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About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  September 2010


What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?

Emotionally, Lightcap is as drained as the oil pan on a '63 Ford pickup truck.

"I think it's time for you to go."

And with those words, I knew that it very well was time for me to go. Like acid etching a tintype plate, the moment burned into my mind, forever protected from the vagaries of temporal mechanics. I can see the dust on the wood floor beneath her feet, motes swirling indifferently in the rays of sunlight. I can see the wrinkled texture of the fabric on the sofa directly behind her, the tan patterns running across the darker browns like miniature bolts of suede lightning. I can see the cold, tensile-steel look in her eyes, completely bereft of any remaining shred of warmth or bonhomie. The set of her hips, the hard thinness of her lips. It was time indeed.

This is a fine state of affairs for a crusty old closet romantic like me. I grew up in a world where Ward and June Cleaver were the American standard, and the Brady Bunch was about as controversial a domestic pair as ever existed. (Where did all those kids come from, anyway?) My grandparents all married young and stayed together until death truly did do them part. My parents have been wed for 48 years. Hell, my marriage lasted 23 years before I figured out that two people living separate lives in the same house wasn't going to cut it.

Since then, she entered my life, the woman who was now waiting for my reaction to her invitation for egress. Far from being a doe-eyed sappy teenager or member of either the Capulet or Montague families, I embarked on our partnership with the benefit of age and wisdom. I know there are phases to a relationship, and as exciting and absorbing as the early passionate stages are, I am a soul who actually looks forward to the gentleness and comfort of the inevitable friendship. Whenever I see old married geezers clasping their arthritic hands together at Wal-Mart, I am envious. I had hoped that this was the one — it certainly felt that way, and the way she looked at me sometimes, I wanted nothing more than to be the man she saw in her eyes. Of course, everything I saw in her eyes at that moment was cold and aloof, and made me wonder where my duffel bag was.

The days following that statement were spent picking among the bones of the dead creature, salvaging the small material scraps that tether us to our environment. It's amazing how much minutiae we encumber ourselves with in the course of simply living. Some items are easy to remove — books, CDs, electronics, even furniture. Many are puzzling, however: three sticks of deodorant, two different brands. A kitchen timer shaped like Buddha. A tin coffee cup with the stars from TV's "Bonanza" on it. A sequined sombrero. With each item hastily placed into a box or shoved into the bed of my truck, it became easier to accept the reality of the situation, and to begin looking at an environment I had formerly called "home" through the eyes of a stranger. It was actually easier that way.

I am a romantic, so the first days weren't easy on me, especially since I didn't have a vote in the separation. I went through the seven classic phases of a broken heart: sadness, anger, bitterness, cynicism, sleepy, dopey and grumpy. (Okay, those last three are dwarves, but let's face it — dwarves are always funny.) I know that my experience isn't unique, and it's a rite of passage as old as the menu at Luby's. It doesn't take away from the pain, though, and I really do want to own this, to embrace this hurt, and make it mine. This is important, and I don't want to lose the lessons.

After one week of maudlin behavior, my best friend finally navigated through my cloud of funk and self-pity and told me to get over it. He was right; this was no way for a man to comport himself in the modern world. It isn't fair, but really, how many things in life are? People come together, and they drift apart, and despite all my efforts and intentions, I can't force love to stay. What a sad use of energy that would be anyway. As Pink Floyd sang so adroitly, was it love or the idea of being in love? For me, I think it was love, but for her, maybe it was the idea of being in love.

What now? Emotionally, I am as drained as the oil pan on a '63 Ford pickup truck. I have no interest in replacing this hole in my heart with anything other than top-shelf alcohol and a lot of sad music, and the comfort of my family and friends. I have temporarily renewed my membership in the "He-Man's Women-Hating Club," but I know it won't last. I am still a classic romantic, and have no option but to hold out hope for the future, and hope that I can yet find that person to hold hands with far into my denture years.

Twice in my life, I thought I had that, and twice in my life, I've been wrong. I can't bear the thought of hurting like this again, but I refuse to hide my heart away in a box to protect it from danger. I want to move on, as the world still continues to amaze and surprise me. I don't want to spend my time rehashing these relationships, and hanging out in the empty mansions of memories and vacant spirits. There doesn't seem to be any profit in analyzing the past any longer.

I think it's time for me to go. Now bring me that horizon.

Henry Lightcap waits for Ms. Right in Las Cruces.



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