Music: Ronald Jenkees

I am no longer destined to sleep at night.

I loop in and out of ideas like yarn, my mind being pulled by a blue Boyle hook. It’s been just over eleven months since I left home, leaping into what I hoped would be the greatest love affair of my life. It’s been almost one year since I sold my car and lost my ability to escape. I’m fighting with myself about a woman I’m seeing. There’s an undertow forming Friday night that I plan to be caught up in, powerless as I’ve ever been. Saturday I’ll break upon the rocks of forming friendships, unsure how strong my raft stands. It’s a young vessel. 

I haven’t lost my spark. I was worried it was New Orleans that made me different. At first I thought it was God, then I thought it was my breasts (closely related, the two). Then I thought it was something only people who wanted to sleep with me saw. Most recently I’d assumed it was the love for my home reflected back. Leaving home was a risk, that possible loss, but I didn’t lose that bet. I dimmed when my relationship ended. But it didn’t die out. And I am getting stronger. Slowly…so painfully slowly. But I am moving. 

Once my father bought me a ruby bracelet. I was eight at the time. When I went back to see him at twelve, I had a list of things I wanted to retrieve. Items the kids wanted back, too, if possible. My bracelet was on the list. I remember discussing it with him like it happened this morning. The red plush seats of his Crown Victoria burned in the mid-morning sun, my legs starting to feel too warm. A band of heat from the summer sun covered the tops of my legs and a strip along my sandaled feet. The windows were down. He was bouncing the pack of Camels on his left palm, packing the tobacco. He had just bought a carton at the gas station, and we were supposed to be going to lunch with Mr Tapp, his old chaffer. He was telling me again how hard it was for him to get this time suddenly off work. 

I forget what I was talking about. I remember thinking in my mind, “You haven’t written about this before, you know” and so it stopped. I really should be sleeping. It’ll be sunrise by the time I finish reading myself into unconsciousness. It’s nearly impossible to read oneself to sleep, as the story makes me want to stay awake and learn more. The print is what eventually makes sleep possible. The words start to tire of holding straight, and really, who can blame them? It’s usually “L” that loosens first, and drifts a tad to the side. “L” will slip into “I” and then “P” is dotted, and the whole word is off. The sentence won’t make sense without that word. In fiction every word matters. Each image brought into place as a dancer on stage. Though less so with prose than poetry, thank the gods. Poetry must always be just so. Who needs that kinda pressure? 

If you were able to start over, and do anything you wanted, what would you do?

One of my top five answers to that question is to dance. I would be tapping again. I’d even do jazz or hip hop (poorly) or ballet if it would come alongside tap. I’d teach kids if it meant I would be tapping. 

Why aren’t I tap dancing?

I don’t feel worthy of such useless joy. 

In 2007 I was traveling back to California to visit family. It was before I’d taken the years off from speaking to my mother. I spent about five months prepping with my therapist for the trip. On my third night staying, my grandma came to me with an envelope. My therapist had written me a card and mailed it before I left town, so I would receive it during my stay. In the card was a picture of a beautiful flower. She told me about how she’d seen those flowers in England and loved them, but felt unworthy to be responsible for such beauty’s survival. She took the chance and two years later, her front yard was covered in blossoms. With some nurturing and faith, she told me I could make beautiful things happen. 

I am blessed to be the witness of beautiful things. 

Death struck down near a dear friend of mine today. I wish I understood why death holds so much power. It’s Tom Robbins getting to my head. And the idea of wanting to help. Some things can’t be helped; they can only be witnessed.

I have plans with a co-worker tomorrow afternoon. I am debating canceling so I can sleep through the afternoon. The bright lighting scares my thoughts away-too many years in New Orleans has made my mind run like roaches. A direct spotlight will cause directionless scampering until refuge has been achieved. I always thought I was too extroverted for social anxiety. 

My new apartment and I are bonding. It’s dirty. It functions well dirty. It’s good to know that about an apartment before you get too comfortable. What if you get sick, stop picking things up for a week, and the place turns on you? Can’t have that. Best to know ahead of time how the place will function if left to its own devices. 

I’m going to clean it soon. I’m being taken out of town for my birthday, and I’ll be cleaning before the trip. I need to see how it looks when I come “home” for the first time after a night away.

It took practice for me to accept flowers and dinner dates. I’m about to be taken away for my birthday by a man I’m dating. I won’t let him call me his girlfriend. I lose part of myself with the weight of a label, and until I’m strong enough to maintain who I am despite one, no labels for me. After all, most labels are awarded because someone enjoys who you are already. If adding a label changes who I am, why bother? Maybe that’s also why I don’t tell people I’m a writer. It might stop the truth from existing, if you speak it too loudly.

At night, do you ever think of those who you’ve held before? Or those who’ve held you? Are they holding someone else right now? My high school boyfriend is probably holding his wife. He got married, and they have babies. It’s kinda insane. I used to write my first name with his last name. lol I hope he’s happy. His family is beautiful. The first woman I ever loved in holding her husband, I imagine. My brother-of-choice may be with his girlfriend, or hugging his favorite body pillow. Holding someone at night implies such safety and trust. Each time I allowed a person to hold me in the night, I opened myself up to exposure. Sometimes I was left raw and wounded, but most often I was tended to with love. That must have shaped me as much as the abuse did, right? That’s why friends and partners have always meant so much more. Safe touch came most reliably from those outside of my home. 

I remember sleeping next to Jonathan through high school. I remember his eyes in the morning, seeing him without his glasses made me feel like an insider to his private life. He was the Larry to my Beth, and in my memories he still is. That’s a love story I hope to tell one day: Jonathan and David. It ended very differently than anyone expected. And until death rushes us, who’s to say it’s over, anyway? As long as life goes on, life goes on. The balance between hoping for the future and rising up from the past keep us in the moment. Without Jonathan, I wouldn’t be who I am. Sometimes on warm nights, I miss him. We’d walk to the park and swing, leaning our heads back until we got dizzy. It was an innocent excuse to hold onto one another as we tried to recover our feet. 

Do those who impact our lives know they do so? If Jonathan came across this, would he know I still think of he and I, and what could have been? Hopkins, too. All the ones that could have been, and never were. Fleeting moments of possibility, and endless years of ponderings.

But the hours pass, and the sun will rise. I must find a hiding place from the omnipotent light. 

 

 

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