A broken man lives on my street

Years ago, he made a mistake in the name of love. He still remembers when he was the sun and she was the moon. Now he reads the news reports about global warming and believes down to his marrow that Earth’s problems are his fault.

He told me not to reveal his name because people would say, “Well, that old man is full of himself, thinking he has or ever had the power to play a role in climate change.” Naturally, a few people would believe him and they’d kill him or put him in a home (he’s not sure which of those fates is the worst.)

The year it began, there was a war on. People were crazy, wild, prepared to live on the edge before they were sent to the front. So, he met a girl who claimed beneath the starry sky on an October night that her true name was Mother Nature. He didn’t believe her then because Mother Nature was a figure of speech and if she wasn’t a figure of speech, why would she want him when there were plenty of kings and queens and Hollywood celebrities available?

“You have a heart of gold,” she told him. She must have known he had always wanted a heart of gold or that he was otherwise susceptible to the feminine wiles of any lady who noticed the guy with the Coke bottle glasses who had never been on a date.

They became lovers. He told me that she taught him everything he knows about love and sex but that now he’s too old to use any of that information. Their daughters were hurricanes and their arguments were droughts, but heaven help him, he was addicted to her charms and her power.

Their liaisons were secret. They met in sheltered rooms and other uncertain places. While both of them wanted to go dancing, have wonderful meals at fine restaurants, partake of Broadway plays and theme parks, her power and beauty attracted too much attention. So they hid in the backs of rental cars and met behind abandoned buildings.

“She was my heroin,” he told me, “but I didn’t care until I finally understood that she was not truly a human woman and that she was transforming me (without malice) into an inhuman man. No man can sleep with a goddess and remain unscathed. If you read mythology, you know that.”

So he broke it off.

She went after him with global warming inasmuch as she wasn’t used to men turning her away before they died in her bed. Today he looks out the window at the endless rain and wonders what any sane man would have done in his shoes even though he feels certain he’s too broken to be sane. He’s thinking about going back to her since that’s the only thing he knows that will stop her fury.

“If I could turn the clock back to the day we met,” he said, “I wouldn’t change a thing. That proves I’m just as crazy as everyone else who looks back on the stupid things they did when they were young and knows they’d do it all again if they could.”

The last time I drove by his house on the way to town, I saw him sitting on his front porch with a cigarette and a Mason jar of moonshine. He was waiting for her even though he knew she would be the death of him.

Most of us would be, wouldn’t we? Our mistakes have become our fondest memories.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels and short stories, including the recently released “Widely Scattered Ghosts.”




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