copyright © 2006 Danielle Santangelo Kovalick


~by danielle santangelo~


Stiles stands with bare feet and his arms stretched from east to west at the top of a cliff in Yosemite National Park. He tilts forward slightly, breathing in deeply the comforting embrace of pine and orange dirt. It is September. It is at the time in the morning when standing still then tilting forward upon a cliff makes a man sweat.

When the show ends at one I bum a ride home. In the backseat Karl sits with a pondering display attempting to retrieve the memory of where he left his car thirteen hours earlier. After a unanimous nod from the other passengers with a pint less Tullamore Dew in their bloodstreams we make a sudden left turn into the downtown area. Remembering the day-old hashbrowns swimming in my stomach pocket with nothing to mix but beer and sticky resin I ask to be dropped off to grab an up-to-date bite to eat. Circling the main blocks I see no students, no drunks, hear no "Free Fallin'" no "Dream On" no "Bette Davis Eyes" no screams no GO HAWKS no YOUDONTEVENUNDERSTAND no SPARECHANGEORADOLLAR nothing. Only 24 hours earlier were there lines three miles long and wide to get into scuz bars and nipple joints, plastic cups beer cans grilled cheese wrappers layering these passive streets. Everyone's gone home. Closed. Closed. OPEN 10AM TO MIDNIGHT. Closed. Closed. I find the one open deli and get myself a sandwich.

Stiles is the most beautiful man to ever wear fish scale pants and a cowboy hat. He is a cowboy mermaid and he stares at me with eyes so sincere so big and blue like the perfect skipping stone like he could kiss my lips with those eyes those eyelids those lingering blonde lashes and I would accept this as a fact of life and softly moan accordingly. These eyes catch my stare and interrupt my shameless wondering if he is in fact my guardian angel and has come to hold my hand as I plunge off a cliff with my shoes off.

With his shoes off.

Bare feet.

But that is neither here nor there.

I'm walking down this all-but-now commerce-saturated street wiping the cremed avocado from the corners of my mouth when I see a dove. A big majestic dove waddling off the side of the busiest street in town. I'm immediately intrigued because I have never seen a dove right in front of me before. And with no kind of noisy distraction or line of motor-sexing cars or drunk jean-skirt-retards to dance around, the dove is easy to become absolutely captivated with. It is the most beautiful bird I have ever seen.

Stiles joins in on this staring contest and when he smiles like he's gonna win he smiles with his mouth not his eyes. "What?" I say realizing his lips moved but the voices in the other room and in my head have prevented the message from getting across. And when he speaks he speaks with a musical baritone only slightly mutated by the hundreds of acid tablets this man has sucked on like snozberries tasting like snozbarries in his young twenty-six. And he repeats, "I'm a cowboy mermaid." (glance down). It is July. We are at the Red Poppy's alter-ego party. I am a Tri-Delta legacy and when I bend over in front of him I feel his eyes on my breasts and when I glance up at him over my glasses I meet his eyes. He is staring at my face.

The dove has followed me for a good two blocks, stopping when I stop, waddling when I go. I brake off some of my french roll and scatter the crumbs in front of it but it wants no part of my offering. When a crumb plops a few inches away, the dove spreads these ancient grecian statuesque wings and takes flight. (fly around) It flies a foot above my head, circles around a few times, and crashes in the middle of the road. I approach to pick it up and see if there is anything I can do and it flies away again. Same thing: (fly around as before)

Stiles sends me letters. They say things like, "You are a spider, and I want to get caught in your web. And I am deathly afraid of spiders." He makes me feel beautiful but not in that "You look like Sandra Bullock in 'Miss Congeniality' before her makeover" kind of way. But in a way that comes after a night at another party a housewarming one with lines of cocaine wrapped around the necks of the numb-noses–everyone's but mine and Stiles's–and we skip out of the mayhem and sit on the porch and talk about cigarettes and mountain biking and the Beatles and Watergate and Japan and his band that he drums for and our high schools and juniors highs and his recent reconciliation with his brother whom I know him through and how ecstatic he is to visit Yosemite National Park next month. And he looks at me with those eyes those eyes that rattle my insides like a maraca at a mambo and the Morman Tabernacle choir lifts their heads and stretches their necks and opens their mouths and sings to the heavens the truth of our song and I close my eyes because they can't stay open and when blackness embeds itself too deeply I open them and he is staring at my face.

And he says, "You. Are Ab-so-lutely Beautiful."

It is August. And it is at this time of the night when sitting on a dark porch with the aromatic beauty of conversation lingering in the air like cigarette smoke in front of an open door on an unordinarily bright morning, makes us both sweat. He walks me home and picks up any visible trash off the ground beneath us.

I sit down and watch the dove mingle with the road. It walks around in circles, stretching its head in the air and looking around for something unknown and turning around when it defies boredom and turns back around to look again because it has forgotten already. There are several cars that pass. I lightly whimper when drivers would simply assume that the big beautiful dove in the middle of the road ahead would just fly away when it sees the rolling tires coming at it. But always the dove would continue to waddle, not realizing or not caring for the danger, just continue to walk in circles. And then I think, maybe, it doesn't want any help. Maybe this is exactly where it wants to be right now, and finds no purpose in making any effort to change that.

Stiles leaves for Burning Man music festival in September. He writes me a letter telling me what an explosion of experience it was, how I have to come next year, how he misses my face and wants to hold me and how lately he’s been feeling that leaving his own body would do the world some good. He writes, "I can honestly say that I have not been myself for a while, but am starting to come back a bit to my senses. Burning Man was incredible to the point that I thought I was crazy, but then I remembered I have been crazy my whole life so why not run with it."

And I don’t write back.

I’ll see him by the time I write back.

And then I don’t hear from him for a long time.


Maybe the dove picked the most perfect, soundless, still night to roam these streets. Maybe its gracing this filthy decomposed town with all the perfection and happiness and goodness it encapsulates. It is not afraid of the fire. It is not afraid to step right through it.

Stiles stands with bare feet and his arms stretched from east to west and sucks in the heated orgy of aromas the California morning selflessly offers. He wears no shoes. He tilts forward slightly and closes his eyes, those eyes that could see all the colors of a sunrise even if they are closed. It is September and it is the perfect time of the morning to fly. Only the wind whispers audible words.

So I sit at the edge of the road and I watch it circle around itself in the middle of the intersection under orange streetlamps. I watch it once again flutter into the immediate above sky for a few glorious seconds when all the animals in God’s kingdom come together and dance, and it falls to the black pavement.

And Stiles falls forward, eyes closed and ears deafened. The passing air blows between his bare toes.

And I pray for them both.



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