A summer evening. Clear night sky. People drift and talk, wine and beer in hand, crowding the first-floor rooms of a grand old house up in the Berkeley hills. Some of us are out on the deck, looking at the blue Pacific Ocean. Starshine and moonlight glimmer on the surface of the water. I am sitting on a weathered wood bench, playing my guitar. He wanders outside and
listens to me sing. And that is the beginning.
He is tall and lean, with blond curls spilling across his forehead. He has a wide smile and a voice resonant with cigarette smoke. He is older by a year or two, maybe three. Older, not wiser, because he loves me too well. In my own way, I love him too.
Our sweet, youthful days become years, with never a promise made. I travel away, come back, travel away again. When we are separated, our lives are entwined with other people, other loves. Still, we stay connected. He writes beautiful letters in an elegant hand, and sends books by writers I have never before read—C. S. Lewis, Nigel Balchin, Lawrence Durrell. It is David who introduces me to the Alexandrian Quartet. I treasure it still.
Whenever I return to the Bay Area, he is there, wondering if I will, at last, stay. There comes a time I send him poems I’ve written. They are not for him; they are for women I have loved. Heart break, heart high, body and soul.
He reads my poems and writes to say, these are superb. Not divination by entrails, he says. Someone’s real voice. And he asks, do you know Cavafy? You must, and if you do, be flattered all to hell. Just in case, he notes which translation he likes best.
He marries, finally, a lovely woman with a fine mind and a generous heart. They move to Oregon, to a house out on a rural road, where old college friends live down the way. They raise their kids there, in a good place. When I hear he is ill, I can’t get there in time. Better that way, his wife says. Remember him as he was.
Now, decades later, I have finally found Constantine Cavafy. These last evenings, reading his poetry, I recognize myself, an old poet remembering my youth—the sensual nights and beautiful bodies, the ache and the heat, passion and desire.
Reading Cavafy, I remember the women I have loved, and think of David. My heart fills with love for him, more now than ever he knew in life, more, and yet more.
Cristina L. White is a life-long reader, writer, and artist. Her work has appeared in Orion Magazine, Occult Detective Magazine, Pigeon Review, Willawaw Journal, VoiceCatcher, and the anthology Youth in Wartime. She is a published and produced playwright, an award-winning filmmaker, and has twice been a featured writer at the Literary Arts Oregon Writers of Color Spring Showcase. She can be found online at www.cristinalwhite.com, and on Twitter @zencrunch.