My long time readers remember the man I wrote about here and here. He was a man I had a relationship with in my 20’s. We found each other again in 2003 after many years of moving along our own paths. He brought something alive again in my heart. And I, in his. I guess. Yet ultimately, around Christmas time last year, I found out he broke my heart. He broke it way back in September, or maybe even way before that, before some statute of limitations ran out somewhere. That’s what I hear. But there’s so much more in between all those years and a man who vanished.
Each day is different. One day I feel the kinship of womanhood, the girl code of existence as a female with his ex -wife as we all look for him, and I'm so pissed off. We’re all looking with different intention, but still all members of the same search party. And then the next I long to stand before him and hear it from his mouth. His ancient mouth. The ancient mouth I wrote poetry about when I was young. His chiseled mouth that spoke with a New Jersey accent and a laugh in his voice. His deep New Jersey bad boy Bruce Sprinstein-ish mouth that diluted to familiarity after so many years in California.
The very hard part for me is that he and I spoke everyday. He texted me when I got off work and asked for a text or call when I got home safely. "Really?" I'd ask half laughing. "Yeah. You have a long drive. And it's dark. And you're tired. And I care about you." Even though we lived hours apart, he knew something as mundane as when I was picking berries on a Saturday, just as I knew when he reached his hiking summit because he would call me from his cell phone from the tops of the mountain peaks and tell me about their beauty. The mileage of our relationship ebbed and flowed over 30 years in such a steady way that when months went by - sometimes even years when we were out of touch - we both had the knowing that we would come together again sometime, somewhere. Sometimes just check in, or sometimes stay for awhile. But come back we always did. He always said ours was a love that poets wrote about.
This time feels different. He’s a real missing person. In more than the eyes of lifelong love, but in the book of missing persons he’s a missing person. He's a poster boy. They say he did something wrong. I know he cut and ran without answering. I hate that thought. I first knew he was gone that December night last year when an old friend called me to tell me he had been missing since September. Last I can remember was that night he and I were talking about the upcoming harvest moon and Neil Young's song about it. I knew a couple of months later when his ex wife wrote to ask me if I’d seen him. Every night after work I drive by the exact place where I pulled over under the dripping pines that lined the high school field there on Third Street to take the call -It was little Wendy calling. Silly, funny, crazy, Little Wendy who is now tall, grown, gorgeous mama Wendy with a child of her own. Little Wendy whose Mom introduced me to her new college housemate, Steven, back in the 70's. That night when I walked in as an invited guest to their house-meeting dinner. That night when we sat around a table of 10 and couldn't keep our eyes off each other. I spoke in the blurry headlights and street lamps of a rainy windshield. A golden, dark blue-gray hue. I sat and listened and then found myself cold and shivering in the silence of my car. Staring in disbelief at running raindrops. And then that moment came when I put the car into drive and continued on with my life empty of Steve Matts and faith, and full of huge questions.
I have no answers, and unless he contacts me again I will be filled with these questions until they burn out. Until they burn out or forever. But to me, for the man I knew, I have to hear his words telling me about all of this before I can put it into place within the archives of my life. I promised.
stevematts, if you are reading these words, call me. Your boys, your friends, and I believe even your ex-wife, and I all wait. The man I knew would stand up and face his accusers. Face them and speak his truth and make peace where there is pain. The man I knew would make clear what is in question. He would put on his steel-toed boots and set his truth into place for others to do with what they will. The man I knew would never call in sick. He would speak the truth and then throw back his head and take the medicine if there was a shot of it to be taken. he. would. make. things. right. However that needed to be done. The man I knew would not run.
It's your birthday. Begin again, my friend.