Friday, July 17, 2009

Promise of Sunshine, Promise of Rain

I have trouble sleeping. The reasons for this are ancient.

One of the things about sleep deprivation is that it can make you into a total psycho. I suppose it might be kinder and more accurate to say that it can induce a sort of psychosis. Compound that with the debilitating effects of dizzying empathic responses and blood-deep depression and you'll end up less than human, not a monster but a ghost, a whisper with no name. I was one such, for quite a long time. I lost my identity in a metaphor. I could hardly speak. It humiliated me to share food, to swallow in the company of other people. Asleep or awake, I suffered nightmares, was haunted, hunted, terrified. Above all, I was ashamed, and I still am, to share this. I write of it here not to perpetuate it, but to dig into it, turn it over and seed something new. Like addiction, like cancer, this kind of depression does not go away. We live with it, in it, in us.


The night before the funeral, I dreamed I was in my old bedroom,
searching under the orange bunk bed for something I could bring with me. There I found a heart-shaped trinket from a ponytail holder I used to wear when I was a girl. This was three years ago, now. At the time, such a dream--of the essence of my childhood--was almost unimaginable. To remember that I'd been just a girl, once, and shared a room with my sister, danced in circles on the grass... to find that small heart was a beautiful gift. In the days since we'd received the word of Sunshine's death, I had been flooded, not with grief and loss, not with compassion, not with love, but with a nauseating withered sense of heart-sickness, at how little I knew, how little I cared.

I had another dream that night. I was at the funeral. I stood in a field on the prairie, in a black dress, with a scarf of yellow silk tied around my neck, waving gently in the wind. I did not know then how she had died.

I've been working hard lately to keep my emotions in check but something in me gave way yesterday afternoon, and I left work in tears which did not stop until well into the night. It was many things, which need not be named, but an overwhelming sense of loss, of heartbreak and fear, of insanity, dragged me back to the shore of those dark waters into which I'd sworn I would not--could not--ever go again. That deep pool, the changeable tide, gently lapping waves and dangerous currents... Had I been there, that night; had she called; had we known... This I know, not a soul alive or dead can bring you back of your choosing. Shaken, I laid on the couch for a while, with little hope of rest. I thought my heart might burst. A hug, and a few drops of Rescue Remedy--a godsend--helped calm me down. I wrote a letter to an old friend. I laid down in bed and waited for it to pass.

I wake, frequently, with a head full of words which scatter like bats when my eyes snap open. Some of these I caught, one February night a couple years ago. I did not share them for CM's One Poem Project at the time, because I thought they weren't any good, but I really don't give a crap about that anymore. I'm not sure I ever did.

Belated Valentine.

I’ve kept that scarf in my sock drawer since July.
It’s the one I wore in the days after the funeral,
when my throat started hurting, badly.
Something was needed.
These days, the pain runs into my hands.
It sli
ps over my head and onto my face,
into my mouth and cheeks.

It’s hard to swallow, hard to sleep.

But that has as little to do with you
as it does with me.

Still, I can almost feel you in my arms,
too little,
too late.

We love so many ways. I adored Sunshine. There two people in this world who I have missed in my very bones. She is one of them.

At the funeral home, there was a table with some things on it. A photo album, in which there was an uncaptioned picture of me with my arms wrapped around Sunshine, kissing her cheek. Photos of her as a girl, which I'd never seen, were so familiar that they might have been me or one of my sisters. Lying next to those, there was a small bag full of ponytail holders, some with hearts.


Tuesday, after a tough night and a long walk, I came back to a dark house and a message from my Mom,
in words sweet and hopeful, telling about the rain that had fallen that day, what relief it brought... Two full inches, all told. Relief, indeed.


On Wednesday Cosmic M and I took a walk around the prairie at sundown. As we neared the end of our path my thoughts shot back to the night before, when I'd passed a group of kids at a school playground, boldly singing complex melodies and harmonies in a language unknown to me while beating out a rhythm with their hands and bodies... As I passed a boy yelled out to me from the shadows, "Hey lady, clap with us... We love people!" I clapped twice and they sang on, in proud and confident voices, and at that moment it struck me, as I said to myself: "I will not amount to anything." I looked up. In the twilight on the prairie, the rounded silhouette of a tree took on a third dimension, and a flash of light caught my eye. I paused for a moment as my companion walked on. A few breaths later it flashed again, one of the last fireflies of Summer, blinking at me as if to say, "neither will I."


Life flows on. We sing loudly sometimes and go barefoot when we can. I miss you, often.

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