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The Berm

I am here with a man who is not my husband. We orbit around each other, vibrating with the same frequencies. We have a strange intimacy, taking care of each other’s children. He washes my son’s hair. I hold his son’s hand. He leaves offerings from his garden on my front porch – sweet corpulent tomatoes, fragrant sage, hot chilies. Within a very short time we have gotten into a groove, speaking a shorthand, knowing the same plan. I am utterly and completely relaxed.

I call my husband who is at a party with some friends. “I’m never coming back,” I say. Everyone laughs. I tell them I’m staying over to camp out with the kids.

That night we shuck fresh corn and he makes pasta. I have nothing to do except watch and try to get the boys to eat their dinners. They are playing with flashlights and toys and want to go down to a gathering a few campsites away. There is a rumor of s’mores, an intoxicating lure for a five and six year old.

We eat our adult dinner while they play. We drink Merlot out of blue plastic cups. He tells me a story. He was traveling in Italy, and telling a group of various sorts of Europeans about how his life was going to work out. He was going to move to L.A., work in the movies, everything was going to be fine. One of the Italians looked at him. How do you know this will work out this way? the Italian said. It is such an American trait to be so sure of the outcome of a plan.


In my thoughts of him, he acquires significant proportions. He is a life force dispensing sensual flavors, tapping out exotic rhythms, evoking long-forgotten emotions. Creator of succulent life. Lord of a fertile realm populated by skittering lizards, sensual seething yellow squashes, tangled marching vines. He is humanity and laughter and worry and concern. Washer of hair. Singer of songs.

We dance a dance of intimacy and reserve. The synchronicity of our thoughts is a given. I play with it, testing it. I think about infidelity, as though it hasn’t happened yet. Technically, it has not. We don’t touch. We don’t say the words. I have no idea how he feels about me. We either know or we don’t know.

I am caught in the whirlpool of emotions. I feel life and joy and anguish wailing out around me, tumbling behind my footsteps, cascading around me like a swirling force field. Like incoming waves crashing on a shore.

The accuracy of the situation does not in any way destroy its truth.


The edges change. The surfers ride on the incoming waves, finding harmony with the forces bigger than themselves. Land-dwellers build walls and fortifications, resisting the surges and pull of the tides and waves.

How do we know the outcome of a plan? How can we fortify ourselves against every contingency? The nature of the world is to break down, to change. The hard lines crumble. The careful edifices fall. Children grow up. Loyalties shift in an instant.

Surfers find their balance by acknowledging the power of the inevitable, and riding it with grace. In the same way, the act of building the berm was a joyful one. The berm stood at the boundary between two worlds. It was a false protection between the fragile shifting line between land and sea. There was pleasure in the construction of the fortification, no matter how doomed.

But when it was destroyed by the forces of nature, there was only one possible response. Move the blankets. Enjoy the changing tides.

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