Tuesday, October 11, 2016

driving in the dark

After my sister died and the dust settled nearly nothing of me remained.  It had taken a few months for my life to fully implode.  For almost everything, I thought I knew about myself to rot and fall away.

But even in the darkest days, an atom of who I was survived. It was the part of my soul that writes. It is the part I rebuilt my life from.

When I fall silent, when I see nothing before me to hold on to, the words are still working. They are tiny points of light inside my head like white Christmas tree lights shining up from under the snow.  They guide me through the darkness. Safely leading me to the other side. 

Today I see them dimly blinking as I wonder what BC, out on the elk hunt, was doing in the moment when he carelessly let my camera go from his hands. Setting it down and forgetting about it, and with it, me.  That camera represents everything I am. Everything I see as beautiful. I wonder what I was doing when he simply walked away?    

Taming Venus, mlb ...."I sat in the lecture stadium, down and to the right as always snuggled in against Jordan.  He smelled as all men among books smell; green.  

My biochem Professor booming away, students typing, across the auditorium someone talking, a laugh, a grown, seats moaning, the vent system pinging, the lights humming, and in that moment was when the world around me fell silent.

I could see her.  Wendi sitting in the front of the room propped confidently on the lab bench. Legs crossed, bouncing her foot with her chin jutted forward resting in her hand.  Her bright red lips pushed out mimicking the Professor as he talked.  

It was a remnant of our childhood. Wendi creeping behind our mother’s back to mimic her as she scolded me; a childish behavior she never outgrew.  

Even in death.  

Just like that, I could feel it happening.  It really is like slipping, the feeling in your stomach as the ground shifts, your weight falling back, the anticipation of impact.  Only it isn’t your body that is pitching it is your mind.  I stepped completely out of reality without even moving a muscle.   

I watched her, my body fell limp, my mind followed. I didn’t know what it was, what she was.  I had to go home and look it up in my psychology textbook.  

What I did know was it was over.  My monsters had figured out how to enter the last place I held as safe.  I had let them into my world here and now just as then, I was in trouble and Wendi didn’t want me to cry about.

Beach the Brave knew too.  The next day followed as the ones before it.  I drove through Harvard-Yale crying the whole way.  I wanted to just check into the ER, into soft clean white hospital sheets.  But because what I do and what I want to do don’t intersect very often I parked the van loaded my bag and hers.  Put Beach in the jogger and walked the one mile into campus.  I walked around the pieces of landscaping bark all over the ground- I knew they were really pieces of my sister.  

My mind was in total meltdown.  I was physically sick by the time I hit the Consumer studies building.  I ran the stairs with Beach in my arms because we were late.  I punched in the door code to enter her class through a narrow hallway where I tossed my 30 lbs backpack on the ground.  

I placed Beach down in the rope line of kids waiting to go out to the playground.  I dashed into the small kitchen located at the back of the room and tossed her lunch sack in the fridge.

As quickly as I had entered I planned to exit but suddenly the chaos of children laughing was overcome by a tiny whimpering cry.  It started muffled with tears then exploded into gulps of sobbing and breath.  

The staff had never seen Beach cry.

 Imagine a child of the blondest of hair, eyes of mossy green, a vocabulary of a college educated adult- savior of all bugs. The littlest thing walking and talking putting her arm around a child crying for the mother who just left saying, “Don’t worry…” [so sweet the staff sighs] “all the mom’s leave.” [gasp and laughter]. 

Yes, Beach knows it all and Beach never, hardly ever, cries. We all froze, thinking she must be hurt.

“Beach,” I said running to her. “What happened?”  She fell into my body.  

“See, the thing is,” she sobbed, “I don’t really want to be here.”

Then in the only moment of sanity, I had left I looked her straight in eyes and said, “The thing is I really don’t want to either.  Let’s go home.”

And we did.
We went home together.

Driving in the dark (October)

How do you explain the slow descend into madness?  What words would you choose to describe the world as seen through my eyes?  Would it matter?  I mean, how anyone who has not been there themselves could possibly be made to understand just how I came to be here not knowing which direction I was running.  

Whatever reason stops you, you will find a world crashing to a halt carries casualties in its wake. And when you dare to open your eyes you will find that this is the bottom.

Maybe it isn’t so bad.  Maybe around the next corner, you will find your way.  Standing alone beneath a ceiling of gray branches one by one stabbing out the sky; walled in by thick knee-high underbrush threatening to overtake the trail.  

The road, worn with deep troughs, long ago weathered and dried.  It is as if summer has forgotten this place, sentenced to an endless winter without snow.  

At every corner, there is another turn, no spots from which you can view your progress.  In shadow, there is an ominous feeling of a mountain high above you but no sight of it.  

Do you continue up hoping to find your mountain or do you ascend hoping to find you home?    

I often believe it all still there.  The apartment intact, her body underneath me as I straddled her width, reaching into the bathroom greedily grabbing the most out of reach, most hated, most prized of all, the thing I believe she saw last- the photo of her children.  

I see the currents of evil and hopelessness circling the rooms as I waded through them.  I see time overlapping.  I see my sister walking to her death.  

I see her.  Was she scared? Did she know?

I tried playing the CD marked Halloween 2001.  It wouldn’t play.  I chose the John Denver Christmas.  I listened to the dead sing carols two days before Halloween while I made sandwiches for the desert.  It got old so I put in White Flag and danced around the kitchen, actually smiled until the tears took over and I had to stop.  

Halloween is miserable when you are haunted.


By November other small lapses in my mental state being to show.  I had somehow come to believe her finger was in our vacuum and refused to change the vacuum bags.  I could no longer sleep on my side of the bed.  I had nightmares every night.  I couldn’t walk through the house in the dark without worrying I walk into her rotting body.  I thought I might wet the bed if I had to use the bathroom at night because I was convinced she was standing outside the bathroom window.

She was everywhere and I was nowhere to be found.     

What truly lies beneath the grass of November?  Below the dirt double bagged in a cheap coffin?

Falling November, mlb
Go walking on the edge of summer,
pause on wet mountains in tall grass, run through leaves of yesterday.
Fall through fading light into a thunderous November.
With snow that crawls across the ground,
covering the hillsides and filling the sky.
Blue horizons and winter’s breath.
Drawn down from gray clouds and up from cold earth.
Stand beneath sheltered eaves
huddle in doorways and under soft sheets,
gaze with wonder through closed windows.
Make your way in winds that rip and rise, through doors and across streets.  Mornings of quiet darkness in a frozen world,
where you move quickly or not at all.
Rest in comfort within the stark night,
with stars fixed in time,
listen to the building of a season,
the mounting of a storm.
Be consumed by the pace of change from one to another and on to the next,
live without regret in a falling November.

I used to hate this morning lightless drive.  Cold dry winter on a road I know too well; the freeway that is the doorway to all of the valley and the valleys beyond.  Now here in silence alone, unknown in the dark I am happy to drive endlessly passed where I am going.

(January, February, March, April, May...)

Winter just won’t let go.  I couldn’t wait any longer.  In the early morning light under gray skies, I laced up my running shoes.  With my head bent my long brown hair fell around me creating a little shelter of warmth against early spring’s weakness.  

My moist breath freezing on my cheeks.  I could see her, her thin tan thighs with the white knife scare, her white socks pushed down, her dark hair, her watch and a black hair tie on her wrist.  I’m exhausted but she comes anyway."      

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