Wednesday, January 27, 2010

counting on

Oh, these dreams, these nightmares.

This morning I stood in the kitchen--scarf, coat, tea, boots, bags, keys, gloves--asking if there was any way I could just not go to work today, not today, not like this, not this way. I stood and looked out the window at my backyard, covered in snow and sunlight, and pressed my palms together in front of my mouth while tears welled up, no, not today, not this way, and I walked over to lean on the stark white shoulder of the refrigerator for a moment before I began to count: one, two, three, four. Be done with this. I reached for a loose paper towel, wiped my eyes, picked up my things, left for work.

Garage door lifted with KFAI on the air playing a tune that hit home, and didn't much help me get ready for work. Under the train bridge: one, two, three, four. Beautiful song, wondered who that old time telegraph man was... Oh, David Rawlings
(Ruby). Oh, I forgot my wallet. Down the river and back again, a wistful set that ended as I pulled into the lot with the Wailin' Jennys singing One More Dollar. Oh, Gillian Welch. I sat for a moment to hear it out. A few minutes later I approached the door, bracing against a bitter chill, counting each footfall. I lost track before thirty, I think.

Last night I left work late for a dinner date, worried not so much about keeping good friends waiting as much as disappointing them. About 20 yards from my car I thought I'd dash the rest of the way, thought maybe if I did something would change, maybe everything would be okay. I actually thought this, that if I ran it might save my friend's life, like a child desperately crying out that she believes in fairies (aw, come on, that's just too good!), and then I thought about how stupidly unfair it is, that I should live while he suffers. I did not run. I walked this nonsense off.

I was reminded of wanting to just give it up, trade it in, my life for the life of a child, a blessing to a woman I'd known who was without, who had lost two trying and become ill. It seems so pointless, doesn't it, to not be happy, nor alive, when someone else could be, longs to be, is dying to be. But it doesn't work that way; my life might be recycled, or it may not, but I haven't the power to choose. I'm sure some people have. It's not quite what you might think, it's more wanting my life to be--well, good for something. It sounds so trite, put that way. Those of you who know what I mean should know what I mean. In any case, I drove off. I drove it off.

Dinner was at Koyi Sushi, fine but not fantastic. I was nervous, dumbly so, and furrowed, worried. Such beautiful men, such good friends, these two. We drank bottomless mugs of light green tea and tried to catch up, as if we can, as if it matters. We can, it does, it's good to be together. After dinner I showed them around my new place for a while, and we shared the rug and cushions on the living room floor while I opened a surprise that had arrived in the mail, my first personal delivery, a gift from CM's mom. Apart from us there was my new book on the floor, so I read a few poems. Words came easily at first, though I felt awkward. One came too close, I swallowed, continued. We talked for a while, about change and love, about the time that has passed.

I'd been speaking at dinner about the strangeness of living alone, of adjusting to the imbalance caused by the absence of other. Of course one adjusts in both ways, to make room or give it, to occupy or not. Ten years have gone by, and now I live by myself. But what I am living for? This question circles, and on the way home tonight I tried to remember what it used to be: for the stage, until I left it; for singing, until I stopped; for the earth, which I cannot steward; for my family, for work, for being needed, for moments, for nothing, for no one. No one but myself, is that it? Is that enough? It doesn't seem so, and yet it must be so. For now, it must be...

Mid-day today my veneer cracked, with rushing in and out all over the place, again, no, not right now, not here, not like this... I counted, under my breath, a few times. It flows in from out of nowhere and picks me up, washes me downstream. A while ago I decided to give myself license to cry, to allow myself to feel whatever it is, in whatever way it comes, but in truth I'm still damming it, damning it, trying to hold it under, which is as futile as hoping my life might be a suitable replacement for another. Try mine: replace my life with my life, now there's an idea. I splashed some water on my face, too real to be possible.

My imaginary heart quickens my breath, while I count, and hold down tears. In just two days they will have taken part of his, replaced it with a different piece--a construction to fill the void, to keep it beating: one, two.

I ponder separation, recovery. Surely it's difficult this way, to live with what's left, to tend to these wounds together. But more painful yet is the phantom limb, the sensation where there is no skin, the presence where there is only empty space: ghosts in nightmares, lovers in dreams. To heal, the wound must be present: wrap it, let it rest, then unwrap and weep and breathe, and slowly begin again to let it carry weight, counting each step.

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