Travel Writers' Resources | November 2009
|The Heart is a Fickle Little Muscle|
Jan Baumgartner - PVNN
November 12, 2009
So I’m sitting in my patio garden somewhere in Colonial Mexico, surrounded by dilapidated pink stone walls, crumbling in that old world charm sort of way, the carved cement fishes’ mouth regurgitating into the waters of the Italianate fountain, walls moaning from the weight of years of unattended ivy, and enveloped by a primordial jungle of overly hormonal impatiens, ferns, fuchsia, snails, a small but healthy tangerine tree in an old terracotta pot, a hidden lime tree that produces tiny, delicate limes with decadent amounts of juice, and sitting with me beneath the dappled sunlight of a massive shade tree at one of the white wrought iron tables is an old lover, not old in dog years, per se, but old in the sense that our carnal proclivities are many months stale, and I am remembering how he once was the most beautiful, sensual creature to me, and how the very smell of his brown skin and proximity of his body would make me twitch beneath my layers even when I wasn’t wearing layers while voluptuous beads of sweat would shape above my forming uni-brow, and my vocabulary would be reduced to one and two syllable words while spattering an occasional grunt in a very sexy and feminine Neanderthal kind of way.
And here we are after months of no contact, sitting opposite one another in this falling apart Colonial garden, yet very much alive tangle of growth and blooms and pungent smells of citrus and sweet – and I am looking at him and thinking "how were we ever so attracted to each other?" and thinking he is thinking the same thing and all the while wondering how just a few months ago we couldn’t keep our hands off of one another no matter how hard we tried and the thought of him once made my knees buckle, my knuckles drag, and he could reduce me to yodeling like a furry von Trapp or speaking in tongues, also like a tipsy von Trapp, and now, well, nada.
The small beating organ we call the heart is a fickle little muscle; from devil-may-care Bonobo antics, to sheer indifference barely worthy of a pant hoot – I am unsure if the fickleness is survival of the fittest; mere protection of the moody organ itself, or nothing more than a peak or dip in hormones. Either way, the black or white of it all leaves nary a beat of gray. Lust fades. And while that truth should have me feeling both sad and relieved, I’m feeling rather indifferent. When it fades, adios scraped knuckles, buenos dias upright and eloquent conversationalist.
With time, do we lose all past feelings of lust, and on occasion, love, in order to protect ourselves from further damage? Do our senses, intellect, desires, all do a proverbial 180, or 360 to the otherwise misinformed, or those who don’t learn from their mistakes, in order that the once irresistible and the pain caused from it, dissipate while the heart forms a new protective layer? I envision its resilience much like the reptile that loses an appendage then grows another, just like that. From three-legged Hopalong Heart to full-bodied, Back in the Race Toad.
As I sit here, listening to the fish mouth regurgitate into the murky green water of the fountain, aware of a ghost-like dashing and darting of a hummingbird hidden somewhere alongside the tangle of hot pink and orange fuchsia climbing the peeling coral colored 300 year old walls, the brilliant, blinding blue of the high mountain sky, I look at this expired lover, lust shelf life way past gone, the very one who had me turned into a freak of nature in public when those x-rated thoughts cross your mind at the worst of times, say when in the corner tienda meaning to buy soap but instead leaving with a half pound of ham, suddenly aware you are not fit to be in public, but to be tied, and you’re wondering if you’re not really naked and only wearing black socks, and you are certain that every man, woman, child and feral street dog not only can smell your overactive 'mones, but can see that your mind is filled with naughty thoughts and you must get home before you’re arrested for indecent visuals, or gang humped by mangy canines – and well, I feel as though I may have just been crowned with a new, fully formed appendage – meaning, my once fractured, closed-down heart, and insatiable lust, has mended, re-bloomed, and dissipated. Just like that. Tiara on a Toad.
And so I continue to stare at this surreal vision of my No Longer Good By lover, notice how his beard needs trimming, how he’s gotten a tad grayer and a bit thinner on top, and I surreptitiously glance at his shoulders and pecks hiding behind his t-shirt just to see if there is any chance that my fickle little organ might skip a beat, or wheeze even (he’s still beautiful, mind you), and I am cognizant that he has the same idea in mind and has sneaked a not so subtle peek at the area of my chest that might be hiding cleavage, while I am pretending to admire a tiny finch perched on a low branch very close to where I am sitting, and it dawns on me that I’m more intrigued by the bravado of this tiny yellow bird and that I feel no inkling of sexual temptation, nothing, not the once ubiquitous if not annoying surge of moisture that would follow at the very mention of his name, but in fact, am very much aware of the dryness of my contact lenses which seem to be adhering to my eyeballs, and that by now, I should have needed to pee at least twice during the course of our hour long conversation considering I had had two cups of very strong coffee and the tinkling fish mouth should have had me sprinting to the loo, but my eyes are dry and I don’t have to pee and truth be told, there is no hint of moisture in the nether regions and I wonder:
How can we go from A to Z in our feelings without fully remembering, or no longer weighted down by all the phases in between? From perpetual horizontal mode to snail spotting in the garden -- where does all the feeling go? Does the heart spit it out, much like the regurgitating fish mouth, and is that why the spray of water from its mouth spews clear but the water in the fountain below is always murky, no longer transparent? Are the fountain’s opaque waters nothing more than a subconscious heart detox, a shedding of its tears? Or is it simply a matter of bleach?
Hence, all parts being equal, well not really, but the mind is a close second to other parts south of the border, I am grateful that if nothing else, we can still engage in a depth of conversation; that would be the old lover, not the fish.
And this sudden realization and thriving new appendage is only confirmed when as we’re chatting about worthy non-profits and how one can make a difference with so little, my mind goes here:
I remember my friend, Consi, once describing her diminutive pier de tier rental in Paris, and that the bathroom was so Lilliputian that she couldn’t fully fit into the shower, which necessitated her choosing body parts and taking a 'whore’s bath.' "You know," she’d say, "crotch and underarms, what more needs washing, really, especially if you’re not having sex." Secretly, I hoped she did this in reverse, underarms and then crotch. And wondered, too, why she’d call it a whore’s bath if her reason for needing this hygienic shortcut was because she wasn’t having sex.
Years later, I mentioned to friends of mine that I didn’t always feel the need for a full shower each morning and that once in awhile, I would simply take a quick but effective whore’s bath. Later, the wife told me that her husband asked her that night what the hell I meant when I said I would take a "horse bath." I decided not to explain the difference, preferring to let him think that on occasion I had the uncanny need to roll in the dust to rid myself of fleas
But back to my point: I’m thinking about fleas and my only insatiable desire at this moment is a chocolate plumped croissant and the desire to trim the beard of a once irresistible sex God.
The heart is a fickle little muscle.
A native Californian, Jan Baumgartner is a writer and book editor dividing her time between surviving in Maine and living in Mexico. Her writings on Mexico will be included in the new literary journal, Lady Jane (San Francisco Bay Press, 2009) Her background includes scriptwriting, comedy writing for the No. California Emmy Awards, and travel writing for The New York Times. She has worked as a grant writer for the non-profit sector in the fields of academia, AIDS, and wildlife conservation for NGO's in the U.S. and Africa. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous online and print publications including the NYT, Bangor Daily News, SCOOP New Zealand, Wolf Moon Journal, Media for Freedom Nepal, and BanderasNews in Mexico. She's finishing a memoir about her husband's death from ALS and how travels in Africa became one of her greatest sources of inspiration. She is a Managing Editor for OpEdNews.
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