I dreamt of a wall of blue-green ocean,
and after plunging deeply into the cool depths,
I rode the billows and swells under a summer sky,
buoyed and carried along
with the fish and the creamy froth.
I dreamt of climbing the steep path
among the rocks of a mountainside,
high above the tree line,
where my lungs burned and legs trembled
as I moved towards the monastery
with its silence and shadowed snow,
sanctuary from the clawing wind.
I dreamt of the clothes of a slave,
and a heart broken and emptied,
and long after nightfall when all others slept,
climbed on the back of the animal
and sat, holding the tangled mane in my fists;
then, feeling the heat of the horse's flanks
moving with his breath,
I remembered at last who I was.
A novel by Sand Pilarski
For endless time, I had felt completely forsaken by God, unwanted by God, God had died and left me nothing in His will, God had moved and left no forwarding address, God took the rest of the kids and went to another neighborhood to play rather than have me on His team. In the months after Adam left town and finally filed the papers for the divorce, I kept going to church and Communion, mostly out of habit, and would just sit there, not really hearing any of the prayers or sermons, not singing the hymns. I left Mass early every Sunday, because even though I was going to a different parish, I didn't want to run the risk of meeting anyone I knew even remotely, or meeting anyone new who would find out that my husband had left me. Left me! "Are you married? Do you have children?" Are there two any more heartless questions to ask a woman?
"Oh, well, I was once, but he trashed me because I was neither young enough nor pretty enough nor kinky enough for him, one of those things, I'm sure."
"No, my husband simply refused to have children because he didn't want to be a father, too many other important things to be doing, like drinking and screwing around. Did you say that you wanted me to join the Altar Guild?"
Nope, leave me alone, I'm still bleeding bitterness from the ears and the nose, can't you see, because I never really believed he'd finally file papers and end it. Although he'd left nearly two years before, I still saw him around town, and he was always polite, and he didn't always remember to keep the appropriate six feet between us, and sometimes he would get that irresistible wistful look on his face, and he would always, always, look into my eyes like he couldn't get enough of me. That was all that I could see, and all that I would ever seem to remember. Surely he would come to realize that a chance meeting (if they were ever chance at all) every now and then was not what he really wanted. He would call and there would be his even, mellow voice asking me for a date, and when he would come to pick me up, we would hesitate at the door, he'd reach for my hand, and we would wrap up in each other, leave the idea of a date behind, and lock the door and the date outside while we whispered through the dark house to the bedroom, and make love as though desire was the air we breathed into each other's mouths, filling the world and erasing all the longing from my heart.
It just never happened that way, and I ultimately had to come to terms with the fact that it never would. You'd think that at that point that I'd have started to recover and get on with my life, but admitting that we were through didn't make for any recovery aspects that I knew of. I called his phone number just to hear his voice on the answering machine three times a day until the service was disconnected. I drove past his former apartment when I would go to the supermarket, still looking desperately to see his white Silverado in his parking space, even after its spot was taken by an old, rusted Buick. My heart would leap into my throat if the phone rang at seven thirty at night, the time he used to say was his favorite time for calling someone he loved.
After he moved, I never heard his voice again, never saw him again, never knew any thing about him again until we met with our lawyers to conclude the divorce settlement. He was polite as he always was in public or when working, and although he wanted his half of the sale of the house, he wasn't interested in making me move right away or taking the furniture, aside from the leather couch and his entertainment system and CD's, which he had already taken for his apartment, anyway. "Take your time, I want to be as fair as I can to you," he said, looking at the folders on the table. "I know that this divorce is my idea and I want to make it as easy on you as possible, because you are a wonderful, loving person and deserve only the best."
This was a good thing for him to say, because I was then so outraged and astonished that I couldn't even cry. The papers were signed, and everyone shook hands, including Adam and me, and I didn't cling to his hand, or kick him in the balls, probably because I couldn't decide which I wanted to do more. His hand was dry, and the handshake felt like the kind you get from a fourth grader who thinks you have cooties. And he still kept his eyes away from mine. Maybe because he knew in his heart, that if he looked me in the eyes, I would gaze directly back into his, and most satisfactorily kick him so hard he'd be picking his nuts out of his nose.
I took my nephew Owen fishing with me, but as the once-again four years old Owen stood beside me in his blue denim overalls and white t-shirt, trying to reel in, we found that the line on his fishing pole was snarled in a huge mass. I took the rod from him and pulled out my pocketknife and showed him how to carefully cut off the tangled line and start again with what was wound in order on the reel.
Awakening in my pillow- and dog-strewn bed, the images and sensations of the dream washed and receded like waves in my mind. Summer sun simmering above the tall trees that lined the slow-moving river. Green like early July, studded with sparks of the sun's reflected golden-white. The ribbly touch on my feet of the weathered, worn boards of the dock we stood on. Drifting in the dream's warmth, I listened for the ribbon of understanding that might whisper to me.
Cut the line, cut the loss; this is how we start again. We know how to start over again.
Owen, at four, still small enough to pick up and dance with, smart enough to joke with, and a heart so trusting that he often appears in my dreams as that age.
Letting the dream's colors flow through me, I thought about Owen as the sweet child he was, and the gracious young fellow he was turning into, and pondered the odd turns of relationships of our family. In the dim light from the beginning dawn, with the sky just hinting at greenish in the east and richest deep indigo higher up, I found it hard to believe that my sister had just more or less ignored her children for so long when I wished so much that they were -- well, some of them -- mine. I liked Michel, and his twin Kelsa was a good kid. Owen, the singleton, was definitely my favorite (even though of course one isn't supposed to have special favorites amongst children). Oesha was a biddable little lump, the only possible person who could have stood being the twin of Marca, the eldest by about 45 minutes. I found Marca irritating as a child, feared how her selfishness and cruelty would escalate as an adolescent, and had every intention of avoiding her when she became a sarcastic and snobbish adult. She was a bratty child, and I suppose that initially I blamed that on her doting father and paternal grandparents, and on her rarely present mother. But Oesha her twin wasn't bratty. She was quiet, content with whatever she was given, unconcerned when Marca destroyed or stole her toys, willing to take the blame when Marca lied about who did what when they weren't supposed to. Both were dark-haired like their mother (I never knew their father Charles to have any hair to speak of, and the black and white pictures of him when he had hair don't give much of a clue. At the very least, his long-lost hair could be said NOT to be very blonde or NOT to be very black). Oesha was pale and dark-eyed, while Marca had a darker complexion, almost olive, I would say, and flashing grey-green eyes as cruel as any executioner. No, you can tell, I really didn't like her at all, and on my visits, the greatest effort was to not show my dislike too much. I resented that her coloring was so much like Jesse's, and like Dad's; of all the children why should such a repellent little snot like that get to be the one to be our father's namesake, the one who had my sister's rich complexion and dazzling eyes? Marca was like a twisted caricature of her mother to me. Maybe it's no wonder Jesse didn't stay home to be Mama.
Owen had dark eyes like Oesha, but hair so fair it was just about white. He was curious, and funny, even as a toddler, good natured and quick to stop crying. When he precociously discovered a sense of humor, he would make me roar with laughter at his childish drawling voice and exaggerated facial expressions. I loved taking him with me on my jaunts around Port Laughton, whether for the excellent shopping or just ambling around the campuses; unlike Marca, who whined and pouted and shouted and wanted everything that she saw, or Oesha, who hardly even looked around, Owen was very observant of the people he saw and constantly speculated on what they were doing or why they were dressed that way. The older he grew, the more he played to my always appreciative role as audience. He never has asked for anything in return other than a willing ear for his adolescent attempts at writing and poetry and his budding opinions and my frank responses to his queries. Since I was his only aunt, I suppose I could say I was his favorite, too.
Madeleine and I were walking down Arch Street towards Schweyer Avenue in the town where I grew up. The streets were wet, and there was a residue of mud in some of the gutters from some sort of construction or road repair farther up the hill. The ancient Norway maples that lined the street were starting to turn yellow-green with the approaching cold weather. They were a constant in the life on that street: they would turn an even, calm lemon yellow in a few more weeks as the weather would turn colder, then for a few days they'd carpet the sidewalks with yellow flat layers, then crinkle and be raked up by the kids if there were kids at home, or by the old folks whose kids were grown and gone.
In winter the massive trees would stand grey and stark-looking, dripping rain icicles in the freezing mornings; sometimes a heavy snow would heap them with thick white topping like a rich dessert. Signaling an end to winter, broken twigs would drip sap in the early thaws, making naturally sweet popsicles when the temperature dropped again. Then watch! Buds appear in red clusters, and everyone knows that spring is really here. Next, a feathery green would burgeon into wide, five lobed leaves, thick and dark, shading the street through the summers, giving those people who lived their lives under them a break from the heat. They were as good as friends, as faithful to the seasons as the solidness of the ground. They were Truth.
That afternoon we were dressed in work-on-the-ranch clothes; jeans, work boots, light jackets. Madeleine's face was drawn and she was depressed, faced with the decision of whether or not to move back east to be with her brothers and sisters as well as whether or not to divorce her wayward husband, who was threatening to take her to the cleaners financially if she tried to move. We were walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk, and I walked sideways a few steps with my arms out to the sides in a 'here it is' gesture while I said to her, "When there's been a heavy downpour, you know that the wellington boots you wear aren't going to be high enough to wade through the muck in the barnyard. You know you'll be in too deep."
She didn't say anything, just shrugged and looked up from her study of her boots scraping along. Her hair was beginning to fade from the sunny gold of her youth, to a dull nondescript blonde-ish brown, and her cheekbones had blotches of reddish color rather than a bloom. Her eyes were still a clear blue, but they were wounded now, the eyes of a dog that has been hit by a car and doesn't understand why it can't get up and wag its tail anymore.
"Tell me that's never happened," I continued, "and you know you can't, because I know it has happened. The trick is to know when the muck is too deep and stay out of it." I looked away at the familiar street, licked my lips, took a deep breath and turned back to her, sagely, shoulders squared. "It's like that with other things, too."
I felt happy to have known the answer to her worries. Apparently this was profound enough to produce a 'resolution point,' and I woke up smiling and got up to write it down for myself. Madeleine would not likely be interested in any advice from someone's dreams, but I have learned to listen to those peculiar voices and stories that have given me so many extra experiences while I sleep.
Listen, mind you, not necessarily follow through on what I've heard. Can you hear your mother's echoes: "How many times do I have to tell you...?"