Singularity

I am a blue dot. Or a red dot, depending on the day.

I can be seen moving down a sidewalk that is grey; against a backdrop that is of brick or steel or glass rectangles or squares.

No matter the effort I expend when choosing the blue dress, the red shirt, the brown pants, I am one dot among many dots lining the city streets.

When I came here, I did not feel the horror, the ‘inhumanity’ of being passed by unknown faces, traveling their own conveyor belts. I did not become a stranger by boarding a plane, or by arriving, or by settling where I settled – just off the green line, a few blocks south from the top of the park.

No matter how well we think we are known, we are determined anonymously.  Our choices did not accumulate, instead falling like rain on a surface. We carry out no destiny from pure decision; we did not choose the arrangements of our faces.

When I look into the grey eyes of the doctors, the bankers, the lawyers, I imagine some genetic sculptor planning shoulders that will fill a suit, or a pair of scrubs nicely. At some social manufactory, my sculptor obeys the dimensions of patterns for secretaries and presidents. And he takes naps he cherishes his own singularity.

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Portrait

My cousin posted a picture of my mom at the holidays. In the picture, Mom stares out the window, past the porch of our childhood home, into the woods.

Mom’s hair is grey and sun blonde now. Without resting, she rests her chin on her hand. Her eyes squint as if she’s staring into a floodlight, or as if she is in pain.

Maybe we, my brother, my sister and I, are the sources of her pain. Maybe we stare her down from memory. Or maybe it’s from some deeper source: from the rise of her expectations, from their friction with each sight and sound – each the evidence of the world’s violation.

Her face is thin and tired beneath the tan. Her expression is without demand. When she yelled or tried to implement rules, she would fail by breaking them herself. And she only tried when she was angry, when the world disagreed and she felt it.

And she was forgetful. We would come home to locked doors and snow, more than once climbing in through the bathroom window. We were blamed for the snow on the bathroom floor and for the heat bill.

Perfume in the stale, old-food smell of the minivan and the warmth from the dashboard fans in winter. She drove me to ballet or hiphop on Saturday mornings. I see her wide eyes in the rearview mirror, her lips smacking, applying an umber shade of lipstick. Her image is infused and I will not forget it.

 

Mermaids

I open my hands and shut them. I feel the muscles extend, grow, contract, widen, freeze into a ball.

I fold and unfold, marvelous as seaweed or wheat under sun and air, perhaps underwater I am continually moving.

Pain feels like stillness, erupting stills, like solid blocks supporting memory that flows. I push through as I swim. My head clears, my arms above my head as if I am a supplicant child. These walls give as much as the sun; they tell the space of my life beyond this pool of water.

Stretching out my mind builds a future. My path to the locker rooms, my body underwater again, under echoing linoleum, fluorescent and unchanging sky.

I will go to class to have time wring the water out of my bones. Listening, I will be restless to float back to where I am, under blue and in the blue chlorine.

I shiver when I leave the water, becoming bipedal again. It’s as if I know I am a mermaid, not a feature, a fixture, a facet of land but a droplet of water.

Inevitable Sound

My musician friend compliments people’s voices. She comments on lower and higher registers, on properties of sounds I don’t listen to. I get caught up in words.

Words are doors and gates – always in the way. I fell out with my musician friend before she moved to California. I loved our friendship, but our connection fell apart over Facebook and so many messages sent without context or personality. Messages without the same weight or depth found in voices or laughter.

But now I know the importance of sound through her laugh, through her voice, which bubbles up from memory now and again, when provoked by the pitch or quaver of atmosphere.

She taught me what to look for by showing me how she played with frequencies and rhythms through her recording software. And in return, I gave her visuals, describing her different songs as waterfalls or hardware stores. It felt like adding substance to ambiance. But sound was always the stimulus or driver and it relegated me to a backseat in this kind of creation.

Sounds start and they don’t end. That’s why there are rests in music. Rests are punctuation. They do not change or increase the likelihood that sound or silence will follow and they don’t dictate whether or when or how relationships will be reinstated or terminated or put on hiatus.

 

When I fell out with my friend, I stopped writing. Because I failed at communicating with her, I wanted to stop altogether. To redirect my energies away from computer keyboards and notebooks and insensate visuals. Writing again, after a long hiatus, I can hear the words drop onto the page. My thoughts enunciate. I am so self-conscious when I hear myself. But this sound I can’t escape, I am. It’s a relief to find this susurrus alive in spite of pain and a thousand attempts at self-abdication.

Decisions in Rain

Since I moved to the desert, I fantasize about rain. I imagine the coolness on my face, the way the water runs with abandon down any exposed limb, how it feels like gravity flexed as a muscle.

A neat child, I hated the rain. It damped my fashion, it interrupted play. Days incubated in the rain. But it left a peculiar New England scent of pine and damp dirt, and the pine rose again above our heads – an intoxicating crown.

When you stare up into the falling rain the drops that are closest are magnified and you know you are always underwater. In adolescence in America they ask you to choose your life and you are sorted into a college by a few words and a test score. On the cusp of this, in fear of it, I stayed out in the rain. I imagined the military and myself in martial order, and in academia taxonomized. But my vision was poor in the rain. I felt myself undivided from it. I stayed out, and all around me it fell.

Clean Sadness

Since I left my last partner, who loved me, I have been traveling a long corridor.

I did this as a child. The bones of my feet fell unevenly on the smooth wood. And I remember its shine.

When my parents divorced it was my chore to bathe the floors in lemon. And when it frothed, I felt sad in the bones of our house.

Michael was so gentle. And when I was depressed I could feel him tinkering around me, trying to alter some misfit piece of reality. He fixed my bike and my car. And when he did, I took his face between my palms and kissed him with my eyes wide open.

There are no hallways in the place I live now. Unless the whole place is a hallway and I live in the room at the end of it. Regardless, there is this running feeling of grief.