The man walked across the crosswalk, in the intersection. He had the look of someone one might see in a mugshot- he was a white man, probably late 30’s or 40’s, he had a shirt with a collar, with some kind of pastel-colored striping on it, but it was untucked, messy. His eyes deep-set, focused off in the distance and seemed mismatched with the features of an aquiline nose and the puffy dark lips of a puglist, or someone deprived of oxygen- a color I had only seen in a child with asthma, or one getting out of the large local pool, which was very cold. The look on his face was more fiercely determined than would be necessary to cross while one had the light.
His hair was a little bit longer than what would be considered clean-cut, and also had that messy look, but a groomed messy look, as in those print advertisements where attractive people lounge amidst horses and sports equipment, though all of his separate pieces did not add up to anything resembling that. Those ads made certain everything was congruent to the smallest detail. One could practically catch a whiff of pipe tobacco, leather and maybe a faint whiff of horse manure. Observing from the car waiting at the light, I imagined he may have smelt of BO, some kind of vainglorious, overly-priced after-shave and a faint whiff of this morning’s hangover puke. The light changed and I drove on.
I was driving to a place I frequented more and more, so much that I was afraid I may have to abandon it for a new place that felt like ‘somewhere else’. For now, it was still in the border limbo-land of the known/unknown. I measured out the amount of time I would spend there, how much I wanted versus how much I could reasonably get away with versus chances of being recognized. Conspicuous, conspiracy, conspirator. Conspire: “to breathe together.” It really was an art to be invisible, or be seen without really being seen. To hide so well one didn’t feel one was hiding. Perhaps even, to cease to care.
I purchased the few things I usually did. Salt, soap, a sandwich, a few rolls, milk, a can of soup. The things I used like a ritual when I felt this way, good, somewhat dazed. This feeling reminded me of so long ago, when the constant demands of simple things kept the darkness away- taking care of someone else- and in comforting and caring for him, somehow it seemed to comfort me, it was the only comfort I had, then- that part which had been buried so deep it was mostly unremembered. If the bad guy was now in a dungeon, somehow it was easier to unhappen it : What was for a snack, what needed to be washed, what time would we go to the park, what time was the bath etc etc. It filled up so much of the time- and there were no computers then. Yes, there was TV but we made much of our own entertainment and were quite happy with only that. Reading, playing, the trees and sand. The feel of ice cubes in a bowl. You once asked me if people had to put salt in the sea to make it so salty, when you finally did talk.
I brushed my hand over the silky purple flowers. I was old enough to know these things were still with me, that they sort of dangled off my shadow, like a thread unraveling off a dress, like a gnat hovering over a piece of fruit. But they were small and trivial now compared to the monster which they had collectively gestated for so many years-, a cursed leather knot , like shoes tied together of the drowned, now dried and so very hard to untangle..it never totally went away and it had even been added to, by others- but sometimes it could be ‘handed off’- a kind of baptismal release. Was I cured? Was it now ‘gone’?
How was it that although I was not a great, hulking woman, certainly i was not all that delicate- how was it that I felt lighter? That even much of the physical pain was gone? What was it that went into the ether? When I felt light like this I needed less sleep – I dreamed so deeply I felt as though I floated the entire night through. Yes, I did think part of this was that I was now getting closer to death than life- in years at least- but somehow being reminded of this was not always altogether terrible. Bittersweet is still partly sweet.
When as children we watched magician shows, we didn’t need to believe it was ‘real’- it gave us a sense of wonder. Perhaps because we find out that it pretend, when we are older we tend to view anything that makes us wonder as ‘a trick of the light’. The large shadow that a moth flitting inside a lampshade casts upon a wall. The moth itself is still real, as is the light. As is the shadow itself. We hear the howl of the coyotes, not dog, not wolf- they are unafraid of us. Standing on a cliff, looking out at rocks at sea, and yet looking back at still more cliffs, in between what had been and what would be soon washed away, and what would stand, beautifully albeit precariously, an unknown amount of time.