Matter persists they say – not just the stain on your favorite sweater or the mole on your arm. Molecules themselves have endless lives in a material soap opera. This week one’s Christ, then Mozart then Charles Manson. That’s what they say. Descartes believed he thought hence he existed – something his laundress and wife doubted not his dirty socks evidence enough. Who would use his atoms next be thoughtful or obtuse a tree, a bird, a slug? I die therefore I live. We’re each on loan from earth’s library one size fits all pretty or dull, fast or slow joyful or sad. Cinderellas headed to the ball when the clock strikes twelve, we become someone else. Relentlessly frugal earth wastes nothing in its global recycling. So too must the light which animates us continue its journey becoming the sparkle in other eyes or the ache in another's heart.
Why can’t we eat clouds? The tall white ones would be vanilla like Turkish taffy. Grey scudding clouds black as Necco wafers. Snow clouds pure as rock candy whose splinters of crystal melt on the tongue. Green tornado clouds taste darkly of Key West and Matcha tea. Dawn’s pink clouds are gossamer light as cotton candy at the church fair. Sunset cloud's tang colorful and sweet as Life Savers. How fine to dine on clouds and color.
A stranger stands ahead of me in line at the Post Office in a dusty black hat grey gauze hanging below its rim. Her neck, also dusty, is bent, the vertebrae like tiny peaks. An old black jacket hangs from her shoulders. As she stands in line, she tugs at the jacket to straighten it. Her worn black pants fall to just above the cast on her ankle. Gauze wraps that too. I am afraid to stand near her, hang back as the line moves forward. I cannot see her face but fear it may be ghastly. Her turn comes at the counter. I’m next. When I glance over, I recognize her. She is the gypsy I’ve seen here so often. Her dark penciled brows and bold rouged cheeks usually paired with dark skirts and tops. Today, hurt, she does not look herself. She leaves a suitcase by the door while she gets her mail. That task complete, she straightens her jacket, collects her suitcase and wheels it and her pain back into the world.
depositphotos_150954514_xl.jpegOctober 11, 2021
As I approach the river in the fog a heron takes flight, dark winged angel. “Good morning, Mom.” I say. Since her death, I greet each heron and feel blessed by the sighting. Mom’s love of nature saved my life. When sun sparkles on saltwater and I feel the wash of waves, Jamie, my summer brother, is near. As teens, we surfed September breakers then collapsed onto the sand laughing always laughing. All my old boyfriends are dead (except for the one I live with.) Maurie, lifted his 6’4” frame into the boat like a wet otter, his homely face offset by a quick wit. His farm town roots were exotic to this suburban girl. He believed withdrawal would work. Good thing we broke up. John, a handsome bad boy, drove his dad’s T-bird. He was my first male obsession. He rose at Jamie’s funeral to hug me, share our grief for old times, old backseats old friends. Ann died last year. Forty years of friendship, knitting and laughter. Each project and strange new style prompts me to call her. In New Mexico, when Linda decided to drive - Ann and I jumped in the back seat. I am still laughing.
When the tall stranger steps into my kitchen in his tux asks for coffee and brioche, I’ll slip up to my room don my gown, plait my hair curl with a favorite book in my reading chair. With wind brushing my skin soft music in the air, I won’t invite him in. But when his face appears, I’ll smile and say “Darling, I’ve been waiting here.”
A hundred questions cross my mind What was that song dad used to hum? What college did my mom attend? Where did Aunt Marge’s friend come from? I failed to ask or make a note of many things while they were here just within reach alive and near. A hundred questions cross my mind About Dad’s mom who died so young. I’ve no idea what she died from. My favorite stories too are gone The battleship for whom Dad played Hail to the Queen a serenade. Salts stood attention at the rail Dad asked them down to drink and sail. He went onboard to drink instead. These questions come at oddest times Old photos with the names now gone A tune, a food, a place, a song I wonder and will wonder long.
Banker Bob wears suspenders and a bow tie is older than God rents rooms to the newly sober bridges no bullshit. Old school AA he brooks no whining insists newbies suit up and show up. Never loses sight of the disease that wants to kill us. He is just a man many years sober doing what we are taught saving lives. Don’t talk, listen. Don’t try, do. Walk the talk. Keep it simple. Help another alcoholic.
Abuse is subtle Nothing friends see I'm blamed for his mistakes He credits my work to himself. Observes I'm “almost” thin enough Implies small things lacking If only I were smarter, prettier, quieter He laughs when I fail Photographs my clumsiness Ignores my success Mumbles under his breath the whispered threat “I’m getting angry.” He pouts childlike when ignored Hovers over me in arguments He buries the kitchen table in papers Resists clearing it even for parties. Holds my arm tightly lest I leave The Christmas tree he promises to take down remains up until Easter. His hatchet for cutting up chicken for the dogs rests against the hoosier. It gives me pause. He harangues me while I book vacation. I select the seats. I'm in 13A He’s in 32B.
Each night I wait. I watch out the window. I count cars that appear on the road. See their headlights grow then dwindle as they continue past on two lanes heading north. “If I count ten cars, he’ll come.” “If I count twenty…” I hope we will drive to the light and talk and laugh but he may not appear. I sit at the window until late, the night gone. Disappointment’s my reward. All evening I'm held hostage to hope. My job – suspense, submission. His – choice and power.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands one nation, diverse and indivisible, created and preserved by the love and labor of indigenous people, slaves and immigrants for their children and their children’s children as one nation with freedom to worship, to love, to marry and to seek the truth and insist on its telling and to preserve this fragile earth with respect, liberty and justice for all.