It was a rainy, March day in 1973 — a little like this rainy, March day.
My ex-GF was wrapped up in the ratty old full-length mink we’d bought for a few bucks at a Purple Hearts Veteran Thrift Store. When the sun started poking out from the gray clouds, she’d pulled her long, jet black hair out and now it was down, hanging across the damp and mottled fur… she couldn’t possibly have looked any cuter. As we walked the wet and puddled streets, we talked, our shoulders bumping together. I chewed a soggy, rum-soaked cigar that kept going out.
We’d been broken up for a while. She’d taken up with an old drinking buddy of mine, one of her teachers at the state university we both attended. Her new boyfriend had taken a teaching job in Germany and she was waiting to finish school (or something… damn, how fast it does all fade away) and in a few weeks, she too, would have packed up and moved to Germany.
It was the seventies, of course, and there was no such thing as a simple relationship in those days — at least not among the college hippies and disaffected bohos that formed our extended social set.
With our relationship officially over for many months, we’d drifted into a relatively easy and comfortable friendship… a complex one, to be sure… still deeply shot through with longing on my part — yet it had been my insistence on a completely open relationship (in order to pursue what I’m positive we both thought at the time was the “great lost love” of my life) that had finally heaped enough pain on that relationship that it finally shattered in a devastating explosion of raw emotion and pain… I realized for the first time that it was pain that I had caused.
It sounds, I suppose, impossibly callow, but until that moment it had never completely sunk in that I was capable of causing pain to my loved ones… it was, I suppose, my portal into adulthood… a transition I’m not sure that I’ve really completed. (And I’m sure that regular AYoS readers are nodding their heads knowingly right now.)
But on that day, the memory of the pain was submerged a little… though we were walking the same streets around the neighborhood we’d shared for several years — the same streets we walked obsessively the day some months before when she finally managed to communicate the pain I’d caused her.
Early in the relationship, she had moved across the street from the tiny bungalow I’d rented for a few years in college. It wasn’t my idea and it had made those open relationship, free love early 70s sometimes awkward and, on one pivotal night, deeply, deeply painful for her — and for me, as well, as, over the years, the memory of that night and all that flowed from it burned ever deeper into my memory… like an acid tear eating always, ever deeper into my soul.
The Day My Cigar Went Out in the Rain
You were wrapped up that day
in an old fur coat
we were splashing in puddles
in the lane
That was one day
I won’t ever forget
the day my
cigar went out
in the rain
I was going to send
for the letters I wrote
to see what life
was like in the past
The times that we laughed
and the times that we cried
fall away from the light
(C)1974, TK Major