Love at Last

      There were times when you and Oakland saved me. Every time I needed saving, through the Madison years, I could drive to Oakland in twenty-four hours and feel at home. Remember the Oatmeal Minstrels? All those nights we ate your oatmeal cookies and played our guitars until the sun rose. That Audrey with the loaded gun under her pillow. Man, could that girl handle her twelve-string. All of us were single back then. Some of us still are. When did you lose touch with Carlisle? I can’t remember your funny story about how she got that nickname. I never did find out what her real name was. Too bad you lost track of her, but I know how friendships go.

      You and Carlisle had that strange plan. You two said if you didn’t find the right men soon, you’d resort to artificial insemination, move to Mexico, and raise your perfect babies in bohemian simplicity. Carlisle wanted to write bizarre novels about strange animals, beasts who roamed all the better for multiple heads and eyes. You said you’d paint more of those violent abstracts, like my favorite, the hot pumping heart with the bright blood surging through constricting orange veins in the midst of a violet and black emptiness.

      You two would always talk about your biological clocks, how they were ticking you toward motherlessness. Carlisle and I sat sipping beers, watching you perk espresso, or slice up those fat lemons with your very sharp knife while you kept a watchful eye on the blue double-boiler, cooking your gently whipped egg whites for those perfect meringue pies with the great brown beads of sugary sweat that I ate so ravenously. And through all this I would listen to you two talk about men, all of them slime, who’d treated you so badly.

      There was the young architect who lived in Piedmont behind his huge picture windows along with the lovely little wife he forgot to mention. And how about the English teacher who loved old movies so much that he sold all your possessions while you were home in Hawai’i so he could expand his poster collection and leave you a bare apartment. I know you laughed out loud when you mentioned it needed redecorating anyway. But from the way you told it, I almost cried. Then there was the old Berkeley radical, balding above his cracked leather jacket, who drove like a maniac on his vintage Harley. You said he took one trip too many south of the border to restock his mobile drugstore and thought you might see him in ten to fifteen years. Or how about the struggling lawyer who slaved for his father, a true junior partner, so daddy could sneak lunches with you, help you polish your Spanish, buy you red roses and perfume. Am I inventing this, or did you tell me he dropped dead of a heart attack, leaving you to explain his presence in your apartment to the frantic son who finally managed to get away from the office?

      Congratulations to you on your lead mechanic and your fine daughter and son. You were always a great mother to me. You waited so long for the right man to come along, to give you love that you always deserved, though I’m still not sure even he could appreciate your lemon meringue pies more than I do.

      I know Audrey moved back to Hawai’i, but I really wish I knew about whatever happened to Carlisle. Did she, I wonder, abandon her novel plans? Find love at last, too, like you, somewhere beyond her art?

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