Suburban Soliloquy #68

Wanderlust Averted

Ms Keogh, my more significant other, is preparing for her next exhibition. The other night, she cleared her drawing table and invited me to keep her company while she painted in her studio, formerly our living room. So I sat at her drawing table attending to my correspondence with regular interruptions from her for advice or assistance. She had purchased a large bust of a Chinese Bodhisattva and had made the determination that it was Kuan-Yin. I knew better than to challenge her decision when she is determined. She was adding color to the statue with her oil paints before she intended to paint Kuan-Yin's portrait. Her opening is two weeks away and she is working without her typical fury, having allotted enough time to have everything completed.

Mine is a very sedentary life. I am fifty-two years old. I can remember my age because it is the same number as playing cards in a deck. In the last few years it has been difficult to remember, requiring me to calculate each time I was asked. Next year I will probably have to go back to calculating. So here I am living in the same house that was previously owned by my parents, enjoying harmony and contentment with the same woman I've been living with for twenty years. In that score of years this happiness with her has not subsided, her companionship continuing to gratify, but my life could have been different. This is not the life I was expecting nor intending when I was young.

From an early age, I was discouraged from believing life would be enjoyable. My father, forever the optimist, had every hope of my going into management. His perception of a business executive is that they make the most money with the least amount of work. For him it wasn't the satisfaction a job could bring, but satisfaction from the income one could earn. This view was further supported by my mother, forever the pessimist, who instilled in me the firm belief that life was one long tribulation at a job that was mollified by money. In the meantime, sitting at my school desk, I came away with the impression that school was preparation for the rest of my life, getting me accustomed to spending time sitting at desks and focusing attention on matters that could not be entertaining. I decided it wasn't worth it and escaped into daydreams.

I became proficient at dreaming and remain so to this day. It was a skill I thought could be applicable to writing. I had begun writing stories from the time I was eleven. At fourteen, in a fit of sexual sublimation, I dashed from a party, at which I had embarrassed myself, and announced to the night sky from the middle of a deserted State Route 413 that I would become a writer. When later I told my parents, my father was delighted, believing I had great talent, but he wanted me to channel this ability into the profitable career of a journalist. My mother had no faith in my ability to write and perceived writing only as a distraction from a real job. Once again, the future was made to be unappealing for me. I secretly resolved to become a failed writer and that would be satisfaction enough. By the seventh grade, I invented my own curriculum and began reading the classics at home.

While still in high school, I was planning to spend the second half of my life abroad. The idea was, when I was in my thirties, I would start life afresh in a foreign land. It was how I expected to avoid becoming jaded with existence, hoping to always be enjoying an enriching experience by renewing my environment.

In 1983, when I was thirty-two, I had the good fortune to go abroad for the first and only time. I went to Japan. Long before my trip, I was already in lovewith Japanese culture. My three-week visit was made possible by a very dear friend and patron, Seki-san, who admired my poetry and asked me to accompany her on her visit home. She only stayed two weeks while I stayed three. In Japan, I was hosted by my soon to be ex-wife, Matsui-san. I had even carried the divorce papers for her to sign. It pleases me to report that Matsui-san and I remain friends to this day. Sadly, the magnificent Seki-san has since died.

I have grand memories of being in the company of Seki-san and Matsui-san, the three of us traveling Japan, seeing the sites in Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo, and more. At Hamamatsu, famed for their eel delicacy, we spent the night with my sister's brother-in-law - he and his family had emigrated from the States.

It was while we were visiting Hamamatsu that I received an enticing offer, my dream come true. Even though I didn't speak any Japanese, it was suggested that I should stay in Japan with the promise of a job teaching English and a place to live. Why not? I felt exceptionally comfortable in Japan. Tokyo was as natural to me as New York City. The opportunity had a strong pull on me and I admit the temptation was irresistible except for one thing, Ms Keogh.

Ms Keogh was waiting for me back in the States. It was a very new relationship, just starting out, not yet a year old, and she was a package deal with two kids. A new relationship is a gamble. It meant discarding the dream of a more exotic life in Japan, but even though Japan was compelling, instinct enticed me back to Ms Keogh. She was waiting at the JFK airport with the children when I landed.

I had made the right decisions. While I was writing my letters the other night at her drawing table, Ms Keogh interrupted me again, because she was giving Kuan-Yin my eyes. She needed to check their color. My eyes are hazel with an occasional hint of green. I was irresistibly happy in that moment and felt validated in my decisions to join my life to Ms Keogh's as well as pursue the spiritually rewarding life of a failed writer.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is the number 68 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"