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The Blue Bicycle by Shannon Marie Lane.


Mary pulled her fingers out of the dirt and went completely still, eyes skyward, with one ear cocked up to the right, listening, as muddy hands hung in front of her thin, feminine frame like a lemur. Her Irish Granny used to swear she could hear the sound of her baby's whispers even over hurricane winds, and Mary now knew that she was right; motherhood imparts its lucky members with many odd superpowers.

A grassy hill lined in red oaks defined the winding drive down the hill from her lovingly shabby Victorian home. The three sides of the house that faced the ocean were always peeling paint; battered and weathered as they were by the sea torn New England Winters which whipped at the antique frame. This was her little corner of the world where she raised her six babies as queen of their Lilliputian Kingdom.

Sweat slicked the back of her hand as she tried to wipe back a stray chunk of black hair that had fallen over her right eye. She leaned over and rested her hand on the high arched handlebars of a sky blue bicycle which rested casually against the trellis adorning the front entrance to her home. Shiny silver wheels with white rims and a rounded wicker basket completed the picture. The purchase had been a rare pecuniary indulgence for Mary: one which she had spent her whole life saving for, in a manner of speaking.

The clunky hum she had heard became louder now and was quite unmistakable as the soothing purr of Rainer's antique racing car.

Rainer was Mary's fall.

You see, Mary had four husbands. None of whom she would ever marry; each to whom she was deeply committed, some of whom she hated just a little, and all of whom she would keep for life, because each had a story whose end she had at one time wanted to know.



Mary was only eight years old when her mostly absent father phoned to tell her that he would be bringing her a new bicycle.

The privilege of asking for material possessions was not something Mary knew as a child. Still she held her breath and clenched her eyes tight several times every day and prayed that it would be the powder blue one in the window of the bicycle shop. In Spanish they have a word, esperanza; it means to hope, wait, or long for in a heart wrenching manner. This is an emotion known to only small children or expectant mothers; for it is only during these clairvoyant spiritual windows that God insists we feel anything this deeply. Sadly, it is also while swimming in this depth that true human tragedy befalls us.

The promise of a bicycle, for Mary, was far more to her young mind than the status symbol that a thick wallet could produce. She could not help but be imbedded with the materialism that comes with being a have not child in a have world.

For her the bicycle was the painted metal, spoke wheeled, 20 pound solid proof that a man believed her to be the most special child in the world. It would be new and hers alone: not a hand me down like everything else in her world.

The fantasy of garishly flaunting her father's gift in front of the other little girls possessed her. The spoiled darlings whose adoring daddy's swept them up in indulgent hugs and gifted them with sparkling dresses on birthdays. To Mary, the bicycle would even the score with those girls once and for all.

The day finally arrived when her father was to bring her new bicycle. She waited by the front window of their tiny apartment, which was perched on top of a high hill and gave her a bird's nest view of the entire street in both directions. From early in the morning she waited while her exhausted mother paced back and forth from the front room helpless to save her child from a pain which she knew was inevitable. . By the time the sun set her mother sadly pulled her away from the window. In the course of that day, as each minute ticked by slowly on the wall clock, Mary became irreparably crushed by the gift of love that would never arrive.

On that day a little girl learned a lesson which would define her for a lifetime. Mary began to build the wide moat around her heart that she hoped would protect her from ever loving one person too deeply.



Carefully stenciled across the bicycle's center bar in faded silver letters was the Irish word "Saiorse," meaning 'freedom.' True to the bellicose history of the Celts, however, it is something for which one has fought and killed; whose cost imparts its owner with such a mark as to feel it coursing through their blood with every breath; whose imprint one could not forget for even one heart beat.



Rainer's old sports car made its way very loudly up the drive. Mary could hear it for a mile before she could see it, which gave her enough time to straighten her hair and remove most of the dirt under her nails. It had been 10 months since she'd seen Rainer.

She smiled, thinking how ironic it was that Rainer didn't need to have a back seat in his antique auto. His Freedom she considered boyish, and it brought her pure joy. Often she considered the irony in their arrangement: this very immaturity in Rainer is what drew her to him as a seasonal man, but what would have been a deal breaker in a husband of the antiquated sense. Rainer was 13 years her junior, and this need for flight was the very cornerstone of her love for him.

The crystal green glint of his eye from across the lawn caused her heart to flutter with the simplicity of her love for this boy. Rainer's youth sometimes made Mary feel like a separate species. He was like an ocean gull which flew just above the waves no matter how tempestuous the storm: he never touched down and was therefore never drawn into the quagmire.


Rainer stopped the car, playing at ignoring Mary's strong tanned form standing across the lawn, studying him. A lover's stare is an inescapable force; a vortex into which we are sucked, willingly and slathered in joy; pulsing.

Rainer was Mary's fall, and father to Niabh, her youngest daughter.

Mary had given Rainer one child, which was to be her last. He was actually very lucky in this regard; many men did not get children at all. Rainer came into the game after a lifetime of parties and debauchery: all the while tormented by the desperate need to be saved by a child.

Rainer spent his other ten months living the half life of a professional gambler; a vampire who only existed in the smoky windowless, clock-less worlds of mega casinos. Sometimes his games lasted for two or more days; he subsisted on speed, coca cola and cigarettes to maintain focus. He would then sleep for days and wake to spend half his earnings on women, and drugs, and an entourage of professional poker groupies whose habits he supported as well.

He had boundless energy and an unfathomably high IQ; the combination of which made him socially competent only amongst poker players and children. Amongst adults he could be shockingly rude, yet he craved the power that human attention lent. This became an awkward combination after a time.

The staggeringly high cash earnings of his poker games became an eco-system unto itself. He was like a whale whose movement through the ocean took with it a community of barnacles and small fish: entirely dependent on his winnings for their existence, but of whose presence he was fully unaware. It was never his intention to harm others, he simply lacked that most humans acquire by the age of five. Because of his nature, he had developed a wildly charismatic charm which drew people to him to; a vortex into which they were drawn, unaware that their souls were being slowly sucked from them.

Rainer's smile made you sick with desire to be his conspirator.

The dark side which threatened to overtake Mary's personality needed a man like this to wash her clean in contrast.



He had a slightly non Caucasian look about him: any stranger meeting him for the first time would fully believe that he could be Asian, or Latino, of African, or Middle Eastern, or Caucasian, for that matter. He was an art photographer's wet dream.

The truth was that he was a mix between Lebanese and Italian; a combination which blended the dark skinned, dark hair, larger nose traits of the Lebanese, and the startlingly light green eyes of the Italian. His face blended beautifully at any poker table in the world, yet clashed unnervingly in Mary's small New England town, causing neighbors to stand a little farther away from him in line at the local coffee shop.

Late summer meant that Rainer was there to wrap his hairy yet boyish little body around hers as the nights got cold. He helped her collect the fall vegetables and cook them into soups to be stored in the freezer for the winter to follow. Rainer was long walks as they kicked leaves: Rainer was the cabled hand knit sweaters that Mary worked on throughout the long winters.

Between Mary and Rainer there was very little discourse. Rainer had taught Mary how to finally relax, and pass entire days without ever having done so much as re-filled the cocktail and gotten up to pee. They grazed on delicately simple picnics with the children while lounging in the warm green fall grass staring up at the crisping oaks, whose tops were just beginning to turn into unimaginably bright red hues.

Between Rainer and the rest of the world there was much strife. His striking lack of empathy made him demanding and cranky, impatient especially as it came to people in service roles. Mary would cringe as Rainer berated waitresses for the food not being hot enough, or not arriving fast enough. Social retardation was the casualty he suffered from the ability to earn millions at a poker table by the age of sixteen. Rainer never had to wait for anything. He caused deep tension and arguments amongst casual acquaintances in his fight to achieve some internally defined code of equity; a code which varied wildly from day to day, and one which only Rainer could justify.

The friends with whom they interacted during Rainer's season were carefully chosen so as not to introduce sociological discourse. They were mostly flaky artists and societal fringy types who seemed ignorantly tolerant of Rainer's very particular brand of interaction.

Mary would never have tolerated him as her only husband. He could be as gorgeously insane as he pleased, and it did not reflect negatively on her. He was only a quarter of her choice: a slice of her image. Rainer alone did not define her.

Conversely, Rainer's season in Mary's house was vastly harmonious. He never had a cross word for any child, and something about Mary and Rainer's exact temperaments produced the perfect chemistry; they never fought. Endless afternoons were spent finding harvesting farms with the children and picking blueberries and peaches. He treated each child as his own and tossed them high into the sky....grinning like one of those antique families in the photos snapped in the late summer's golden light.

Rainer woke up every morning before Mary. He made a perfectly rich cup of coffee for each of them by hand and walked around the property collecting flowers, which he stuffed into old vases in bountiful bunches that jumped out at Mary's senses as she cracked open her eyes. She felt like a very well loved little girl as she wrapped her fingers around the steaming, perfectly nutty and full smelling coffee that Rainer handed her as he crawled back in between the fleecy warm sheets to wrap his rubbery dark skin around hers. His cool morning dew dusted and flawless skin made her think, if only for a moment, that he felt like the only man she would ever need to wrap herself around.

Rainer and Mary spoke only in high level, whimsical details about the year behind them: they did not talk of the year before them. They lived only in the now. It was perfectly acceptable to Mary (perhaps less so to Rainer), to live in the now; to be in love in the now. To wake in the morning and run their soft fingers down the smooth length of their lover's body and vibrate with the intensity of human love and desire, while not assigning that divine gift a future of any kind, as humans tend to do.

Rainer could amuse himself for entire afternoons with the invention of whimsical games to entertain the children. Extensive forts were constructed in the living rooms on rainy afternoons out of old sheets held together with clips of varying types, held up high with the tops of standing lamps or short sturdy wooden stools. Several patterns of prints adorned the great rooms like patchy old quilts, with varying brightness of light glowing softly beneath.

Great shows were made out of games which were played out on makeshift stages around the grounds, with flowers festooning heads as royal crowns, a delicate sun warming their tanned shoulders, and soft ocean breezes filling the noses of children who certainly took such elegance for granted. The ocean was their constant companion. They had not yet experienced the homesick misery of having to leave it.

Towards the end of Rainer's season he would inevitably become unsettled, pacing the fields against the ocean late into the evening, and becoming short with Mary and the children: irrational in a desperate manner. His darkness began to wear on her.

Generally Mary found Rainer's soul simple to tolerate. Days sailed by with nothing more than a few loving exchanges of information between them: notes on how a meal should be assembled, which perennials had come back and which had not. Their relationship was not unlike those she had had with the better cats she had owned. The animals wished only be petted, fed, and shown some affection a few times a day; and otherwise kept themselves clean and amused when they were not napping.

Cats also did not overstay their welcome; cats always knew when it was time to skedaddle, and skedaddle Rainer did, according to the meticulously planned and maintained schedule invented by Mary herself.



Eventually, all things die and go into hibernation and we gratefully turn our minds to the undemanding comforts of the world inside of our homes, nestled peacefully beside our hearths. We no longer have an obligation to celebrate mother Earths overwhelming splendor.

The house, gardens, and animals had been buttoned up for the fall. Thanksgiving had been celebrated as Rainer's goodbye and Mary and the children had spent the weeks in December preparing for Christmas in their rickety, sprawling old home, whose presence had become like a character in the story that was their lives: none of them could consider the family without the house as a member.

Moxley was Mary's winter, her third husband, and father to Ari and Moser; five year old chocolate eyed, curly black haired identical twins. Winter was her season for community: the pink house on the high hill by the sea passed its frigid days drowning in music and friends, many of whom were world class musicians.

The children held impromptu dance parties with Mox in their underwear: unselfconsciously shaking their perfect little bums in overly done gestures. His fingers flew over the keys of the black lacquered piano in the corner of the great room as his thin hair fell over his eyes. Moxley took great pleasure in pushing all of the children to explore their musical extremes....indulging them in any direction they cared to go.

During the seasons that he was not with Mary, The Mox Stanley band toured the world, playing concerts and living out of an airplane that he had designed just for them. Mox Stanley was a deep believer in loyalty and history. He had few people around him whom he had not known for at least half of his life.



As it happens, Mary had shared a delightfully carefree time in her late teens and early twenties with Mox Stanley. It was at too early an age that Mary was drawn into clubs and drugs and men. It was in this world that she first came across him. He had been a freakishly talented guitar prodigy, playing on with some of the top guitar geniuses of the day by the age of twelve. Now, at forty, he was the master of any instrument put before him.

Towards Mox, Mary held no secrets, no animosity. All of that had been worked out a thousand times between them over twenty five years of intense friendship.

She had not considered giving him children until many years later, after she had run through most of his friends and band-mates. They were flashier, prettier, and more hip than Moxley, who at twenty was intensely focused on his musical gift, and therefore somewhat awkward. Those boys were like cotton candy to Mary and behaved like motherless souls in their mistreatment of girls; young women who swallowed it with great relish in the perennial mistake they make in allowing themselves to become beggars for the affections of young men.

It was only in their mid twenties that Moxley's earnestness began to truly surface for her. She felt that he was a man truly worthy of a child, and she decided to give him just one. Ultimately, it was not about a true lust or longtime love for him, but a loyalty to his deep kindness, musical genius, and worthiness of procreation to which she had become endeared. The twins born to Mary and Moxley were more of a gift to the extraordinariness she saw in him than anything else.

When Moxley came he stayed in the fourth floor bedroom with his guitars and sometimes the twins, but never with Mary.

You see, Mox Stanley preferred men, and therefore was not Mary's lover.

Each morning they would greet each other in the sunlit kitchen after tripping down the separate, rounded stairwells from their bedrooms rubbing great, messy mops of hair: unconcerned about the foul smell of un-brushed teeth. They cackled madly with each other over the breakfast table; Moxley bearishly scooping absurdly numerous spoonfuls of sugar into his cup of black coffee with his hairy paws.

His oafish body would dance with Mary around the circles of the antique kitchen throughout those wind whipped snowy mornings while he DJ'd music over the house sound system for the children and her. They moved in perfect rhythm with one another and gazed lovingly into each other's eyes, bristling with the barely contained joy of each other's company.

It was the true gift of their particular long standing and deep history which bestowed upon them the ability to, with very little effort, access the parts of one another which made them laugh the hardest. There was almost no effort involved in their relationship.

Perhaps it was her lesser passion for Moxley which enabled her to feel the raw love that one has for their children only: the true desire for their happiness, the true sadness for their sadness. He was the only one of her four men that she did not take some satisfaction out of hurting; even if in some unspoken, unacknowledged, cold place in her heart.

The passion of sexual love requires that humans hate, just a little, the very object of their affection, and Mary hated him...not even a little.

Mox Stanley was conversely not, by anyone's standards, black of heart in any way.

By late February, Mox was excited to go back on tour; the road was truly the greatest love of his life. By this time Mary as well had grown once again hungry for a lover and she was ready for his Season to come to an end.

And so they spent the winter, in a fraternal happiness, enveloped in music and riotous laughter until the clammy days of late February approached, when Mox stooped his tall form under the helicopter blades as his thinning dyed blonde hair whipped wildly in the wind. He departed into the body of the helicopter, as always, with his signature departing gesture; known to music fans the world over as he walked off the stage: two fingers pushed to his lips and then held up to his audience in salute.



By the time springs first promise arrives, the crocuses pushing through as we stare unbelieving, that Spring may have finally saved us, we are pale and tired and hopeless.

Mary and the children were tense with cabin fever: running around on each other's nerves; the children hyperactive with their need to burst outdoors: Mary gone sick with knitting socks in new and interesting colors; painting peonies and other summer flowers in watercolor; forgetting in the sad month of March the spark that made her glow. Forgetting the fire that made her children adore her and her lovers stay; captivated, staring and never, ever, able to leave.

Manion was Mary's spring, and father to not even one of her children.

The preparations for Manions arrival were slow and meticulous. His favor was not anything like the others, whose judgment she had no use for. He was neat, meticulous, straight, and clean. And then just as quickly, refreshingly wonderful and intelligent. He always intimidated Mary at the very first. He was the man with whom she was least able to be herself. He was the man least able to relate to her children, the man unable to give her children; yet, strangely, he was the man she loved most deeply.

Manion worked, for ten months of the year as an international consultant to private companies who focused on funding programs to research the dire issues of reproduction the world over. The endeavor was a highly prestigious and lucrative profession which required him to have an exceptional degree of technical, business, and diplomatic skills.

Manion was raised in the mountains of northern Italy by a wealthy family who sent him to the best private schools all over Europe. He spoke six languages and selected a quiet, reserved air as the most appropriate demeanor for the variations in culture which he regularly had to transition between. The highly personal nature of his business also required him to show little, if no, emotion. This practice had caused Manion to become unnervingly stoic.

You see, while Manion had dedicated his life to children's causes, he was unable to actually relate to them: because of all he knew, their presence unnerved him immensely. While Manion was a world renowned master at diplomacy amongst adults, he felt utterly naked in the presence of children, who had an uncanny ability to see right through the business acumen which generally commanded a room of adults into submission.

His hair was light blonde, with denim blue eyes, and a perfectly clear rosy complexion. At 45, he looked 32, and always beautifully dressed. His pants were handmade Italian tailoring with cuffs ironed to a perfect pleat at the ankles. He wore shined Italian leather shoes, white button down shirts, and sometimes a soft wool sweater of light weight; always in a rich warm color. The lines of his face were severe and masculine yet delicate, and when he laughed his teeth were straight and pure white. The nails on Manion's fingers and toes were always manicured perfectly.

He looked and acted unlike any of the other men she had chosen. Manion never drank alcohol or took drugs of any kind, which, in addition to his stiffness, became exhausting for Mary after a month or so. While she would drink wine, and occasionally sneak away to smoke a joint, Manians quiet, wide eyed and silent stare made her feel like an addict.

Manion rarely touched a child, but would instead stare at them with a strange satisfaction; a quiet inner warmth: a simmering Mona Lisa like glow washing over his face, which always left Mary wondering exactly what it was that he was thinking. She never dared ask; never wanting to disturb the low reverberation of his subtle joy; like disturbing the surface of a perfectly still lake.

It was in the spring that Mary spent the least amount of time with the children. Sequestered away instead in the turret of the fourth floor bedroom, or away for a few days of bliss; entranced by Manion's ethereal gaze and silvery touch.

As a lover, Manion was quite feline: never blinking, never sleeping, never unable to respond. He was rippled with muscles and nearly hairless. In social situations he remained equally as awake and focused, yet fully reserved and purposely difficult to read.

As May 1st approached, the humor and lightness he had adopted began to once again recede into the clipped, business like efficiency which was his mood upon his arrival to Mary's sea side utopia. He obsessively ordered his belongings each day, squatting over his travel bag each morning after showering in his perfectly white, starched underwear, and his compact, muscled little body. His serious, firm, tight face stared down into the bag like the president of the country deciding on whether or not to order war.

His exit on May 1st was a tight lipped quick kiss on Mary's left cheek, with eyes ducked down as he slipped into the backseat of his chauffer driven black car and zoomed back to his Italian life.



The world has very few places prettier than coastal Maine in late June, with its mind blinding greens, silver ocean glitterings, and burnt orangey pink sunset hues that blind you as the ocean makes love to your senses with her rhythmic heartbeat of a lullaby.

It's as if those souls brave enough to suffer through February and March are now being rewarded with God's grace in the form of a New England summer. And they treasure it that much more for its absence.

Landsin Tanner arrived on a windy afternoon in late May, rolling out of the passenger door of a beaten up old truck with a sail bag full of dirty clothes slung over his right shoulder. His greasy blonde hair stuck out in chunks from under his visor as he waggled a thumb and pinky to the smiling driver and banged the hood of the car in farewell.

Sin bounded bowlegged and pot bellied over the lawn with his shoulders slumped, removing his sunglasses to reveal the signature of sailors everywhere: raccoon tan lines over deeply etched crow's feet. These tan lines, formed from the ubiquitous sunglasses, were known as 'racing stripes.'

For just a moment Mary was taken by the large shouldered athletic and cartoonish masculine charm which dripped from Sin like an old robe. Her eyes glinted with admiration at his sly, raw and mischievous sexual appeal. She very much wanted to love this man.

He grabbed her around the waist with a meaty arm and bent her back to cover her mouth with his. The decades old ghostly spell was at once broken by the repulsion she felt for his smell. He tasted like rum and a distinctive body scent which made her slightly ill. His familiarity after such a long absence made her uncomfortable. Mary was unnerved by lascivious public displays of affection. It was very much against her breeding. Sin knew this well and his overt gesture was therefore an offense; a power play which attempted to show Mary who was boss. She smiled down at her children uncomfortably, as they stared back at her with hope and pride.

Sin was Mary's first husband, her first lover, and father to three of her children.

Theirs was a complicated coupling.



The harbor was drowsily polka dotted with bronzed late afternoon sunshine on an August day of Mary's 16th year. Sin was lounging on the stern of a racing yacht when her young girl's eyes came to a screeching halt on him. His right was arm thrown back over the lifeline. He cradled a beer in his left hand, and a bright winning smile adorned his tanned young face. Sun bleached light brown curls fell over his eyes and he looked as if he had every puzzle piece in exactly the right spot.

A pudgy 16; Mary had not yet grown into the stunning woman she would be, and was simply not the sort of girl that Landsin Tanner would notice. She immediately hated him intensely for this. Although she soon fell madly in love, she never quite got over the hate. You see, we must listen to our inner voices when they tell us, unequivocally, exactly who someone is in the moment that we first lay eyes on them.

The memory of her first glance upon him remained for her laced with iconic Hollywood style glamour. Nostalgia tends to create out of ordinary events heartbreaking magnifications of emotion in our tortured human minds. This is one of the prices that God extols from us for the privilege of being her most cerebrally gifted animal. Her greatest gift to us is, ironically, also her greatest of punishments and we remain trapped in the emotional labyrinth which we have created for ourselves.

The trajectory of Sin and Mary's romance grew to become legendary. They were the envy of members of the elite sailing community the world over. Early pictures of them showed an impossibly gorgeous, healthy, and well matched couple who shone happiness through those small stills in time. The photos reach right into your gut and cause immediate jealousy of this pair who appears to be mysteriously united against the world.

Mary and Sin continued to travel the world together after the birth of their first boy. They named him Quintilian, after the yacht on which Sin had won his first America's Cup race. They would often be seen on the decks of elite Yacht Clubs the world over with their baby boy casually plunked down on the bar. They approached parenthood with what appeared to be the ease of an elite athlete completing a signature move that had been practiced tens of thousands of times.

Older sailors would surreptitiously stare at them with deep envy; their coupling holding the solution to the riddle they would struggle with their whole lives through. It seemed to solve for them how to find room in one's heart for both the ocean and a spouse. By and large there was only room for one or the other, and a great majority of sailors grew old alone, having chosen the sea.

As with any great era in human history, it was an almost imperceptibly slow turn of events that eventually toppled their empire.

Their second son Dervitch was born, and then their third and Mary remained at home in Maine in total misery and exhaustion while Sin continued to travel the world without her. A seething resentment hammered away within her as the sleepless months and years in the vastly lonely pursuit of caring for babies took their toll. Sin would drop in once every eight weeks or so, looking tanned, healthy, and refreshed as Mary glared back at him with now widened hips, vomit stained clothing, and the infuriating dementia that sleep deprivation installs.

As his sailing career grew, so too grew his professional alcoholism.

She became sick of carrying on morning conversations with him over the telephone as he slurred his words and called out to women in the background. She knew his nature well enough to understand that his bed would not remain empty for very long. There was a part of her that sympathized with the weakness of Sin; understanding too well his character which rendered him incapable of anything more.

His visits had now become nothing more than a courtesy that she extended to their children. She felt they had a right to spend time with their father, but she was not going to allow them to leave her home with him. His presence sickened and disturbed her, leaving her feeling like a caged animal that was watched and tormented, but bound by the prison of her love for her children.

After a two year time of breastfeeding and mourning and weeping, it was now Mary's Season. First there was Manion, so elementally different from Sin. Then she had her one pregnancy with Mox, and lastly, Rainer, whose movement in and then out completed her perfectly balanced quadrangle.

In the beginning, the Season of Sin was a fantastic show of the strong and perfect daddy who played with the children and was interested in their stories and games. Within days that façade degenerated and he was often passed out on the lawn furniture by three in the afternoon. His massive belly caused a rattling snore to jaggedly belch from his throat.

They had stopped the charade of sharing bedroom years ago, and Sin had seemed to stop caring where he laid his head; wherever it fell seemed to be acceptable.

In the mornings Sin would always stumble to the breakfast table after everyone had finished eating; bleary eyed and ashamed. He would apologize for his behavior and tell Mary that he drank so much because he felt ashamed that he was never good enough for her. He was ashamed that she wasn't ever satisfied with just him. Mary sat in silence with her arms crossed over her chest: her nostrils flaring in repulsion. She would say nothing. Only nod, and retreat to her garden where she could be gracefully alone with herself and her ocean; the repetitive motions required in the art or gardening allowed her brain to work out even the tightest knots in her psyche.

In the final analysis, her gut instinct was correct: she truly hated Sin.

On a humid morning in late July Mary stood under the verdant awning at the front door of her home with one hand resting lightly on the white handlebars of her blue bicycle. She held her breathe and tried not to flinch as Sin kissed her goodbye for the season. The sick feeling oozed slowly from her as the truck rambled down the stone drive. The grace of the moment was the fact that Sin was not, ultimately, Mary's responsibility. She could enjoy him for a season and then pour him back into the sea. Sin's alcoholism belonged to the sea, and not to her.



Each man pulled on her center with just enough weight in each of the four directions. The seasons, like a weathervane, dictated a perfect balance. Each man gave her only some of what she needed to feel complete, but none gave her any more than a piece: for that would require her to cross her wide moat and dive in more deeply than she could possibly tolerate. The balance achieved through the doling out of just some of her love for a short time was now at its apex. Like the way we must balance on a bicycle; never shifting our weight too much to either side for the physics of it to work, so Mary had mastered the balance of her world. She had become complete without true sacrifice.

Each man gave or took from her in just the right proportion, like a carefully engineered project in impossible yet physically exact suspension.

Mox nourished her soul, and Sin stole from it.

Rainer allowed her to indulge her inner child, and Manion subtly demanded maturity.

Neither Mox nor Sin could be her lover. Neither Rainer nor Manion could be satiated.

She did not consider this arrangement odd in any way; she only thought that love has bad timing and God loves irony.



Once Sin's car had disappeared into the distance, she suddenly had a mad desire to purge this unsettling feeling. She jumped onto her bicycle and barreled down the winding streets of her seaside village on her favorite journey: to the sea.

"Saiorse....." The word hissed from her jaw as black hair fluttered in waves behind her. In the next beat of time the sound became utterly profound and hovered like a cloud of fog. She was finally freed after so many years of being trapped in God's twisted cages which we allow human relationships to engineer.

The bicycle crested over the hill and began to speed down the other side. Mary was overwhelmed with the rush of having one's life held in ultimate balance. Like a finely pitched soprano note on a violin flexed for an impossibly long time; the riveting beauty of its perfection for just this moment makes the fleetingness of it all that much more precious.




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