STALKED BY LOVE

“Guess what, Rocky? I had a dream last night.”

“You did? About me?”

“No, Rocky. I dreamt that a stalker was stalking me.”

“That’s not so good.”

“He hid in the bushes outside the house. Then he hid in the woods, following me. Finally I’m in Greenfield at night and I round the corner, and there he is, a big heavy man wearing a big coat. You know who it was? Ralph Kramden.”

“You mean Jackie Gleason, from The Honeymooners? You loved The Honeymooners.

“Why do you think Ralph Kramden was stalking me, Rocky?”

“Maybe it was humor stalking you, Toots.”

“Speaking of humor, what do you think of your old shoe? Juvenile Delinquent’s been steadily working on it, taking it apart piece by piece. First the tongue, then the leather sides, then the sole. She’s just about down at the very bottom.”

“She’s doing a great job.”

“Look at the mess in front of your picture. You know what it reminds me of?”

“What?”

“Your life, Berns. Our life together, and all the messes that were there.”

“There sure were lots of them.”

“You always liked to bring things together.”

“What do you mean, bring things together? Things are together.”

“But in our day-to-day life they seem to go in very separate directions, Bernie. You never had any patience for vilifying rich people or saying the government was bad. Remember how we didn’t get that HUD grant and then found out we’d qualified for it only Reagan’s HUD secretary stole all that money and awarded it to his developer friends? We all got so righteous about it.”

“Nothing wrong with government per se. Not even this one.”

“You never bad-mouthed the Corporate Nation. You said that everything is energy and the question is how to work with it, be it Donald Trump or a homeless woman on the street.”

“That’s what Greyston was all about, a mandala where a profitable bakery works together with a health center for folks with AIDS, a child care center, and an organization building low-cost housing. A microcosm of how the world works.”

“But the world doesn’t work this way, Bernie.”

“It works how it works, Toots. My job was to try to move things just a hairsbreadth.”

“Towards what? Towards the world acting as one?”

“No, towards our seeing that the world acts as one. Towards our seeing that nothing is separate from anything else no matter how it looks to us. I wanted everyone to see this, not just Zen people. I wanted the Greyston bakers to see that they needed the child care center for their own children and that even the folks living with AIDS were all a part of them, all a part of this whole. I wanted everybody to experience this as a living thing, not just something they read in a book.”

“Sometimes it all felt like a big mess, like the mess Aussie leaves in front of your altar. When I look at what she did to your shoes I remember how much you loved to walk up and down the neighborhood, always on the lookout for what’s for sale. There would be police cars and crack needles everywhere, dilapidated houses and grungy front yards. Nobody wanted to buy anything or move in except for you.”

“It was so exciting, Toots. So many things to get done, so much that needed doing. I was right in my element in Yonkers.”

“But what about all the messes, Bernie? What about all the times we almost went broke, when we couldn’t pay folks their salaries or stipends, couldn’t pay our bills? What about the layoffs and the crumbling ceilings because we couldn’t keep up the places we lived in? When we couldn’t do the projects we began, when we couldn’t keep our promises?”

“Life doesn’t work according to our ideas of whether something is orderly or a mess.”

“But human beings can only tolerate so much mess before they start cracking, Berns.”

“That may be true. Remember what I used to tell you about me and pain?”

“That you have a high threshold for pain?”

“I think I also had a high threshold for messes. For instance, I’m not bothered by what Aussie leaves on the floor, that’s Aussie. What’s to get upset about?”

“You’re not the one cleaning it up, Berns. Not to mention that you’re dead.”

“That’s true, I’m dead, ain’t I? Should I stalk you, Tootsie?”

“Yes, Rocky. You can stalk me.”