Friday, October 9, 2009

Lessons in The Mansion of my Heart

So there we were, riding in a bus. We had done this often in our early years, but this was no ordinary commute. We were sitting in luxury, and everyone was chatting about their classes and plans for the week.

"Isn't this awesome?" Marcie asked, smiling and sipping her blue-tinted glass, recently filled with a Cosmo a man with a cart shook for her as her passed.

"It certainly is big, and it certainly seems expensive," I said.

"We already paid for it and it doesn't cost a thing!" she laughed, her victorious chuckle the same as always, the rise at the end making her sound as if she were getting away with something.

I nodded and sipped, and felt the bus slow a bit. It was almost silent, I noted, save for voices and music.

The bus intercom said in a gentle voice, "We have arrived and you may proceed to the exits for disembarkation. Personal belongings left on board will be returned to your domiciles. Greetings from the faculty and staff of the University."

We stepped off the bus onto a perfect blacktop, shaded by trees. People walked everywhere, pretty much dressed in white and with dashes of color. Marcie took my hand and tugged.

A group of people rode by on horseback. "Do you recognize that horse?" she asked excitedly, her mouth open a bit as she cocked her head.

I nodded and smiled. The horse my uncle Charley had at the ranch in La Posta, then raced in Tijuana to some success. People tied off and a light bell rang out.

"Let's go eat!" she said and pulled me along, running. Her hair was almost down to her butt, and was lustrous.

She had never looked healthier, if thinner and more toned, I thought. She was just radiating youth and health, and I basked in it.

She turned and kissed me on the lips. "Oh! That's very sweet of you to think," she said. "But save it for later. We're having the best roast ever."

I sat and soon two tunic-clad servers arrived. One served Marcie yet another Cosmo, putting a glass of water in front of me. The other placed plates of roast and rose potatos, asparagus and tomatoes before us.

I woke as I tried to take a bite. I stared at the plain white walls of my room, gulped and covered my head with a pillow. I was lucky, and soon fell asleep again, straight into the dream.

We were hurrying, "I am so glad you woke up," she said. "You were just out like a light. Get dressed, we have a class in like 10 minutes."

I felt the sense of urgency and dressed quickly, enjoying the slide of some light and smooth material over my shoulders as she put on makeup. A cat jumped in her lap, and I recognized him instantly.

"Garfield, please get down," she said.

He did, and he rubbed against my leg then sat leaning against it. I felt a tear in my eye. I had missed him these last 20 years, save for a fleeting dream of him in my 20s.

I stroked his long, grey tabby-pointed head and listened to his Siamese vocalizations. Marcie touched my shoulder and I looked up.

"Let's take him to class with us," she smiled. "He will be fine."

"Come on, Garfield!" she said and he trotted, then galloped past her as she opened the door.

We held hands again and walked along a richly appointed hallway to a staircase. He yowled from the floor below and chatted us up happily as we approached. The door opened and I began to step out with her but stopped at the message above the door.

"Some people have little cottages for hearts, and they never really have more than one person in them at any time," it read. "Mine is a mansion, and every wing grows with each person I come to love."

"Some people stay in the mansion and share in my celebrations, some wander out and back, and still others drift away forever," I said, remembering this conversation with a friend. "All of them have their own rooms, and some may leave them a mess, but inevitably they all have a place here."

I gulped and Marcie looked up at me, "I put it up a little while ago. I thought it was the best description of this place I would ever hear."

I looked around and realized where I was, looked at the pictures on the wall and a never-ending directory of faces and people, a reservation book of sorts. I looked to her and her gentle smile warmed me more.

"So you live in my heart?" I asked her. "And this is it?"

"This is just a part of it," she said. "And you live in your heart, too. That's why I stay here, and that's why I want to stay here. I want to see what you do with what I helped you build."

I kissed her on the forehead and held her tightly against me, and she stroked my back.

"Are we late?" I asked. "For class, I mean?"

"No," she said. "You're learning right now, and I think class is over for the night."

And before I could protest that it was still daylight, I woke again to the memory of her smell, Angel and cool, cosmopolitan-laced breath.