Octubre

My bare knees were cold today. I pulled out my leather boots and contemplated putting my flats back in their boxes. The trucks sit in the field parked after dark waiting for their promised harvest. I pulled my car in the garage in front of the bike I didn’t ride all summer. 

It’s finally happening. 

That last stretch of the year. It’s dark and crisp and the short days offer me possibilities I can’t quite name. 

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Today. Today I was reminded that I’m always afraid of words. Always. 

I like to write because I can edit. I can stop, think and go back. When I speak I’m stuck. That’s it. The words are out there. And here I am. In here. And either I back away from the words I’m saying or I’m so committed, I’m so invested, that I’m falling down the hole with them. 

Fuuuucccckkk

But why. Why do I think I can’t go back on the words I say? Of course I can. Of course you can always alter what you say. Of course the listeners will forget or misconstrue or miss you. You’ve missed my point, altogether. 

“I never did tell you but I should have treated you better and taken us more seriously. I always enjoyed your company.”

I know. 

I stop to listen only to realize I heard the words when they were unspoken. 

Say it, Morales. What is the worst that could happen? I’m afraid to say. 

Don’t say what you mean, because you’ll only find that you weren’t the one who was dying to put the words together … who was dying to speak. 

The words will come when they are meant to be. 

Hear this 

I don’t know if it’s that I felt when I was with you 

Maybe it’s that when I was with you I didn’t feel 

I wish you would use your words. I wish you wouldn’t empty yourself out, but choose them carefully and concisely. I wish you would be receptive, open and listen. I wish we would take the time to pause, reflect and regurge. 

I wish when we talked we created something new. 

Recordings 

What do you think I am from my mother’s point of view? Like really, who does she see? I always make comments like, ugh my mom or you know, my mom or oh, moms. 

She’s endured my years of eye-rolls and sneers and rubbed my back when I was stressed and seen my ugly cry. She ate all of my chicken and mushroom dinners when everyone else complained. She read through my cheering at the basketball games. She decorated my birthday cakes. That’s a lie, but she did help me with my homework. 

She tells me she misses me and she loves me and I just wonder who she is talking about. But who does she miss? What does she miss? I come home and I challenge everything she says. I always offer my opinion even when it’s not sought. Or I’m quiet and I’m reserved and I make jokes at my childhood’s expense. At her expense. I don’t know what it is that ties her to me. I don’t know what she sees in me. Sometimes I call her on her birthday. Sometimes I ask her to spend time with me when I visit. Sometimes I celebrate good news with her. If she could choose, if she could have chosen, would she have chosen me? Knowing everything she does now? Beyond the ties that bind – who am I to her?

Of babies and death

My great grandfather lived 104 years. He always seemed old to me until I saw him this last year. Suddenly, with his hair gone and his skin taut, I realized how old looked. 

My mother made a point for us to make it down to his farm, just a couple miles south of my mother’s farm, for weekly Sunday dinners when I was in high school. For iced tea and carrot cake and mashed potatoes and corn. We spent a couple hours in his workshop, pretending to learn whittling skills and the properties of wood. I lay in the grass with my baby brother when I got bored. The smell of wood shavings still reminds me of those Sundays. 

My cousin and I wandered the deserted farm and noted how unchanged it seemed, even with the critters and the grass starting to go rogue. The tree shooting out of the grain bin another reminder of man’s impermanence. Of nature’s total glory. 

Every birthday of my grandfather’s for the past 10 years has been important: what if? The last one? For his 100th I drove home from Indiana and ate pie until I was sick and posed for pictures with cousins I don’t remember. This past birthday, his last, I noted it with the usual casualness. The usual, what a life peak of my eyebrow. 

104 years. He’s gone now, and I’m happy for him that he found a place to let go. My family reaches out for acknowledgment and sympathy, and I’m surprised, when the joke has been otherwise for so long. Reality is different than the one we create in our minds. 

I won’t go home for the funeral. I won’t rearrange my schedule for that. I woke up in the middle of the night to the blinds twisting in the breeze. I fell back asleep without a second thought. 

It’s cruel of me – but I am tired of the conversations around the sanctity of life. I am tired of the baby craze and the poo-poo of old people. The special place we give those on the ends of the spectrum. Life is life. No more, no less. A lot of us have asked for it, have made a deliberate decision, but a lot of us have not. Don’t remember, wouldn’t ask for the life we have. People forget the world is a big place and life is different everywhere. The meaning we assign is not universal. The assumptions we make are not understood. 

I realize I’ve been chasing something I’ve had all along. How do you drop out of a race you’re in the middle of? Run back the other way? 

Don’t wake me up

The pages fall out of my book. I don’t need to keep them to remember you.

Remember that night on the beach? I was reminded of it later, much later. There was a white building on the bay and the wind was just right and the rocky grass so thin…the memory reached up and tapped me a bit on the shoulder, but I let the moment pass.

That night on the beach when you were in your uniform. You were always in some uniform. So much strife we’ve participated in. And we were talking, the same conversation we had been having for years and years. We were having it again, this time in a space of my choosing away from the glow of the white building seeping the yellow light. We were talking in the dark.

There are five white stars on the left shoulder of your uniform. There are no stars in the dark.

Ever unsure, I stand in front of you. We are almost the same height, my forehead at your nose. When I am small I will feel forever young, more familiar with these long legs I will not keep. You lean in–each hand on a bicep. You are sure. You have grown weary, in a way, of talking this through with me. We both know; we’ve decided. I’ve decided so much with you, this is part of the reason. You know. You know I know, even if I continue to use my words to push the idea around. We’re not looking at each other when you say it. We don’t need to be. I can feel the smile in the corner of your cheeks.

“Just go.”

I am sprinting.

In the building are all the people I’ve ever loved. They are sepia in the yellow light. My grandfather is there, the quiet still in the turning swirl of bodies. He is smiling, waiting, knowing it is time. I reach for his hand. We don’t speak. I will be gone in the next moment, and he is calm and sure. I sense the nod in his head, even though he keeps his still.

We have decided.

I will lose this moment. I will lose it in time. I will forget the faces and the beach and the depth of the sky. I will search for it unknowingly. Aware of its space on the shelf. Aware of its gap in my knowing.

I’ve forgotten to remember.

You will lead me places throughout my life, until finally, I remember. Even though I don’t look anything like that girl on the beach, you’ve seen me all along.

Empty summer

Maybe all those times we weren’t talking, you didn’t know what I meant at all.

When did I lose my patience for nonsense? I used to get lost in it, bask in it, end over end with the nonsense. It’s why I was such a favorite with the kids, with the old men, such a charmer I could be. Now I find myself huffing impatiently at the nonsense. Pushing past, rushing through, swinging door, let’s go. Time is of the essence.

It’s one of those nights the air is so still and you want to sit on the tailgate of your friend’s truck and look up at the stars and wish that this was the only night, the last night, that time would stop for once, even though on the flipside you have 80 more years of these nights and what’s the rush? Why not move on to those nights rather than stay here in this one?

It’s one of those nights the rain is so soft it seems mismatched with the lightning and the thunder clapping close. One of those nights my dad would have shut off the air and opened up all the windows. One of those nights I would have slept very still, waiting for the cool air to break through, to overpower us in our small room.

One of those nights.