Culvert: A Love Story…Part 1

She brought her lover out to the rain country to meet him, her best friend. They had a long-standing pact: new lovers had to be approved or disapproved, in person. They called it a “test,” and they devised special code phrases before the meeting that signaled approval or disapproval of the new lover when in the midst of the new lover. They both enjoyed the game very much.

A few months ago, she had approved his latest lover with special enthusiasm by repeating the code phrase five times in a row. Six months ago, he had had disapproved of her latest man because he spoke in double negatives and never read a book.

In this particular meeting, he would say, “You rang,” as disapproval and “toots,” as approval.

There was a substantial new wrinkle to this visit. She was bringing a woman for the test, an overnight test at his house. It didn’t bother him in the least, and it was a novelty. Novelties sometimes make for great stories, in print and real life.

He knew she’d been with women before, but it was typically a booze and cocaine inspired thing. On Halloween or New Year’s Eve.

It had never come up when they were lovers, and in love. They never spoke of being in love and what should be done with it. It was like going out to dinner and eating all the side dishes and leaving the main course on the table and never saying a word about eating it.

They should have never stopped sleeping together. In fact, they should have married, had children, and raised them in a cabin in the woods where there was the rushing sound of a creek making its run to the ocean. A creek full of fish, the creek where they had met so many years before in the most unlikeliest of circumstances that had involved the magical scoop of ice cream into a cone, Beck’s music and a bicycle.

It was right there, in their grasp. They could have built a thousand cairns along that creek and changed the course of Oregon history with their love. What a gig they could have been together.

As it was, he had written a hundred thousand words about her. She had read them all. Only she got it, him, his writing. No one was even close.

But convention had swayed her and she surrendered to the shaming potential of mass disapproval. She denied their destiny. He was ready to embrace it, but never pushed. It was always her choice, first and foremost.

He settled for less. He just wanted her in his life, some way, forever. She said the same, about the settling They’d once spilled blood to seal this compromise. Nothing would corrupt that blood oath.

Settling. That’s a corruption all unto its own. Only the settlers know the ultimate cost. The settling drills tiny silent holes in the settlers’ hearts.

Then atrophy.

Her new lover was a preacher’s kid, a preacher’s daughter, a pariah to her old man. He was a preacher’s kid, too, but that is another story better left untold—for now. People need to die first.

The truck pulled into his driveway. He watched them drive up in her lover’s truck, a beater Nissan. So far so good.

They were all introduced and he stowed their gear in the back bedroom. The new lover was blonde and pure punk rock right down to the combat boots. So far so good.

He barbecued fish on the patio and they got into the wine and whiskey and the Stones. They talked of interesting things and about the new lover’s banishment by her parents. She quoted some good words of compassion from Jesus and he knew them all too well. So far very good.

It was strange to see them kiss. He still loved her but had let go of all that a long time ago. He wanted her to be happy, with a man, woman or monasticism; it didn’t matter. He just wanted to be in her corner and her in his. They would be good cut men for each other for life. Every person needs a good cut man in their corner.

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