Friday, October 31, 2008
she's right. it does. and yes,
i know what death feels like.
i was walking in the cemetery after dark. alone. it was mid-october.
i felt, i felt, nothing.
i couldn't feel my hands at the end of my arms, nor the toes at the end of my feet. but i wasn't cold.
and i didn't care.
i walked on, slowly. not wondering at it, but just taking it in. i didn't need to think about it.
i could see a full 180 degrees around my head, every angle with equal clarity. i didn't need to look over to see it, my mind simply concentrated on that spot and i knew what was there.
i was still alive - i could only see 180 degrees. i knew that if i had been dead i could see the entire sphere around my head. if i was dead i'd be able to see the ground below me concurrent with the sky behind me.
i walked on, hearing the sounds around me. i had no reaction for them, for they didn't matter. they weren't distant, i was.
i didn't need to breathe.
nor did i need my body.
it was like falling asleep after a really long day.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"Nathan? It's Maya." My mind flew back to the last time I'd spoken to her. We were sitting in the subway, her eyes full of tears, her cracking voice unnaturally high, "I just can't see you anymore. Goodbye." She stumbled onto the train just as the doors were closing. It whisked her out of sight as my own sigh blurred over with tears.
I realized in that moment in the subway that that was the only time I'd seen her cry. And the voice on the phone sounded the same as her voice on the platform.
My reaction time was too slow. As usual.
"I'm so sorry. Forget I called. Forget everything."
"No. Wait. Come over, we'll talk."
"Yes, please." The line went dead just as the doorbell rang. She'd hung up. I walked toward the door mentally grumbling that she didn't even have the decency to tell me when to expect her.
It wasn't the chinese takeout delivery boy I was expecting.
It was her.
Tall and lanky as ever, her clothes wet and clinging to her body - she'd gotten caught in the rain. Her hair was disheveled and hanging over half her face, only one eye visible.
That eye caught me in the act of pulling out my checkbook. It wasn't its running eyeliner or the bloodshot, tear-stained condition, it was haunted, terrified, begging.
She stood there awkwardly, balanced on the balls of her feet, poised to run if need be. Her clothes dripped, her hair dripped, her eyes dripped. And she was shaking -whether it was from the cold, the fright, or the stress I couldn't tell.
I opened the door wider, grabbed her hand and pulled her inside. I wrapped my arms around her, for once not asking her anything.
She still fit, even after all this time.
She shrunk into my chest, releasing sob after sob. She clutched at my shirt and I felt her ribs expanding and deflating wildly as her collarbone heaved against my sternum.
As I held her in the doorway question after question ran through my mind. Too soon to be asked, the questions lingered, burned into my mind. Mostly WHAT!? Why here? Why me? What happened? Who? I the warm tears and the cold rain from her body soak into mine.
Eventually I picked her up and carried her to the couch as she kept sobbing and I rocked her on my lap. Her sobs were growing fainter now, occasionally punctuated by a loud gasping breath. Her tears had stopped long ago, her tear ducts wrung dry.
I stroked her hair and whispered into her ear "It's going to be okay. You're safe. It's all right.
Her sobs were gone - only dry heaves of her chest and her hand still grasped my shirt - but it loosened its grip as the dry gasps subsided.
She was asleep. She'd cried herself to sleep on me.
I hadn't seen her for nearly four years. After three years of dating, six years of knowing her. She'd never done this. Never slept on me, never cried.
I carried the grown woman like a baby to my bed, draped a blanket around her, and lay down next to her, stroking her hair until I was sure she was really asleep.
I slept on the couch that night. With my cat, Fred.
In the morning I walked back into the bedroom. Fred was curled up next to her head, her left hand rested lightly on his body, her slender fingers stroking the boy. I could make out a low rumbling. He was purring.
She was curled in fetal position facing the wall. I slid onto the bed and wrapped my arm around her waist. She didn't react, she just kept stroking.
I pulled in closer, my nose in her hair, her back against my chest, I kissed the top of her head and just laid there.
"I heard you got married" I murmured, not asking questions, but not expecting her to reply either. She didn't.
"But I don't see a ring."
I pulled my arm away from her waist and moved it to her head, stroking her hair away from her face.
"I also hear you were pregnant." She stopped stroking the cat altogether. Her eye stared into the distance.
"So I'm rather wondering, since you've got a husband and a baby on the way, why you'd come here. It seems like this would be the last place you'd be."
Her eyes still stared.
"Exactly." she croaked, her voice raw from the sobbing.
"What happened, Maya?"
Her eye grew even more distant, staring through the wall to the other end of Manhattan. She resumed stroking Fred. She didn't answer. She didn't want to. Yet. She'd taught me how to take a hint. And I remembered.
I steered the topic away with "I didn't ever catch the guy's name, though."
She blinked. I felt her lashes brush against my cheek.
I knew a Justin... I knew she knew the same Justin I did... At one point we'd all been best friends. That Justin?
We lay in silence until Fred jumped off the bed and scratched at the bathroom door, looking for his kibble.
"You hungry? I'll make us breakfast." She'd taught me how.
I'd started getting off the bed when she finally spoke.
"I lost the baby." I froze, halfway off, halfway still cocooned.
She rolled toward me, facing me. Her hair had fallen back and I could see her whole face. Her beautiful, pale face, marred by an ugly purple bruise swollen around her other eye. Her eye was swollen half shut, with crusty tears dried to its lashes. She saw my shock frozen in my face - my eyes darted around hers, searching for a reason, understanding.
"and Justin hit me."
She turned back to her former position and pulled tighter.
I curled back around her, trying to infuse her broken body with hope, healing, help.
As if I was trying to protect her from what had already happened.
"I don't want to go for drinks. Let's go for a walk instead."
"Down by the river."
"It's three o'clock in the morning!"
She'd always say that to me. Just drive. As if that was the answer to everything - Don't ask questions, just go.
It really shouldn't surprise me, knowing her. It's not as if she was about to go do anything imaginable (think girls gone wild) No. That wasn't her. But once she got her mind around something, look out. If you get in her way - I've seen her make grown men cry. Yes, myself included.
I'd deserved it.
I complied silently, wondering what she was thinking. She'd tell me eventually, I didn't have to ask. I never had to ask.
We got out of the car and wandered to the paved path winding beside the river. The moon was out, full and shining on the flowing water. The soft silvery light cast strange shadows on the mostly bare trees. A cold October breeze whispered through the air, stirring her soft brown hair and caressing her face. Her hands were shoved inside her jacket pockets and her eyes were turned inward, contemplating.
The path curved along the banks of the river, five feet above the water. She didn't.
As soon as there was an opening in the trees, she scrambled down the rocky bank littered with dry leaves and proceeded upriver balancing on the river rocks tickled by the water. I stood on the bank, unsure.
She turned back, her face shining in the moonlight, her body balanced and content. She lifted one hand and beckoned to me. She continued on, not bothering to watch me descend the bank. She knew I'd follow. I always did.
A bend in the river later, we came to the moon. It shone above us, its belly tickled by the naked treetops. Her sister, her reflection, stretched languidly in the water, swimming towards us as the water flowed. The falling leaves played in the sister's hair, crowning her with laurel and scrub oak.
I turned around. She was perched on a naked tree root next to a worn camp chair. The chair said "Have a seat and share something that everyone can enjoy!" in faded permanent marker. Its fabric was old and dusty, and seemed to have sat next to the river for as long as that root had.
"You take the seat." She looked at me, her feminist tendencies rearing in her eyes.
"I've already sat there. I'm sharing it with you."
"You didn't put this here, did you?"
"No, but I found it. Hush."
We watched the moon and her sister swim in the sky and the river, we listened to the breeze shiver the trees, and heard the occasional car pass by near the paved path above.
When a leaf fell directly into my lap I picked it up by its stem and turned towards her, the fabric of the chair protesting quietly. Her eyes were distant and her hands unoccupied on her legs. I reached toward her, aiming to put the leaf behind her ear.
She caught my hand, her slender fingers molding to mine. She got off her root, my hand still in hers, and joined me on the little chair.
The breeze stole the leaf and set it on the water floating on its own reflection. She and I watched our own reflections swim with the moon as the leaf danced with itself, the only one able to flit from the moon and back.Though as I held her I thought I got close.