A woman loved a man who came and went, came and went.
Always, the woman was there.
"Now, now," she'd chide her self, whenever she felt tempted to go to a friend's house, or go to a shop, or simply to go off, walking. "What if he comes, and I'm not here? Why, with his good looks, surely he'd just find another!"
So the woman who loved the man who came and went, forever stayed put, waiting.
When he was on his way, she knew, by the rumble he made in her driveway. Boom, baboom, shook the tired black tar. Shiver, shoo, swayed the necks of her flowers, and leg of her bird perch, and stubby green arms of her hedges.
"Yippee!" she'd shout, instantly dropping whatever it was she was doing. "It's him!" Her spirit would soar. Her toes would tickle. Her mind would sneak out from its wigwam of good sense.
Then during what seemed like forever, his huge bumbling feet would shuffle and stagger. They'd pause, pick up, then pause some more. Finally they'd find their way to her house.
Then, crash, he'd collapse on her front porch stairs.
"Oh, lovey," she'd cry, rushing outside. Down on the wide pine floor boards, beside him, she'd fall. Onto her lap she'd lift his head, and stroke his scraggly red hair, murmuring over and over, "Oh my poor, poor man."
And she'd weep with joy at having him near. How she loved the bulk of his burly body, the feel of his arms yoked around her. It made her feel safe and wanted. It made her feel wise and needed. Best of all, it made her feel loved.
"Oh how I've missed you," she'd draw out from deep in her self, and pump in his fuzzy ear. "My life is not the same when you're not here."
"How special you are," she'd tell him, in dozens of different ways. "How can I live without you?"
"For your sweet love, there's nothing I would not do," she'd spout. "Why, no other man can match you!"
Pump, pump. Into his ear, she'd funnel nonstop loving. Hours would pass. Owls would switch with sparrows in the trees. The moon would switch off with the sun its signpost in the sky. And all the while she'd pump and pump him up, up, up with her love.
And slowly he would come alive. First his feet would twitch, and then his legs. Pump! His middle would get moving. Pump-pump! With all her might, with all she had within her, she'd pump his body full of love, all the way up to his head.
And as soon as love began to fill his eyes, up he'd get, and leave her.
"Dammmm," she'd cry. On the porch steps, her body would collapse, emptied and exhausted. "How can he take so much, and just go off??"
Anger would shoot its poisoned arrows through her. She'd promise her self that this was his very last visit. She'd vow to put up a fence at the foot of the drive. She'd swear that no matter what, when he came back, she would not be there, waiting.
And yet she'd miss him more than you could imagine. Before he was gone, she would miss him. Watching his silhouette shrink in the distance, she'd hold her lonely self tight, and think of love. Love in the sequins of night. Love in the grille of day. Love in the peace and aloe of shade. She'd close her eyes and fill her self with how much she loved this man, this man who was oh so needy, and always out of fuel. Inside her head she'd plaster his wizened face, staring at her with eyes that yearned. Her ears she'd plug with the sound of his voice, moaning her name. Inside her nose, like a miniature Japanese maple, she'd plant his manly scent.
And back to her life of waiting she'd go.
The woman was more and more drained, each time he left her. Her body began to feel like a well run dry.
"What would he think, if he knew?" she worried. "Surely, he'd never come back! Good thing he goes off so often, so I can refuel."
So while he was away, she did whatever she could, to fill her self back up.
His visits grew more and more frequent. Hardly was he gone, than he was back again. To give him love, she had to work harder and harder. Flat on his back on the porch, he'd fumble for her, and groan. He'd sigh, and quiver, and moan. Mumbling and grumbling, demanding and commanding, always seeking yet never giving, the man who came and went would lie there, expecting her to pump him full of love.
But less and less came out.
Then one day, when he came by, the woman had nothing to give him.
And though she was secretly glad, she also was worried. "What shall I do?" she thought. "I must do something, quickly, else I'll lose him!"
"Oh, love-y," she cried, as she peered in his empty eyes. "Oh my poor poor man." She held his fingers as he jiggled her levers. She turned her self upside down. All sorts of tricks she tried, to squeeze out a stream of love.
But there were hardly drops.
"Well!" she thought. "Some fine shape, the two of us are in!" From her levers she pried his fingers. She swung her stiff hips towards the post of her porch, and propped them against it. From very close but from oh so far away, she stared at him. Could this be the man she loved? His head hung low like the branch of weeping willow. His belly sunk like a popped wet balloon. His legs lay like twin corpses.
"Why does this man need so much?" she wondered. "And why does he lose it so quickly?"
She thought. She thought some more. And when she had thought even more, she realized: she needed to go with him, and discover why.
"Love-y," she said, wiggling her way back to him, and lifting his scruffy face onto her lap. "May I go off with you, and visit your life, for just one day?"
"Go off with me?" So much panic shot through his face, although he had no energy, he sat upright. "Why, certainly not!"
"But love-y," she said, stroking the carrot-red bristles that burst across his chin. "I think you'll see, it's a good idea."
"Good idea, swood idea!" he said. "How can you have a good idea, when lately you can't give even me what I need?"
And with that he struggled to rise to his feet.
"Youch!" she thought. "How dare you? I'm haggard, serving you!" And she wanted to shout and she wanted to cry and she wanted to take his hair in her hands and yank it.
But more than anything else, she wanted to find out why he was like he was.
She lifted her weary hand and rubbed his hollow heart. "If you take me with you, you'd make me so proud. Why, never have I ever been with a man so handsome as you!"
"Absolutely not!" he said, rising up, a teeny bit refueled. He held up his heavy head. Down the porch steps he stumbled. Foot after hulky foot he put upon the tar. But before he could reach the end of her driveway, crash, his self collapsed.
"Don't worry, love-y!" she called. "I'm on my way!" And she skipped off to help him, thinking, "Hee hee. I'll fix that leaky old tank of a man. Tonight, I shall fill him up to the curliest curls atop his head. And then, when he goes off, I shall be right behind him!"
The woman's plan worked perfectly. For hours, up and up and up she pumped him, fueling her self with the prospect of what she had planned.
And as soon as she finished filling him up, off he went.
So full of himself he felt, he did not even notice her behind him.
"Hmmpff!" thought the woman, watching him swagger along the road to town. To each lovely woman he tipped his hat. To each passing beauty he winked an eye. "How dare he use what I gave him, on other women!" she thought. And though she wanted to pounce on him, she kept her self in check. Soon he reached the town tavern. Out on the porch, another man sat, swigging a giant beer.
"Morning!" her lover called. "What a great great day!" And he pulled up a chair, and he sat himself down, and up on the table's top he propped his boots.
"Well," said the other man. "You sure look happy. Where have you been?"
"Nowhere special," said her lover.
"What?!" the woman thought. Fury swirled in her like a tornado.
"Could have fooled me," said the other man.
Her lover ordered a beer. For a while, they sat, sipping and talking.
"Well," said the other man. "Guess I gotta be going."
"Yeah," her lover said, sadly. He lowered his head. And right before the woman's eyes, some of the love she'd pumped into him, leaked out on the floor.
"Astonishing!" she said.
Her lover looked up. She ducked behind a rosebush. He scratched his scruffy head.
"Could have sworn I just heard her," he said to himself. He stretched his huge frame, then got up.
And with a slacker gait than he'd used earlier, off he went, deeper into town.
The woman continued to tail him. Down along this road, up along that, over a footbridge and under an arch, she followed her lover. Finally he stopped at a house made of pure white stone. Around it lay a fence of finest gold. Pale pink stones marked the tree-lined path to the house.
Up on a balcony, a woman finely dressed was fanning her self.
"Morning," her lover called, but not too brightly.
The woman just went on fanning.
"Morning," he called, again.
Out from his legs, the woman's love was trickling. He took a breath. And after a moment, with one clumsy foot, he stepped on the first pink stone.
"What?!" said the ice queen, haughtily looking down. "Did I give you permission to place your foot on my path?" He froze. He started to quiver. Then, as his lover watched in amazement, a huge amount of her love gushed out from his belly.
"What do you think you are doing?!" continued the ice queen. "Just look at you! Making a mess of my stone!"
"Darling," he said, in a teeny-boy voice. "Can't you just give me a chance?"
"How many times have you come here, seeking a chance?!" she snapped. "Each time you come, you're weaker than the last! Go off, you fool! And don't come back! You are no match for me!"
And leaking quarts of love, the man who came and went backed away from the ice queen. And dragging his emptied self along the fence of purest gold, he headed back out of town.
"Well!" thought his lover. "So this is why he's been coming round so often!" And though she was furious, she also was amused.
"What a big oaf he is," she thought, concealing her self as slowly he trudged by. "And what a bigger oaf was I, to love him."
The leaking lover slogged on. Behind him she kept, out of sight, all the way back to her driveway.
Boom, baboom, shook the tired black tar. Shiver, shoo, swayed the necks of her flowers, and leg of her bird perch, and stubby green arms of her hedges.
And during what seemed like forever, his huge bumbling feet shuffled and staggered. They paused, picked up, then paused some more. Finally they found their way to her house.
Then crash, he collapsed on her front porch stairs. And for the first time of forever, the woman was not there.
"The Woman Whose Lover Kept Leaking Her Love" is excerpted from Martha Gibson's Never-Told Tales, original tales exploring the self- and relational challenges of the contemporary woman. Martha's other writing projects include In Harvard's Shadow, interconnected short stories set in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Chillin' Charlie & Heidi Hot Dog Series of children's books, with accompanying original music by her husband, composer Keith Gibson; and Native Song, a weekly column that looks at contemporary life from a Native American perspective. Martha can be contacted at: email@example.com
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