a story from Buddha In A Teacup
What was her name? She modeled for him twice. The four paintings he made of her sold before the paint was dry. Something about her angularity – a hunger in her bones. Or was it the sorrow in her eyes – the first glimmering of old age?
A gigantic face looms before him, startling him. “Hello Boo Boo,” says a voice coming from enormous lips on their way to press a kiss against his cheek. “You poopy? Need a change?”
Huge hands close around his middle, lifting him from the cushioned chair. He moans softly, a sound his mother hears as the beginning of language.
I’m Walter Casey he tries to say. The artist.
But only the most primitive sounds escape him, his brand new larynx yet untrained.
Helpless on the changing table, his mother frees him from his itchy pajamas and lifts away his soiled diapers. He sighs with relief to have his bum free in the open air. She wipes him clean, cooing as she pulls the string on the musical bear – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star playing for the thousandth time.
Mendelssohn he tries to say. Mozart. Anything but this ice cream truck twaddle.
She sits with him in dappled shade, chuckling at how ravenously he feeds on her.
Maria. That was her name. She wanted to make love with me. All I had to do was ask. But I was too arrogant. No. Afraid.
His mother pulls him off her nipple. He begins to shriek in despair.
“Hold on, Boo Boo. Switching breasts, that’s all.”
He falls asleep and drifts through layers of time to
a snarling dog lunging at him
his father saying You Are No Son Of Mine
forms appearing on his canvas as if by magic
mother clutching his hand as death takes her
his lover kissing his throat
The man who comes to visit every day is not the baby’s father. The baby’s father is bearded and stays in the house throughout the night. This other man has no beard. He only stays for an hour or so, speaking out loud to the baby, but conversing silently with Walter Casey.
How are you feeling? asks the man.
I forget more than I remember now.
Yes says the man. Soon you will forget almost everything that came before this life.
But I don’t want to forget.
What do you wish to remember?
Choose one thing.
The baby laughs. The man laughs, too.
The creek tumbles down through the wooded gorge – a sensual chill in the air. Yellow leaves drift through slanting rays of sunlight and settle on the forest floor. Walter stands at the water’s edge, the tip of his fishing rod pointing toward the sun, his line disappearing into a deep pool. Tomorrow is his seventeenth birthday.
His mother appears on the ridge above him. She is small in the distance, lovely and strong. She waves to let him know it is time to come home for supper.
Walter waves back to her and reels in his line. Now he looks up at the falling leaves, at the branches of the aspens, at the billowy white clouds in the gray blue sky, and he begins to weep.
“Don’t cry, Boo Boo,” says his father, lifting him from his crib. “Here we are. Don’t be afraid.”
I am not afraid. I was remembering the happiest moment of my other life.
“Don’t cry, Boo Boo,” says the gentle bearded man. “Mama will feed you. Everything is okay.”