Thursday, November 09, 2006

Life is a Fair

I got this letter from my dear friend, Greg, a couple of days ago. I absolutely fell in love with it, and got his permission to share it with you. I know it will resonate in you, just as it did in me! I am simply amazed beyond belief that Greg doesn't realize that he should write for a living. This is typical of the sort of letter which he writes off-the-cuff.

Incidentally, the people that are mentioned here are Cindy (his ex-wife), and his three children: Lydia, Jared, and Caleb.

I don't know if you ever think like this but sometimes I see truth in strange places. I see life in terms of symbols and I tend to assign meanings to those symbols and my head is full of them. They can be as simple an aroma, like the smell of diesel fumes which always reminds me of the smoky diesel engines on the fishing boats I used to love.

I think this symbol was etched strongest in my mind on the fishing trips my dad and I would take to Key West. These were good times. My father would charter a boat and we'd go deep sea fishing together, the smell of diesel fumes and the salt air were beautiful to me. Dad and I had very few good times together but these times were precious and that smell always brings thoughts of hope and good times to me and usually cheers me up as I'm driving down the road and I get a whiff of a semi in front of me. I'm sure most people would find that smell annoying and unpleasant and even more would think I'm a real wack-job for loving such a disgusting scent, but I as I have come to understand lately I am different from most people and I tend to think that I will never be completely understood and for the first time in my life I don't really care.

This afternoon Cindy called me and invited me to see Lydia's dance performance at the Tallahassee Leon County Fair. I first declined because I wasn't sure I wanted to spend time with my ex-wife on one of the few Saturdays I had to myself. Later, I thought about it and called her back and accepted the offer.

We arrived just as it was getting dark and almost as soon as I got out of the car I realized that my mind would be working overtime processing, categorizing and retrieving thoughts and memories in this place so rich to me in symbolism.

I guess the first thing that hit me was the smell of food in the air, a rich mixture of cooking Polish sausages, popcorn and some really sweet smell that was either cotton candy or funnel cakes. With my first whiff I suddenly was thrust back into ten different times of my life, yet only one place. I was a kid again and me and my friend Billy were trying to win a goldfish. In my mind I was back to the time I took Cindy to the fair when we were first dating, it was cold and she never let go of my hand and we walked as one keeping each other warm. I was also back to the time Cindy and I took our little boys and they were so awed by the beautiful lights, the rides and the noise. I was struck by the fact that here in the middle of rapidly changing world was an oasis where time had stopped and nothing had changed. Nothing that is, but me.

It's funny sometimes when the knife is jammed deep into your belly and is twisted by an unknown hand. You can feel your life leaking out of the the wound past the blade as it turns. It seeps out , and falls to the ground in big drops. This is what I was feeling almost from the minute we arrived. I felt very stupid to have returned to a place with her that held so many happy memories for me, so many symbols that now will be infected and tainted forever. What was I thinking?

We started the evening the way we always did walking the grounds and people watching a so called family again walking the rows of freak shows and carney games, people yelling at us, trying to get us to play there rip-off game or see the Woman with No Head. It was cold yet Cindy stayed as far from me as she could get without being completely transparent as to her lack of feelings toward me. It hurt beyond words when I went back in my mind to the time we were there and she expressed such open affection towards me. I worried that I would never have that feeling again and that scared me.

Jared wasn't impressed anymore by the lights or the smell or anything else for that matter. I think he felt the same way that I did as he watched his family, no longer one but now five individuals pretending to have fun. He expressed more than once with his eyes that he wished he was somewhere else. I really longed to see that wonder in his eyes again to somehow pull some emotion up from deep inside him something that would tell me that my little boy was still in there and he was alright, but there was nothing, just a dull expression of pain and I knew his healing from this divorce was going to take a long time. I wished he was taking things more like Caleb and Lydia who seem to have adjusted without any trauma, but then I thought his pain will make him special too, lie me, I only hope not lonely as I am right now.

Finally, after a few rides in which I only watched, we went home. As I drove back I realized how perfect the symbol of the fair was for me and what I have become. When I was younger I thought of life as a wonderful place like the fair, full of light delicious smells, sounds and tastes. As I grew I still had this view and I brought Cindy along and showed her and eventually my kids my sweet exciting view of life and for a while they walked with me. But like the carnival games and shows my life has turned into an illusion and lately I feel like the clown in the dunking booth casting insults into a laughing crowd, getting humiliated time and time again as he is dunked into the cold water by a well thrown ball.

Right now, I am walking as a spectator through life neither participating or enjoying it. I am simply there, wishing for someone to walk with me, share a funnel cake and see the world smallest horse with. Maybe next year.

I wonder if the Woman with No Head is seeing anyone.


~Deb said...

Wow! THIS is terrific!!! And he's not a writer??? GEEZ!!!

I have to totally agree with him---smell is the biggest trigger in memory. I know this sounds weird, but the smell of mothballs gives me a content and peaceful feeling...because I remember staying with my grandmother in Brooklyn. I felt safe with her. And whenever I smell that scent, (even though some people think it smells awful) I feel calm.

This was excellent! Thank you for sharing this!

Mikey said...

Saur, you're right, your friend is a fantastic writer.

As I read his letter, I too was taken back to many trips to the state fair, the sights, the smells, the sounds, and I recalled one memory in particular. My first real high school date was to the state fair, here in Phoenix, and it really was great to share that experience with someone else. (I got my first kiss that night, too.)

I too am divorced, but unlike Greg, I was lucky enough not to have any children. I don't mean that children are unlucky, just that divorce can be, and usually is, a very hard thing for children to handle. Also, as your friend pointed out, it constantly brings the parents back together in many functions; this can be very awkward. I'm lucky not to have to worry about that awkwardness.

Don't worry, though, Greg...things will get better.

The Lazy Iguana said...

Humm...the Woman with No Head huh? Interesting. No head = no mouth right? Now follow me here!!

No mouth = no complaining!

I think this guy might be onto something here.

Heather said...

He should definitely be a writer!! That was amazing. Painful, yet amazing.

EmmaSometimes said...

That was beautiful...he IS a writer, just in dire need of a publisher. :o)

Kathleen said...

Very touching and beautiful. I have a lump in my throat. Good people experience so much pain from divorce. It is hard to get over.

Senor Caiman said...


I just love elephant ears.

I personally feel that this is a crazy Dude with writing skills.