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Friday, June 13, 2008

Water

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“The heart is, in fact, the only organ in the body that cannot protect itself.”
Donna Eden, Energy Medicine


i. dream

She was at the ocean, specifically the Atlantic, which was funny to her since she had never been to the Atlantic. She was walking off a cliff that overlooked waves inhaling and exhaling onto the sand. She was smiling, reading a newspaper as she began to walk off the cliff. She was falling but smiling. Doves caught her, and she woke up.
—————-
Caroline pulled the magnetic notepad from the fridge and sat down at the table to write a list of things to buy at the grocery store.

green apples
granola
t.p.
Windex
milk
banana chips
salsa

She didn’t plan on taking the list into the store with her. Nor did she really care for salsa. She just liked writing down what seemed to be most presently logical, very aware that she would later ignore her logic and would buy whatever seemed fit once she got to the store.
Grocery stores intrigued Caroline, especially the fruit aisle. There was no real guarantee that someone else hadn’t picked up the same apple she was reaching for, inspecting it for bruises and indents before she was there. In this sense, the process was both intimate and unsanitary to her. When she brought this fascination up to a friend, he cocked his head to the side and said, “Well that’s why you wash your fruit before you eat it.” She sighed.
There were, however, certain people with whom she could share her fascination with. In fact there was Rebecca, who Caroline couldn’t imagine not sharing this interest in apples with. Rebecca might giggle at Caroline, but she would at the very least think that Caroline’s fascination with the process at the grocery store was interesting, and because of that, the moment would be appreciated, perhaps holy. Which is to suggest that when Caroline was around Rebecca or just thinking about her, there was a certain sanctity that they both seemed to feel. It didn’t matter if they were talking about God or the tags scratching them on their shirts or shopping for apples; everything mattered, everything was sacred.

ii. dry

It is hot. Caroline is wearing blue Softee shorts and is knocking her knees together. She notices that her thighs stick together, and she wonders when that happened. Her lap ripples each time she makes her legs collide.
She’s on a bench with her father. Her mother and brother have gone to the gift shop to buy water bottles. They are waiting for their pink Jeep to arrive and drive them through the mountain with tourists who can’t understand the beauty around them. Sitting on the bench with her father and with nothing to say makes her annoyed because he keeps bouncing his right leg up and down. She can’t remember him ever just sitting still. Her mother returns with the bottles of Arrowhead water and hands one to her husband and one to Caroline. “Caleb, come on, save some!” she whines to her son as he gulps his own water down. Caroline takes a hearty swallow of hers and watches her father switch legs, now bouncing his left leg up and down.
The ground is dusty and she watches the long clouds spread themselves sparsely in the sky. It looks like they are touching the mountain ahead of her. She hates that Sedona attracts tourists, and doesn’t understand why after living in Arizona for twelve years, her family is just now deciding to go on a Jeep tour. On the two and a half hour drive from Prescott through the curving mountain to get there, Caroline had a feeling that it would be the family’s last trip together, although no words were said to support this feeling. Maybe the words didn’t exist. “I need another water,” Caroline tells her mother, but their Jeep arrives and they climb in. They listen as their tour guide introduces himself as Jeff, and welcomes them to the Scenic Route tour.
They begin driving, barreling through the mountain and occasionally passing other pink Jeeps along the way. Caroline sits squished between her mother and her father. She tries to squirm into her own space because the feel of their bodies makes her skin damp, and she is already sweating. If there weren’t a crowd of other people smiling dumbly in the Jeep, she would have asked them why they aren’t sitting next to each other. She can’t tell if her dad’s legs are voluntarily bouncing or if it is from the way the tour guide pounds through the mountain, which makes Caroline hold on tightly to the grip above her head.
Jeff stops the Jeep to let people take a walk around, “But be careful of the prickly pear cacti!” he warns humorously, and a few baffled tourists gasp and shield their eyes from the sun. They didn’t realize how important sunglasses would be until they arrived.
Jeff talks about Ponderosa pines, “possibly the most widespread pine in Western North America.” Caroline wonders what it would feel like to be that tall, to be that much closer to the sun. Her mother taps her arm with her still half-full water bottle, her eyebrows furrowed. Caroline wonders if her mother is curious as to why she is looking up at the sky, but instead of asking, her mother says, “I can’t wait to get into a car with some air conditioning. Here, have some water.” Caroline doesn’t share her thoughts on Ponderosa pines, but takes a strong gulp from her mother’s water bottle. She spills some on her shirt, but knows that the air will dry it before she can remember spilling it. Caroline knows the feeling of Arizona air sweeping through her skin as well as her own mother, who is rolling her eyes at the man she married. He has wandered from the group, inspecting a prickly pear cactus up close. Caleb is sneaking behind him, wondering if he can scare his dad. He does; his father jumps and nearly loses his balance, but no one notices because Jeff is motioning everyone back in the Jeep. Caroline’s mother sighs and heaves herself onto the Jeep, and once again Caroline is shoved between her parents, digging half moons into one palm and holding the bar above her for balance with her free hand.

iii. breath

“Hey, you doin’ okay? Want me to slow down?” Rebecca called to Caroline, a few feet ahead of her.
“No, I’m fine,” Caroline replied, winded. “Just keep going.”
“You should drink some water!” Rebecca suggested.
“I will when we stop next.” Caroline wished she didn’t forget to bring her own water.
They had been hiking for an hour, but time at this point seemed irrelevant, especially to Caroline who had not been hiking in months. Her legs pushed themselves up Thumb Butte, aching but alive. Her body was fine but her heart beat fast in her chest. She had to count her inhales and exhales just to keep steady. She started counting to four but always ended up at two.
Rebecca stopped ahead and Caroline was grateful; the moments they stopped were blessed. They didn’t speak so much as breathed to each other and sipped out of Rebecca’s water bottle. Finally, Rebecca said, “Now would be a good time to breathe in the colors.” Caroline was baffled at first at the idea of having to concentrate on anything but her heart beating in her chest, but she looked out instead of down, grounding herself by placing her foot in the crook of a rock. Rebecca picked up a small red rock from the ground and held it between her palms, and Caroline wondered what she was feeling. Caroline breathed in the green, the trees, mountains, rocks, and the sky, letting the energy from all of them fill up in her body. It was like a great ocean holding her, and she recalled the only dream she could remember since she was twelve. This was not a dream. She closed her eyes and trusted that the mountains were hugging her, not even scraping the skin. The air crept along her body in brief breaths and made slight waves in her clothes, something she could not have noticed while walking.
After a while, Rebecca and Caroline resumed the hike, and Caroline kept the colors close to her because they reminded her to exhale after inhaling. There were no words for these colors; they just existed and pulsed, making spaces between her atoms to grow and expand. Now the girls walked side by side. They kept hitting hands. Inhale, one two three four; exhale, one two three four.

iv. closer

I wondered what it would be like to see you, to really see you. Not just your earth-eyes or the lines in your palms or the curve of your legs when sitting, but inside of you. I wanted to see the blood swim through your veins like fish, and your cells colliding into each other like buoys floating in open water. I wanted to sit behind your ribs, holding onto the bones like the bars of a jail cell. I wanted to be trapped as close as I could to your heart.
I wanted to see your secrets. I wanted to hear the things you weren’t saying, and I wanted to see the feelings you had drawn for yourself. I wanted the silence. I wanted it loud and real and I wanted it to break through your skin and pierce through my own. If we could both just be with our own silences, words would be what they are: a collection of letters, piled like dirty laundry on top of our hearts. If we could just be with our silences, mine with yours and yours with mine, they would water each other and help to grow the other. We could keep each other growing.

v. strings

To be nineteen is tricky; mostly because it isn’t tricky at all. Mostly, it’s just anticlimactic. It is in the space between two heightened ages, just sitting there, hopeful and stagnant. For Caroline, to be nineteen means living with her mother and stepfather. It means watching them cook breakfast together and to have the newspaper folded at the breakfast table. It means thinking about her father who lives in an apartment a few towns over, and wondering if he is cooking breakfast, too. But he would have no one to leave the newspaper out for, and that was fine with him. And it means enduring this alone, because Caleb is old now and hasn’t lived at home since he was sixteen. He grew tired of the quiet spaces their father had left in the house upon his departure.
Caroline makes a list of what she thinks about when she thinks of her father. In her head, she writes:

messy
attention
messy attention
Dark Noir cologne
tired
travel

She is unsure why “travel” comes to mind. As far as she knows, her father has never shown interest in being anywhere but where he was. He doesn’t like too much change.
When Caroline thinks of being nineteen, however, she thinks of much more than her small father-list. She thinks of the trees in New England. They are not Ponderosa pines, nor are they nearly as tall. She thinks of winter and how sad it is, how close people in the East hold themselves when cold. She smells firewood, which is something that fills her, like the colors when hiking with Rebecca. Rebecca. No matter where her thoughts go, they seem to draw a string to Rebecca, and Caroline remembers thin fingers tracing the triangle of freckles on her cheek. She remembers eyes that looked like Earth, and a laugh that she would hold in her hands if she could. She remembers.

vi. throat

Her heart was unable to look at itself. It was like she was waiting in her own atrium, pacing the corridors like an expectant father waiting for his new son or daughter to emerge from his wife’s body. She covered her throat with her hand, telling her body not to speak. Her words were dry like the desert; they needed water to grow like the space a flower leaves after it has been pulled out of the ground.
She wanted to be a plant or a blade of grass or even a tile on the floor. She wanted to crawl so deeply underneath her covers and sheets that eventually she would become the bed. She would disappear; people would sleep in her and she wouldn’t be uncomfortable. She wouldn’t say a word.  She wouldn’t think about the states between the West coast and the East coast. She wouldn’t grab onto the sheets when crying just to have something to hold onto, and she wouldn’t keep crying when she came up empty-handed because the sheets were not Rebecca. Then Caroline realized that those were all excuses for not feeling the texture of separation. She realized she was leaning into longing, when really she wanted to be leaning into love. All of those objects were things that could allow people to step on her. They were voiceless things.
She thought about what it would be like to not have a voice. It would assure that she wouldn’t have to decide between speaking and not speaking. No matter what, it would just be the way that it was. “Paper or plastic?” the grocery store bagger would ask, and she would just feel the familiar apologetic face forming through slightly furrowed eyebrows and a small frowning mouth, holding up her hands as if to say, “I can’t. You pick.”
Caroline had questions. She wanted to ask Rebecca what it felt like to wake up in the morning and see Granite Mountain, and was it strange, now, to only prepare breakfast for herself instead of the both of them? Caroline thought of her father. She had questions for him, too. Do you eat breakfast? Do you miss Mom? Have you stopped bouncing your legs up and down?
Caroline swallowed hard, and then she lifted her hand from her throat.

vii. words

They hadn’t talked in two weeks. Since Caroline moved to New England, she and Rebecca hadn’t gone at least every few days without communicating in some way. Now that they had come together again, Caroline wished there wasn’t a phone between them.
“I don’t feel you from where I am anymore. It’s strange.” Rebecca still sounded curious, even when her honesty bit Caroline like a bee sting.
“What do you mean?” asked Caroline. Her voice was raw and you wouldn’t have been able to hear it, but she felt her body weakening.
“Well, I mean, I used to just close my eyes and see yours and it was like this brown-to-brown … entity, and now when I sleep or blink or whatever, they’re just, not there.”
Caroline carried her own honesty in her throat when she said, “Well that’s seeing, not feeling.”
“Yeah but somewhere in the middle seeing and feeling became the same to me.”

Caroline thought about this, but not for too long.  “Well, we’re going to have to figure out where that unidentifiable middle began.”
“Yeah, I guess we are.”
Silence sounded like a sigh between them.
“How do we do that?” asked Caroline.
“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Rebecca as though Caroline had just asked her what she wanted for dinner tonight.
“Yeah. Well. Maybe we already are.”
Rebecca could feel Caroline’s shrug even thousands of miles away, and because of that, she only replied with, “Maybe.”
After they hung up, Caroline walked into the kitchen. She pulled the magnetic notepad from the fridge and sat down to write a list of Rebecca.

dreaming (I’ve dreamed of you)
hydration
heart-hurricane
speaking softly
raw
close
far


Caroline grabbed her water bottle from the kitchen table. When Caroline drank water, she thought of the mountains.

 

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