Thursday, October 11, 2012

No. 602 – Fortress Around My Heart

Performer: Sting
Songwriter: Sting
Original Release: The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Year: 1985
Definitive Version: None

I always liked the sound of this song, but for Beth, it carried far more meaning. This was the two in the one-two punch by Sting that gave me fair warning that Beth was planning a great escape when she was ready (the other being, of course, If You Love Someone, Set Them Free, as I covered). I didn’t give it too much thought though. Obviously, that was a mistake.

Anyway, Beth and I had a fairly tumultuous relationship, partly because there was so much passion between us but also because aside from the physical part of the relationship, we really weren’t all that compatible.

So we fought a lot of the four-plus years we were together. These were never physical fights, of course; I would never strike a woman. But, when taking a swing is off-limits, the verbal blows tend to pack more punch.

In the summer of 1986, we had a huge blowup. I don’t remember what it was over; I don’t remember what was said. All I remember was that when it was over and I drove off in my car, I thought we were done. No words to that effect had been spoken, but that was certainly the conclusion that I drew.

And that was fine with me. I was growing tired of it (even though the sex, of course, was fantastic). Maybe the time was right. I was about to head off to Northwestern. It seemed like a good time for a change.

We didn’t speak to each other the next day, even on the phone, which might have been a first for a day when I was in town. I wasn’t going to call her; I hadn’t spoken with her since the fight the previous day. I probably would call her the day after that, but I wanted to let it sit for a while.

I worked early the next morning as usual and was futzing around on the computer at my grandparents’ home when I heard a loud thump on the window of my aunt’s old bedroom. (Why I was there will be explained at a later date.) I went outside to take a look and found a bird on the ground—a sparrow, I think. It evidently had seen the reflection of the window and crashed into it, thinking it was sky.

Maybe it was just stunned. I left it alone, but when I went back out an hour later, it still was there. It was dead. So I went to the garage and got the gloves and shovel to bury it in the backyard.

My grandparent’s home in Upper Arlington had a small grove of pine trees in one corner of the backyard near to the fence that divided their yard from that of the people who lived behind them. The ground there was fairly loose, so it was a good place to bury the bird.

I dug the hole and dropped the bird in, carefully covering its dead body. Why I did this, I don’t know, but I paused for a second to somehow pay homage to a dead bird that never knew of my existence—kind of reflect on life and death, I suppose.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement, turned and saw Beth walking toward me. She was crying. Whatever ambivalence I felt evaporated, and I reached for her. She embraced me and told me her grandfather might be dying. What? She said he had been having trouble the previous night and was complaining of chest problems. Finally, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

Let’s go.

When we got there, Beth’s mother met us in the lobby. It turns out, Beth’s grandfather was OK, well, relatively speaking. It was a warning sign—he was well into his eighties, after all—but, unlike the bird, it wasn’t yet his time. After a while, we even went up to see him, and other than the fact that he had wires coming off him from all over his body, he seemed to be himself.

Needless to say, this was a huge relief for everyone involved, and the fight that Beth and I had the night before was instantly forgotten. We both apologized profusely and went out to dinner before the glorious formal makeup session later that evening.

And so we stayed together, for a little while longer anyway.

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