"I can’t stay here," she whispered. "You know I can’t stay here."
“I don’t know who I am without you.”
“Won’t finding you be grand? Hard, lonesome, tiresome, and grand?”
Looking around, she couldn’t recall the last time she cried. The last time she laughed so hard her breath ran short or the last time she danced, hands in the air, heart open. Some days she sat for far too long trying to recall her last hug, the last time she felt her heart flutter.
She stared at a flickering flame, emptying her mind and body and soul. Emptying it of thought and feeling. She ignored the spasms in her eyelids and ignored the tingling in her toes. She wished her whole body would tingle from lack of blood, but pushed that thought out, too. She wasn’t supposed to long, or tingle or ache. She was going to be.
She heard thunder rolling, and knew it was only her heart crying. There were no clouds outside her window, no moisture waiting to drop except from her heavy eyelids.
Is it grand? She wasn’t sure. She probably wouldn’t ever know, because there will never be a moment of finish, a moment to stand back and enjoy the fruits of all the labor.
He tugged on his shirt and stared at the ground. His toes moved the dirt and we watched the sand create a barrier between us. His breath smelled like bath water, (but not my kind of sweet, lavender bath; it was something more salty and still). My eyes hazed with exhaustion and I squinted in the midday sun. Our intention was unclear and I felt a knot in my stomach. His eyelashes were short and he had frown lines around his thick eyebrows. His movements were short and precise, as though he had been frustrated his whole life. As though time constantly escaped him and no amount of experimenting could trap or bottle that time. I looked to the sky, right-left-up-down. He didn’t seen to notice or care about anything I did. I could see his every facial expression and he can probably only remember what color boots I was wearing, or that I had thin ankles.
The waves started to come in. Seals poked their heads out of the water and I wondered aloud where they slept.
“On rocks? In the water? Are they cold?”
He just stared at the ever-deepening line he was creating with his foot, back and forth-back and forth, and shrugged.
Of course they weren’t cold. They had blubber. Did he know anything? I asked simple things to simple questions and he couldn’t, wouldn’t respond.
I mumble. I’m quiet and most my friends only hear 70% of what I say. Maybe he couldn’t hear me.
“Are you cold?!” I almost shouted at him, and it startled him and well as I. He looked up, looked me in the eye. He was classically handsome, like a photograph of the 1920s. His eyes were glazed, and I thought he might cry.
“This,” he spoke so quietly the crabs stopped walking to listen, “this is beautiful.”
I looked down at his feet which had stopped digging in the sand. They turned to the side and started moving, one in front of the other.
“Don’t follow me.”
I watched the sun set and the seagulls stopped their crying for the night. I watched my feet turn the opposite direction, one in front of the other, and I took the long way back home.
Nostalgia is a sweep of panic. It clutches your chest and holds onto your heart. Did you forget to breathe?
I’m surrounded by ghosts. Your hands created that, wrote this, sealed the envelope. The pictures are faded and I don’t recognize the woman on my desk. I tell myself it’s my mother, and this is proof I believe in.
I was reading aloud and when I fell silent the world that I saw seemed too bright. The birds were out of place and I found my hands were shaking and the palms were damp. I had been transported to Paris circa 1938; I felt lost and alone in the world I knew and existed in. I thought the streets were lined in fir and fog but its summer in the desert and my skin might as well flake off and I’ll die. I stare at myself in a broken mirror, trying to find some type of recognition. I touch my face and grimace, studying the wrinkles around my mouth and eyes. I see nothing familiar and wonder if my name was once Annie or Lucia and maybe you loved me. Maybe you loved me in longing or met me in a dream and I haunted your thoughts and you could only wish to someday meet me. You would hope I could find a perfect moment. But there is no perfection, is there?
She was dancing, smiling, and pushing the fears down to her toes, allowing them to exit from her kneecaps. She forced herself to stand, the songs too fast, too slow, but she refused to sit it out.
She lay there staring at the ceiling and tried not to be afraid. “Let it dissipate into your cells and atoms and become a part of your strength.”
She felt her heart beat in her stomach, no longer lodged in her chest and she wondered if it could be put back where it belonged.
She kept her mind at ease, telling herself there is no point in worrying, in masking or hiding. She is alive, and she should live as though this was truth.
Somehow the dog climbed the latter, or jumped the branches. He scrambled after squirrels or a raccoon. He lost sight of the ground and went straight up but never had the nerve to come back down. Lots of her afternoons were spent calling him down, climbing up and showing him the way down without any success of him actually following her down. This started the afternoons spent in the treehouse, reading books and smoking cigarettes. She could see the driveway and would call down to the first person strong enough to carry the dog down the latter and out of the treehouse. Sometimes the tired would just keep walking, “he’ll come down if he wants to,” and they were right. But that was half the problem and the reason for her sitting in the treehouse in the first place. With just the same brainlessness he scrambled up the tree, he would probably jump out, disregarding height and fragile dog limbs. Granted, the dog would have probably been ok, but she couldn’t risk it, could she? Plus, she liked to hear the familiar engines driving up the road, the familiar door slam. She liked calling down, being looked up at. There was something romantic about tree houses and here she was, keeping her dog company in one while he climbed the latter to usher them down.
One year ago, this same season, does not feel so long ago. Sometimes space is relative, sometimes time doesn’t adhere to the clock. I remember all the houses I’ve lived in- and the songs that I sang in them. The tones changed as did I. I can remember how I felt while I lived there- why I moved into and then out of them- nothing felt quite right. Was I goldilocks looking for her chair? Everything was too big, too small and I couldn’t seem to find any bears at all. It wasn’t until I had moved, or was in the process of doing so that I could appreciate the space for what it was. And I started to realize the spaces weren’t to blame. They weren’t too big or too small. They could have been perfectly ideal. I still would have been unhappy. I still would have found a crack in the ceiling that would drive me to madness, sleepless nights and in the end, a new ceiling..
When you can’t decide if you should be dancing or sleeping and you feel so sad that you can’t stop laughing. And you laugh and laugh and laugh because he never once made you feel bad.
You had a voice in my dreams. It was low and goofy, like a best friend in middle school. It was time for you to go but you stayed right next to me, and you kept saying “I wanna help!”
It made me smile, like you always made me smile but I didn’t keep my promise and I had to leave.
You were sad for days. Maybe even weeks. I couldn’t do anything but throw myself on top of you and whisper in your ear. I spooned you and tried to make you dance.
I threw away your baby picture and forgot your birthday. It wasn’t because I didn’t care.
But this isn’t a dream.
I couldn’t stand beside you and say “I wanna help!”
I will have to wait till my dreams, when you have a voice and I can tell you how I feel, what I was doing and how I felt when you fell asleep to my singing. I’ll try to remember.
And I’ll laugh and laugh and laugh because never once did you make me cry.