First We Are
How could there be no food in the house again who the hell ate it. She’s knows the time for dinner is fast approaching her watch tells her so. Her mind spins mulling over her options and trying to calculate if she’s had enough to eat already. She can’t frankly remember. She can’t tell if the house is empty or not. It’s quiet but-. With her eyes shut, concentrating, she runs through the cupboards and the freezer trying to figure out what constitutes a dinner. The light is waning and her breath is short. Suddenly her skin feels thick on her, butter creeping up her chest and blocking her cavities, the space where air gets in. She can’t think of where he might be her hand reaches as a claw toward her stomach her stomach feels gunked up she feels heavy. She feels thick. Like grease clotting her arteries like her lungs so weighted down she can’t heave air like rolls of fat are swallowing her throat. A dizziness sets in. A tiny body full of air lands on the floor. Again.
It is the effort of keeping up with incessant maintenance that sends her crumbling to the floor of the bathroom laying before mirrors in the shape of a comma, where she’s laying right now. Not to look up, she is never to look up. Or sometimes the floor of her kitchen, filthy with the scattered remains of uninterested cooking, whimsical almost, in the utter abandon. Bits of meals that teem over the countertop and onto the tile, clucking along the baseboards and edging deep into the pads of her feet, the tight skin of her kneeling knee. She could be praying. She isn’t praying. Crumbling like a leaf thats been rubbed between the fingers a few too many times, turns from summer to fall a bit too early, as things tend to happen a bit too early.
Her mind reels backward it is always reeling backward. She is caught, captivated in the maddening chaos of hours spent comforted, she is agitated, caught in a hollowing cry, mid-throat. She wants him there and yet-. She hates the comforts. She hates the softness of bodies, the warmth unsettles her. She’d rather be pressing her body into sharp angles, feeling the stinging pain of what her body can endure, for what it could not. Penalizing it for what it could not. Twisted in consternation, this is affliction turned vice. This is her fall to her own faults. She’s not so sure she can control any of it. (I’m sure now, that she can’t).
Water is breathed in. Great heaving gasps of the acidic water of anxiety. The girl breathes it in. Water-logged lungs. Something at the very least to start her heart up again. The shock of it. The scratch and burn of it. The cooling yearn of it. The toss and turn of it catches in her throat like where her lover is. Where she keeps him. He, the collection of stories that will eventually clap her ribcage and lift her into the next life. Her mouth opens and closes. Mimicking a tide, water churning up and over, full and thin, a mirror of her insanity, a loose expression of paranoia.
You see in this moment, she can’t get up. She really can’t pull her skin in just the right way to get off her side. Her hip is rubbing into the tile and finding a comfortable home and her stomach is no where near the curved outline it should be dropping toward the floor and she just can’t imagine. Her arm presses thin into the ceramic.That’s what it is, is that she can’t imagine. She can’t even entertain the idea of launching herself forward into motion, to attend to the day the way it’s asking her to. The way he would expect her to, were he there to see it. The way she would expect herself to, were she there to see it. The shameful devouring of bathroom tile. Besides, she’ll never get it all done anyway (or she will and it won’t matter much to either of them
Always catching up. A panic of impermanence. A panic of permanence. A panic of growth and incessancy. A panic of loneliness in a shrine to people. A panic of nourishing, of nourishing. This is all on its way out.
The panic that drives her clawing at her flesh,
biting at her own shoulder in a flash of anger so deep
she has to wonder who put it inside her.
The panic dissipates one day. She’s sure it does, people couldn’t keep up if it didn’t. People couldn’t allow the world to churn, awash with disillusionment if it didn’t. People couldn’t have daughters if it didn’t. She couldn’t have daughters. This is all on its way out. So she’s waiting.
And in the mean time she’s claiming that the dispassionate pleas directed at her failing body don’t
rather shake her
from her bed in the mornings with the heartache that she can’t lay here forever can’t be one more body in a bed can’t fall into what has been made for her to fall into. Which is helplessness. Which is a sickened determination to be smaller. Which is a disregard for curiosity, for curiously creating creatures of beauty, just to crease a smile. The beauty. The beauty for beauty alone, the baby. Which is a devoted concentration on all manner of things modeled, of things made to be followed, of a marching fleet toward deficit, toward denial, toward disregard for the deterioration of the body. Really that’s what it is, a deterioration of the body that we set out to fight against, strain our bones and our brain against. If only it could be something else. Just imagine, won’t you?
could be promises (didn’t mean to break), could be secrets (didn’t mean to fake), could be heartbeats (didn’t mean to take)
She lays relatively still. Unable to keep her eyes off of her skin she is so still. So poised. Could be pretty. So remarkably indisposed there on the floor, slipping into a shape which hardens her against her own world. At least for the time being. She’s sure this will dissipate. (I’m not so sure it will).
It is the impermanence of it all that makes the girl panic. Really it is, it’s hair being washed again and again and again. The washing and rinsing that ultimately one day dries hair into a strange grey. Unfamiliar, not uninvited but-unfamiliar. It’s the leaving. It’s eating and filling and yearning and chastising and eating again. It’s paranoia that looking away from her limbs for too long or forgetting to claw at her skin, or eat her own shoulder will cause her to expand into oblivion, and somehow looking too long and clawing too deep and eating to the bone will do it all the same anyway. It’s the loss of control. It’s the obsession of finding certainty. She is searching for something she can rest assured in, to keep her body from growing from widening from loosening. She wants a diligence that will keep her steady, will hold her body in place will keep her from falling victim to the changes because somehow- the food burnt again and she’s washing blood from her sheets again and the furnace grew dust again. Cups crack, she can’t be expected to apologize for that. It is the impermanence of it all. Somehow the trash is spilling over again and the coffee needs grinding again and the windows need sealing again and her bathtub is filthy again and she’s put off eating again.
She’s put off eating again. (I wonder for how long now).
It’s how bits of his facial hair accumulate in the bathroom sink. (Still, she won’t even notice when they are gone).
As the girl breathes in water it catches on the memory. She can see blood flooding the unborn infant’s eyes, sealing. A closure of the womb in the tragedy of not being able to care for even ones self. The routine feeding. Couldn’t find purpose in a heartbeat. The tragedy of not knowing what it takes to keep the stove on, or the body round, or the bed warm, or the body round- certainly couldn’t carry another.
She’s reminded of him bending down in the shower to clean her toes, how she damn near cried so tender. How could he be so tender, to a body so unmended, haven’t had the time (she has so much time). Residual blood washed down her thighs. Always since, feels like residual blood. In that moment it felt like it could be true for a lifetime. It was true for a lifetime. They drank and laughed and filled and loved and cried and missed and looked back on. Or, they hoped they would. But one leaves another, or, one lifetime is always shorter than the other. So the womb would swell not swell the decisions wouldn’t matter. They would be happy. They would be sad. They would feel an awful lot the whole time.
There are days she can’t tell if he’s left her yet or not, he will eventually there is all this leaving that happens. The way man leaves innocence, the way child leaves home, the way girl left womanhood to be alone in her drop, drop, the way baby left womb, the way fear leaves the stomach and sets the body into action.
Wants him there, doesn’t want him there. There is such acidity in anxiety. Some people get too close, their eyes steam over with disenchantment. She’ll never resist him getting too close, it’s how we figure out what we can put each other through, what we can strain our eyes to see through. Yet- the comfort of him agitates.
The girl lays on floors and breathes in water. As she’s doing right now. Contemplating what it would take for her to get up. Contemplating what it would take for her to perform the ritual maintenance that is expected of her to keep a house in order, to keep a mind in order, to run the body. She hunches her shoulders and presses her hands between her knees. There’s that vacancy. Keeping the aging bones from knocking. Eyes on the skin, don’t look up you silly girl. The skin might get away from you. She stares at the concave of her belly and wonders how it got so big.
Space surrounds her, eats her in an empty home like an empty crib never bought. The rattling of bars never heard. Space surrounds the hand holding, holding hands she never forgets what the press feels like. She never forgets what the smallness of one in between two might have felt like.
See the girl feels scars. Scars that faded years ago, scars that are yet to come. Scars so deep which she herself put there she wishes she hadn’t. She will still. Scars in the shape of women she looked up to, women she pushed away for fear of laying in their wake a shadow, a small shadow in the shape of a comma and a smaller one laying in hers. She apologizes silently for eating their flesh, their curves and bumps and angles, creating scars between women that fade without her knowing it. How could she bear to pass that on.
It’s chaos, isn’t it? It’s the pending appearance of coarse braids of grey hair, and the changing skin, and the thickening and thinning. It’s the shortsightedness of her swelling upward. The brief nature of her strengthening, her broadening back, her thick arms, strong, could almost hold another. The glimpse of her fullest form capturing glory. She would miss it. Seems likely she missed it in her preoccupation with the swelling not swelling of her belly, her preoccupation with skin. And what fine skin it is, really. Clean and bright and holding in muscles and bones tightly. Tightly. Tighter than she knows. But her mind wanders, and she falls into what has been made for her to fall into. Which is diminished spirit the smallness of form. Which is determination to be coy. Which is a devoted concentration on all manner of things unimportant to a beating heart (destructive, even). Which is a disregard of changes. The changes, she could not willingly undergo the changes.
This is why she holds hands so grippingly. Really she’s gripping. Gripping him close. Gripping so close her forearms are shaking. Can barely even see what’s in front of her. Gripping. Really she’s gripping onto the notion that this devouring won’t last forever (ride it out). She’s holding fast to the feeling of loss (it does imperceptibly fade).
All a grasping drive toward holding onto a fleeting image, making it firm so she can rest easy when it softens when over time the body loosens releases grows bigger becomes gentle unfolds, unfolds to present the precise fleshy softness the world is aching for. Then the body thins, sifts out the superfluous and makes peace with the gentle press of bones on couches and mouths gaping open. The horror. The awe. The wonder that this is all it ever was.
She gets up in the morning and cleans up what she couldn’t the night before. Wine spills and browned avocado. She puts bread back in the bag (no one will notice that it’s gone stale now). She wipes down the counters, she picks glass from her foot. Yet when the sun slips from her West windowsill she no longer knows what to do with her hands. They flutter. She fumbles. There is a lot of fumbling that happens when one accounts for a body that she sees as so much larger than it is. There is fumbling when one anticipates a swelling of womb, when one forgets her years, when one is accustomed to bleeding into and onto another body long absent, the one worth mentioning.
So she sleeps. She sleeps all the time. She slips into one bed and out another and the days pass before her in an aching crawl toward the night. In the night she dreams that there is a reason for all this. In the night she dreams that she is hungry. In the night she dreams her belly holds child. Or, she thinks that was the dream. The colors stained together. She comes home to collapse. She comes home because there are days when she can only trust her floor to hold her, her would-be tantrums her fists full of chalk pounding the ground to shake the foundation, coat the floor with pastel. She comes home to collapse. It takes her minutes, hours even of laying on the floor before she can indulge the wish to get up. As she is right now, you remember? She’s stuck of sorts.
She knows the space for unfolding is stretching before her, yet narrowing in her tightened vision.
The space that surrounds her. It’s waiting for her to press with thumb and forefinger and reveal the soul, the body for her to climb into. Where one can rest easy in the turning impermanence of the season. Where one can know what it takes to feed the body.
Like with the fourth sip of wine, a stirring air sets in, breathing into the baffled folds of the mind. The wine makes her sick. She drinks it anyway.
Crumbling down to the floor in stillness. Ironically, stagnancy of this nature morphs into panic for the girl. Like water waiting to boil, like the coffee nearly ready to drip, like a plateful of food expectant. It is how she loves him, endlessly so, and can’t bear to be around him. There is such pain in the visual reminders. What does beauty do but soften us.
She can’t see all that is outside of her, she’s been detained within for so long. Feet grow lines, thin out and dimple into creases where dirt and oil will collect until they are so stiff and so resolute in their rigidity they reject the stains of the world unequivocally. They have known it all. This is why she feels breathing in her womb still. This is why blood is residual, never new. This is why whether he’s here or not it doesn’t matter he has been mapped into her skin, wrinkling slowly to hold him in.
But summer is turning to fall, remember? All the branches are cracking and breaking into elbows to prepare for the heavy descent of our sorrows. She has seen this so many times. She wonders about the baby crying, hears it in the cracking of branches, maybe this is him or her howling from inside she can’t tell. It’s so soft. I am old she thinks. Must be, why else would it be so hard to get up, why else would her bones be pressing hard into thin skin.
In her mind, the girl sits. Woman really. Old woman even. She sits in a halo of strange light, hollowed light dancing across her cheekbones, her shoulder pits and peaks. She wears a black shawl of her percolated stillness. Solitude is the graceful color that blesses her cheeks. Companionship was never the end, she would not reach it. It was always the creation of memory made art, and anyway she can never remember if he’s left her yet or not. There is all this leaving that happens.
The perversion pervades.
In her mind she sits in a chair gathering light. Holding nothing over her head. To watch the paint on the wall. To listen to the dogs bark. And how they bark, they howl, they weep at the nothingness that emerges from all this chaos. The woman hears in the barking the screaming she did for so many years (so silent).
She knew to bleed was to mark, to note passed time, to note the changes in the body. She knew to bleed was to teach that we can’t hold on to much. She knew to bleed was to distinguish between control and release, lost time didn’t need made up for, we all turn to our start for direction.
Paint chips. Wood starts to creak. There’s a layer of dust in the cushions. The seasons change, she just doesn’t have the blood sticky on her aging thighs to prove it anymore.
A tree branch whacks at the side of the house. The woman turns slowly toward the wall. The dogs start barking. The yard is overgrown. Dust gathers in corners, the pockets of the house. Water drips slowly from every faucet. Water stains porcelain around the drains of every bathtub. Water bounces wildly against the tiles in every rainstorm. The old woman, woman really, girl even, almost, crinkles her forehead and gets up from the floor.
She’s unfolding. Like a moth in a glue casing. It looks like a dismounting of composure. Sticky and slow she moves. She peels with the heel of her hand. She presses apart with finger and thumb and opens just enough to clamber inside herself in a womb left empty. A tender expression of grief, encapsulated in the crush of flesh against the kitchen floor (or the bathroom). She is the expression of all our grief.
Then, for a second, she will feel good. For a fleeting, flashing moment of vibration in her muscles, of tension and pull toward or away from something really gorgeous like a lightning storm flashing across her roof of puddles like the snippet of a sound. It’s a second. It’ll be plastered over with the aftertaste of food in her mouth, or the fold of skin as she sits, or the stagnancy of breath in her belly a moment later. It is always fleeting. She reaches out toward the boy. Then the loneliness sets in. As it so often does.