Belly of Glittery Gold

From the edge of the field

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He had jasmine in his hair the day we met. Standing there in his busy smoothie shop greeting sculpted yoga moms and tailored young men, he looked like a frat boy.

But his soft and clear brown eyes told me more.

I saw him notice me and then consciously not notice me so he could watch without notice. I was grateful, because I could not figure out what had piqued his interest.

The dark circles? The second-hand clothes? The naked face?

Maybe he had guessed the way I would light up when I began to dance with my four year old daughter before we even had a chance to stand in line.

If that was it, I knew I was in trouble.

His name was Love. I had been single for thirteen months. Believing in tender arms was more of a mantra than a part of my gait.

The smoothie I shared was good but expensive. Pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, Greek yogurt and something else.

We didn’t speak the first time. I had to go back.

In the weeks that followed, I convinced myself that I was looking for some magical spark in his eyes, but the truth is, I was trying to find out if I could.

The signs were clear. Matthew abruptly changed the music when I came back on my own. Then he sat at our table the next time I brought my daughter.

“You must be a great dad.”

He looked at his hands. “I try my best.”

As we headed toward something more, I started choosing my Pumas over my Vans.

My natural open awkwardness disappeared. I shook the shakiness from my hands before going into the shop.

I started to question if he was an Ash tree or an Aspen.

Everything about Matthew checked out. But all I had known was broken hearts. He didn’t fit into my categories, so I cut off little pieces of him until I recognized him as one whose heart I would break.

I hated being that person more than I hated having my heart broken.

I needed to make it quick, and from somewhere above my body, speed seemed reasonable.

My teenage self took over. One morning, exhausted after two weeks of broken, restless sleep, I went to make coffee and found none in the house.

I pulled a hat over my messy hair and headed to Matthew’s shop. I ordered a java blend to go.

“To go?” He was being playful, trying to make me smile.

I was terrified.

My exhausted, bitchy, pre-coffee teenage self was, like, the worst self I was willing to be in public.

And he wanted me to stay?

In my mind, I was flapping my arms like a crazed sparrow, but that was a me I would not be out loud.

I refused to smile. I was mean.

“Ya, to go.”

I looked down at my laced Pumas. I walked home mumbling ‘fuck’. I spent the day trying to warm my hands with the sunshine that graced the alley between my house and the next house.

I decided for him that he was wrong about me.

I walked by his shop about a week later wearing a ring that was given to me years before by a girlfriend.

Matthew was outside. My daughter wanted a smoothie. I told her we couldn’t have one.

I tried to walk fast. When I glanced up, he was watching me.

There was pain in his eyes.

I broke my own heart. But he’ll never know. And neither will anyone else.
photo taken from knightstemplarinternational.com

Unsewn Joy

the resolve of certain knots

Before she could talk she knew that spoken words did not always match images.

When Hava was about four, she really knew this. Without doubt. And she chose to ride the waves of what lay beneath.

Because in her experience, nothing was a more accurate guide to truth then the raw, sharp edges that most tried to smooth over with smiles and socially correct actions, like offering a hug when she lost her balloon.

Even as an older child, Hava could never hold onto those things. When she woke up some mornings it felt like her left hand had been closed in a car door. The pain both dull and sharp, spreading from her middle knuckle upward. On those mornings, all she could do was ask for ice.

Much later, she met a woman, a teacher, who showed her why she had grown up speaking in metaphor. Beyond the need to reach through the muck to find the truth.

In the moment, the pain was so great some mornings that she couldn’t hold her cereal bowl as she sat on the carpet watching cartoons. She began to wonder if the glorification of violence was getting to her.

No, she remembered, I woke up with this.

As her torso lengthened and her feet covered more ground, big questions found her. Like a game. Or a study.

She grew to despise knitting. She threw away all of her yarn.

Eventually, Hava came to believe that not every knot was to be feared. And some unravelling was meant to be because the patterns were all wrong.

Some strings were not strings at all.

Every mis-stitch, no matter how long she had been in a meditative trance, could be done again.

Without Mature Trees

excerpt

He comes home stumbling, pants soaked through with piss. This time he doesn’t have a woman with him. This time he throws up on the grass and not the cement steps.

Inky dawn is a place. It’s where I first learned to pray. Face down in the dirt over men who penciled me into boxes that I didn’t want to understand.

Tracy’s father left me when I was six weeks pregnant. I remember the red rings around his defeated twenty three year old heart and the words he couldn’t say.

Simon told me that he’d help me take care of her the way I’d taken care of him since we were kids.

Family before everything.

Or drink.

Depends on the circumstance.

Tracy tip toes past Simon’s bedroom. I know she’s been awake since he retched on the lawn. She has grown up listening for trouble, learning what not to say, what not to notice out loud.

When she was three, she started to fight sleep like it was her enemy. She wanted to wait up for her uncle. She wanted to hear stories of Simon’s adventures.

Less than ten years later and she’s already been caught sipping from the bottles of vodka that Simon hides in the false bottom of his toolbox in the garage.

Like I wasn’t her mother, she had looked me in the eyes and said, “What’s the big deal, RenĂ©e?”

My sleep has been restless for years now. I’ve grown comfortable with the way that birds call up the sun before the bees wake to seek our lilac bushes.

These quiet hours. I pray but I cannot hear a response.

Three weeks ago, Simon and I stood shoulder to shoulder at our cousin’s funeral. She had choked on her own vomit. Nobody mentioned this in the eulogies.

On the way home that afternoon, I asked for a sign.

I prayed: Make it clear. Make it big. Make it something I understand.

Tracy turns on the television in the living room downstairs. I know she’s watching a Western on mute.

I’m on my knees. My brother’s breath is unsteady but sure.

I don’t have to look in the mirror to know my eyes are lined with the red, angry gashes of held back grief.

“Simon.”

My hand shakes as I reach out to touch his cheek.

“You’ve been in and out of rehab since you were fifteen. I love you. I do. But I don’t think I’m helping you.”

He starts to snore.

“I tried my best to raise you. I know what you’ve been through. I thought you’d quit if I didn’t give up on you.”

I take in a deep breath to stem the sobs that rise in my belly.

“Simon, for the longest time I felt like it was my fault. But I give and give and you don’t get anything.”

I look away. A nick in the baseboard begins to blur.

“There’s a job waiting for me in Seattle. I can’t stay here anymore.”