The outer office door opens. I think it’s A. It’s the mailman instead. He’s German, speaks with an accent, and has insisted ever since I met him that I should apply for unemployment even though I have a part-time job.
He talks very rapidly and sweats a dry sweat, like other blonde people. He likes girls and has worked at overcoming his shyness and embarrassment at being short. He and his wife take trips on the weekends. “Drove down to the Rose Festival this weekend, how was yours?” he’ll say on a Monday.
He learns the names of his daily faces, and speaks to you as if you are intimate friends, leaning forward, whispering about the heat as if he were telling a dirty joke. He gives everyone ready conversation, packed and priceless, acting out a grand familiarity (if you stand there to listen); he includes you in his private details.
He is leaving now, only a shadow of him left behind in the lingering odor of cigar. I am startled into dropping the first piece of mail on the floor when I hear his voice again, see his short stocky body hovering in the doorway.
He steps back inside, takes off his glasses slowly, leans towards me solemnly, one finger dragging down his left eyelid, and says, “I got a sty.”
“Had it for over a year now. Went to the doctor over there at the hospital ya know, and they scraped some stuff off of it, see, and can ya believe it, it was malignant they said. Cancer. But it’s not a bad kind, they say. We gotta take it off anyhow, it might spread or something, the doctor said. It’s not a major operation see, $75, something like that, and Blue Cross will pay for it. The doctor said he could almost do it in his office it was so simple, but not quite that simple. I gotta put on a nightgown and all that stuff, but I don’t have to stay overnight or nothin’. I’m not scared, it’s just funny how you’re always scared when you hear the word cancer, ya know. I mean cancer. They’ll fix it so I won’t have a scar or nothin’.
“You know around World War II there were all these pilots walking around who got burned about the face, and it was amazing. Plastic surgery came into its own then. They fixed up all those burned faces. Took lots of operations. Lots. And while they were having it done, they had to wear this contraption looked like a sausage, that ran into their ears. That was back when plastic surgery was young. It had something to do with having the skin transplanted. Well, I’ll see ya.”
Coffee drained from cup to throat. Tim Weisberg and his flute. I like waking from my day-long slumber, a slumber of low energy, not of sleep. I went through the work day with robot movements; when I answered the phone once, Steve thought he had the wrong number, my voice was devitalized and wispy. Days like today I have a hard time pronouncing consonants; I slur into a vowel existence that doesn’t come to a full stop for stop signs, skips over errands written on the list, and buries excitement behind the alter-vision of seeing waking life as another dream. Trusting my own emptiness clears my head.
103 degrees at 5:30 p.m. A thunderstorm rolling over us at 6:30, its winds bringing faint rains that tease, but leave, at least, this new thing: coolness.
I thought I heard one of the dogs crying out back, and got up, feeling like a freshly bathed ghost drifting through the grey-blue summer night of the unlit kitchen.
Sitting on the backsteps, the wind whipping against my bare skin. I am surprised, again, by the night and the way it makes me feel a part of the silver silence cleaning up the day’s details of heat and activity.
The night provides a freedom for me the day cannot. A freedom learned when I was 12 or 13, slipping out the basement door at night after the house was quiet. Walking in the night, to safe places. Through the garden, up to M. and D.’s, barefoot down the dark path between their house and ours. Sitting on the cool smooth stone surface of their front steps, in the blackest shadow, to smoke cigarettes. I had a pack of Salems I hid and re-hid in my bedroom that I’d smoke on nights like this, not because I liked the taste, but because I was realizing I could do that, if I wanted to. That I was going to make me into more of me, and that moreness was mine to create. That was soothing, thinking about that. Like leaving the planet, visiting a place where the darkness was a blessed opportunity to see through fear, to feel at home with myself, to sense my own invisible smiles, to learn to like the small thin arms I hugged myself with, my ragged pajamas, my uneven haircut and the new body smells that announced puberty.
I was unable to carry the security I felt within myself, the rightness of my own soul smiling at itself, back into the waking world I hoped would go away: seventh grade starting in the fall.
My fear of fear grew into a real nervousness that year, and I wanted more than anything to hide in the mirrors of my house, or Mamam and D.’s house, to bury myself behind all the clean linen in the linen closet, or in the roar of the bathroom shower, or in childhood books (Walter Farley where are you?), or in the smell of D.’s shop: wood shavings, mahogany, and time well-spent.
Remembering, I feel a tenderness for that cycle and its self-importance. I express today’s self-importance by writing things down, reflecting, living in the death of the reflection as much as in the stark nakedness of the heat waves rising off the pavement in 111 degree warmth.
I recognize hearts, and survive in their joy, behind the tin-panny sound of human voices translating themselves into each other.
Should I ever need soothing from God, kiss the back of my neck in the silk hollow where I’ve always thought you touched me first.
The time to be alone, or touch myself, the time to be a nonreacting, non-interacting person, has not happened except in the coves of this rainy afternoon.
This cottage feels foreign to me. I’ve never stayed here before and its flat roof and pallid green makes me think of Mrs. D. swaying in the breeze of her alcoholism the fall we were here after Daddy died and we were across the street in confusion, dazed by the feel of a family of three when before there’d been four.
I feel unfocussed, a victim of the tiredness that comes from being in a house full of people “on vacation.”
“A victim of the tiredness.” I mumble to myself silently about “creating a space for myself” in a house so full I have to take time to figure out which of the many toothbrushes in the bathroom is mine. Realizing I will never find “my space” anywhere except within the peace and love I hold for others; the compassion of the me that knows for the me that forgets guffaws and jokes at the sadness I create for myself, pointing out the selves behind the role-playing. Our roles, shallowly transparent, but all equally so; they are all endeared to me for being just what they are, just be-ing, whatever it is that we confuse and twist into addictions based on nothingness.
Bill pulls in his stomach, scratches his head, and gives a four word diagnosis for my car: “get rid of it.”
The cost of the new car was within $5.00 of the money I’d almost spent a dozen times but left alone, not feeling a ripeness in spending it, trying to honor the potholes of probable futures, without creating them.
I’m intrigued with money as energy; it will take care of you if you learn to manage it, knowing it for what it is: just energy, expanded or contracted. By learning how to use it, to give it away, to be open to receiving, you discover your own balance. Respectful efficiency with energies of all kinds is a technology of love that turns the pages, paves the roads; a pair of sturdy walking shoes endures, even after they fall apart.
Daily dependability inspires me more than the most complicated yogic posture.