The Truth Tale: A Love Story By Pia Rabin

Equestrienne By Marc Chagall

*Featured Image: Equestrienne, 1931 By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

The Truth Tale

A Love Story by Pia Rabin

 

Jim was a friend of mine

We first meet on a bus going to Miami

I am reading Camus and ‘The Flowers of Evil’

He spots the books and introduces himself

We talk, then we split from each other

promising to get in touch

Weeks later Jim sees me and waves

as I ride by his apartment

on my motorcycle

Only two girls in the whole school ride bikes

the other girl is Annie Bornstein

We get to be friends later

she has a red Honda two fifty scrambler

I have a white Honda one sixty

"A wheatfield on a summers afternoon" By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
“A wheatfield on a summers afternoon” By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

I buy it from my best friend’s boyfriend

I spend all my money on the bike

so I wait for kids to finish their meals

saunter over and eat the leftovers

mostly starch, bread, half an apple pie,

I get fat

 

Jim throws a party one weekend

All the lights are off

candles stuck in wine bottles lit everywhere

long legged sunflowers in beer bottles

the room glowed and smushed

with all the hippies and all the music

Jim and I make love that night

the only time we ever do

Jim and I really like to each other

only he is gay so we become best friends.

His poems are long and wordy

Then I meet Bill at a coffee shop

I often take a ride two or so at night

to blow the cobwebs out of my mind

from all the papers I am writing

His friend Don brought him there

to check me out because

Don saw me there several nights

and thought Bill would like me.

Bill’s wife ran off with his best friend

while he spent the summer working on Fire Island

went into a catatonic state for a while

So Bill could use somebody to keep him company

and I guess they chose me.

We get to talking

that night and many nights later

till slowly we become a couple

only I was more like a kid sister

He was passing the time

in an honorable way

blonde, handsome

with a grin to melt your heart

and a ready laugh

He gets it in his head to go to Europe,

bum around, see the world.

I am not in this picture of his.

He will leave me in charge

of his Norton 500 single.

 

 

Then my dad dies

my mom calls me to tell me

I cry all afternoon in Bill’s arms

drive to Mississippi for the funeral

He died playing his violin

practicing for his next concert

Mom was in the kitchen and heard him fall

My brother David comes from New York

the-promenade By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
the-promenade By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

We are like statues made of tears

My brother and I go back to our colleges

When I get back, Bill had left that morning

more tears coming, rivers of em

 

My apartment mate, Steve Davidousky,

and I throw a party

Steve is a real good jazz piano player,

the only white member of a Florida A and M jazz band

and Annie Bornstein’s boyfriend.

The band lets us come to their sets

at the black jazz bar

quietly breaking the taboo

They even invite us to come see Ray Charles

when he plays for them

 

John Redd, who had taken off

with Bill’s extra beautiful blonde wife,

was back and visiting

with my best friend Laurel’s big brother

who was a physics grad student

married with baby

Somehow John Redd shows up at our party

probably heard about it through Laurel

Our landlady calls the campus police

They see John Redd there and me too

and send everybody home

Then Steve and I are talking in my room

I knock over my big old heavy typewriter

The landlady calls the police

This time I say “Come on in”

to the knock on the door

and in they did come

They know about me being with Bill

They are buddies with Bill

as he graduated in Criminology too

They think I am taking up with John Redd

which I wasn’t but they think so.

I cuss them pretty good, get so mad

They arrested me in my own bedroom

and find out I was signed out

of my dorm room

to visit someone in Walton Beach

I am not supposed to have an apartment

against the rules for a freshman

I get in trouble with the dean of women

have to go visit her once a week

She is nice about it though

guess being an honor’s student

was worth something then

 

I have a full scholarship, throw it away

go to San Francisco to join Jim

the-fiddler By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
the-fiddler By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

in the Fillmore district

He dropped out before me

we are the only white people

most everywhere we go

great jazz clubs, much beer

Jim had been in an accident,

broke his leg and got some money

that we live off of for a while

Then we find a place in the Haight

that Kenna from Florida State shares with us.

She works at the telephone company

and supports us for a while

When she gets tired of it

I get a job there

and carry the money ball for a while

 

I buy a wooden round birdcage

make a clay girl naked and sitting sad

put her in the cage with a candle

and the cage door open

hang it in the middle of my room

so when you twirl it with the lights off

it makes the whole room into a revolving cage

with the bar’s shadows on all the walls

 

Kenna is pretty and sociable

She invites people over

They smoke and visit

A pair of musicians comes by

now and again and play

Tom the drummer, long black curly hair

Jack the singer- songwriter- guitar player

They often bring joints, give us our first acid

After I drop it I find myself

in front of the bathroom mirror

crying, can’t stop looking

seeing eye to eye a sad case of me

Jim drags me away from the mirror

We take a bus to the beach

clinging to each other, smiling

like children trying to keep a secret

We smile so much our faces hurt

We take those dumb pictures

where you put your face into a frame

circus-horse By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
circus-horse By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

a weight lifter for me

a fancy dressed lady for Jim

We get safely home

and sleep like angels.

 

Then we find a cheaper two room

basement apartment close by

with a back yard fenced in.

I make a friend at the phone company

who lives just off the Panhandle

One day I am going to baby sit for her

As I am walking over there

I see Tom on his way

to a practice session with the band

He looks so handsome and sweet

He waves and asks me to come to the session

I tell him I am baby sitting

but will see when I can get away

Something makes me want to go bad

I tell Rosie and she says just go

they would do their thing another time

so I do gladly and gratefully

The whole time the band practices

Tom just looks at me

ignoring all the other girls

After the practice it begins to rain

I start to walk home

Tom drives up with Jack and Lisa

He asks me if I want a ride

I say I want to just walk in the soft rain

Tom said he will walk with me

As we walk, he tells me

he is still married but separated and done

is waiting on the divorce.

he has a three year old daughter, Molly

who stays in Palo Alto with his wife, Joy

He wants me to know that first off

We walk over to Linda’s apartment

where he and Jack are staying

Sargent Pepper has just come out

We smoke some pot and listen

and lay together on his mattress

across the room from Jack and Lisa

the-birthday By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
The Birthday By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

I am drowning in Tom fast

kissing and hugging and the Beatles

playing all the love songs

I stay the night and days afterward

We are together constantly

my heart is gone into this thing

 

Then one day he says let’s take a walk

like have a private talk

Linda has told them that

they have to find another place

Jack wants Tom to step back

from me and see if this is real

I say its ok, I will just go away

he says no, give him a few days

he will come tell me

I go home to Jim

my heart hanging out

my throat caught in silence

afraid to hope this is mutual deep

 

Several long days later

I am home with Jim

when the doorbell rings

I walk out the hall

open the street door

there is Tom

saying Yes I love you.

that kiss stays with me still

joy at real togetherness

He moves in with me

a few days later, we hear from Kenna

that Bill is here, new name Angel

I borrow Jim’s friend Karen’s bike

go to North Beach to see Bill

My bike is in Missisippi with my mother

Seeing Bill is great

only he is a little crazier.

I bring him back to Jim’s to stay

and later, we start to fall into each other

The Three Candles By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
The Three Candles By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

but then, I cant

I love Tom

and he loves me back.

Bill could only like me back.

That didn’t stand a candle of a chance

put up against that love coming my way

I get on the bike to meet Tom

on the roof of his friend’s apartment,

and tell him

Tom is so glad

my heart bursts open even more

 

Now Tom did smack, that is heroin

which I hadn’t known

One day we go up

to a lookout point over the city

I tell him

if he is doing it

I don’t want to be separated

from him in it so I join in

makes me sick, almost don’t like it

 

We deal pot a kilo at a time

eight to ten dollars an ounce

on the street pretending to panhandle

I get a job at a topless bar

In North Beach where Kenna works

We do speed to keep on dancing

then Tom comes to pick me up

we often get off on smack

so I could sleep

We save almost all the dancing money

$50 a night

live in the basement next to Jim’s apartment

Often we wake up with dirt in our noses

We want to move to the country

Marin County or further up

 

One night we go somewhere in the car

bring along some smoke

Tom says put it in a map in the glove box

he has me fold and fold and fold that map

When we come home,

we park on the wrong side of the street

A policeman comes along

checks our IDs and searches the car,

takes that map out of the glove box

unfolds it once, twice, three times, maybe four

thank God, not as many times

as Tom had me fold it.

"The Falling Angel" By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
“The Falling Angel” By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

The police call in our IDs,

finds Tom is behind in his parole payments

takes him off to jail

I run and get our stash of money

from all those nights of dancing

our ticket away from the city and its drugs

I go to the police station and bail him out

broke again but together

I keep dancing but soon

Tom wants me to stop, too many drugs

 

Tom gets sick a lot

used to be on cough syrup for the codeine

messed up his liver

then Tom, Jack, Lisa and I

all come down with hepatitis

one at a time and Lisa dies

Jack is so broken, they were deep

into each other

dark sorrow

keeping on

 

Tom and I go visit friends in Forest Knolls

old houses among tall trees

good walking dirt roads,

poodle named Little Girl

natural curly woods dog

puppies a mix with German Shepherd

we pick one sweet girl

name her Samalina

We make necklaces

from a great old bead collection

Tom puts a rosary together

with a Gods eye,

we drive back to the city

determined to get out of there somehow

no drugs in the country

 

 

Tom gets so sick every now and then

throwing up

I try to get him in a hospital

get turned away a lot

finally a Catholic one

lets him in, takes good care of him

his doctor cares about us

hooks him up with social service

who give him a medical card

and a little to live on per month

He is too sick to work

They tell us he has about a year to live

We have enough now

to rent our own apartment

find a good one nearby on Page Street

He stays in bed a lot

throws up this smelly green bile

I lie with him and hold him

 

We drop acid and all I can think about

is getting off, smack on the mind.

Tom doesn’t want me

to be into smack with him gone

he always gets me off, does the needle

never me myself

We only use once or twice a week

keeps us from being truly hooked

We face the desire together

swear on a picture above our bed

a Chagall, bridegroom and bride

floating in the sky on a horse.

We both put our hands on the painting

promise we will stop, no more smack

 

We wait out the precious days

we have left together

We decide to let the apartment go

pack up the truck

and camp out in Big Sur

Samalina loves it there

nice people around the fire at night

It starts to get colder

so we go visit his friends in Petaluma

They know Tom is dying

let us sleep on the cast iron bed

out on the front porch.

In the mornings, we all sit on the porch

facing east, smoking, drinking coffee

with our feet propped up on the railing

amid easy comfortable company

We walk about the property

mostly scrub oaks, fields with Black Angus

Tom and I make love one last time

lovers-in-the-lilacsBy Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
lovers-in-the-lilacs By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

in the oak grove over the hill

although it takes so much out of him

He is a gentle kind man

facing death quietly

Kahuna makes a great big tree house

I bake bread, Maya cooks

rice and beans mostly

we decide clothes are optional

according to the weather

all of us are couples

with occasional visitors

There was Silvia and Kahuna

Magus and Maya, and us

Tom gets real sick

I am thinking this is worse

maybe his time to go

but surely not

I drive him back to the hospital

They admit him as usual

He lies in the hospital bed

wearing the hospital white gown

I lie beside him

holding on to him

I feel like I am keeping him alive

with the life that is in me

I go to take a break

over to Jim’s to talk and recoup

The others at the farm have said that

Tom and I can have the old milk shed

for a bedroom through that winter

Jim suggests that we go back to the farm

and paint it and fix it up

for Tom and I to come back to

We get three cans of paint

yellow, orange and red

and off we go

"I and the village" By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
“I and the village” By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

not stopping by to tell Tom

thinking it won’t take long

or not thinking, just feeling

so full of dread at the imminent future

We get there, give all an update

and set out for the milk house.

Jim and I both with brushes

use one color, then another

till it looks like the glow after sunset

Jim borrows a saw from Kahuna

cuts a window in the west wall

I make a window shade

from an old piece of leather

and tie it open with a string

it gets late by the time we’re done

so we decide to sleep over

The only bed is the one

Tom and I sleep in, on the porch

so I invite Jim to sleep with me

He and I hold each other for comfort

then It’s more than that

I have to stop us, no, no, I love Tom

so we stop and sleep

Next morning, I take Jim home

and go to the hospital

and onto the bed with Tom

who tells me he was afraid I had left him

It breaks my heart

that I had hurt him in that weakened state

trying to make a better place for us

so stupid a thing I had done

and he never saw it anyway

I tell him all about it

and he is alright after that

We hold each other

till some things hooked up to him start beeping

and nurses and doctors come running

Tom is saying “no, no, no, no

I am saying yes, Tom, yes

cause I can tell this must be it

and he can’t let go

They take me to the rose garden

I can’t be in there then

They all are trying to save him

red lights blinking, alarms sounding.

 

I sit out in the chill wet evening,

All the roses are dead on the bushes

waiting and hoping and knowing

here we are at last and so soon

They came to me in the rose garden

they ask me to call his parents

whom I had never met

direct me to a phone booth

and hand me the number

I dial the number; ask if this is his parents

and tell them Tom is dead

and the name of the hospital

He always meant to tell them

that he was dying but never did it

so I have to do it, really hard it is, too

They ship his body back east

His now ex-wife Joy goes as well

They probably shaved his beard,

cut off his shining black ponytail

dressed him in a suit and tie

He would have wanted

his striped convict pants

his Levi jacket that his jail friend gave him

"Over the town" By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net
“Over the town” By Marc Chagall, courtesy of MarcChagall.net

his rosary with the Gods eye

his favorite pipe he had made

and the pot box I made him

but I had nothing to do with it

I was with him for the long fight

and then I was with him in the air.

About the Author

Pia Rabin is a 71 year old writer and painter. Her statement is this: I live in rural Vermont on a small farm where I write and paint as a way to understand, to savor, to believe in the goodness I experience. I seek to express the thoughts and feelings that flow through my days, as an observer, an appreciator. I live with my cats in relative peace and humble enoughness. I work at the day’s demands as an act of gratitude and diligence. I fail, I try again. I trust in the One who decided to make one of me to enter into this stream of humanity. I desire to do my best to be of help to us all in my small way. The creative field is vast and I hope to play in it all my life. I sit in the silence, run in the wind, and wait in patience for my soul to come to complete love of us all in every way demanded, necessitated. I sweep the floor, load the woodstove, and write or paint what comes to birth in me. I hope to feed us all good things that help us on our way. May the Good Lord help us all.

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