He said that he sang the best songs being Chicago born, that all would be kosher between us even if what he ate wasn’t food. That was over bad Yugoslavian wine after he came up to me on Burnham Park and told me that I looked like a young Mara Corday, and said yes, I’m inside your head and know that you don’t know who she is, no matter, all things forgotten are eventually remembered, resurrect like geese migrating south over the lake.
That was only one of the stories he told.
He was a history professor specializing in the Holocaust. I was from Appalachia and we didn’t speak the same language even though we knew what the words meant.
Slightly drunk, he laid out narratives like a winding staircase with missing steps. He played the Wise Man like in the Bethlehem story or Obi Wan fingering the Force.
I played Damsel not in Distress, all on a dark barroom stage. Look, I said, I’m not the temple priestess that lay with Enkidu for seven days.
It rained longer than that, he said, in the deluge.
He admired my skimpy red skirt, long black hair that looked like Grace Slick singing “White Rabbit” at Woodstock. Yeah, I said, but mother wouldn’t like the pill you carry. He garbled a Yiddish poem and I told him that growing up too much Patsy Cline had spoiled my head.
But no. I told him stories of my own: of the missionary beheaded outside Mecca, the actor who hung himself because he was emptied out, a girl without milk singing goat songs, the Depression bum who stole the apple pie and was tarred and feathered, Ophelia who drowned for false love, the real King who died before Slick slicked up her song. There are many ways to lose yourself if you only listen to your screwed up nerve endings.