By Michele Vavonese
By Michele Vavonese

By Amélie Frank

“He’s a rascal,” said Meredith
perusing Philip Littell’s eyes,
separating each side of his face
on the black and white photograph
with a folded piece of paper.
One side of a person’s face tells her
how they come across to the world.
The other side of that person’s face
tells her how they inhabit themselves.
“He’s such a rascal!” Meredith said. “Sly.”
Then she shifted the folded paper
to the other side and said,
“His soul is sad.”

This is also what Meredith said to me
two years ago when we resumed
our weekly appointments.
We hadn’t spoken in five years,
but when I stepped into her office,
plagued by awful dreams of
a cherished friendship
lost 28 years ago,
she looked at me straight on,
no paper between us, and
ended the five-year break with,
“Your soul is sad.”

Now, I’m fairly certain that the reason
my soul looks sad is because I am
The Brokenhearted Girl.
I learned this when I went on retreat,
drank a beyond-bitter tea,
and for five hours wept without ceasing
in the courtyards of a series
of abandoned towns where
the festivals had long since passed me by.
An angel I could neither see nor hear
revealed a withered oak in one town square
torso cracked open, branches stripped
roots exposed and many stories deep,
contorted and blackened by loss
as spoiled fruit dropped from the limbs
tumbling into my lap and my hands,
juices, sap, and sickly pulp seeping into gutters,
and those were my children.

In the middle of this tableau, the angel
pointed up a hill, where a man
stood sentinel in a long line of warriors.
He looked at me.  And I looked at him.
His eyes found me, and they knew me.
The angel said, “Do you know who this is?
This is your husband.”

“My husband?  He sure looks a lot like
Benedict Cumberbatch.”

“That’s because Benedict Cumberbatch
is in everything,” the angel said.
“Look past that and into his eyes.
When you meet him, he will know you,
and you will know him, and then you
will be together. Look for his eyes.”

Of course, you’re figuring that what I saw
in that vision of tea and asperity
were Philip Littell’s eyes.  And you are right.
The first time I saw Philip’s eyes,
I realized I was looking into the eyes
of my husband from the vision.

But here’s the thing.
Philip Littell is not my husband.
He’s a handsome SOB in the
Daniel Day-Lewis/not Benedict Cumberbatch
mode.  He’s a rogue, and he’s sly, and yes,
his soul is sad, but he is not my husband.
Here’s what you haven’t guessed.
Philip Littell likes men.
I knew that the moment I saw him.
(I have superlative gaydar.)
Yet, I grasped instinctively
that this was a test.
God sends me a lot of tests.
This test I passed because I recognized
that there will be many men
with my husband’s eyes.
But only one of them will be my husband.
He won’t look like Benedict Cumberbatch.
He won’t look like Daniel Day-Lewis.
He won’t look like Philip Littell.
He’ll look like my husband.

And as for Philip Littell,
I don’t know why his soul is sad.
He doesn’t know why my soul is sad.
We haven’t delved that far
into the conversation yet.
But he has shown me
what kind of man
has my husband’s eyes.
He is clever. He is kind.
He knows a lot of things.
He gets the cool kids’ jokes.
If I were to ask him,
“Who’s the black private dick that’s
a sex machine with all the chicks?”
I’m pretty sure Philip
would have the correct answer.
He has read even more than I have.
And he can sing “Duke of Earl”
like nobody’s business.
He’s not afraid to look silly,
to paint himself turquoise,
to startle friends by flying
up to their windows,
to wear a husky mascot costume
should the occasion call for it.
He’s not afraid to look like something
completely other than himself,
so much so that his siblings may
lament, “I want my brother back!”
while he’s having fun with them.
He has beautiful arms.
And he has beautiful eyes.

Life is short.  I am 55, and Philip is 64.
There is no time to waste
when you meet a person with
the right kind of eyes.  You get up,
you wipe the juice off your hands,
you leave the courtyard,
you follow friendship where it takes you.
You track the signs and signals,
anything left behind
by deceptively careless angels,
and you trust that you are going
in the right direction.

Meredith calls this the new landscape.
It’s a lovely landscape for many reasons.
Here, the trees never die
from a broken heart.
The festivals never leave you behind
because you discover that you are
the guest of honor of your own life.

But, the new landscape
is most especially lovely
because Philip Littell is in it.

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