Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Own Private Hurricane


I’m looting my neighbor’s garden. Looting light, I would call it. Everyone has been evacuated and I’m one of the few remaining at the Jersey shore during Hurricane Irene. I grab a few ripe tomatoes, a batch of heady oregano. It’s all going to drown tomorrow anyway.

God, it’s so quiet and peopleless here! I’m reminded of my childhood on this island when time seemed slow and sleepy, like it does now. You could actually feel the place, the pulse, you know?

The tourists and most of the locals have left. Their hectic, greedy energy is no longer bouncing all over the joint, smacking me repeatedly in the face. Right now, all is still, all is mine. Tonight, when the storm hits, it will be another animal, no doubt. But for the present, I can think for once in a long time. Maybe I'm looting some much needed peace of mind.

After my garden thefts, I come home and sing really loudly in my room. This is nothing unusual: I sing any old time. But often I suppress my voice just a little when singing in this house, in this neighborhood. I know neighbors can hear me, or the people I live with. Today, truly alone, I set my voice free, like a dog unleashed on a sunny beach.

Walk around naked for a bit. That’s a given. Nudity is good and right. I don’t know what else to say other than that. Oh, and I found good porn today – not the crappy stuff that kind of turns you on but part of you is like “Yeah, right. You’re horrible actors” but you make do anyway. For my particular fantasy mindset, this porn fit just so.

My people, all the people, they keep contacting me and offering up their homes. Frustrated, I relay to them that I have lots of places to go thank you, but possibly not a place to return to. That's my concern.

Yet some friends have such earnest tones to their voice, it almost brings me to tears: a young surfer dude whom I didn't expect to be so worried. Or an old friend who keeps calling, even though we haven’t spoke in over a year. Strange, that they care so much. And don’t say, “Well, of course they do!” Because it’s not that simple. People care sometimes, and sometimes they don't.

Like this guy on the mainland that I've been seeing on and off, whom I didn’t hear from at all today. He checked in yesterday, via text, and asked me to keep him posted. An old, tired voice played in my head: “If you really cared, you'd call.” Like, fuck – if you don’t worry about me during a natural disaster, when would you, dumb loser face.

And enough with the texts already. Like when I'm being swept off to sea, I'll miraculously manage to shoot off the last text of my life:

Hey. I'm drowning. Need help asap. Phone not waterproof. : (

But yeah, whatever, fuck it. The perk of a natural disaster is that relationship minutia doesn’t have as much holding power. Something more primal is trumping it. And you're quietly grateful because that old bullshit teenager-level worry has been wasted too much space in your brain anyway.

Now I’m blaring some Led Zeppelin in my room. I ate a nice, fatty meal. I’m ready for disaster. Fattened up, rocked out, drunk and ready. (No, I’m not drinking that much wine and I resent your implications. I’m drinking just enough wine. Hurricane level wine.)

Hey, wait. Don't go. Yesterday, I pulled the veggies from my little garden so they wouldn’t go to waste. One small pepper plant had struggled all summer to stay alive. Teeny, meek little thing - the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of pepper plants. I thought she was a goner last month but somehow she managed to spruce up and eek out one small hot red pepper. I tried to pluck it but she wouldn’t let me; she wasn’t ready and I didn't want to hurt her. 

Today, I plucked her puny pepper anyway. Ah, so sad. Man, like this summer wasn’t hard enough on her: she barely lives and finally manages to produce this little runt of a vegetable and now she’s going to drown. Poor, poor fucking hot pepper plant.

Can you hear it? The wind is shaking my walls. It’s about 40 mph and soon will be 70 mph. I hope the glass in the windows doesn’t break. Because that will be scary. Because then the weather comes in and you can’t hide from it. It’s at your feet, in your face, bitches.

Wait, before you go...wanna hear a scary story? About an hour ago when the wind started kicking up, I ran around the living room, pulling furniture away from the window. Out of the blue (or the black), the doorbell starts ringing. And ringing. I direly hoped some brave soul was stopping by.

I ran to the door and peeked out; there was no one there. The bell kept ringing. The wind was blowing so hard, it rang the damn doorbell. How perfectly spooky, like the hurricane was paying me a visit, all proper like, but with a definite sense of urgency.

It’s going to be a long night. One of many long nights in this woman’s life. Peppers are spicy and glass is sharp. Looting is wrong, unless you’re in the mood and the pickings are easy. People show up, people let down. Tailormade porn and wine can be fun when you’re all alone. And sometimes storms literally come knocking on your door. That’s what I’m saying.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Stillness to this Place

This town is so empty. Even the breeze feels empty. A dead, lukewarm breeze.

Walking down the bleak, sun bleached streets, I wonder if there’s any life here at all. A few people peek through windows, then quickly draw their curtains.

Why did I come here? Because I had to, I remind myself. This place might ring hollow right now, but eventually I’ll fit in.

The town I left held very little opportunity for me. My husband was a cold man, barely there. I could punch a hole through him. He resented me when I hugged him...can you imagine that? But desperate for closeness, I couldn’t help but try.

My friends seemed store-bought. They kept me company, nodded when I spoke, but never really heard me. Whenever I would get upset or angry, their faces would instantly become flat and emotionless, as if I pulled a plug out of their backs. They could only handle me in neutral.

My home was a house with things in it - that's all. There was a cheap little hanging in the kitchen that read “Home” and for years, I fantasized about smashing it into bits. The day I left, I pulverized it, then walked out, never to return.

When I first arrived here, I knew I’d have to pay a price for leaving the way I did. I didn’t go outside much, just slept. Or something like sleep. Now I feel awake again. Yes, this new place feels foreign, but soon it will be filled with love and community. It has to be.

I arrive at a small corner store and slip inside. It looks as if it came right out of the 50’s, dusty, filled with sunlight. An old bespeckled man stands behind the counter, wearing a faint smile and an weathered flannel shirt. He seems wary of me, like the others.

“How can I help you?”

“I just moved here. I guess I’ll need some supplies.”

“You don’t need anything right now. Just go home. Relax.”

“May I look around anyway?”

“Sure, sure,” he says, though I can tell he’d rather me leave.

The cans in this store have no labels. Neither do the boxes. There are burlap bags lining the perimeter of the store but I can’t tell what’s in them. It’s as if the store is posing to be a store. Like a movie set.

As I leave, the bell on the door jingles. The sound rings down the empty street and develops a strange life of its own, bouncing off the treetops, reaching toward the clouds. It’s an enchanting, hypnotic sound that reminds me I’ve done the right thing. Because magic only happens when you've done the right thing.

When I enter my house, I'm reminded of its utter emptiness. There is no bristling husband, no cardboard friends, no meaningless decor. Just fresh, new emptiness. It overwhelms me.

What am I supposed to do next? If I’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to go back now. No, this is right. I’d rather have nothing than what I had before. Empty is better than emptiness. No one is better than loneliness. Lack of appetite is better than constant craving.

I sit in the middle of the living room, on an old wooden floor, bathed in sunlight. I try to cry but no tears come. It’s as if my emotions have dried up. I’m empty now too. And it feels good.

The sunlight on me becomes warmer and, just like that bell at the corner store, comes to life. It begins playing with me. When I smile, it grows and swirls and encircles me. Suddenly I feel less alone here. I may never fill this place with furniture. The sunlight might be enough.

Suddenly, I hear an old piano begin to play. It’s coming from my empty kitchen. The light lifts me up a foot above the ground and carries me down the long, dark hallway. I begin to laugh from the glory of it all. My laughter becomes little stars falling from my mouth. I can’t believe what I’m seeing! I try to catch them but they slip through my hands and spill across the floor.

As I land in the kitchen, I spot an unplugged radio playing the piano music. Perhaps my home is haunted…good! Ghosts will watch over me when I sleep, if I sleep. They’ll fly up and down the staircase and play in the yard. They’ll greet me at the door when I come home. We will speak a secret language that only ghosts know.

The radio plays louder and the music begins to touch me, like a man I've known forever. I sway back and forth, imagining my dance partner, full of grace, full of love. He’ll come to me eventually, I’m sure. After I’m forgiven. For what I did.

When I decided to buy the gun, I felt focused for the first time in a long while. My existence had become weighted by crippling indecision and for once, I felt confident, strong. For months, I trained at a gun range, without anyone knowing. With every shot fired out of its shiny silver barrel, I felt a surge of power enter my body. My aim was sharp. My mission, clear.

My gun was my ticket to freedom and there was no reason to grieve and every reason to celebrate. When I walked into the woods behind our house my final morning, I felt like an explorer in the wild, an astronaut on a mission. Not a woman killing herself. My note simply read, “I'm ready to move on.”

Yes, my new house is empty. And they haven’t welcomed me yet. But they have to accept me eventually. And then I’ll be home. Because magic only happens when you’re home.