by the sea

Lying on my side, relaxed in the fetal position, strange visions come to me. A giant sea turtle as big as a house, and we step under its flipper, sheltered, in the sand, by the sea. Tall goddess creatures whose intestines unfurl to make robes and wings. I’ve been reading Carmen Maria Machado and taking my meds.  My usual obsessions have given way to this quiet field where story-images unfold.  My brain is still enough to watch them, and it’s a real pleasure.   

He calls and we talk about our magnificent daughter, how when we first brought her home he held her and sang Stevie Wonder; how stupid it is for them to put a person in a box and expect them not to go crazy; the children’s book he’s writing and how little money you can really make from royalties. He interrupts me & I go quiet.  He knows how much I hate that and catches himself. He says aw, I’m sorry, Rabbit. I’m sorry for interrupting and I gently say that’s ok & I mean it because for once it didn’t bother me.   He says, well, maybe that medication is working for you and we laugh.  I can still get mad though and I tell him about it.  I tell him I went on a date, the first one I’ve been on since Blank. I don’t tell him that Blank is the only one I’ve ever truly felt was a match for me, in all the ways two people can be, nor how it feels to give up on that.  

My daughter is happy to be spending another weekend with her grandparents, and I’m learning solitude again. Yesterday I went for a long walk alone, one of my favorite things to do. I said hello to everyone I passed, and I like your hair or I like your pants. I learned that from my daughter. I’m surprised at how I can make almost everyone smile that way, just like she does. 

I say, yeah, I think it’s working.  I used to wake up in pain, in my body, in my brain, my heart.  Everyday. So much pain. But it’s getting better. 

That’s not normal, Rabbit, and his voice is soft with my heartache. 

It’s not normal to have a son missing, Dog. See, I can still cry though.  But I can’t write.  

You will, you will. You’ll get used to it and you’ll be able to write again.  

He tries to flirt with me and I don’t let him.  I tell him I don’t want him to hope.  Two years I waited for our family, and here I am still alone.  

He says, I wish I could smell you but they copy all the letters. They just give us the copies, so I can’t even smell you on the letters.  

I could smell you on the last one you sent and it made me cry.  You smell like her, like our baby.  I’m sorry that place exists, I say.

The lady interrupts with you have one minute remaining. It is our tradition to say goodbye and hang up ourselves before she cuts us off. 

Thank you for keeping it together, Rabbit.  I’m glad you asked for help. I hope your coffee is good.  They do give us coffee, but it’s terrible. But I drink it anyway.   

Yesterday on the way home I noticed the tallest flowering tree I’ve ever seen. I stood looking at it, wondering. A couple approached and I asked if they knew the name of this glorious tree. No, but I have an app, the girl said. But the app wasn’t working and we just stood there looking up. Soon enough, another couple approached. That’s a catalpa, one of them said. It’s a very common tree here in Denver.  I thanked him for the name and marveled at how in all my years in this city I’ve never noticed one. 

When I was at my lowest, Blank said to me, slowly, deliberately, I do not want to take care of you.  There’s a lot of reasons to say a thing like this.  I keep repeating it, not to make myself feel bad, but to remind me of the truth.  Blank would tell me I could choose to see something else, like all the times he told me I love you. Those are only words, though.  The information is in the world, and now I can see it just like those trees everywhere. 

When I was at my lowest, everyone who loves me said, is there anything I can do?

I curl on my side and breathe deeply.  I’m pleasantly alone for a little longer this morning. I sit by the sea of myself. I watch for whatever stories come.  I turn the word catalpa over on my mind’s tongue. I rest. I love. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m keeping it together without a fight, one day by one. 

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