What is left when it’s over
I was beating tunes out on my piano in the Snowmass mall, trying to breathe a little life into what remained of the big July weekend. The last song was on my mind when a young, visibly distraught woman sat at the front table, obviously dealing with bad news of some kind. With a practiced mind that should know better, I drew her in by playing a couple of heartbreakers, getting both tears and smiles. As I packed up my gear, she hung around, making small talk and thanking me for understanding her mood (something about a breakup) and wondering if she could buy me a drink. “Sweetheart, sit with me on the tailgate of my truck and tell me about your day, and let’s forget the bar.” I was falling for her right there, reluctant to end whatever was developing, but I missed a lot of what she had to say as my mind went back to another woman I knew, not that long ago.It seemed like she just materialized out of nowhere, all saddled up and ready to help push 500 head of trail-savvy cattle up a serpentine path into the mountains. Nobody really seemed to know her, a scrawny little thing, you might say, not over 30, with long legs and a lot of attitude. There was a spark between us and we just naturally seemed to buddy up and stay close together, even in a crowd around the campfire. As the embers turned to ash in the pitch black of a spring night, she invited me to share her pallet, which was in a large tent with four or five other people. A little whispered conversation, a lot of snuggling and giggling, and a couple of tender kisses later, we settled in for the night.It’s the little things that count, that make a relationship what it is, like the way (in public) she serendipitously and unconsciously kneaded the fabric of my shirt or pants when romance was on her mind and the fact that she laughed and never believed it when told about this. She rode fast horses like a kid, full speed every chance she got, and laughed even harder when it turned out wrong. The involuntary buck of her hips as she finally could take no more and gave in to the sweet flow of ultimate release, soft moans loud in my ear, was incredible.A talented artist, she would start a small painting on the cabin porch, the rising steam from the early morning dew promising a clear day as she furiously worked, clad in T-shirts and tight jeans, a silk scarf around her neck. I’d be off in the corral, feeding the horses or chopping firewood nearby, watching the smoke curl from the warming wood stove and thinking how much her presence meant to me.Ah, but the tortuous brilliance of true love can soon become the broken glass of once bright diamonds, and our time was near. When it ends, that’s it. What’s to explain, and what’s the good, anyway? There’s no ball to pick up and take home, no offer of warm chocolate or a back rub to soothe your jangled nerves.As I finished loading my piano, I sat looking into her big, brown, misty eyes and thought of a man I recalled from not that long ago. His tall bay horse stood patiently as he put his foot into the stirrup and looked out across the saddle at the gray landscape, the beginning of ice in the creek, a deserted bird feeder in the yard and frozen ground underfoot, and he knew a precious summer had passed, never to be retrieved. Slowly pulling himself into the saddle, he felt the longing rise from within, slowly enveloping his being, choking his chest and blurring his eyes and strangely, the familiarity of it gave him comfort. And in that moment, he realized it wasn’t for her he yearned, but that the longing itself was what he longed for. I remember now.Tony Vagneur writes here every Saturday and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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It came across my desk, either social media or email, it doesn’t matter, but the first thing that caught my eye was the scene before me. A long string of Red Angus cattle, lined out…