Since the dawn of Nick’s new man-sized stature and 34″ inseam, there has been some frustration over jeans and khakis inside our normally-peaceful four walls. The kid is an absent-minded genius and just grabs pants that look like that could maybe-probably-perhaps belong to him, no matter what methods Maxim has employed to deter this sort of thing.
“Listen,” Maxim said tonight as we all stood in the kitchen conferring on dinner, “I just bought a bunch of new jeans with the money that Sam sent me for Christmas. I’m here to tell you, son, that I am going to go ballistic if I have to go chasing them down even one time. I’m serious as a heart attack.”
Nick, now fully one inch taller than Maxim, looked passively on, nodding. I was amused, because I know what’s coming. Still, I added my two cents in:
“Don’t steal Daddy’s pants, don’t get anyone pregnant: Those are the rules around this joint.”
It was here that Maxim nodded sagely, “If you steal my pants, you are very likely to get someone pregnant.” He slung a thumb in my direction, “See her? I just touched her and here you are, son.”
Today I have been taking notes on mothers, on what they are, on what I am, on what we are to them. At first I took these notes mentally and then they began to sort of steamroll me and crowd for space and some of the better bits were sliding away while beseeching me to tether them to something more intractable than my headmeat. Then I remembered I have that fancypants phone with the infuriating Swype technology that makes plain ole straightforward words like ‘kale’ into messily unrelated, inexplicable nonlinear ones like ‘Kryzygstan’. How the fuck, brilliant technology, how the fuck do you imagine that a blip on the map central to nothing even remotely like the Piggly Wiggly down the street has anything to do with my grocery list? This part of technology, I do not get. This part of technology makes me want to abandon all the other parts of technology wholesale.
But the part of technology that is boon to me is the one that lets me forsake all the random scraps of paper and cardboard and envelopes that I’ve spent jotting ideas on and stuffing into a drawer until they come to fruition or I’m so embarrassed by them that they become lighters of candles burned too deeply down in the jar to reach (after that I run them under the faucet, so that not only are those terrible ideas and turns of phrase charred, they are damp and runny and pitiful, as well. They personify themselves on another level, and then I can avail myself of them peacefully…almost gleefully, in fact. It’s a good practice, the murdering of shitty ideas and sentences. It’s a holy and noble practice. It’s a practice I do not practice often enough, in fact — as is illustrated by this whole parenthetical hand job).
I once bought a hand-held tape recorder, a fancy one, with which to catch notes on the fly. I destroyed it or misplaced it or something. I bought another. It was summarily stolen. The two I got after that each got laundered. The first time was by someone ‘helpful’ who had never made a move toward helping –coincidentally enough– until there were copious story notes in my pocket and agony to bear witness to once my words were washed and warped and devoid of anything even approaching human sounds. The second time was by me, because life was getting in front of me at the time and I wasn’t on top of the details.
Fuck a recording device after that, right? Blackfeet pencils with creamy lead, paper with fixed spines, paper with adhesive triangles and see-through windows, paper announcing tallies for corn chips and Mountain Dews and Marlboro lights.
Note-taking. Drawer-stashing. Idea-marinating. Substance being grown there in dark, private places after the words were released from dark, private places. Writing starts in the stutter and sputter of a perplexed soul. Art starts in the confused cracks between points of understanding.
Oh Evernote, where have you been all my scattered, hyperfocused livelong life?
I downloaded Evernote several weeks ago but have only started using it in earnest over the last month or so and it is saving my creative beans, All You Folk. Now I can jot notes to my phone which are immediately synched up in a kanjillion other places in case I fuck one or more of them up with my frail analog tendencies. I can record snippets, too, and they are immediately swished up into the ether and synched to All The Places. I can scribble a note with my very fingertip, in my own handwriting. My literal hand, writing! I can snap a photo and jot to it with that same finger (or another one! if I’m feeling wacky like that). Save, swish, sync. I can sketch, saveswishsync. I CAN WRITE ON PAPER, SCAN IT TO MY PHONE, AND REMORSELESSLY DISPOSE OF THE PAPER IMMEDIATELY. Scan! *stick arms* Save! *exuberance* Swish! *triumph* Sync!
My God! Technology is bending to my mercurial but meticulous whims! Makers of Evernote, I owe you a baby, because telling you I owe you a beer doesn’t seem like a grand enough thank you.
So, babies. Maxim said to me yesterday that he has been wanting to have a baby lately (Internet. Do not e-mail me. We are not going to have more babies.) and that made me thoughtful about myself as a mother. I try not to contemplate myself in such a fashion, at least not too very often, because being too self-aware as a mother is to invite yourself into all kinds of agony and also probably great heaps of nervous breakdown-ing. I’m not being the slightest bit hyperbolic or tongue-in-cheek when I say that, either. You mothers know what I’m saying. I mean, be conscientious as shit, Moms, be present as all-fuck but don’t be too exploratory because your kids need you to make oatmeal and sign permission slips, and those things are hella hard to do when your cheese has up and taken a slide off of your cracker.
My own mother is going through something of a hard time, and I’m trying to be her cheerleader. My constant thoughts of her plus Maxim’s admission of baby longing made me think about what we are when we mother.
This song has been chasing me around for months now,
and it is wrecking me, wrecking me, wrecking me. Mary stays behind and cleans up the place.
I am about to mother my father into the grave; I can tell because he is making peace with things that I thought he’d outrun or abandoned. He refuses to make plans. He tells me freely of the things that he has staunchly decided not to worry himself with any longer. He smiles while he tells me all these things, earnest. Still, he is afraid.
I am about to be the mother of someone who is halfway around the world being a man but who is still –somewhere in time– floating under my ribs as I coo to him, promising him future and love and arms that will always embrace him. I’ll will my ribcage around him when men who don’t consider my oh-so-painful love for him have their rifles and their hatred trained at him. I will rock and snot all over myself deep into many sleepless nights while I wish a vacuum around him where bullets are not even a thing, much less a danger to my boy’s heart, the one I carried in my own before it even had fancy trappings like chambers or valves or beats.
Today, unfathomably and up out of nowhere, I am a human being in a vast amount of pain and in need of mothering myself.
Tomorrow I may have a taste for lemonade and the mouth that comes away from the glass might be smiling, smiling, inviting you in, “Hello! I’ve missed you. Please come sit by me. Can I offer you some refreshment? Some peace? Some understanding or commiseration?
“I’m so glad you’re back. I miss you when you are away.” Tomorrow I may be mothering you.
Tell me something about you as a mom. It has to be private and it has to be liberating. I won’t judge you, and I will tear a strip off of anyone who tries to. Momming is hard, man. All we come equipped to do it with are these puny arms and these ache-prone innards, and that makes me proud of us for showing up, even.
If you’re not a mom in the technical sense, I want you in the fray, too. Tell me about your mother. When we take time to ponder them, they engender SUCH a profundity of emotion in us. Today I am sitting in that emotion and it’s surrounding me on all sides. It’s terrible. It’s transformative. The latter makes the former bearable.
Today Maxim got locked out of his PayPal account due to a goofy glitch in the system. There was money sitting in there, money that he needed –we needed– and he started to freak out a little bit in his Maxim way, while I sat over here in this chair plugging Very Important Words (these days all the words that are worth eight cents or more are Very Important Words, I’m afraid) into the part of the ether that in my head is called Clientspace.
(Clientspace is inhabited, just so you know, by other fools zooming around on their keyboards and jockeying for the eight-cents-or-more words and making pewpewpew noises at all the other kamikaze writerfolk who want to eat their lunches and steal their house payments, how dare they.)
It was simple: “Maxim. Just call them. It will be no big deal, I promise.” He was also having an issue with getting client e-mails through his domain, so that fueled his angst even more, because not only could he not get to the money that was already there and his, he was losing money that potentially could be his if he were only given air and opportunity. He was doing that thing where he channels his mom and something that is not truly fussable gets fussed over because it is more convenient and safer altogether than Fucking Way The Fuck Out Completely over the big deal stuff (and there is a veritable fuckton of that leeching at our ankles, let me just tell you) that could cause a collective nervous breakdown around this joint should we let it give us our marching orders.
Stuff is not the boss, okay? Not even the big deal stuff. We are the bosses and sometimes stuff gets all snipey and back-bunchy and whoops, there we go, letting stuff get the better of us just because it’s being obstreperous. Stuff is an errant child and it is up to us to not let it drop its drawers and shit in the living room.
So, at one point about fifteen minutes in, Maxim pushed himself away from the desk, saying “I’ll be back in a minute.” My only response to that was a silent, “Thank. God.” because I had a deadline, you know? Me and Maxim and this everybody working out of the house thing….well, there are some kinks yet. There are no stabbable offenses thus far, but we are teetering Damn Closetm to hit-you-with-a-hammer-in-your-sleep-so-that-you-can-fully-understand-the-true-weight-of-interruption offense. The ongoing battle against writerly interruption has stepped up its motherfucking game, is what I’m saying. Sometime in July he asked me to devise a system by which he might know I was working and not longingly window shopping Amazon for fancy things like new music and helium tanks, so I came up with this,
My husband asked for a better indicator of when I was working, so I designed a simple notification interface for the back side of my lappy.
only that didn’t go so well, because that is a cheapo sticky note (someone perpetually makes off with the good ones [ed. note: SCOUT, ALL TEH MUFFINASSES KNOW IT'S YOU WITHOUT MY HAVING TO TELL THEM] and there are better things to waste money on these days….things like toilet paper and electricity) and it kept falling off, causing Maxim to say, “Hey, is the sticky note on the floor on purpose, or on accident? Because I need to know if I can interrupt you or not.”
Yes, the exasperated sound coming out of North Alabama is me, Entire Rest of the World. I’m sorry, I’ll try to keep it down over here.
So back around to it: Maxim came back into the room some twenty minutes later, armed with his shoulder bag full of important things and his hands full of paperwork, announcing, “I’m going to go sell some stuff because I need a boost to my ego. I’ll fuck with PayPal and e-mail when I return.”
“Great!” I said back brightly, “I’m making BLTs for dinner, so take your ti-iiiime!”
And I thought him a very smart man in that instance, because instead of caving to drudgery he did what he knew he’s great at and what would make him feel like rock star so that he could power through tedious, frustrating mess that he gets no joy from.
This year, man. This year in our lives. Some people know one chunk of it, other people know other parts of it, still others know an entirely different slice. Suffice it to say it’s been hit after hit after hit. What sums it up for me, I guess, is May the thirty-first. That afternoon I got an e-mail from BlogHer announcing that I was a Voices of the Year Honoree for this year. AIRHORN!! RIDICULOUS AGOG FACE! SELF-PRIDE! ALL THE ELEVENTY!!1! IN MY HEART! because, to be real honest, there was a lot wrapped up for me in that acknowledgement. I’ve long felt overlooked by much of this community because I don’t fit the regular mold (hint: Nor do I have any real plans to going forward. Love me, hate me, I’ma do me no matter what side of the coin you call for yourself). This year’s list of honorees is an incredible roster, and whoa nelly, that was vindication in and of itself, to be bookended by such talent, and sitting in the company of some of my favorite voices in Cyberia. So, you know, super-high.
May the thirty-first, continued: Later that night we learned that Sam is to be deployed to Afghanistan for just under a year. My heart fell down to my toes and just dribbled out the ends of them and onto the carpet. Good thing we’re going to get rid of it anyway, this hideous carpet, because once you get heart-stains on it they never really go away.
That’s what the entirety of this year has been like, over and over and over again, with so many circumstances both big and small. I am yanked through the clouds at dizzying speeds, then I am flung so viciously against the hard plane of ground that I make dents.
Last week’s cloud flight was the announcement that Sam and Randi were expecting a child. This week’s cratering out was the phone call –on Labor Day, so cute– that Randi had miscarried. The eedle yellow and mint sleepers I have thus far gathered for this child (who I’d already had adventures with in my mind’s eye) sit on the table next to me as I type, in fact. They will go to the local foster parent resource center tomorrow.
It has taken me all the way up until September, but I’m finally learning part of what this year wants to teach me: Just don’t make any plans, either to the positive or to the negative. Just sit with it, this instance in this hour in this day. The Adapt and Overcome portion of my brain was dormant, a little rusty from comfort. It took a minute to get it humming.
There’s still so much looming, I can feel it. I’m not afraid. That seems such a strange thing to say, given all that’s gone on this year and the complete lack of surety here in this place that we’re still inhabiting. I may have hiccups of despair, but I’m not afraid and I’m okay and that counts for something. Some days that’s all there is and alright then, alright.
When he returned today, Maxim came bearing a box of Triscuits; he was convinced they would score him a gratitude lay. “This is what we’ve been reduced to,” I exclaimed in delight, “Triscuits are marital baubles!” We laughed together, long and deep and with giddy gulps.
You sit down to write, an average day. You are drinking your customary thirty-two ounces of First Thing In The Morning water. (“Have you ever seen how quickly it perks a drooping plant? Think, then, on what it must do for the the more complex human body!”)
It’s just like it is supposed to be until it isn’t. That happens around one o’clock.
You fight until three, struggling to do in thirty minutes what you usually can in ten.
Your ridiculous sleep patterns maybe are harder on your brain now than when you were seven or seventeen or twenty-seven. You think a nap will help.
Your husband comes home from the road. He sees you and knows it is not physical. After you trade facts and observations about your days apart he says, gently, “I’ll cook dinner tonight so you can finish working.” You are grateful for a spouse who knows you are fighting, fighting and doesn’t make you fight him, too.
“Maybe this is me moving toward menopause?” you say, facing the wall, fingers tracing the branches of iron. (We can sleep in a tree bed every night! A tree bed! Imagine! you said excitedly to your husband upon finding it) “Maybe I’m not mentally ill.” You can’t look at anyone while you are saying it, not even him.
“It probably is.”
“It’s time to take some meds, I guess.”
“How long has it been?”
“Iunno? Four months. Thereabouts.”
“Well, get them in you, so they can start grabbing hold. Man, I love you.” Squeeze. Warmth. Safe places have elbows that jut outward for your protection.
“I know. I love you, too.”
He leaves. You dry swallow ten milligrams of Maybe.
You blurt, “I am written on the pages that nobody wants to see.” This is not some slog of self-pity and woe-is-me. It is what your brain is sending into every part of your being. Despite someone just looking into your face three minutes prior and saying I love you with emphasis, your brain tells you that you are written on the pages that nobody wants to see.
Today, today, even though you don’t mean to, you are believing it.
We spiraled further and further into it, and that cliché about becoming this groping, twisting, gymnastic Other was played out, right there irrespective of location and eyes not ours. My heart screamed savage and I moved on you, against you, everything about me just yammering ‘moreohmorrrre’; more of you, more of us, teeth and skin and breath and sinew and grimacing, gloried smiles.
This is to promise, this is to sin, this is to fulfill with the body what the spirit wants to whisper to the spirit of another. This is to joyfully and wantonly and pointedly possess. This is To Fuck. This is to fuck, desire-driven and with no end in sight.
I woke, dream still dwelling on my skin, to find you in my arms. Usually I am buried in yours, loosely strung up, my forehead pressed to you. My nose was buried in your hair and it occurred to me that breathing in your amber warmth was the cause of my dreams and I wanted to wake you, I wanted to ask, “Are your dreams tangled in me, too?” because it felt otherworldly and driven, this sleepy electrifying passion, and I just knew (knew!) there was some freaky shared consciousness shit going on. I didn’t get a chance to ask, because as my lips hovered over your ear and parted, you stirred, you rolled, you pulled me to you and before I knew it the dreams had sashayed out of the confines of sleep and we were at one another, torrid and sweaty and gleeful.
….and then the falling away, oh god thank you no, thank you
Later in the day, then, you’re working over there, plotting schematics. I’m working over here, plotting words. It was your turn to pick our soundtrack, and you chose Lisa Hannigan; I called it a good choice. After a while, I rise, saying I need a shower. You rise, saying you need a snack. We meet somewhere in the middle –as we often do, in so many respects– and move easily into a hug –as we often do– that turns into a small sway and then into a soft and slow dance there in the mid-morning sun of our living room with its beautiful furniture and tragically ugly carpet. You smell just so you and my lips seek out the place I love so, the one where your shoulder meets your neck and the softness belies the quiet strength that I so admire in you. You carry it so easily. I brush my mouth across that spot and you shudder. There is a thrill in being able to elicit this in you still, all these years later.
“Your lips are so soft,” you said to me the first time you lifted your mouth from mine, “I knew they would be.”
You are something spiritual to me that cannot be defined. You ushered a sense of peace into my life –the first true peace, I’d say, one that didn’t have a levy against it– when chaos was like a swarm of bees that I’d been living in the midst of all blasé-like, as if brushing one’s teeth or going to the grocery or collecting a paycheck in the center of an agitated mess of bees was just Another Natural Thing That We Do.
Lets just be real honest: I’ve never had much attachment to this world, or my place in it, even though I go at living out my said place with my teeth and guts and much rowdy laughter. You, though: You make the mortal coil this waltz of a thing, and I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve prayed fervently to God (and selfishly! oh so selfishly.) that he would take me away from it first so that I’d never have to live one single minute without the promise of your hand in mine at the end of a day.
This world, Gabriel. This world is so dead-set against love winning nowadays. Thank you for facing it down with me, for laughing against the savage cry and hue that would try to drown us –the song that we make together– out.
You are so much my hero that my heart can hardly bear the weight of it.
About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe. Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.
….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,
:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::
who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).
So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?
Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!
Then this July and my head exploded because “SAMUEL YOUR SISTER WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY AND HOW DARE YOU PROPOSE A WEDDING WITHOUT HER, SHE WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO YOU AND THAT LEAVES US NO TIME TO HELP YOU PLAN, NOT TO MENTION GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF FINANCIAL HELP YOU MIGHT NEED AND WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, SAM?? I HAVE A LOT TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUST NOW, PLEASE STOP WITH THIS WEDDING IN JULY NONSENSE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.”
“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.
At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.
Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.
Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.
We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed, but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.
I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.
I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.
I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?
“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.
I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on
with a wink everything’s falling apart and we’re lost in Lebanon
and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy
No fever dream had ever been so brutal.
By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.
I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:
The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there. The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.
I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.
Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.
He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.
“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.
We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.
I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.
The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you. Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.
Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.
And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.
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This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::
Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.
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This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.
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Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.
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It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:
Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.
I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.
Him: THAT was embarrassing. Me: What was? Him: I just floored it and nothing really happened. Me: Oh, you’re just not romping on it right. I can get up on it every time… Him: That was a test and you just failed it miserably, you dirty bitch.”