I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
-- Anaïs Nin
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Through a haze reeking of alcohol, I could see your insides. I could see your hands grasping desperately to hold the very end of a rope. Tears poured down your face as you told me of the hands that have always pulled you down when you tried to do something—anything—other than survive while the world wrote poems about you and stood up in coffee shops, shouting into the faces of people who might be you but also might have never, ever held the hand of a person whose insides looked like yours.
Whose outsides look like yours.
Whose latte-colored skin reminded me of swirling hips and bright colors, which in another time and place might have sounded like the marimba or steel drums or a djembe pounding out over the space while you danced (I’m sure you were dancing) and raised your arms (I can feel you raising your arms) to the sky in praise of rain.
The same rain that fell on the women of whom I am made, rain that soaked half of them through their chadors as they protected their hair and faces and honor
And the other half dripping through straw hats as they fed goats and grew tomatoes, necks burning ever redder in the Georgia sunshine.
I want you to know that I cannot feel the difference between us.
I want you to know that when I close my eyes as I hold your hand as you squeeze the raindrops from your eyes as the expert hands of a woman who sounds like my grandmother gently examine the scene of the crime
Probing, looking, gathering every detail
Pictures that I’m sure look like mine. Because I am only a shade lighter than the latte that is your skin. Mine has only a drop more milk.
I saw your shoulders square.
And then I saw them curve inward when you put your hand out to help and winced as you were pushed apart, and put your hand out to stop or to not stop, as your mind fought with that hand and it just stayed there, frozen just above the sheet, holding onto the only thing that had ever been steady.
I cannot feel the difference between us.
In that moment, I wanted to reach my hand into the center of your chest and grab your hand before you let go of the rope. I could see your fingers starting to tremble, your hand slipping off the end of the rope, eyes darting back and forth, trying to hold on, trying to make it look as if nothing was happening, covering your eyes, trying to push the tears back in, hide the raindrops, run.
I reached my hand out.
Insides screaming for you, I grabbed your hand.
I cannot feel the difference between us. I can lift you. Come up to solid ground.
Scanning stations on the way home. Spring is exploding into bright fireworks at the ends of each branch. This is The Thistle & Shamrock. I’m your host, Fiona Ritchie.
Riding home in the car. Much younger. Before boobs. Before heels. Before outfits that made sense and boyfriends and husbands and career and cancer that eats vacation days and hope and vomits out emptiness.
Hair tied back tightly, but bits still escape. If I don’t hold my head just right, they whip back and forth across my face.
Sun has gone down. Cool air. Moist and clean and full of bits of green and growth. Smells like forest. Sounds like wind and airy, floating voices that seem to come from the dark itself.
We are taking the long way. The head of a sleeping sister bobs on each shoulder. The baby draped across me. The baby who is always hot. The baby who sweats. Little face plastered to my chest, blond curls blown back and forth to bumps in the road. One more asleep behind me.
I can lay hands on each of your limp, trusting selves.
Heart full. Mind wanders.
I had the strongest sense today that my heart was in the Hands of Someone Whose Hands Heal. The Sense spoke in the words that poured from her as I pointed out my broken bits. In my mind’s eye, I could see her drawing herself up straight, looking right into my eyes, smelling like home, soft hands almost more familiar than my own, with that look that is clarity, and breathing directly into my center:
“There you are.
Look away if you want, but between the light and the shadow, you exist.
When you forget, I will remind you.
You exist, and even when I disappear from this crust, I will see you.
I can see you.
You glow, and you are not lost.”
Seams give out somewhere not visible on the surface. Sewing it up is truly an endless task, and the needle pricks are sometimes more than I can stand, and sometimes I have to pause, to rest, to remember why I’m sewing and not just tossing the dress of a life I’m living OUT.
It feels worn out.
I took a misstep. This wasn’t what I was making when I started, not the way the pattern was supposed to work.
May be time to throw it in the rag bag.
Must have been if that seam blew…
So I stop. I put it down. I stretch, I lay flat, wiggle fingers and toes.
If all else fails,
The ground, with no help from me whatsoever, will hold me up.
Also call for help.
She can hear you over the noise.
She can always hear you.
Will always want to know your favorite color and what you learned in class today.
Will always laugh loudly at your jokes that are only funny when you’re telling them to her.
Will always read the words once you’ve lined them up again.
Also Life is, among other things, a gift.