Knowing Me (knowing you) - video transcript
My name is no longer Clarence. From this moment forward, I’m Clare. A girls name, sure, but assertive and distinguished, with the casual ring of a nickname. Its like the rule about any dude with a pink shirt. He’s probably the toughest guy in the room. The next time you see me, I’m a new man. I have my shit together in ways that you will never imagine. You say to me,
“Good goin’ Clare. You clean up pretty nice. Where on earth did you get that camouflage cravat?”
I respond with a really great kiss and a perfect bouquet of flowers. I intentionally don’t answer the cravat question. I like to drop a tiny mystery wherever I go - something that will linger, so that when we’re apart, I’m still all up in your mind.
The flowers are The Dreamland Bouquet, with a mix of Asiatic and Peruvian Lilies. Here’s the thing: They’re plastic but they’re so realistic that they smell and feel like they were bred by a champion fucking botanist. Months later, you sit across from them in the kitchen and wonder what cosmic energy keeps those flowers alive. You see them as being us and their astounding health reassures you. Even I am convinced of their power. Every couple should have a bouquet of immortal flowers.
On road trips I entertain you with made up stories about characters with unlikely improvised names like Grampy Loder, Kenneth Holdinfirm and Fat Baby. Here’s how one starts:
Fat Baby calculated that the spigot was just big enough
that he could insert his penis. He fancied himself an innovator in the area of backyard masturbation and he had tasked himself with topping his famous Roman Candle maneuver...
One night I make my famous lasagna. You get severely drunk and begin to think that you’re dying. You go into hysterics and try to make yourself vomit with my green tongue scraper. As I watch you dry heave into the toilet, I remember the day I bought that scraper only because I was flirting with a hot girl in the personal hygiene aisle and she suggested that I buy it. Watching you, I realize that the long affair that I’ve been having with that mysterious beauty, via the scraper, which will never touch my tongue again, is over.
We fight on the way home from a night of heavy drinking. At 70 miles an hour, you open the car door and threaten to throw yourself onto the highway. Instead of pleading for your safety, I scream obscenities at you and swerve the car with the hope that the door will shut itself in agreement. The stunt doesn’t work like it seems it should and I pull over, fuming with fear. After a silence, you tell me that you’re going to have a baby.
We name the boy Stonewall Jackson Till. When he is five, I take mischievous pleasure in lullabying him to sleep with his namesake’s dying words at Chancellorsville.
“Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
He is a gentle soul who spends most of his time with quiet fantasies in the back yard. We have no choice but to love him deeply.
I inherit my father’s rifle. (An abrupt heart attack, alone at Sea World in Orlando. What he was doing there, no-one knows.) You are uncomfortable with having it in the house. I offer to buy a trigger lock and to stash it out of reach so that the boy can’t hurt himself or his snotty ten year old friends. You tell me that it’s not about Stonewall or the morbid statistics of gun ownership. You tell me that you’re worried that someday, you will drive me to use it on you. I hide the gun in my studio and tell you that I sold it for fifteen hundred dollars and that I used the money to start a college fund for little Jackson.
You stop talking to me for a week and I don’t know why. That Friday, Stonewall comes home from college and tells me that he’s signed up for the Armored Cavalry in Ft. Lewis Washington. He suggests, in not so many words, that the years of watching his father traffic in ambiguity, abstraction and self indulgence make him crave a life of concrete meaning. He also digs the idea of driving tanks. They are squat ugly machines that exude gravitas and spit plumes of fire. I am embarrassed by my fear for the boy so I nod and fix my gaze on the birthmark on his cheek - a port wine stain that the doctors said would go away but never did. You finally break your silence by asking me if I think that a name can predetermine a destiny. Then you repeat the boy’s name trying out different inflections like we did when it was first up for consideration.
We sit on the porch drinking Old Fashioned’s, saying few words and listening to the trees. I drift to a moment twenty years earlier. You have me on my back in the kitchen. I’ve allowed you to pin my arms in the hope that one thing will lead to another. You stop, startled and say that a vision flashed before your eyes. A vision of me as an eighty year old man. My response is sarcastic. Something like, “What, are you a witch?”
But your vision soothes me.
I argue with some cretinous asshole at a truck stop on I-85. Having spit out the last word, he gets in his 18 wheeler and very slowly drives away. I grab my grandfather’s twelve inch Ka-Bar Knife from the glove box (This thing saw action at Normandy.) and chase after the lurching truck. I stab the back tire which pops with such great force that it blows the knife back into my skull. I stagger and chuckle. The trucker has no idea and keeps going.
My coma is tough on you and the boy. You recede, out of sheer pain. Stonewall, having returned from war, leaving behind his characteristic expression of quiet amusement as well as his left index, middle and ring fingers, struggles through exhaustion to stick around and soak me in.
While unconscious, I see you one last time in the kitchen. We drink black coffee. You hear a noise in the yard and push open the screen door. It slaps shut behind you and I think,
“Hey that’s bullshit. I’m the one who’s supposed to get up and leave.” Perturbed, I stand and pour a refill.
I die with a mustache on my face. The nurses, bathe and shave me on my last day, leaving a crisp handlebar that drops well below the corners of my mouth, which is agape. They ooh and ah. They tell me what a handsome catch I am, not knowing that I haven’t had facial hair in 40 years.