carbondate

a.e. hart's sketchpad

Month: November, 2011

surf

Yesterday I must have met up with you here, in Wilmington, NC, in a friend’s driveway.  We have been cooking, stacking the dishes perfectly.  Every social error on my part is under your scrutiny.  I stack the plates too high. I laugh too loud.  I see you growing thinner, counting not calories but moments in motion, You’ve gone for a run again, and I am curled up over my coffee.  Kristin comes into the kitchen to ask me what the hell I am thinking.  I breathe in deeply, wishing I still smoked cigarettes.

 

Today, in the ocean, I am talking to g-d. I get stronger as I submit my body over wave after wave.  When the ocean throws me from my board, tumbles me beneath the wave and invites me to humility, I come up laughing. I am a beast again. You, the great teacher, study the waves like a scientist, never quite catching her drift.

 

I know it might be foolish of me to offer advice. But Kristin, up on the beach, taught me to surf in these same waves a year or so ago, and I am inspired, humbled, stupid and wet.  I approach. Coming near you when you are challenged by any task is an invitation for punishment. You snap at me, make the same mistake, again and again, and will not even consider heeding or hearing my advice. You remind me again that I am a terrible listener, and that I do not understand your needs. I walk back to shore laughing to myself.

 

I am breathing in again, watching you from a distance, like a father watches a child.  I am sun soaked and sore, beaten by my own sweet gods, and humored by yours. The sun starts to slip from the sky, and you run, like an experimental movie, in an endless loop of failure.  In the morning you take me running, and remind me that my body scares you.  You are thin and strong.  Completely in control.  I am behind you, trying to keep enough air in my lungs.  You press on, and eventually I run home alone.

 

That afternoon, I tattoo the word acceptance on my arm.  A man tells me that it wont do me any good, but I make the gesture anyway, considering those experiments with crystals and glasses of water that all the teenage philosophers are going on about.

 

Back in New York, in a cafe, I let you teach me a card game. You repeat the rules again and again, but I need you to change your approach.  I don’t understand. I know this will be a problem.  It is winter, and your hair is wet from the shower. When you erupt into rage, I circle the block a few times before realizing that you will get sick walking home alone.

 

When we breathe in at the same time, when you grow young and broken and real in my arms, I know god for moments.  I see you.  Before your fathers belt, before you ever raised your voice to me.  Just another hungry animal, leaning out for love.  I hold you then, when your hair is dry, and you are clam and forgetful.  You try so hard.  We scratch at god inside each others bodies until she sings us both to sleep.  When I wake, you are sitting with her quietly.  One candle is lit, and there is no light in the room.  I imagine that you have transformed.  For a moment we are sacred again.

 

I am in our ocean. I submit my body, wave after wave. We begin the day with god, end in fragments. Every day, we  live… tikkun olam, the reclaiming, the recollecting.  When she takes me from you, when I have learned my lessons, my one weakness is in looking back.

 

There, in an endless loop, you lift your body and fall.

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reflections

The first time mom left me alone with my older sister to baby-sit, we played on the swing-set naked, well after dark. We took innocent pictures, but they felt illicit, so after a terrified trip to the supermarket developing counter we hid or destroyed them.  This, I remember.

I remember sitting, still as dolls at the top of the stairs, always in our best nightgowns, with our hair combed, waiting to be called in on bridge nights. They would pretend to catch us listening to the party downstairs, and parade us table to table. We know our lines, our roles. We are perfect ornaments. The atmosphere glitters, and we are the tiniest belles. After they send us to bed, for real this time, we continue to sit at the top of the stairs.  We eat the candy we stole from each table, quietly unwrapping the foil and savouring our spoils. This is payment for services rendered.

I am absorbed in a box of stones. They are gateways, to other worlds, other paradigms. I have been hiding at the downtown library devouring dense fantasy novels. They are becoming real for me, but that is a secret I know how to keep. the red stone with the orange bleed is the key. It is the ill-earth stone. Downstairs they might be screaming, but all I hear is the pulse of this other world, so small between my fingers.

I overslept again, and missed the short bus trip up the hill. I pull on my knit cap and trek through the woods in the snow. I am in second grade. I take the wrong path and wind up crying and lost, in a mess of blackberry thorns. When I arrive at school, I pull thorns from my skin and my clothes while the teacher yells. I fold my hat on my desk, and think about my grandmother’s hands.

Snow again. I keep my house-key on the belt-loop of my jeans. The bell rings, and the bus waits outside. If I run to the bathroom, I will miss the bus. I pull on my snow-pants, and hope for the best. In front of my house, my best friend is screaming with laughter…. “You’re gonna do it again”. I am trying to wrestle my key out of my snow pants, and flushing red with embarrassment. I give up, throw my backpack down, strip, and pee in the yard. This is the first time in weeks I have not peed in my snow-suit. Victorious, I collect my key, and let my stunned friend into the empty house.

Back at school they won’t let me go to the bathroom alone anymore. I recently saw a sequel to The Wizard of Oz, and have been lost in the bathroom for days, talking to the mirror. I am convinced that the girl in the mirror is not me, and that she is trapped there. When they force me to have a bathroom buddy, Sarah Sherwood catches me whispering to the mirror in secret, and asks what I am doing. I realize that I will never see my friend again, and spend the rest of the day inconsolable.

I am sitting on the bed waiting. All morning there must have been screaming because I am sitting now defeated, in a purple gingham dress. I am four years old. I hold my limbs like a dolls limbs. I do not posses myself anymore. I am certain that they will not detect my vacation, so long as I can be posed for the family portrait. My bedspread is yellow, and I imagine the yellow has taken over everything. Pale and listless, the morning passes without incident.

One summer night a stranger grabs my arm and I fall to the ground screaming. “You are not my family”. I am 26 years old. There are years stripped away then, and I cry until I start to dry heave into the dead grass. All around me I hear the terrifying forgotten sounds. I am so small. Everything is happening above my head, in negative space. This, I may never remember.