August 8, Dr. Radish
He was known as Dr. Radish, and was something of a minor celebrity in the small college town where I lived. The name was his DJ moniker. He hosted a very popular late night radio show at the college station, where he entertained with obscure Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart records. The more eccentric he was viewed, the better he liked it and seemed to make statements designed to cultivate that eccentricity. He once told me, for example, that he was thinking of growing his beard hair long enough to braid into his pubic hair. He relished being thought of as the town oddball-part beard-stroking philosopher, part goofy day-tripper. He had a charming formal attitude towards me when we first met, calling me “Madam” and kissing my hand a lot. I had never met anyone like him, and became instantly fascinated. The feeling was apparently mutual.
At the time, he worked the graveyard shift at a gas station, and I would stop and visit him when I left my job at the bar in the wee hours. We crammed into the tiny heated cubicle in winter where he boyishly flirted. He did not have a formal education, but was book smart on many topics. I had not yet begun my own formal education, and so in addition to becoming lovers, I became a student to his professor.
Suddenly, I was reading books on philosophy and listening to a lot of classical music and becoming familiar with artists I didn’t know. At the time, I couldn’t decide if these things were being shared, like a delicious meal or if I was just trying to keep up. At some point it began to feel as though I needed to prove my worth. Being older, and apparently wiser, I deferred to him in a way that was probably unhealthy.
He had two childhood friends that would occasionally visit from New York. They were roguish intellectuals and completely intimidated me. The two of them were into eastern philosophy and meditation. After the first time we met, one of them remarked that I must be a very wise person, because I barely said a word the whole evening. This made me laugh of course, as the true reason was I had nothing to contribute in what was then, a more advanced conversation than I was capable of.
Over time, Dr. Radish proved unreliable in his feelings. He was one of those men who only wanted what he couldn’t have. We began a pattern of calling it quits and then him returning, desperately apologetic and needy. He would disappear when I needed him most, as in not accompanying me to the abortion clinic. I, in turn,became someone who forgave the unforgivable. He was my first serious boyfriend who I would forever credit with my early education, but also with discovering how a heart could break.
Once, long after we moved on from each other, he left a card for me on Valentine’s Day, saying among other things that I was still the most beautiful woman he had ever known, and that he was glad I was happy, and productive and safe. It seemed Pygmalion was proud of his Galatea after all and had understood she no longer needed him.
Gas station jockey
Who did I become for you
goddess or human?
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Linda Laino is an artist and teacher living in Mexico. An occasional writer and poet, she enjoys playing with words as much as form and color. Finding beautiful things on the ground is a favorite pastime. Her paintings and jewelry can be viewed at her web page www.lindalaino.com and https://www.etsy.com/shop/lindalaino. Additional essays can be found athttp://www.elephantjournal.com/?s=Linda+Laino