As you write about the specific, paying close attention, seeking to describe one small thing and then another, you don’t notice the moment it gives way to a huge expanse. Suddenly, ideas you’ve held true are no longer. A veil lifts here, a scrim falls there. The sharp edge that jabbed you reveals itself as smooth and soft. You squint into the distance wondering how you’ll find words for it all.
Writing makes sense out of confusion. It constructs narrative from raw, muddled matter.
It is the white butterflies flitting through the yard and the time you threw a plate across the room. It is childbirth and a Manhattan skyscraper. It is your wedding vows and the gum stuck to your shoe. It’s the way summer unfurls and winter shrinks. It’s the perfume you made from wildflowers and marsh water crouched in the reeds behind your neighbor’s house. It’s your grandmother brewing coffee and vacuuming, the way she never stopped moving, a steady reassuring hum. It’s the toddler-sized Virgen de Guadalupe statue you bought in Tijuana that presided over your campsite in the Redwood Forest and the moss crown you and your best friend set atop her head. It’s the surprise of getting older, the shock of the inevitable. It’s the way you always loved water, salt water, fresh water, chlorine water, like a fish like a mermaid like a swimmer, breaststroke butterfly freestyle, backstroking until your hand hit the wall and you flipped backwards, pushed off hard with your feet and wriggled eel-like until you broke the surface. It’s the goggles suctioned to your flushed face. It’s your parents and your siblings pulsing in your cells, the way you feel the past like phantom limbs. It’s the whorls of your fingerprint. It’s thinking you’re never good enough and still hoping you’re something special. It’s the way your father looks at your daughter and says, God, you’re so beautiful. It’s your scattershot trajectory, your life like a pinball in the big noisy machine in your grandparents’ basement that flashed red and white lights as your small fingers pressed the buttons like hell, flipping the pinball back up, up, up. It’s oil paints in a dusty box and the smell of turpentine. It’s your steady hands and the slippery uncertainty of your newborn’s first bath in the kitchen sink of your second floor apartment, your husband taking video, the three of you awash in newness, baptized family by the tepid water. It’s your breasts leaking milk and the way you carry regret. It’s the sunshine of your daughter’s smile, the brightest light you’ve ever known. It’s running away and returning. It’s your mother, who can pray dreams into existence. It’s learning to believe in your own good luck. It’s the way you sometimes cut your food with the side of your fork and the way you once smoked cigarettes like you were so goddamn cool. It’s the deep and sustained anxiety of motherhood and your understanding that it will never subside, that the tune of your body is forever set to this new pitch. It’s the moments you wish you could’ve whispered in your own ear, not this way, that way. It’s letting those other versions of yourself go even as you resurrect them, now more gently, with a kindness, the way you would a dear friend.
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