Spartus and I go way back, back to freshman year of college to be exact. We found each other at the JC Penney on Church Street in Burlington, VT. It was a relationship forged in an ugly, one-sided need and it was clear who had the power from the get-go. Each morning I would wake up and there was Spartus, keeping watch over my every move. Skipped class to sleep in? Spartus saw it happen. Running late for rehearsal? Duly noted. Nothing escaped the fiery gaze of small Spartus. Such a part of my life was Spartus, that I once wrote a poem in his honor. Granted, it was a hideously awful poem that I forced my sixth grade students to listen to as I tried to pawn it off as a “mentor text,” but still, I had given Spartus my undivided attention for a stretch of time long enough to crank out some dedicated text. And now? Seems I’m doing it once again. Oh, Spartus, I wish I knew how to quit you.
The two of us lived together in many places for nearly thirty years. We did time back in my childhood home, then in apartments in Dorchester, Cambridge, Orlando, Florida, Brookline, Brighton, my beloved Somerville, Chicago, and five different places both rented and mortgaged up the eye teeth here in the sticks of Berkshire County before Spartus finally retired in bucolic Stockbridge. Spartus got around.
I was obsessive about Spartus, always trying to gain the upper hand in our relationship, knowing I never would or could. I would try to control things, forcing Spartus to bend to my will repeatedly as he stared blankly into the night without care or concern for my mental well being. I would manipulate his settings and pretend our time together wasn’t slipping away. Spartus would stare blankly through the night in response, such a cold, indifferent companion he could be. During the day I barely noticed his presence and wouldn’t flinch if I knocked him off his perch, but come sundown, I was like a junkie circling around my dealer, begging for just one more fix. It was pathetic, all the groveling and bargaining my mind would create. So many sweaty nights, groggy mornings spent in his wake. And yet. And yet Spartus wasn’t capricious, he was steady. Spartus was reliable. It was I who couldn’t keep up my end of the bargain. I was the one who always wanted more, more than he could ever give. Spartus was limited, yes, but Spartus was there, always there.
We knew how to push each other’s buttons, mine figurative and his literal, but in its own way, the relationship worked. Until that spring morning, without warning, when Spartus sat in silence, forgetting to provide me with the service he had signed on for all those years ago. I’ll never know just why it happened, he looked the same, nothing in his demeanor had changed and I was using all of my fail proof moves on him. He was completely unresponsive. And I was heartbroken. No, it was not a perfect relationship, but I was bereft at the prospect of replacing my stalwart companion after so many years of co-dependency.
I suppose it doesn’t speak well of me that I continue to keep Spartus around in the periphery, in case I can find a way to make things between us work again. It’s probably unhealthy to pine for the past, and I have found another to provide me with the things Spartus no longer can, but still, I long to hear his firm, insistent tone once more, calling me forth to face the new day.