noticed that it was gashed and bleeding. Apparently the branch was rougher on the skin than I had imagined.
I looked at the wound absently as it pulsed slightly. I found it a sudden medical oddity to hear the beat in my ears, followed by the pulse of blood from the wound a second later.
J turned slowly and when she saw my hand she immediately gasped and pulled a handkerchief quickly from somewhere and placed it over the wound, pressing it gently between her palms. Her hands were incredibly warm.
"Don't get any tears on it! It'll sting!", I'm not sure why I said it, except maybe because if none of this had ever happened, that's what I would have said.
She got up slowly from her seat and fell against me; her arms limp at her sides.
I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her close... I saw the reflection of us in the window of the car and saw her knees were both bent, her feet slightly pigeon-toed inward and relaxed... She relied on me completely to hold her up, and she weighed nothing at all.
She was whimpering quietly, and then said something in French, perhaps two or three sentences... I had no idea exactly what she said...
"You better have not just called me a moron...", I rested my cheek on the top of her head. Even though I caught the words "Love, always, Mine, and forgive"
She rhythmically bumped her forehead gently against my chest...
I always loved how it sounded
when she spoke in French...