Morgan Callan Rogers lives in the back-of-beyond in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her lovin’ man, a dog, and three cats. Her novel Rubinrotes Herz, Eisblaue See, (Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea) will be published in Germany in August 2010. Please tell all of your German-speaking friends!
Followed by a Moon Shadow: My Secret Life with Cat Stevens
I married my high-school boyfriend when we were both nineteen – I know, huh – and we settled into playing house in an apartment on a hill in a tiny Maine town in the back of beyond. He sold clothes in a store downtown. I worked as a grocery clerk in a store a couple of villages over. And I wished, almost right away, that I could erase the whole thing and head in a totally different direction. I knew it wasn’t meant to be before we were married, but I lacked the courage to break up with him. He was prettier than me and he cried well, and I was weak and not really in the world much at that point.
After a year, I did take a header in another direction. I had an affair of the heart (not like A-Rod and Madonna, please – much more spiritual than that) with Cat Stevens, as he was then. Yusuf Islam is the name he goes by, now, but back then, he was Cat Stevens. Steven Georgiou was his birth name. He was British, part Greek and part Scandinavian. Wild, curly black hair, a sensitive, pale, Byronic face with an ebony beard, with dark, soulful eyes. And he had beautiful hands. Such a tragic turn in his life – living the life of a pop star when he was struck down by tuberculosis and spent a year in recovery, whereupon he had an epiphany and started writing songs directed at me, a lonely, chubby, 20-year old woman happier in her head than in her life. Wherever I am, girl, I’m always thinking of you… Cat sang to me. Tell me what’s making you sadly? Open the door, don’t hide in the dark… Cat sang to me.
I have a vivid recollection of staring out the picture window of the apartment my boy-husband and I shared and looking into the white winter woods, sick with imaginary love. Of course Cat and I would find each other. Of course we would meet. Even though he lived in England and allegedly dated Carly Simon, it was me he was waiting to find. Somehow, he would traipse up into the wilds of Maine, find this nondescript apartment on the top of a hill in the little town, know where I lived by osmosis, knock politely (because he was British and he didn’t want to harm his slender hands), then take me. Away. Did it take long to find me, and are you going to stay the night? Yeah baby. Oh yeah.
I’m looking for a hard-headed woman…headed woman… Evidently so was my husband, because he not only had an affair of the heart, he had an affair of the loins. We both shared responsibility for the waning of our thin-skinned marriage, although I came out of my Cat-swoon long enough to express outrage and hurt for a while. But, squinting back down through the wrong end of a telescope, I know that the marriage never should have happened. I was severely depressed and completely unaware of how to change myself. But I also had the gift of an incredible imagination that I eventually learned how to harness for my own powerful, creative purposes.
I loved Cat Stevens for as long as he was Cat Stevens. I bought his every album, and I loved every song. Part of my loving him back then may have had a bit to do with the mystery of him. Random paparazzi shots of him stumbling out of a club with a Wino or Lindsay, or walking down some street holding a tall latte with a cell phone and car keys in the other hand, weren’t available to me then. I didn’t know, or care, about his real life – hell, I didn’t want to know about my real life – nor did I want to know anything but his music and the image I created of us, together. He and his music took me out of the situation I found myself in, and he did that in spades. Would I have gotten out of it eventually, if my husband’s infidelity hadn’t forced it? Probably, but without Cat’s music, it would have taken longer and hurt more. I was a sad tomato, back then.
A few years back, Yusuf Islam, now a Muslim, was detained at the Bangor International Airport in Maine two hours away from where I was living. He was under suspicion of being connected to terrorist organizations. This is the man who wrote Peace Train. This is the man who once held my heart. I dipped into a fantasy when I heard about it. I was a worker at the airport, and he and I were finally alone in a room – I was some sort of TSA Homeland Security guard – after twenty-aught years of our lives. Although we had taken very different paths, the connection between us would still be alive. “It’s you,” he would say. “Yes, it is,” I would say. “You look good,” he would say. “You look different,” I would say. “Are you happy?” he would say. “I am,” I would say. We would both smile. Then he would hum the tune to Moon Shadow and I would harmonize with him until they came to take him away.