Keep your sun-drenched days and well-oiled bodies.
When the wind rips limbs off trees.
Pushes cars across the highway.
Topples small buildings.
When the air is soft. warm. heavy. moist.
When wind can kill.
My body becomes slick, ripe, and tender.
My every breath charged with electricity.
When every breath holds bits of lightening and promises of chaos.
When the sky darkens. the clouds hang low. heavy. full,
with potential destruction.
and the possibility…
for the howl,
The hoursminutesmoments before the storm.
Keep your sun-drenched days.
Screw your rainbows.
Fuck your flowery words. your soft music. your tender touch.
I wait for the storm.
Note: Please check out Nick Brandt’s photos. They are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
When I was a girl we lived across from a parking lot. On the other side of the lot was a candy store, and just beyond that, the neighborhood pool. The parking lot was where boys my age spent their days playing softball, stickball and handball. At night, the older boys came out leaning against the white painted brick of the candy store, smoking Marlboro reds and drinking Budweiser, waiting for the tough girls with stick straight hair and heavy eyeliner to come by. When they did, the boys would feed them beers and talk them into skinny dipping in the pool after the rest of town had gone to bed.
I’d grow up wanting to be one of those tough girls, wanting straight hair, slim hips and a bad attitude. I’d grow up wanting to be the kind of girl wanted by boys in tight black jeans and Beatle boots, boys with Marlboros hanging from curled lips, boys who, when they finally got some money, would drive fast cars with metallic paint jobs. I’d grow up wanting to be the girl who every mother tsk-tsked about, whose neighbors whispered “easy” and “trouble” when she walked by, and who all the boys wanted. It’s not as easy as you think, being easy; to be sexy, tough, a girl and still command respect. I’d spend years trying to walk that razor’s edge; it was like juggling chopped meat, bloody and messy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I remember, I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 8 years old, sitting on the curb in front of our house, in my little cotton shorts watching the daytime boys play in that parking lot. I sat there, holding the yellow soft plastic cup from my bathroom, filled with cold water. I sat and watched, clutching the cup in one hand, my faded pink washcloth with the rose border in the other.
And I waited. Day after day after day.
I waited for one of them to fall, to slide into home on the asphalt, to come up with gravel, bits of black top or glass embedded in a knee, jeans torn, elbow scraped. Waited for them to get into a fist fight, for a nose to be bloodied, or eye to be blacked.
I waited for blood and torn skin.
I waited for them to hurt themselves, or more accurately, I waited for them to be hurt. Then, I could rush in with my cup of cool water and soft cloth and tend to their wounds. Then, they would see me. Appreciate me. Be eternally indebted to me for my kindness, my care, my tenderness. Because if they were hurt, and I tended to them, they could love me, would love me.
When they were whole, I was invisible, even to myself.
Fast forward forty years later. I’m still drawn to the hurt ones, the broken things. I fight not to disappear in front of the whole, not to cripple the healthy.
An old boyfriend I’ve never quite gotten over is recovering in ICU following heart surgery. I bring homemade food, and fresh fruit. I offer my home as a half-way house after he’s released from the hospital. I offer to drive his daughter home from college to visit him. He’s happy to see me and he introduces me to the current girlfriend. Who brings coffee and McDonalds apple pies, and keeps forgetting on which street the hospital is located.
A heard someone say once, that he made himself useful, needed, indispensable and called that love. The habits you learn as a child are hard to break. I believed that Useful equaled Lovable for a very long time. And I’m just now unlearning that lesson….
Midnight. Spooning with Mr. Crazy Pants. My back to the window where a gentle early fall breeze blows in. His body curled into me like a furry comma between my breasts, soft as a chinchilla; my chin resting comfortably on his head, pointy ears on either side of my jaw bone. He purrs. Quietly and constantly. It vibrates in my breastbone.
1am. Still awake. Pants, still comfortably numb beneath my chin, breathes steadily. I try to tune into his rhythms. I toss. I turn. I toss again. Pants waits, and when he thinks I am done spinning in my bed, he walks across my shoulder, steps on my face and curls into my chest, again. We face the window. And the lighted alarm clock. Which is set for 5am. I think briefly of the cocaine nights I would lay wired, trying to will myself to sleep. Curling around Mr. Crazy Pants, I’m grateful those are over and done.
2am. Actually, it’s kinda chilly.
2:15am. Maybe not. Maybe I should turn the fan on.
2:17am. No, chilly. Definitely freaking chilly. Pull up extra blanket.
3am. Changed pillows. Tossed, turned. Tossed off extra blanket. Dragging Pants with me when I flip over to prevent him from stepping on my face as he repositions himself. Cause, really, ten pounds of cat standing on my face is NOT restful.
3:27am. Yet another party heard from. The feral cat has joined the party, sitting heavily on the foot of the bed. Staring. With that annoyed expression. I feel her disapproval, even in the dark. Cranky, but chicken, she will run and hide if my feets get too close. I pull myself very small, curled around Pants, so as not to disturb the Dowager Queen. One hour and 33 minutes. That should be enough, assuming I can fall asleep. Now. Or Now. Or Now….Soon.
4:17am. Still awake
4 fucking 30 in the morning. Mr. Crazy Pants, tired of this nocturnal tumult, has decided to be the outside of this nights spooning couple. Draped over my head on the pillow, front feets dangle in my face, back paws stretch along my neck, I wear him like a party hat. Or a faux-hawk. Or a kitty-hawk.
4:45am. Pants isn’t moving, he’s over it. Stick a fork in him, he’s done. I turn. He stays. And my face is buried in his belly. He purrs on, sleeps undisturbed. One eye open, I watch the lighted clock. 4:46. 14 minutes left to sleep.
4:50am. The clock starts to pulse with light – a gentle way of waking. The back of one eyelid throbs red with the pulsating light. The other is buried in belly fur. Along with my nose. Which is stuffed, because, despite living with cats my entire life and living with denial slightly longer than that, I am, Allergic. To. Cats.
5am. Snooze. Flip. Cuddle. Just fifteen more minutes. If I could get just fifteen minutes of sleep I would be okay. The Dowager Queen is back. She stares daggers at me from the foot of the bed and then leaves. I feel her judgment. It is, after all, time for her breakfast, and I am obviously a lazy slacker. I will be punished.
5:15am. Snooze. If she is the Queen, Pants is the court jester. And the court jester is awake. The morning ritual begins. He digs under my head with his own triangular fur-covered bone head. Pushing my head off the pillow, burrowing underneath me, demanding a lap, a hand, a canoodle, to be cuddled, petted, played with, fed.
5:30am. I give up. Resistance is futile. And so, our day begins. No sleep for the sleepy.
8:39am. Exhausted from a morning of burrowing, eating and a long night of sleeping, Pants lays next to me, asleep, peacefully. The Dowager Queen has gone back into hiding, sleeping inside the box spring of my bed.
Were that I were a cat, and could drop wherever I find myself, simply stop, drop and sleep.