I kept my mother's TV, one that I'd never throw out, black and white, equipped with old cathode and vacuum tubes. Only occasionally did something smoke. Maybe it was me. So I was sitting there, watching The Last Pony Express Rider, a close up of both man and horse, one desperate to leave St. Louis, the other so needy of sugar cube and water. Both horse and rider jumped out of the screen and into my room of clutter, paper designs of failed rockets, my old love letters written when I still believed in the future of science.
The rider, dusty from the trip, handed me the letter. His horse was still panting.
My dearest Harold. Forgive me my poor judgment. It was not meant to be that I would become the fair headed and lisping stage actress of Sacramento, the rage of failed gold miners. Alas, I am stranded here without money or promise of sustenance. Shall I sell myself to the angry moon and die hungry? If you could but come to my rescue one last time, I will never leave your side. Already, the dirt streets of St. Louis ring in my ears sweet as a choir. In my own unfathomable way, I have always been loyal to you. We are both creatures of what rustles through our brains at night--A Love So Unworthy--Wanda Tarrington-Cates.
The last name belonged to my mother's side. My mother, who in her precociously shut-off days in a hospital that resembled a resort, painted Impressionistic paintings of sunsets in crashing colors. Over time, those paintings, with an acquired cult following, commanded exorbitant prices on ebay.
I made out a check to Wanda Tarrington-Cates and proceeded to hand it to The Last Pony Express Rider. But his horse had turned to glass. His show being cancelled, he was nowhere to be found. From then on, I vowed to live on a diet of cold pizza, black coffee without sugar. The old TV set no longer worked, but its black rectangular eye kept watching me, as if someone far away, perhaps behind that screen, still needed me.