Saving Charley Pt 1

When I was a little girl my dad retired from his career in the Air Force and my mom was still working as a Nurse Captain in the Air Force, so dad left to work in a prison three hours away, and she moved us off Base to a Fort Worth apartment complex. 


He had an office behind death row and she had an office and classroom with planes buzzing over head every ten minutes. And dad would visit every other weekend. I would scream with excitement and run down the hall to greet him. And he would make drawings of me playing the piano and dancing with woodland creatures and when he would leave, and I would cry.

And when I grew up, I continued to fear each man in my life would leave, and he usually did, and I would cry. 

It’s Saturday morning and it’s almost been a week since Charley left. It’s snowing again so we went to the library- fifth day in a row. Every day I add something to my book. 

At the library I grab a random book that has a pretty cover. It ends up being Letters to Benvenuta by Rainer Maria Rilke. A light blue, old-fashioned cover with gold lettering. It was published in 1951 and stamped by the Philosophical Library of New York.

First page I open is 24:

“Oh, Benvenuta, what have I done, that the burden of achievement has always fallen to me in love, that, by my nature, I have never borne it’s sunny fruit, as an orange tree bears it’s innocent, blissful wealth?”

Dakota is reading a giant Sesame Street book, but she’s 6 months old and can’t read and falls over on the rug and bumps her head and stars screaming, so we leave.


It’s snowing hard out and my glasses are covered in a sheet of frost. 

What if Charley froze to death? What if his phone is off because he froze in an alley and my dog Duke froze and they’re dead and cats are picking at their cold flesh?

I cannot bear my head right now. Alternatively, if he is in Moab with that piece of shit friend John I will be equally upset.

Finally he calls from someone’s phone. He can’t talk long but he wants to say he loves me.

“What if I came to get you, NOBODY ELSE, just you and Duke-”

“Yes yes yes yes yes yes-”

“No one else-”

“Yes yes-”

“Charge your phone,  Charley, and call me”

“Are you coming?”

“Charge your phone.”

I’ll tell him I need some money first. I have to think about this.

It’s kind of nice in the house. Peaceful. 

I change Dakota’s diaper to a Led Zeppelin record. Drink red wine (the alcoholic is gone, I can do whatever), “Kashmir” and El Sueno pot.

Dakota’s yellow “Daddy’s girl” onesie is soaked in pee. I peel it off as she sucks her roes and smiles. I dance for her and she screams with joy.

Ooh yeah ooh yeah, When I’m down…

Ooh, my baby, oh, my baby, let me take you there

Come on, let me take you there…let me take you there”

I learned to dance when I was very little and my dad would put have me put my feet on his feet and we’d play jazz and then he’d move around the room and I thought he was Fred Astaire.

I wasn’t Ginger Rogers, I was more Helen Keller feeling around the room to see where the hell I was but that changed and I was the best dancer at prom and at frat parties and at clubs in Korea and Spain and Jamaica and in my room for Dakota. I had some moves I learned standing on my dad’s shiny brown city boots. 

I snap. I sing. I wave my arms in the air and run around the room. Dakota smiles. I am Gene Kelly. I am Mikhail Barishnikov.

“Ooh yeah ooh yeah-“

I am Robert Plant.

When Led Zeppelin performed “Kashmir” live, Robert Plant was known to switch the last verse (“Oh father of the four winds, fill my sails…”) with the original second verse (“With talk and song from tongues of lilting grace…”).

Dakota is moving her feet around and gurgling. She’s giggling; entranced.

 We play it five times.

Charley dislikes Led Zeppelin. 

Led Zeppelin had their own airplane called “The Starship”. Jimmy Page once to live in Alesier Crowley’s former home in Loch Ness, Scotland. Robert Plant is seismophobic (afraid of earthquakes). Pandora Led Zeppelin radio was playing when Dakota was pulled out of my stomach on the C-Section table.  Led Zeppelin’s my favorite band. 

Why hasn’t he called me back?
“And my eyes fill with sand

As I scan this wasted land

Trying to find, trying to find, where I’ve been” 

Is it too late to have hope?

There’s a HuffPost article about lonely motherhood. Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge, says “It is lonely at times and you do feel quite isolated, but actually so many other mothers are going through exactly what you are going through.”

At least Kate is feeling isolated too. I wonder if Prince William is a good father. I bet he is, at least by somewhat tepid British royalty standards. 

Coming a parent is an overwhelming experience. “It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love and worry all mixed together,” Kate said.

It’s being the only one to get up at night and cleaning poop off her entire body running on no sleep and residual melancholy because your husband is sleeping in the other room and you don’t know why.

It’s wondering if you’ll be alone for another birthday and if this marriage will last a year and when you’ll find play dates for your little girl and if you’ll get to leave the country again someday, because you’d really like to drive across Ireland on the wrong side of the road.

I may not be the Duchess of Cambridge, but I am a mom. And so I feel like I have more meaning in my life than I did a year ago. I have the most perfect girl and she smiles at me and it’s the greatest drug. 

I miss Charley’s call and when I call back it’s a street kid named Gene who plays guitar and thinks my dog Duke is nice. He’s drunk as hell but finally remembers a Charley. 

Charley’s returning from a liquor store.

“CHARLEY IT’S YOUR WIFE.”

He says he’s heading west. WTF CHARLEY.

Then he says please come get him. He will charge his phone. He will go to Albuquerque and get treatment. He’s gonna fuck my brains out.

I don’t want him to fuck my brains out. Like saving him from Flagstaff, I just wanted him to get sober. Get help. Be a good dad. Be a dad.

I have a cigar for emergencies. I tell him I’ll  come tomorrow and to charge his phone and I watch a documentary about Princess Di’s childhood home and smoke it.

God if I don’t have enough friends now. What would my friends in college have said?

Dana: he’s a loser. Fuck him. Smoke this.

Kelly: here smoke this too.

Dana: we’ll get dressed up and meet a guy.

Martha: I’ll bring wine.

Ursula: you are so good at friendships why not men?

I’m not so good at friendships anymore, Ursula. 

Times a’ changed.

But I have peace now. Dakota is perfect. Charley’s dad writes: I’m worried too but he’s on his own for now. Maybe I should let him go West. 

I feel like I need a lot of support right now. I can be strong but I need support. Like great architecture. 

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