Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alternate Reality

Bee stinger times 500.
The bees were testy today and I was stung on my right earlobe and my left wrist. CSB was stung in far more places because as usual he did most of the work, opening the hive, checking the frames for brood and determining that this particular queen was not really doing a very good job and if the bees didn’t make some supercedure cells soon he would have to re-queen the hive. Although it may be a little late in the season for re-queening.
On various occasions when one of us has been upset, the bees have been testy - as they were today – as if our anxiety was picked up by them, like little flecks of pollen, and so a part of me wants to say that they knew something we didn’t know, not yet, and so were prophetically testy. I do realize that is farfetched. (But a whole sight less farfetched than many of the hagiographies I devour.)
I was applying a baking soda poultice to my extremely itchy earlobe, and getting white globs of the stuff all over my shoulder because of course it doesn’t exactly stick to the lobe, which was getting redder and itchier by the second, when the phone rang.
CSB hates answering the phone and will stand next to a ringing phone calmly not answering it and this drives me crazy at times, but given that he is so good and sweet in so many ways it has been hard to get too upset about his phone-aversion; though it does explain my perverse pleasure in the bizarre situation at Pleasant Pond last month when I was enjoined from answering the phone - the land line which only works on odd Tuesdays & is the last phone in the northeast without Caller ID - lest CSB’s ex-wife call and discover my presence at the Pond, which was yet something else that would cause her to crank up the decibels and very possibly drive 9 hours to Maine and personally eviscerate me me. (They’ve only been divorced for 10 years and she threw him out in the first place.) And there is no constabulary in Caratunk. But I digress.
So it was only because of the baking soda all over my ear and all the many other places it had dripped and globbed onto, that CSB answered the phone. Thus I got to witness his face vividly portray a satisfyingly wide range of emotions from puzzlement to surprise to pleasure to discomfiture to anxiety to sly concern. His end of the conversation was, initially, so monosyllabic and reactive as to not bear repeating in this venue. However, the questions he asked towards the end: Where are you now? & Is your father still alive? & How long did you live at the commune? did pique my interest.
All thought of my red & itchy earlobe disappeared in direct correlation to the rise of my intense curiosity.
-Who was that?
-Someone I used to know. She was at F—[boarding school in Connecticut] with me, then got thrown out. For smoking pot. She got thrown out of Stockbridge for the same thing. Her father lived in the city and was a big pothead.
-Not many of us had pothead parents in those days, said I.
I was thinking of our businessman fathers in their hats and our elegant mothers in hats and gloves. Not that hats preclude pot smoking, come to think of it.
So I asked, Does she have a name?
-Valerie Genet. [He pronounced it Jennette; only later did I learn that it was spelled like the author of Le Balcon, one of the best reasons to study French in high school or anytime] I didn’t ask if she ever got married, or changed it.
-And where is this Valerie now?
-Back in New York. I’d always wondered what happened to her. She was the only girlfriend I totally lost touch with.
The look of complete puzzlement returned to CSB’s face, & seemed to be affixed there.
Not only that, but she was the only ex-girlfriend, that I knew of, that I had never heard of. Back in the early days, in the first flushes of falling in love and total disclosure, when we told each other all the sordid details of our romantic pasts (mine, alas, minus the marriage, took about 3 and a half minutes) I became quickly conversant with the names and personalities of CSB’s former girlfriends. We even visited with one, and her husband and sons, in New Mexico. And had lunch with another, and her daughter, when they were visiting in NY. When we started keeping bees, we named the queens after the ex-girlfriends (most definitely not the ex-wife), until the apiary grew to greater numbers even than CSB’s past could accommodate.
But Valerie’s name had never come up. Until now.
To make a long story short(ish), the aforementioned Valerie, in what sounds like her fourteenth incarnation, is now selling vacation real estate in Florida and the Virgin Islands, and having learned through the F - alum magazine (Apparently even the expelled get these magazines; I had always wondered about that.) that CSB was divorced and living here in H-on H-, she got hold of him and who knows, maybe he wants a condo on St. Croix. (Highly unlikely.)
He said she’s going to stop by this Saturday, on her way to a client upstate. CSB wants to know if we are doing anything this Saturday. Well, as it happens….No matter, it will be a short visit. I wonder if she’s interested in beekeeping.

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