Today is a two walk day. It started at 930 and I got coffee and a croissant somewhere near my house. The croissant was stale. I think I ate a banana. I am wearing my tallest shoes. Every man that passes, I brush with my fingertips. They are sincere with their eyes. A few even seem like they could give me dalliance. Faithful, I maintain. I laugh openly in the street somewhere around 19 and Walnut thinking of what you would say if you knew how many I touched and several men turn to look. I walk a few more miles to sit quietly at Independence hall and feel the brush of dead dogs against my ankles. This is a good spot. The horses begin to come too. Pressing my hands into the cold bench, I send them radiating white. I leave that spot and walk to another park. I see rats run across.
“Rats, leave my ankles be.”
I put my legs up in the air when I sit on the bench. I can hold this position for a while but because I hear them in the bushes, I move on. I can feel the dead dogs walk behind me. I think to myself:
I cried for five seconds this morning which is one more second than usual.
I laugh again. I grab two cups of coffee on the way back but I am carrying my mug so when Diana comes to the counter I am ready. smile. And I don’t say this out loud. It is 30 degrees today. The snow is coming. I decide to take the bridge back. I walk on the other side though. The one that doesn’t make me want to jump. I laugh and sip my coffee and ask if xxx can hear my thoughts. The spine says yes. I believe my spine. I get home at 6:15 with three new crystals in my pocket.
That’s what the note on my hand says. I sit in front of my altar for another two hours with the lights off. Feel comfortable in devotion. I feel comfortable being devout. I sit there til about 8:45 and then I run the bath. I cry for three seconds in the tub and then I begin laughing. My cats sit in separate corners of the room watching me.
I do not make lunch. I wake up in the middle of the night to one of the cats sitting on a dresser staring at me. I am completely sideways and tangled in blankets as if I have been wrestling. I laugh. I was having a dream that I was about to float away again. My spine started to tingle but instead I grounded by masturbating. I fell back asleep and had a dream of publishing five consecutive books.
I wake up an hour and a half before my alarm and make lunch. As I drink my coffee, I think to myself:
I’ve never been like that.
And I don’t know what I meant.
Work was stressful. I have been falling behind on my paperwork and I have felt scrutinized. Not for being incompetent but the muttering. We all are behind on our paperwork. It’s the holidays. More that I stopped wearing dresses and wear the same black pants everyday. More that I sit at my desk on my downtime staring intently at my telephone where I used to exchange gossip. Could be described as garrulous to the point of disturbance. Could be described as social. Used to get moved in every class type chatter. I put chapstick on today and it was a stretch of capability. I said “hello” every morning but
“I think they notice,” I was caught saying coming out of the bathroom.
T followed. “You good?” he asked at my desk.
“Oh, yeah,” I flipped my phone over. I had been re reading the titles on my Discover Weekly. “I just have a lot of paperwork, you know.”
“Definitely,” he said. “I feel that.”
My boss called him and I turned and faced the pinned picture of the group of us at the AIDS walk on my bulletin board. Saved again by the Lord. I laughed out loud. Denise looked over at me from her cubicle. Stop sharing. I decided the best course of action was to list things. I was back in the bath, not wanting to walk, wanting to nest. Attempting to nest. It was only 5:10 pm and there was a bit of light peeking through the window. The window smudged from years of neglect and the side room of the house obscured the orange glow, but it was there. Like a globe and I watched it. Going down. Keep my mind focused. The lists unravel, sort of tangle together first and then unravel. Looking for causality, connection, pattern. It starts slow, things I like:
Earl Gray tea
Learning about the mystic past
Then sometimes I am taken right there. Examples and execution.
In 12th grade, I set out to make straight As so I could graduate in honors with my friends. I have always dicked off for a couple years before getting serious.
“Ms. Lancaster,” I began. And I could remember her exact lipstick, the way it rubbed off a bit so it was half red half cream where her bare lip showed.. How I visited her years later and she didn’t remember me. .“I noticed you gave me a 96 on my most recent paper.”
“A 96 is a good score, dear,” she was always reading a newspaper
I nodded, withholding, “Yes, but I re read it a few times and I am confused as to why you took four points off. I mean, I answered all of the questions correctly, typed my paper in the correct format, and I checked the answers against the key and…”
“You want a one hundred?” she interrupted.
She didn’t snatch the paper but gently took it from my hand and put a line through the 96 and changed it to 100 with a green pen, instead of her red pen.
“Are you happy now?”
“You are very smart, Catarina. There is more to life than hundreds on papers.”
I walked back to talk to my friend Mariam, pleased with myself, licking the red off my lips.She went back to her newspaper. She would tell her husband over dinner I was smarmy and
“insistent on taking up every second of class by speaking her opinion on any and every piece of literature presented solely, not just to spite me in my age with her innovation but to make sure every boy in class could describe her matching color scheme for the day, from her red lipstick to her matching painted red toenails if interrogated by anyone about her. She gets up at least once every class and pulls her shorts back up, walks to the front to get a tissue or the bathroom pass, and I have to publicly ask her to roll them down. Every day, Ted.”
“I have an idea! I know what we can do,” I said to the little girl, sitting up.I sat back against the tile.“Let’s scare him.” I splashed the tub to provoke the action. “Just a little.”
I could tell she was nodding even though I could only feel her.
“And, yes, you can feel happy with one piece of your heart,” I recite from a poem suddenly.
Staring at the residue build up on the glass, the orange glow almost out of sight. A gray is coming over me. And only one candle lit on my shower’s mantle, it will be dark soon. This will not be my first dark bath. I sometimes get in with no lights on and see how long I can sit without seeing anything. Then I recite another line.
“Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.”
But I couldn’t remember the rest. I used to memorize sonnets for Ms Lancaster’s class for extra credit. I would have to recite them in front of the whole class which was unnerving but I wanted to make up for any 97s I had gotten on tests. Squinting, I try now but the room falls black save the one light above my head and I am stuck. In an act of devotion, I write the entire script on my piece of cardstock when I am dry. I use my new watercolores to drape the purple flowers around it:
Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover!”
I throw the paper across the hassock and onto the floor when I am done. More for the memory of what it held then and less for what it held now as I said it again. How easy it was to memorize the sonnets every week. How easy it was to stand in front of class and share them. The night my lover’s wife called me on the phone to ask how old I was, I re-read that sonnet before curling into a ball on my tiny twin bed. I think to myself: I cried for seven seconds yesterday and that is two seconds longer than any other day. The timid younger cat, the one I ignore for the older whom I favor, places her paw on my thigh to test my stillness. My devotion. I do not know how and when a miracle occurs only that I didn’t leave the house that night. Woke up at 9:30 to the baby on my legs and Genevieve, my older, wrapped around my neck like a stole.