A River’s View
(A Brief Look Into Myself)
by T. M. Boughnou
It was now the first week of March. I could not believe that I had not been home for nearly two seasons. And boy. . . was I feeling it: I felt myself a mess. Nothing was making any kind of sense; and that frustrated me, immensely. Out east, at Boston, Massachusetts, where I lived, there seemed on a sizable scale, always a slight disconnect, between me and the minutiae’s of that way of life. But usually, it was manageable: it wasn’t significant enough to completely hamper the productivity of my creative life, which was living; actually, its contrast spurred me onward: made me better and stronger, more thoughtful, mentally sharper and emotionally agile, considerate, and, believe it or not—on the whole, a more brotherly-loving kind of chap; but as of late, the pressures of enduring and overcoming had intensified. And I was struggling to cope, to find any kind of satisfactory mental balance and eloquence. And I now honestly questioned myself, as to whether it was worth it anymore: career and expansion. To endure incongruities in the belief that these ongoing affects would produce in final effect, a better me: ‘That which does not kill makes you stronger’, was much the driving motivation, that kept me on course to achieve the ultimate in personal growth, so I had believed. But now, well—I just did not know.
I had always tried to the best of my innate abilities, to remain true to myself by displaying concern and brotherly affection for my fellow man, there; and to extend the day’s greetings and, a helping hand if it were ever indeed needed. But I now questioned, why did it seem to go so unnoticed, unappreciated. . . why did it seem that in quite a many instance my attitude towards life’s varying aspects, always trying to see them in the most positive manner possible in almost all situations, cause offense to others? I had witnessed this reaction in so many faces and bodily gestures; that appeared to be upset almost to the point of complete jealousy, because of my good nature and humor, my joviality. These were just a few of the questions vying for answers. Nevertheless, I did know one thing for real: it was wearying, to say the very least; I knew that much: that it was taking its toll on me. And sitting here right now wasn’t the time to get too deeply into it; my mind needed rest; and my emotions needed to focus on something else. That was the immediate remedy! I knew that much, because I knew my feelings, and that my feelings were my only authentic guide. And I was home right now, and I didn’t want to think about it, at all.
I was sitting in the River Room, high above the great Mississippi River. I was alone, but not at all was I the least bit lonely,—as out east, I could be around a slew of persons and would feel the most intense kind of loneliness. A kind of seething alienation, between them and myself. I now smiled to myself at the contrast of that portrait painted in my mind’s eye: to be alone and feel connected, and then to be around many and sense nothing but a void. And although I now sat alone, I still somehow felt germane to some greater aspect of the living-life and the present folks who sat apart from me, right now. And for the physical part, Raquel was soon to arrive. It was almost six o’clock. She had spent the day at Chicago, and was joining me directly, for a drink and appetizers; then we’d go across the river to the Duck City Bistro for a scrumptious supper. The thought of that brought me solace, and contentment, and brought me an inner-smile. As I always had a profound passion for the pageantry and art-form of fine dining, and then to share such an experience with someone whom you adored, added another dimension of delight.
Not so very long after I thought this, I felt a tender, most caressing touch on my shoulder. And to any passers-by it would have seemed that we were just some other couple, and this gesture, was simply romantic, sensual; but they would have been insensitive to what was truly meant by the words—affectionate love. Because there was so much more to the complexity of it all—who we were, both individually and together; there were so many varying facets; that one could live an entire lifetime, and still be totally in dark oblivion, if they weren’t sensitive enough to recognize the so many other subtitles that were expressive and defining of so much more, in that simple touch, in that ever fleeting present moment.
I had been facing the window and the ancient Mississippi River and at times staring off into the great beyond, where the sun was now sinking low on the western horizon, and where a fusion of rustic gold that looked like burnt brass, and crimson were intermingled with traces of lavender smeared into mottled tints of ever fading blue. And in the east, dusk was descending: transforming from a pale blue, to cobalt. And all the lights along the river’s edge and the surrounding countryside were now coming on, illuminating this river world. This was life, at home in the Quad Cities, every aspect, always, a most memorable affair, and, of a most vibrating momentum. A bright crescent moon was rising in the eastern backdrop of this scene, and it brought to my mind, nights over Egypt at Giza. But this wasn’t that Nile that I’d once seen, but the American Nile, the persuasive Mississippi River. Yet, for me, the sentiment was the same—very moving.
“Hi, I’m here,” Raquel said, in a bubbly tone, with a smile, her light blue eyes alight with affection, her smile infectious like laughter; and it brought to mind only one other smile that was ever equally so tantalizing, and for a moment I saw that other person’s face with its soft olive complexion, and wondrous dark mysterious, sensual eyes; and perhaps for another moment I was suspended in a pleasurable conflict, being here and coming to again, and never knowing if I’d ever see that other person ever again: “you’ve been waiting long, dear?” I stood up and hugged her gleefully and she hugged back with an equal amount of robust enthusiasm, and then she extended her lips.
For some moments afterward, nothing was said, it felt as if she and I were suspended against the backdrop of this gorgeous spectacle: the heavens and earth and this River Room. In the course of this we just remained close: like fixtures, standing outside of time and space, witnesses of ourselves in eternity, as we held one another ever so closely. There was an energy vibrating. Nightfall, stimulated the instincts, and certainly brought to mind entirely different perspectives. Finally, I breached the silence.
“No. Not so very long at all. Did you enjoy your day?” Sincerely, I asked. We stared into each others eyes as though we searched each others deeper selves, perhaps looking for more profound meanings in our hearts to it all, that much grander scene, that heretofore had alluded us.
“Ah—thank you. You’ve always been such a gentleman,” she said, turning round as I relieved her of the light suede tan colored jacket that she was wearing, and hanging it on back of the chair, and then sliding the chair out for her to sit down: “I so wished you had gone with us to the Chicagoland.” I realized then in hearing her speak just how very much I missed the colloquialism of the Quad Cities. “Wow!—it’s really nice here,” she stared round. “Taylor, it’s amazing that you know more about what’s happening here, at home, than I do—and I’m here every day. And yes—I had a nice time. A very enjoyable day! I must say. And I still so wish you’d come with.” Hearing her enthusiasm, and feeling her gusto for living, vibrating all around me, filled me with sensations that I’d not felt for some time: quickening me with life. And I appreciate how her eyes and speech were so alive and teeming with animation.
In the meantime that we sat relishing in each others company, the waitress brought over two glasses of wine, and took away my empty glass. I had motioned to her, soon after Raquel and I had greeted one another, indicating that we would like two of same that I had been sipping. And since neither Raquel nor I had eaten since noontime, we decided to share some snacks to hold us over till supper, and we both thought also, since we were drinking, that it wouldn’t be at all such a bad idea to have something to eat.
“What do you think, you’d like?” she asked me, looking through the menu.
“Well, we don’t want to ruin our appetites, that’s for sure,” I said, having not even looked in my menu.
“True. No, we wouldn’t want that to happen,” she said turning over the page of the menu, and then looking over at me. “I’ve been looking forward to the bistro, so no more than just enough to tide us over.”
“I also,” said I. “So you choose, please—just enough that you think, will be sufficient enough to tide us over.” I smiled at her and took a sip from my glass.
“Really—you want me to choose?” she asked. Then she took a small drink of her wine and set down her glass, and then took up the menu again.
“Yes, you pretty much know my taste,—don’t you, by now?”
“I think I do: by now, Raquel said, with a bit of emphasis and blushing lightly. “I do.”
“Good. Then choose.”
For some moments Raquel seem to draw on another thought other than the sustenance that we both so desired, when she said, looking up from the menu that she had stared at with focused intent, and now around the room: “The atmosphere, here, in this River Room is at once, homey for the river down below, which is so indicative of a sense of place; and then, for its contemporary theme: the décor: these plush leather chairs, these quaint romantic little tables, and over there: the banquette-style seating, the trendy bar area, the artwork hanging on walls, the music (this smooth jazz instrumental) makes it so. . .so très chic, cosmopolitan. Wouldn’t you say, Taylor? It’s really unique, and I so like it. I’m impressed—amazed! And amazement, and wonder are in the heart of the beholder,” she summed it all up so beautifully and passionately.
“Yes—I’d say so. I’m glad that you approve,” I said, giving this River Room a once more glance-around, feeling elated that she was enjoying being here with me for the first time, and that our individual thoughts complemented each other quite well. She nodded, smiling to me, as she closed the menu, and reached across the table and took both my hands in hers, and for a short while gazed deeply into my eyes, which was a compliment to me of how she felt.
Then turning to the waitress who had returned and was patiently waiting there, she ordered for us, two distinct dips—the Mediterranean which was a tasty mixture of: roasted peppers and garlic hummus, kalamata olives, feta, cucumbers, carrots and celery; and the Baked Brie, which consisted of sweet pecans, Canadian bacon, stout berry jam, of which we ate them both ravenously, yet with good table manners, on wheat and stoned-wheat crackers.
“Thank you,” Raquel said to the waitress—who smiled modestly in earnest—for brining us the glasses of wine and taking our order, and I nodded politely to the lady my gratitude, as she took up the menus and walked away. And we continued on talking: that darling Raquel and I.
“That’s precisely why, Raquel: I want to know all that’s going on; so that when I do return—for good, no matter how long be that time—it’ll be as though I never once left, not even for a moment. It’ll seem like that time out east was but a dream: a lesson, that made me whole and complete.
“Like Homer’s, Odessyus,” she said. Raquel was very well read, and this was but another one of the many traits that I had always so admired in her.
“Yes,” I said, looking into Raquel’s eyes that were becoming provocatively bluer, “much like that—I suppose.” I then took up my glass of rosé, and so did she, and I proposed a toast, and was about to tinge my wineglass with hers, after saying: “To all the Calypsos and Circes: luxury and lust.” And my very words were betraying of an unconscious thought, that was better left, for now—unspoken.
“No, don’t you at all, dare propose a toast to them, or that. No way!” Raquel said with a very serious look in her eyes: “To all of us Penelope’s all around the world that wait steadfastly without the luxury or lust—for our noble prince Odessyus’ to return home.” And it was apparent that she had and inkling of what was on my mind. Sure, I was coming to, but to return fully to my usual buoyant, optimistic self, would take a bit more. Though I was ever so very glad just then to have Raquel serving as my trusted guide, and friend, and lover.
“Yes,” I said; “so very right you are.” Then after taking a sip of my rosé, I said, appreciatively: “Thanks for the offer to have tagged along with you and Miranda to the Chicagoland, to-day. But I just wanted to be here; no, who am I kidding?—I needed to remain here, at the Quad Cities, for the short while that I’m here. You do understand, right? And I’m glad you had a fine day.”
“Of course, I do.” She took a drink from her glass, and set it down, and looked me flush in my eyes. “Please don’t think of me as being in anyway silly, foolish or fickle. You know me better. I may be young, Taylor, considerably younger than you; but at twenty-four, I do have some sense and sensibilities and proper etiquette about things,—one being: giving you space, when space and time are certainly what seems most appropriate, right now,” she spoke at length, with an overwhelming sense of poise and confidence, her manner quite composed. This too I so admired: Raquel’s coming of age. I had not seen her for about a year, since she came east for a lengthy visit. She had always been extremely mature, way beyond her years, even when we met three years earlier; but now, there was so much more she had blossomed into. “Might I inquire—how was your favorite gazebo?” she asked, not lingering on the previous subjects of youth and age.
“I am sorry…Raquel, I was not implying anything to the contrary, that you are anything other than a most exceptionally bright woman. And I’m glad that you’re here,” I said, touching her hand. “As for my favorite gazebo, it was quiet, intimate and faithfully waiting right there where I left it,” I said; and she gave me another wonderful smile, as she took up her glass. “And it was nice to be reunited with it again. And of course, I did much walking along the Riverway, thinking—” I paused, then: “oh yeah—I stopped off for some time at Beignet Done That coffee shop, and had some tea and a snack; and I wrote for a bit in my Moleskin. It was really therapeutic to walk and to sit, and think, and to write, and not be concerned, really, about much else.”
“Good, I’m so pleased, Taylor: truly I am—” she said, leaning into the little table and now placing her hand gently and oh so comfortingly on mine, in a grand gesture of support. I could tell that she knew my heart was heavy and uneasy, somewhat troubled about something; but she didn’t at all pry. For she knew me well enough to know that if there was something that truly needed to be told, that I would certainly tell it her. And I was acquainted with her well enough to know that she’d understand—whatever it was; and she’d be most supportive. It was a small, intimate table, appropriate for only two. And the candle that burned at its center, appeared as a beacon of hope, for both of us: individually and together. And I was glad to be here, and happy that we were here together for the first time, and that eventually every concern would figure its way out. And I had a faint notion that things back east would, really work themselves out too, for the better, and it would be an outcome that would please me in the end. But I still also wondered, would it please those more that I would eventually, some day, return to here, or hurt those more that I’d have to leave behind back there, that had never really, sincerely, valued me, yet were enhanced morally and derived at solace owing to the principles of which I stood? It was a legitimate question that I asked myself at that very moment, that perhaps could simply never be answered.
On that particular evening, Raquel and I ate our light fare, and talked casually about this and that, and had another glass each of rosé, and smiled often to one another, and stared at intervals out at the Mississippi River down below, and the starry Quad Cities’ sky that twinkled overhead like so many jewels sprinkled, sparkling across time. The wine was cool and refreshing, we both thought; and being here, at home, in this warm new place, and pleasant company, where I was well-appreciated, was a most liberating and wonderful, comforting sensation for me. And whatever had plagued my thoughts, heretofore, and drove me home at this certain juncture, was a forgotten episode, a tale never to be told, was now evanesced with that setting sun, and gone away into some underworld of my thoughts, very far away. I felt now, that when I did go back east, just for this present moment, here and now, things would be manageable, until they were to exist no more.
We finished our small meal and then we each had a Mississippi sour, which was whiskey, sangria, amber agave with lime.
The evening was now still yet very young, and a most delightful dinner at the Duck City Bistro, and later on martinis at the bar inside the swank Blackhawk Hotel, were all forth coming. I thought of all the possibilities and joyous ending in life, and I smiled inwardly to myself, for the visions of the life that awaited me up head, all along the adventures of my life to come.
And I knew now—that this was but the sweet commencement.
T. M. Boughnou was drawn to the writers and thinkers of the ninetieth and early twentieth centuries: including D.H. Lawrence, Freud, Schopenhauer, and Fromm. After years of a dedicated reading and writing regimen and journal-keeping of his thoughts and observations of his daily routines and personal travels, he decided to take a college writing course at Harvard’s Summer School. Thereafter I began to write. He lives in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area, where I work as a wellness specialist. His literary works have appeared in: Mount Hope Journal, Peregrine Amherst Writers, Broken Plate Magazine, Vestal Review, Burning Word Literary Journal.