I made a nest of her hair beneath the couch, circled soft gray strands into a bed Wove black threads and sock pills, sea green that smell of aloe into the place I lay my head. Because she is naughty there are bread crumbs and cheese crumbs on the floor beside my bed, what she brushes off becomes a feast. It is never too warm or too cold beneath the couch, though sometimes I fear she might squish me when she sits but she stays on that end and I on this, and we watch The Sopranos again.
One night late, before she wakes at three for a swig of cold milk from the fridge to stave off the pain I crept into her bedroom and a sneeze came upon me unannounced, incidentally, nowhere to hide. She sat up wide awake and said, “Hello?” I froze, astonished she could hear, annoyed I let myself be known. She said again “Hello?” asking of the dark and I think she wanted someone to be there.
Weather comes for us east and west this time of year. I watch it unfold, prepare best I can Mostly I just watch millibars and strings and eyewalls that have not evolved or think they wanna be but never quite get there coming to our shores as a tropical storm, no harm intended but beware, she’s water she’s nature, she cares nothing about you and half the time I believe she wants to do us in, and then this, an orange dusky rainbow in the backyard proof we were passed over, patting ourselves on the backs with that great camera phone pic that got twelve-hundred likes on Twitter But only three of us watched the whole thing unfold naked, no umbrellas, daring, me concerned but not flat-out afeard, standing barefoot in lukewarm puddles in the dips of the decking how lucky we are to be wet mongrels in the world of this day.
A supposed tropical storm came around this way and it was more like a car wash, normal for this spit of land, maybe a little more wind and less rain and a weak bough broke in the backyard. You know, the backyard where the lady built a wall to keep the world out with clotheslines and moldy towels, a half-assed wall of trellis covered in black cloth. We had a bit of wind and water, not much else to speak of and there he is in my window frame, my personal dragonfly doing a handstand on a twig, butt pointing to the sky because a bough broke during the night. I named him George, George of the handstand, George of the pommel horse letting his wings dry in the dawning hot sun day Then he’s gone for days, my personal dragonfly Eaten or bored But here he is again, a biplane resting before takeoff for who knows where His big, big brothers fly west, and I notice there are fewer of them this year Where are the westerly-flying dragonflies who get a little lost in this surfrider canyon of yellow walls and sea-foam green doors? George returns to the twig that looks like a slingshot, gossamer spiderweb line, one line, awaits but he’s too clever for that as they are still or pushed violently in the breeze.
George is elsewhere this morning and I have no hope this way or other to see him again, but I will never forget his biplane glassine wings, his showoffy handstands, amazement he returns to that same slingshot-shaped set of branches that came because a wind broke a branch and nobody but me gets to see you.
I enter her comfy, cozy office, sink into the comfy, cozy couch and we get all the small talk out of the way. She knows I don’t want to talk about anything, I’d much rather babble on about current events or the weather, so she tries to get me to relax so I can share how I’m really feeling so I can feel better. She asked me to close my eyes. Yeah right, that only took five minutes for me to stay in, and then she asked me to imagine
…..sitting in the deep woods, woods filled with pine trees the breath of the breeze filling the boughs that made them sway, the scent of pine taking me away… I opened my eyes and said, “Yeahno. Nope. There’s bears. There’s bears and there’s yellowjack nests in the bottom of that tree. You know I have spheksophobia, I can’t go there, no bears, no hornets, no.”
I’m stiff on the couch again and she asks me to imagine the green hillside where Julie Andrews sings “The Hills Are Alive” amidst mountains and a beautiful blue sky, a scene she knows I love and helps me get to sleep. She asks me to sit down on a blanket and watch the moment. But the hills are alive with flowers and things that want flowers like bugs and bees and oh my god it’s all covered in bees and Nope. No. No thank you. I’m stiff again on her couch really wanting to talk about the ballots being audited in Arizona by Cyber Ninjas. She slowly brings me back to where I can see my sneakers on the Berber carpet, and I want an iced coffee in the worst way.
My therapist takes a sip from her coffee mug and returns it silently to the coaster on the side table. She says, “I want you to close your eyes again,” which takes another five minutes and she says “Imagine yourself floating. You are floating in the jade green waters of the Chesapeake, the place you love. The sun is warm but not too warm, the breeze is present but not assailing, you are floating, floating free and safe…” And I cut her off. “Nope. No. There’s jellyfish. Jellyfish. They’re all over. And things that touch my calf and and I don’t know what the hell that is because I can’t see it. I mean, if I can’t see it, then what is even the point of being here? No thanks.”
My therapist sighs and smiles, adjusting tactics and says, “Well ok, that’s fine. Close your eyes again please. And now you’re floating in your bathtub at home. Your apartment where the only sound is the air conditioner. Day in and day out, the world is quiet, as you like it, your most sacred safe place. You are floating in your bathtub, relaxed, thinking about the day, and …” I interrupt her. “Nope. No. I just washed the tub. I mean, I think I got all the cleaner out, but I’m not sure. I rinsed the tub out really good, I probably used more water than I should have, I mean, I really try to conserve water, but I’m not sure all the cleaner is out, so if I try to soak in the tub with that stuff still in there my labia might swell up and my vagina will follow suit and my uterus will *eject* because who the hell knows what’s really in those chemicals, so how about if I try again tomorrow after I rinse the tub out with scalding hot water for like 24 hours, it should be okay then, right? …. Right?
There’s bears in them woods and jellyfish in that water and it’s okay. My friend wrote about her time away and my current being had hackles up, red flags, fear which I throttled back slowly as I imagined myself there faced with a bear in the ferns, or maybe it was a deer, or nothing at all. After putting out my fear fires I felt amused because I can be a dork who can look at my real inside self and hear, “Well there you go. You got some shit to work on.” So thanks, Elisa for your allowing me to live vicariously through ya, and there was probably no bears. I doubt I will ever get over the yellowjack thing, but I’ll hit the water and the woods with you anytime.
It was the No-Go stairway. Never, ever, go up those stairs, the last, highest stairs in our building. You better believe me and my brother did Go when we could get away with it, but we had to be lightning fast and super quiet in those echoey halls to get up and down before anyone caught us. Sometimes we sat on those stairs while waiting for Mom to come out of the apartment so we could go food shopping or maybe the library. Sitting was legal, anyway.
But one night Dad took us up those stairs, those No-Go stairs, and it was amazing to get to the top and go through that dark door that took us onto the ROOF! CAN YOU IMAGINE how emerging onto a roof at night, all secret-like, felt to this fairly sheltered kid? It was scary and rule-breaking and scary and cool and scary. The dark gravel crunched beneath my sneakered feet. It was warm but cool. The wall was too short to lean over so we had to stay away from it (scary) but we had a 360-degree view of the fireworks taking place around Flushing on Fourth of July. The blossoms weren’t too near and the crackling, booming was a bit far away, but I will never, ever forget the night we did a bit of rule breaking and had some (rare) excitement with Dad on the day we commemorate our own rule breaking that paved the way to Independence.