July 1

I can tell how much Lotte could soothe a sick person, just based on how much she does for my heart, which should practically be in the ER… She’s spending the next few days in town here with an older friend of hers; the doctors say she doesn’t have much time left, and she wants Lotte around now as she gets close to the end.

I drove out with Lotte a few weeks ago to visit the parish priest in St***, the next town over — he’s an old family friend. It was Lotte and Sophie and me. We got in around four. When we pulled up outside the church, we saw the sweet old man sitting on a bench in the churchyard in the shade of two tall walnut trees. As soon as he saw Lotte, he seemed practically rejuvenated, he jumped up and forgot to even use his cane, hobbling over to meet her! She rushed over to him and got him to sit back down, and settled down next to him on the bench. She passed on her father’s best wishes, and even hugged the minister’s filthy mud-caked little son, the apple of his wrinkly eye :P I wish you could have seen how caring she was to the old man, talking extra loud to make sure he could hear her, teasing him about how only the good die young…congratulating him for finally making up his mind to go to this health clinic in New York she’d heard good things about, and telling him how much healthier and peppier he seemed since the last time she’d seen him :) Meanwhile, I was chatting with the minister’s wife. The old man had perked up a lot, and when I complimented his wife on the beautiful walnut trees that were keeping us so nicely in the shade, he jumped in and started, a little haltingly, to tell us their story. “No one knows who planted the older one,” he said; “some say it was this minister, some say that one. But the younger one there is the same age as my wife, fifty years this October. Her father planted it in the morning, and she was born that same evening. He was the minister at this church before me, and I can’t start to tell you how he loved that tree — and goodness knows I love it just as much. My wife was sitting underneath it, knitting, on the day twenty-seven years ago when I first walked in this church as a broke divinity student.” Lotte broke in to ask how his daughter, Faith, was doing; it turned out she was off taking a walk around the green with some guy named Smith. The old man went on with his story, telling us how the previous minister (and his daughter, clearly!) took a shine to him, and how he became his assistant and finally took over from him.
The story was just wrapping up when the daughter-of-the-preacher-man came around the back of the church with this Smith guy. She was delighted to see Lotte, and I have to say, I wasn’t sorry to see her, either — a sassy, pretty brunette…I can’t see getting bored around her, even in this hick town :P Her boyfriend (because that’s how Smith introduced himself straight off, “I’m her boyfriend”) was a bright guy, but quiet, and he wouldn’t join our conversation even though Lotte kept inviting him in. What really got to me, though, was that it was pretty clear from his expression that he was holding back out of sheer douchiness and dickishness, not because he didn’t have anything to say. This only got clearer as things went on; because when Faith went for a walk with Lotte and, I mean, I was there too, so yes, also with me, he’d been looking pretty grumpy already but he started looking furious, and Lotte had to pull me aside and tell me I was ‘being too flirty with Faith’. Now, nothing pisses me off more than when people bring each other down — I mean, especially now, when we’re young, we’re in the prime of life, do you really want to start moaning and spoiling the few good times we get to share? And by the time you realize what you’ve been wasting, it’s too late, you’ll never get it back. Eugh. This ate away at me all day, and when we got back to the church and all gathered in the refectory for a snack, and the conversation shifted to the ups and downs of life, I couldn’t help latching onto the subject and giving an impassioned little speech against negativity.
“We humans are always complaining,” I began, “that there are so few good times and so many bad times, but I think most of the time we’re wrong. If we were always open-hearted enough to enjoy the good that God offers us every day, we’d also be strong enough to take the bad when it comes.”
“But your moods aren’t up to you,” answered the minister’s wife, “they have so much to do with your body! If you’re not physically well, it’s hard to feel good about anything.”
I granted her that. “Okay,” I said, “so let’s think about it as a kind of illness; then we can ask, is there a cure for it?”
“Oh, definitely,” said Lotte, “at least, I think a lot of it is up to us. I know that’s true for me personally. When something’s bugging me and making me grumpy, I just jump up, sing a few fun songs walking up and down the garden, and then poof! it’s gone.”
“Exactly, that’s what I was trying to say,” I replied; “you shake off negativity just like you shake off laziness. Because actually, being negative is< a kind of laziness. It’s our default setting, but if you make yourself man up and tackle whatever you’re facing, you’ll find it wasn’t that much work in the first place, and it actually feels good to be productive.”
Faith was watching me intently. Her boyfriend countered that people don’t have full control over themselves, and least of all over their emotional responses. “But we’re talking about an unpleasant response here,” I answered, “something anyone would be happy to get rid of. And you never know what you can do until you try. I mean, if you were sick, you’d go around getting opinions from all the doctors you could find, and even if they recommended the most disgusting medicines or the most painful operations, you wouldn’t say no if that’s what it took for you to get healthy again like you want.”
I noticed that the dear old minister was straining to catch our words, so I raised my voice and turned to him, saying, “We preach against so many sins, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize negativity from the pulpit.”
“That’s one for the big-city preachers,” he said, “small-town folk are never in a bad mood. But I suppose it couldn’t hurt — and there might even be some lessons there for my wife, and the D.A., too.” We all laughed, and he laughed too, until he fell into a coughing fit, which put the conversation on hold for a while. Then the boyfriend turned to me and said, “You’re calling negativity a sin? That seems like a bit of an exaggeration.”
“Not at all,” I answered. “What else do you call something that hurts you and your neighbor? Isn’t it bad enough that we can’t make each other happy? Do we also have to rob each other of the little happiness we can each create for ourselves? I mean, have you ever seen someone full of negativity who was strong enough to hide it and carry it alone without destroying all the happiness around him? No, right? Because it’s this inner anxiety about our own unworthiness, this dissatisfaction with ourselves, that’s always bound up with some kind of envy, some kind of stupid jealousy. We see happy people, who are happy without our having anything to do with it, and it makes us miserable.”
Lotte was smiling — she could see how passionately I was speaking — and Faith was tearing up, which fired me up even more. “Shame on anyone,” I said, “who uses the power they have over someone else’s heart to rob them of the simple joy they have in being themself. All the presents and all the apologies in the world can’t make up for a moment of happiness-in-ourselves that someone else has ruined with their jealous self-doubt.”
I thought my heart would burst right then; so many memories came pressing in on me, and I started crying.
“Sometimes,” I cried out, “sometimes I wish everyone would just say to themself, every day, all you can do for your friends is let them enjoy what they enjoy and help that happiness grow by sharing it with them. Is there anything you can really do for them, when they’re being torn to pieces, shattered by pain?
“And — and when that last terrible sickness sets in on this person you’re making funeral plans for in the prime of their life, and you call the doctor in for the last time, and they lie there in their miserable powerlessness, their eyes staring sightlessly at the sky, the sweat of death pooling endlessly on their forehead, and you — you stand there beside the bed like a damned man, knowing to the core of your soul that there’s nothing you can do for them, not with all your money, and the agony seizes you deep inside that you would give everything just to grant that dying soul a drop of comfort, a speck of strength…”
And, saying this, my own memories of being in that position all came crashing down on me. I buried my face in my napkin and ran out of the room, and the only thing that finally shook me out of it was Lotte saying it was time to go.

And the way she teased me on the drive home, saying I got too worked up about everything, and that I’d hurt myself someday if I kept it up! that I needed to go easy on myself! — Oh, you angel! For your sake, I’ll try!

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July 6

She’s still staying with her dying friend, and still the same as ever — still that wonderful present person who eases pain and makes people happy wherever she goes <3 She was heading out for a walk yesterday with Mary-Ann and little Abby, so I met up with them and we all went out together. After about an hour-long loop, heading back into town, we passed that fountain that means so much to me, and means even more, now. Lotte sat on a bench at the top of the stairs, we stood there beside her, and…ahhh, just looking around, it took me right back to those days I was so lonely. “I’m sorry, fountain,” I said, “I haven’t chilled with you in ages, I’ve just been rushing by without even looking at you half the time.” I looked down and saw that Abby had refilled her nalgene and was scrambling up the steps. — I looked at Lotte and was so struck by how lucky I am to know her. — Now here’s Abby with the bottle. Mary-Ann reached out to take it from her: “No!” the kid yelled so adorably, “no, Lotte, you get to drink first!” And there was so much truth and feeling in that little yell, I was overwhelmed — I couldn’t put my feelings into words, I just lifted the kid right off the ground and covered her face with kisses, and right away she started screaming and crying. “That wasn’t nice,” Lotte said. I was crushed. “Come on, Abby,” she went on, taking her by the hand and leading her down the steps, “wash it off in the nice fresh water, here we go, here we go, it’s okay.” Standing there, watching that little girl scrubbing her cheeks so desperately with her wet hands, totally convinced the magic fountain’s cleansing powers would vaccinate her against my gross, contagious beard — how even when Lotte told her it was enough, the kid kept on washing and washing, because obviously more would do more than less…Will, you know that awe you feel watching someone get baptized? This was like that, times ten — and when Lotte came up the steps, I could have thrown myself at her feet like she was a prophet who’d purified the sins of a nation.

That evening, I was still riding such a high that I couldn’t help telling this one guy about what happened — this is someone I thought would understand, because he’s a sensitive guy, but wow, was I wrong! He said that was a very bad thing for Lotte to do; you shouldn’t let kids believe stuff like that; it’s the sort of thing that opens the door to all the fuzzy thinking and superstition you should try to keep kids away from as much as possible. — Right then it struck me that this guy had just had his kid baptized a week earlier, so I let it slide, and just felt happy knowing what I’ve always known, deep down: we should treat children the way God treats us. Letting people believe crazy things makes them happy :)

July 8

GAHHH, I’m such a BABY! Freaking out over a LOOK! I’m such a BABY!!
We’d gone up to Pickton. The girls had driven out to meet us, and while we were out walking together, I thought maybe I saw, in Lotte’s dark eyes — I’m such a dumbass, I’m sorry! you really have to see these eyes — ANYWAY, long story short (I am passing out, I am so tired), right, the girls got back in the car, and we were standing around it, this kid JD, Seth, Austin, and me. The girls in the car were bantering with the guys, and the guys were being all flirty and jokey. I was trying to make eye contact with Lotte, ungggh, she kept looking from person to person! Except me! me! me! standing there all alone and resigned, she looked at everyone but ME! My heart was screaming a thousand silent goodbyes! And she didn’t SEE me! The car drove off and I started tearing up. I watched it go, and saw Lotte’s hair flying in the wind, she was leaning out the window looking back at — ahhh! at ME?!? WILL!!! Not knowing is killing me — the only thing keeping me going is: maybe she looked back at me! MAYBE!
Good night! I’m such a BABY!!!

July 10

You should see how dumb I look whenever people bring her up! Ugh, when they ask me if I *like* her? — *LIKE*! I fucking HATE that word! What kind of person would you have to be to *like* Lotte, to have thoughts or feelings about anyone but her! LIKE! The other day someone asked me if I *liked* WAGNER!

July 11

Mrs. M is in terrible shape; I’m praying she’ll pull through, because I feel Lotte’s pain. I see her now and then in group hangouts, and — oh! Today she told me an amazing story!

Old man M. is a stingy money-grubbing sleazeball who’s hassled and pressured his wife their whole life — but she’s always known how to keep her head up :) A few days ago, when the doctor told her she wasn’t going to make it, she had her husband come in (Lotte was in the room), and gave him this little speech:
“There’s something I have to tell you, because I don’t want anyone getting confused or upset after I’m gone. I’ve kept house all this time as neatly and cheaply as I could. But there is one thing you’ll have to forgive me for: I’ve been going behind your back for the last thirty years. When we first got married, you budgeted out this tiny amount for groceries and other things around the house. When we moved into a bigger place, and business started getting better, I couldn’t make you raise my allowance to keep up with expenses; well, the point is, you know that even when we were spending the most, you still expected me to make it through the week on seventy dollars. I kept my mouth shut and I took the money, and I made up the difference behind the counter, because no one expected the wife to rob the register. I didn’t waste a cent, and I would have happily taken this with me to the grave, if it weren’t for whoever has to keep house for you after I’m gone, in case she doesn’t know how to help herself out and would have had to put up with you always telling her your first wife made it work.”

Lotte and I talked about how blind people can be, for someone not to suspect anything’s going on when they’re handing over seventy dollars and seeing stuff come in worth maybe twice as much. But I’ve known people myself who could have hung up the lamp from the Hannukah story in their house and not noticed anything :P

July 13

No, I’m not making it up! I can see in her dark eyes that she genuinely cares about me and what happens to me. And — yes, I can feel it, and I can trust my heart on this one, that she — oh god, can I say this — am I actually going to say this? — she loves me!
LOVES me! And I’ve felt so worthwhile, I’ve — I can tell you this, you get this stuff — I have so much more self-respect, knowing she loves me!
Am I seeing what I want to see or picking up on a real connection? I… I can’t imagine anyone being closer to Lotte than me. But — but when she talks about her fiancé, talks about him with so much warmth, and…and love…then I feel like a general busted right back down to private with his medals and his stars torn away.

July 16

Gah, the way my heart pounds when my finger accidentally brushes hers, or our feet touch under the table! I jerk back like I’ve been burned, and then some strange force pulls me forward again — everything around me starts spinning…augh! and she’s so unselfconscious and so clueless, she has no idea how all these tiny intimacies torture me. When we’re deep in conversation, and she takes my hand in hers, and in her excitement about the subject she leans in so close that I can taste the heavenly breath coming from her mouth: — I feel like I’m going to pass out, like I was struck by lightning. — And, Will! If I tried to turn that ecstasy, that intimacy into — !! You know what I mean. No, I’m not that messed up! But I’m weak! weak enough! — and isn’t that a kind of messed up?

She is sacred to me. Any lust shuts off when she’s around. I don’t even know how I feel when we’re together; it’s like my soul was twisting around in every nerve in my body. She has a tune she plays on the piano with the most delicate touch, so simple and so soulful! It’s her favorite song, and it makes all my pain and confusion and sadness feel so far away as soon as she sounds the first note.

All those ancient myths about the magic powers of music — I’d believe them all now. This simple song hits me so hard! And the way she always manages to start it up at the exact moment I want to shoot myself in the head! The turmoil and the darkness in my brain dissolve, and I can breathe again.

July 18

Will, what is life without love? It’s like a film projector with no bulb! As soon as you screw in the light, the most colorful pictures show up on your blank screen! And even if that’s all it is, even if you’re just projecting, it feels so nice to let yourself be a kid and just enjoy what you’re seeing. I couldn’t make it to Lotte’s today — this person came over to my place and WOULD NOT LEAVE. So what did I do? I got drinks tonight with a friend who’d seen her this morning :D Oh, I was so impatient waiting for him to show up, and I was so happy to see him! I would have picked him up and kissed him if I hadn’t been too embarrassed :P
You remember those glow-in-the-dark toys we had when we were kids, how they shone brighter in the dark if you’d held them up to a bright light? That’s how this guy was for me. Knowing her gaze had brushed across his face, his cheeks, his buttons, even the collar of his jacket made everything so holy to me, so — priceless! I wouldn’t have traded him for a million dollars in that moment. I felt so good, just being around him ^_^ You’d better not be laughing right now. Will, is it just projecting, when you feel so good?

July 19

“I’m going to see her!” I call out every morning, when I wake up and look out, ecstatic, at the bright beautiful sun; “I’m going to see her!” And that’s my whole day right there. Looking forward to that is everything, it’s all there is.

July 20

I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree about my taking that job Jim’s offering at ***. I don’t deal well with authority, and we all know how bossy Jim can get. My mom wants me to do something ‘productive’, you said; I LOL’ed when I read that. Am I not being productive now? and would I really be better off there as a beancounter than here counting actual beans? That whole world is a scam, and anyone who wears themself out working for someone else without it being their actual passion, their actual calling, for money or prestige or anything else, is a tool.