March 20, 2015

Thoughts of a solar eclipse

I can’t remember the last time I was that close to happiness. Well, happiness might be too big of a word and a little out of reach for another year or so, but still. I choose it. With all my heart. I was sitting on the sofa, our sofa, the sofa bought for my first arrival, sipping my morning dark roast, listening to the silence in the house, our house, the house that greeted me, the luckiest house in the world to nest such a love. I was content. I was at peace.


To have a first Christmas together, two and a half years since we began. To scrub a bathroom, make pan-seared tuna, pick out ornaments, listen to the ice cracking all around the outside. To have his hand reach for mine across the center console as his left makes a turn for Staples, “Look at us, running errands like normal people.” To stay up all night, to toast the new year by the water, the smallest yard and the smallest house overlooking all the fireworks from Edgemere to the Inner Harbor.


I arrived, and I swear the air was familiar. It had chill and drive. It tasted of me five years ago, of being stupid and alive and high on it. It tasted of being a bad drunk, of being loud and obscene, of leaving regrets for later, what happens there, stays there. It tasted of everything that brought me to this bed right here, to these houndstooth sheets and his baritone sliding over my skin.


It’s a lot to ask her not to sting
And give her less than everything


Winter will always taste of America.


And spring will always taste lonely. Of course, with me, it’s impossible to know which came first: was I always isolated and just learned to live with it, to make my own universe, looking in on the world from the outside, or did I always want to be left alone, and just got tired of it? Spring will always be big decisions and leaps into chaos, the aftermath of the high and carrying the chill inside amidst the blossoming life all around.


I lost something very important in these past few years, and it broke my heart. I lost the ability to be happy for others. To partake of their joy, to be moved by their goodness, and just love them for who they are and what they bring into my life. I went through the motions, vaguely remembering what that kind of happiness was, unable to open up to it, scared to say it out loud for fear it should become an eternal state. That is a terrible thing to lose. But it is not eternal. It is going away. And it’s a relief to withdraw my judgment from the world and toss that sour ink to the waves.


I just submitted my last translation for publication. I have a hundred and twenty pages of dissertation that I am proud of, and a comps exam under my belt. The blogger in me smiled secretly when the head of the committee said that I could turn an excellent phrase. Basically, I was told that I was a good writer, and I was glad that I made my sailors, ships, whales and oceans speak louder than ivory tower jargony. Shit’s getting done.


Two nights ago, I held my bird in my hands until he died. My beautiful feisty boy, such a perfect instance of nature’s engineering, was taken over by his illness. Seven years ago, I was in a bad place of solitude and loneliness, feeling guilty for asking for more, yet knowing that I had to, not yet knowing how deeply it would get me in trouble. I got two birds to keep me company and be loud and fly around. Both have left me now. I held him, and I talked to him until he died. His eyes were closed, and his wings kept fluttering, as if he were dreaming of flying. I cried for all his seven years with me, for his lost companion, for the excess of nurturing that is left over now. An empty cage, a bag of seeds, medication in the fridge and ointment in the medicine cabinet. Not needed anymore.


I know what T-61 is in veterinary medicine. And what Code 42 stands for in bridge safety. My loved ones deal with hanging on and letting go, with those who have one but wish for the other. And my God, it’s heart-rending, but isn’t it good to let go? Isn’t it a fucking miracle of the universe that things end, that we get to leave, that we have to take no more?


No more.


For a few hours today, my world got dimmed, and gauzy, and colder with the eclipse. I was, I am, grateful for the magic. For staying up all night and all the sunrises and morning birds that I got to greet in these past few years. For music. For the pair of black wings working up a storm with the universe on my behalf. For leaving, for arriving, for the chaos in between. My chaos, our chaos, this chaos.


I am dancing tomorrow. My troupe is having its spring production. The seguiriya is a dark, severe, difficult beast. I will wear my ruffled skirt, my lace, and my oxblood shoes. My hands will be gentle birds, and the nails on my soles will stamp heavy with love. All of the ‘no more’ will be in my steps, and the lonely will be turned into something beautiful. I will give my sadness to my loved ones, and they will watch, and partake, and be happy for the beauty.

March 9, 2015

Deepest shade

I can’t remember the last time music hit me this good.


And it hit me like a delayed-response drug. A day later. Amping up to a week later, reverberating, echoing. Calling for more, and hurting like shit when more is played. It took awhile for music to soak through the layers of sensory overload.


I was almost a no-show because the locale involved brushing against some old stomping grounds that I was reluctant to revisit. I could feel everything but myself. The respectful bubbling of the crowd, the sticky floor under my boots, the 548 number from the coatroom in my pocket, the flickering projection screen in the back of the stage, the uneasy dance because it ought to have been a sit-down event really. The red Austro-Hungarian cavalry barracks bricks housing a few hours of collective beauty, allowing amplifiers and cigarette smoke to infuse them from within, a fate that was never meant for them.


I listened. I took it in. I put it away for later. I was feeling everything but myself.


There is something about these fifty-year-olds with whiskey in their voice and Bible in their lyrics. The high-contrast greyscale of the world they paint, of the ghosts they turn into, of the purposefully turned-off spotlight above their heads. Those who do not look like themselves if anything less than an emaciated, hunched-over, haggard version of how they were brought into this world.


He was tired. Melancholy. The kind of quiet that comes after too much of something else. I invoked a dead man’s name that triggered degrees of separation in motion. My now life, in two places, if not more. My man, the artist, and the dead man, connected somewhere in the past. My three lifetimes ago, promises sworn and broken and a little girl who was loved and sung that song to. The Pacific Northwest that I will return to someday, just like the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni sculpture garden will see me again, and like I have to see Firth of Forth once more.


Just like the music, my own healing was delayed. No amount of my penance could offset the fact that my grief would be denied, until it could separate itself from its consequences. I feel like I have been holding my breath for seven long years. Like I have been feeling everything but myself, owing everything to everyone because that made me feel a worse kind of better. Or perhaps it is like that childhood drawing game where you trace an invisible groove on paper, then lay a crayon sideways and add a coat of color on top of the grooves, and watch the pattern underneath appear. Perhaps there is no way to trace our being other than to cross the lines, over and over. Perhaps there is only music, and the Bible, and greyscale.