June 5, 2015

Fiction By Barbara Kinsey Sable: He Made Me Laugh

Barbara Kinsey Sable: Retired professor from the University of Colorado, College of Music. I have published many academic articles including a text book: The Vocal Sound, poetry over many years and short stories.


            This tale is about what was. That is, as much as my memories haven’t twisted into myth. You see, he made me laugh.
            It began, I suppose, when I was born: good family, with the ethics of their puritan background and the mentality of liberal views. In short, good parents, but, in long, there was difficulty in parenting someone like myself. Early on they installed those little windmills of ideas that the mind can’t get rid of entirely. They wanted stability in my life. I wanted to be an actress. Luck, and the idles of fate doomed that career. I tried, and when things did not follow the trail of success, I decided, to listen to those windmills and earn a doctorate in theater. Teaching was stability.
            The parents gave a sigh of relief, helped me financially, and off I went to a Midwestern university steeped in the educational theatrical world. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was, and still am, a damned good actress, but one needs that bit of luck somewhere along the line, and I never found it. So, off I went to school. The university was large, the education sufficiently respectable so that a good portion of any entering doctoral class did not graduate. Standards were high. They were not always met, mainly because students spent too much time in the theatrical productions and too little time with their studies. I determined to maintain a balance of acting and studying, and, indeed, accomplished that balance to the point where I could see the degree beckoning.
            It was lonely at school. Most of the student body were younger than I, another bunch were not really interested in anything else other than acting, and a third lot were neither good actors nor good students.
             In the summer many college and high school teachers came to improve their salaries by upping their degree status. These people were fun. The men were, naturally, married, seldom there with their wives who were busy with summer-minding the children.  However, a good portion of them had acted professionally or semi-professionally as I had, and they all were familiar with the world of higher education. Classes in the summer were full of these, more or less, mature individuals. Their participation was a blessing after listening to the idealistic pap that the undergraduates were apt to voice. The professors were also at their best. They knew that summer students wouldn’t put up with verbiage or educational nonsense.
            There was one class in particular that pleased me; the professor was good and his lectures were interesting. Occasionally his wry jokes elicited laughter. One hearty laugh attracted my attention, and it didn’t take me long to connect laughter with a face, the face with a man, and the man with an introduction. We became friends.
            He was married, of course. He was involved in a summer production, happily a comic one. I attended most of those performances. We were friends, we became more than friends, and though there were many differences between us, we became much more of friends than we should have.
            I remember one sunny day, a bit cooler than most and, perhaps, a bit drier. The Midwest is not known for dry days mid-summer, humidity usually won. Walking down one tree-lined street on this remarkably delicious day, you could taste the clear air perfumed by stands of roses and flowering bushes.  We were strolling along this avenue when an enormously pregnant woman walked on the other side of the street.  I mentioned the fact that she was obviously pregnant. My friend waited for the moment that comics seem to master innately, and responded, “Oh, I hope so.”
            I laughed. Oh, more than laughed, I chortled until I coughed.
            After that I could not resist. How wonderful, he made me laugh.
            We traveled in my car (he had left his at home for the family) throughout the countryside, for the most part, chastely. Anyone over the age of sixteen cannot easily have sex in an automobile, and we were quite a bit over that barrier of agility. We talked, we walked, we enjoyed each other. Most importantly, we laughed. Laughter had not been part of my life for several years. Laughter was a prize, and to enjoy it with someone else was Eden and heaven rolled into one. I heard his heavy step approaching, and I smiled. I listened to our conversation, and it seemed to fill empty spaces in my being. Then I felt his touch, a wonderful warm touch, and I knew that I was in love, and needing love desperately.
             We had two such summers together, and at the end of each his wife would come to bring him home. He would run to her and the children, and I would . . .
            What would I do? I wouldn’t push for anything else other than I had. He had children, he had a wife and their marriage was a good one, I thought. I never asked, but so it seemed to me. There was always the lonely hollowness that filled my being when he left, a hollowness aching for his touch, wanting his conversation and knowing it could not be.
             Then, a new semester would crowd into my life; I would work hard, do some performing, and steadily gather points and wisdom that would bring me to the beckoning degree. The degree almost accomplished, it was time to find a job. I did so on the West Coast. We saw each other at professional society meetings. And then we called a halt. At least one of us did, perhaps it was mutual. I was too upset then to be sure, too upset now, though the whole affair has drifted with time to the back of my history.
            I remember driving to the top of one of the many cliffs that line the coastline of the Pacific. I looked down on the weaving and churning waters that thrashed against the cliff. It echoed my feelings of loneliness and the savage need to share both companionship and love with someone. That someone was distant, more than distant, unavailable. The tears that I had known at the end of each summer, multiplied into sobs. The deep, droning feeling of loss coupled with an ache that knifed through my being. How I missed that soft touch, and the occasional “you are so desirable, I love you.” I was alone and unwanted. I stayed there, wallowing in tears and self-pity, for at least a half-hour. But life must be lived. I drove off, and though I came back to this edge of the world many times, and cried or sighed for a bit, the affair was over.
            This is what I remember now that I am old, and much has past between time and myself. I remember it with a pang. I haven’t laughed much since. 

~Barbara Kinsey Sable

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