Friday, April 13, 2012

In There

I've been thinking about that time I broke my leg and Bubba carried me all the way from where the creek runs out behind my grandpa's land to where my dad was mowing the lawn. Been thinking about the way the look on pop's face went from why the hell is that boy carrying my daughter like they're going over the threshold to why's my baby crying? All the time Bubba was asking me was I alright, always saying right after that I was alright, that I was going to be alright. He said he'd broken his own leg the year before, and did I remember that? He was just fine, played football just fine now, and I'd be back on it and playing football in no time. I was crying, but I wasn't worried about anything, being carried like that made me feel weightless, worryless.

I've been quiet lately with all this thinking about Bubba and that Sunday afternoon. The doctors, the wheelchair with the metal prop for my leg. Needing to pee and not being able to move onto the toilet, holding it instead, the moan I let out when I finally peed hours later, a fresh cast on my leg signed only by Bubba's thick writing, "I'll kill the slippery rock that did this to you."

Danny doesn't ask me what I'm thinking when I'm quiet like this, and if he did I would make up something. Thinking about how the basil plant's dying, how good those tomatoes were your momma brought by yesterday, how I need to go to town and get some more shampoo this weekend. My thoughts are the one place Danny can't go, though I know he tries. He tries to get in there and make his handprint, but I won't let him. In there it's just me and Bubba and even though I got a broken leg in there, it's better than this black eye and this aching that's bigger than any bruise, like I forgot something, like I took a wrong turn but there's no one to ask for directions.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What do you know about me, anyway

Who are the people who really see me, I wonder? Those are the people I want to be with. Those are the people I want to spend my time loving. 

It's never easy being broken up with, Janie says. She adds more sugar to her cup of tea as she says this. I want to splash my hot cocoa in her face.

This is not me being a mental case, I say instead. I do not throw the hot liquid into her face, this face that purports to know everything about my heartache--heartache everywhere!--but I grip the handle as though I am seriously considering it. As though I am the type of person who would, who could.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Letting Go in Sips

I mourned that bottle of liquor you gave me. I remember you wrapped it in a fleece blanket. I consider it a victory that I don't remember the design on the blanket, though if you gave me a moment, I fear I could. I don't give myself those moments anymore. You said you had a gift for me, and there it was: all of the things you loved and something I loved in a pile on your bed. I was actually grateful you'd given me something I could keep for long after you were gone. I know now we should have drunk the entirety of those bottles in the months we had left, sucked them dry like our affair and sent the bottles in for recycling.

I was still angry, so I dumped that whole damn bottle in with the grapefruit juice knowing it would have upset you, the cruel fate of the rye whiskey, an innocent bystander. We poured it into a water bottle mixed with drugstore grapefruit juice--pinker and sweeter than God intended. We took sips in the dark of the theatre, our faces interpretive dances for the taste. That night, after the movie and the headache set in, I cried in the shape of a fetus thinking how you'd never seen that apartment, never would know my whiskey faux pas, never would discuss another book, another predictable movie ending with me over drinks and stolen leg pets. Months later I donated the dusty bottle of Benedictine to a friend, a mixologist who I still sometimes get the urge to introduce you to.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Journals of a Young Girl

We make films on the weekends. Clayton's grandpa has all kinds of cameras and film in his basement, and we root through them for the stuff that doesn't look moldy. We won't know if the film works until we've strung it up on one of the old Super-8s, but it isn't about the finished product. It won't be until we're older, longing to look back. Right now it's enough to be making movies without sound, trying to capture what the sun looks like against Clayton's cheek, one eye squeezed shut, the other trying hard to memorize in case the film is too old to do its job.

Who's that?

People always want to tell you who you look like. Someone famous, someone they know who you'll never know, someone who's been dead a long time, so long their photographs are all misplaced, tucked into old library books or storage units that'll be cleaned out by a stranger years from now. I used to wonder if I should be flattered when people told me I looked like a movie star, or their great Uncle Jasper on their mother's side, until I realized it wasn't about me. It never was. It was about some loose ends in their mind, some synapse refiring after so many latent years. I was a memory right in front of them, living and breathing and nodding as they said, You know who you remind me of? I'm old now, admittedly bitter, and it takes more of me each time to say only, Who's that? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A letter found after the raid

The food is fresh here, as is the air. There is a man in a tent, his name is Robert, and he makes shoes by hand. He gives them to everyone who needs them, which isn't many people during these warmer months when we all prefer to walk in bare feet. Robert has so many stories from his own Before, and he tells them, punctuated by the clang clang of his hammer. On my off days, I can often be found at the mouth of Robert's tent, listening and mesmerized.

Please do not be jealous. There is nothing romantic between Robert and I. My intent is not to send you these anecdotes that will make you itch with rage, but with gladness. I am finally happy. I have found a home, a peace that I could not locate out there. We are advised not to reach out to our Befores, as the human race is safest without the knowledge of time travel. What good is it to revisit? To potentially mar any more than what has already been done. But there is something I cannot shake, something - the only thing - that can distract me from Robert's stories or the quiet mornings alone in my tent, tracking the air's rise in temperature. The week before I left for good, you turned over in bed and said to me, "You are better than I ever could have expected." I could tell from the way you said it that you meant it as a compliment. You meant to say, "You are the best wife I could have ever hoped for," or "Thank you for all you do," or "You are an amazing woman." But as words are often the very obstacle to their own meaning, you did not. And I laid there, in our California King bed wondering if I was any better than I expected. If you were. If our children, our home, my job, our routine, our life was better than I ever could have expected. And it was the answer to those questions that led me here. I have found my home and, I hope, in my leaving, that you will, too. Thank you for stirring in me what had settled, for reminding me of what was down there, what had been, and what could be again.

Send the kids my love.

xo, Marla

Friday, September 9, 2011

Alice Here to Stay

Alice nibbles the edges of bread before abandoning them on the counter to become stale, shriveling inward and away from the atmosphere. She does not return the caps to things: toothpaste, milk, cologne, permanent markers. She is a motorboat of small scale destruction and I follow in her wake. When I am not sweeping, re-capping, or licking my finger to unsmudge surfaces, I am watching her, waiting for my next task.

It has not always been this way. I have not always been a hawk, Alice's messes have not always been my prey. When Eric died last month, I found myself living with new labels: Executor of Estate, Widow, Woman Who Cries on the Subway, Neighbor Who Cannot Afford Her Mortgage and Must Move. At first Alice offered to help me pack, help me move. She offered to buy pizza and beer for her husband and his bulky friends to get them to help as well. But then she showed up at my door, the For Sale sign in one hand, a kitschy quilted bag in the other.

"I don't mean to be insensitive," she said. "But I wish my husband were dead and not yours."

I moved aside to let her in, deciding whether or not to say aloud, "I wish that, too."