Zeus and Earth and Light
Cloud-colored ripples lie on the water before me in a vertical bar. I rest my hands on the starboard rails as we approach the mouth of the fjord. There are smoothly layered shades of blue. Dark tints of green reflect trees and bushes where they stand on the granite cliff sides.
"You shouldn't fall in love with me," Mary had said, among slate flagstones extending indefinitely in every direction. "I'm waiting for Pine Tree."
The elegant line of her shoulder. And the green dress. The blue sweater, the long blue socks.
She said that, but kissed me anyway. Let me buy her nachos. God, why would you let me buy you nachos every day?
In 2006, I went to visit her family. She had broken up with me twice during pre-marital counseling, and had come back again. So I wanted to know what I was in for.
"Can you tell me what's up with Pine Tree?" I asked her sister, Tracy. Tracy and I were in the middle of me buying her a lot of wine.
"Omigod, what? She told you about Pine Tree?”
“Yes. And when she talks about it, she gets really weird for, like, a day.”
“You're weird, Tinkertoy collection.” She checked something on her forehead with a little mirror.
“Is Pine Tree,” I paused. “Is it a man?”
“Is her imaginary boyfriend from kindergarten a man?”
My parents said to toss her.
“Too much baggage,” said my dad. “You can see it in her eyes.”
My mom answered me by speaking in ancient Greek for one full minute.
“What?” I said.
“That's from Euripides,” she said. “It means don't trust women.”
“You're a woman.”
“A lot of the nuance is lost in translation.”
“If you marry me,” I said, almost crying, “you glowing typhoon of a woman, if you marry me and I hear any more about Pine Tree, I swear I will go live on a fjord and if you want me back you'll have to learn Norwegian and ride in a dragon boat and battle a troll.”
“You'll sound like that muppet. The chef.”
Pine Tree's hair smells so strongly that you can tell he's been in a room six hours afterward.
Pine Tree can skin a marmot.
Pine Tree knows my mother by reputation, and quotes Nietzsche from memory, in German.
Pine Tree had been Ashurbanipal, King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, in a past life. He can prove it, but only four times this incarnation.
Pine Tree has wrists that look like ankles.
Pine Tree's parents named him Roger, and he recognized Mary at a hawk feeding, by the jade ring on her left pinky. Mary recognized him by the National Park Service iron-on patch on his denim jacket.
Stone faces rise steeply into a foam of low, migrating clouds. I watch the distance make them into flat.
Matthew Talamini has an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University, where he taught fiction workshops. He lives in Providence, RI. Visit him at matthewtalamini.com.