Tristan. Forlorn eyes. Sunken mouth.
It's like his sadness comes from a place deep within. A well. A place
I can never touch, no matter how wonderful I was to him. His sadness comes
from something beyond me, before me, something from time immemorial. As
if he'd always been sad. As if he no longer sees me when he's sad. For
him, I am the cause, for him, I no longer exist. The only way to stop
is sadness is for him to have me completely. A total possession of me.
Tristan manipulated me with his sadness, with his puppy dog eyes. If I
stood with Raphael, he was sad. If I stood apart, he was sad. If I spoke
to another man, he was sad. If I felt distant because I felt guilty and
immoral, he was sad.
I tell Tristan I can't see him anymore. He looks at me - tired eyes -
eyes that are old and grey, too long seeing the world, too sad - they
take in too much. He doesn't say anything. I blush. A burning embarrassment
and a wane of sadness imprison me until I am going down. I put the sleeping
bag over my head. Tears drip on my face.
Tristan pushes the blanket back, a window to his world. "Was machts du
denn?", he asks in my mother's tongue. I am ashamed, a child, my mother
has walked into the room, is speaking to me.
He cares more about me than the rejection he feels, I think at
Conan raps on the door and opens before we answer. "Raphael's left," he
says, as his eye flickers back and forth, from me to Tristan. He is blushing,
he is angry, and he closes the door with a thud. Conan told me his presence
is there and he thinks I am wrong. He thinks I am evil. I am evil woman.
The first night, Tristan hugged me. He sat close on the couch while me
and Jonathan and he watched a film about the vanishing Clayquot forests.
He wore his arrest for the lumber protest like a badge. "Forty-five days
in jail," he looked up at me, eager, like a puppy, but I could hardly
hear him above the shouting, chattering crowd. I didn't know what Clayquot
was - I thought he said "clay pot" and was perplexed by the absurdity.
He said later, he wasn't sure whether I liked him until I brought over
the tin whistles for him, and the last of my children's books for his
roommate, Valerie's kids.
The first time Tristan & I made love, we afterwards cuddled in each others'
arms. The late afternoon sun slants through his one window. The room is
colder, the door creaks and slams, creaks and slams, boots slapping across
the wooden floorboards.
Tristan gets up, lights incense. "Are you hungry?" he asks.
We get dressed, what little we have to do. I pull my jeans up, straighten
We leave the place. Jonathan is talking in the living room, excited about
something, almost in a high-pitched whine, tinier murmur answers him as
a dull thud and a graty-shaking, a log hitting the pile of logs in the
fireplace, Jonathan poking the metal stick into its warming womb, blowing
with the fan, rubbing his hands, spreading them before the birthing flames.
We walk down the shaky wooden porch steps, closing the creaking front
door slowly, so that no one knows we had been there at all.
We walk along residential streets, all of them quiet. We go north, away
from the downtown district, where Raphael is probably circulating.
We pass by community gardens. I become excited to know they exist, I hadn't
seen any since Olympia.
"I didn't know whether you were going or not, how long you'd be here.
I didn't want to get involved if you were only going to be here another
week. But when you left me in the tin whistle, that's when I was sure
about you - " He lit up his face, lit up the gloomy winter street.
He chattered, giddily, like young girls clamoring about their latest crush,
about the restaurant, how much I'd like it.
I stopped, like a train halting, emergency brakes. "You don't have to
take me to a restaurant." I felt so guilty. "I don't want you to spend
But Tristan felt festive. A smile is contagious, but was only so on the
surface. He refused to read my turmoil, the averted glances at my wristwatch.
Nestled among trees, a park, a quiet street, lay a quiet batch of boutiques,
restaurant, a cobblestone square. The cobblestone buildings, shaped in
Tudor A's , transported us to a time past, a country past. I hoped a man
pushing a wheelbarrow filled with straw would shuttle by, his lantern
swinging on his pole before him. Instead, a car rattled by, its one headlight
knocked out, the other dim, glancing through the fog rolling in.
The restaurant was dark. A waitress lit a candle. An older blond woman,
in her thirties, apron at her waist, was lighting candles on the tables,
as our hostess glided us through its corridors. Perhaps she read our minds
- she put us in a booth far away from the window, away from any prying
Tristan was free. I was caged.
Here I was, Tristan's secret concubine. Perhaps he thought he could win
me from Raphael. That I wouldn't be with a man who couldn't feed me. He
took pride in serving me a banquet. Or perhaps he was just a happy man,
celebrating being with someone he felt deeply about.
The waitress stopped lighting the candles. We placed the cloth napkins
on our laps.
© 1990 - 2003 Katharina Woodworth