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Jean Francois Janinet:
The Three Graces (Not Dated, circa 1770-1814)

"If life's not improving then it must be intruding …"

My Wives

My first wife was an angel in disguise,
She taught me how to cry
and I taught her how to fly,
she bore two children.
We moved to Pennsylvania where we tried
to live the compromise familiar to all we lives.
We drank our fill, then …

"Life intruded on our plans, the future took our hands,
introducing a really different life, sent to stumble every stand,
maybe make this boy a man.
And that plan we'd held before us slowly slipped right through our hands
as life intruded on our plans."

So begins another of my tunes, definitely a Song Of Experience, but one of experience seen through a smoky and generous glass. I'm not saying my life didn't happen like that, just not quite in that order and not nearly that harmoniously. I would have done nobody any good to chronicle the absolute felt truth about this experience. Like every life, it roamed up, down, and all around. That it ended by being catalogued under the First Wife heading, might imply plenty while saying enough. She had the most remarkable ability to be disappointed in me. The sum total of those disappointments sealed our fate. I moved on and into a world where I was not nearly so disappointing. I imagine that an angel of deep disappointment delivered me.

"My second wife was lovely to the eye,
an innocent disguise, another compromise,
a lie in hiding.
We fooled ourselves much longer than we tried
we danced until we died
then we moved on to other lives …

"Intruding on our plans,
the future took our hands,
introducing a really different life,
sent to stumble every plan
and maybe make this boy a man.
And the plans we'd held before us
slowly slipped right through our hands,
as life intruded on our plans."

The rebound relationship became more complicated than I could have at first imagined, for nobody ever really starts over from zero. Everyone brings carryon baggage and not all of it conveniently fits into overhead storage. It will all eventually get unpacked, ultimately in public. There are no long-term secrets. The greatest distance in the known universe must be the space between two people inhabiting different worlds while sharing a standard matrimonial bed. Too close for comfort and too distant for solace. She'd convinced herself that I'd been unfaithful after picking up a dozen voice messages from an unbalanced groupie in California. Rather than prove her negative, I decided to agree with her, to give her grounds to divorce me. It wasn't true, but so much of our life together had devolved into suspicion that I figured it might be best for both of us to just stop dancing. I never told her the truth and as far as I know, she still believes me to have been a lout. She asked me to consider her dead after I'd signed the papers. And so I have.

"My third wife now is sure to be my last,
she's no actor in a cast, we don't play it loose or fast,
I've turned some corner.
We fool ourselves and say what's past is past
that the future has at last resolved enough to cast
whatever comes to fore here, but

"Life will continue to unplan the best of wife and man,
we''ll embrace each different life,
come to stumble every plan and maybe make this boy a man.
For every plan we hold before us
will surely slip right through our hands,
as life intrudes upon our plans,
as life
improves upon our plans."

When I sing the first line of this final verse, The Muse usually sotto voce remarks, "One way or another." This elicits some nervous laughter because it rarely happens that anyone reviews their marriage history with their current wife present. I resolve the tension by making a small distinction between the tenacious notion that lives might unwind true to a plan and the proposition that life's true purpose might have always been to actively unplan whatever conviction connected a person to another. The key, as I present it here, might be acceptance, merely embracing each difference. This might sound romantic when sung so sweetly in front of a decent chord progression. The concluding suggestion, that these intrusions are actually improving upon initial conceptions, ends this exploration.

This song ends more with a sigh than with a whimper. There are few big finishes to any real life experiences, and this exploration proves no exception. I experience this as a sad song, one so achingly reminiscent that it hollows me out to sing it. This one, therefore, cannot be the first in any set, or the last one, either. It needs to be buried, tucked in between something lighter and another more diverting. I've never written a more disclosing song. This one cuts clear to the bone every time, for it reminds me of the impossibility of do-overs. I'm free, and always have been free, to interpret whatever happens to me however I want. This freedom might change nothing. The belief that life's improving becomes self-fulfilling, just like the belief that it's constantly devolving. Both beliefs are provably fiction. I'm blessed with the belief that it's improving and with a spouse who shares my belief, however delusional it might seem, what with my daughter dying and The Muse's cancer diagnosis. If life's not improving then it must be intruding and hardly worth the inconvenience. Life's worth it.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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