The only thing my mother ever loved was her vacuum. And now that everything else has been removed from her house, the old Hoover is all that’s left. It sits in the middle of the vacant living room, plugged in in anticipation, like a trusty Retriever waiting for her return. I enter cautiously, as if it might bite. I move to the window and push the partially opened curtains back allowing morning light to stream through. The movement shakes the sleeping dust and they float upward in an erratic contra. I regard the old work horse and imagine it’s irritation at the site of the irreverent specks, like a chaperone wearily eyeing the kids at a dance. It’s a relic from another time, dressed in powder blue and scuffed shoes. It stares at me with one Cylon eye, as if it wants to lift me like a rug and suck up the mess that’s been swept under.
Sometimes when the wind is just right, it carries with it all the world. Today is one of those days. I stand on the end of the old dock, the one falling asleep with age and the gentle sounds of lapping waves, and close my tired eyes. The wind is warm and gorgeous. It brings the faint scent of roses, of a wild sea, and fresh cut grass. I let it inspect me, flip through me like a book. It tears out a page of my story and carries it off with the rest. Once it’s gone, I wonder at which part it took. What part of me is important enough to run with the wind? Rummaging back through my memory, I toss, sort and separate. My time is coming to a close and the wind wanted something of me to keep. But what?
It was windy that day. It was all storm and rolling cans and gray. I tore out of the house on tired roller skates, leaving my mother’s disapproving bellows to ripple in the wake of my defiance. It was not a “proper” day for the outdoors. The trees howled like wounded animals and neighbors had their heavy curtains drawn, hiding from an uncertain world.
They say Anna Margarita came from Portugal, that she sailed across the sea in a boat made of paper and string. I remember as a child asking how a boat of paper could float. They said it floated on hope, and that it was bluer than the sea, and that it had a crimson sail she’d sewn out of her own broken heart.
You can read an article I wrote on the horrors of being raised by two Ornithologists at BirdWatching Daily. As much as I joke about my upbringing, it was a unique and interesting way to spend my childhood. I now count myself as extremely lucky indeed.
For artwork inspired by this story please visit my artist page on Redbubble.
I wanted you. Before all this — when I was young. I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to hear songs carried by some ancient magic, echo through the hills as I walked barefoot down a grassy path — to meet you. I wanted the fields in front of us to open up like a giant white canvas, so that we could roll naked in paint and fill up the world with color and heat and desire — and love.
I couldn’t remember the song. It had been belted out by the battered soul of a woman, whose name I forget. We had listened to it together since before we were forced to notice -the difference between boy and girl. It poured over us from the boom box in his backyard tree or the stereo in my mother’s purple house -the one after divorce number three. As a child, the singer had danced on the streets of Chattanooga in the early 1900‘s, busking with her brother. So we’d done the same on the corner of Bluebonnet and Main, out by the old water tower, where the roller rink used to be. We got a dollar once and a warm stick of gum.
For some reason, I remember that.
The air was so thick with longing you could use it to sculpt. I wanted to scoop it up, mold it, fashion myself wings. But my feet stuck to the pavement as if glued, my eyes strained to see what was no longer there, my body was lead. The sidewalk, now empty, stretched out in front of me, all ash grey and cracks and weeds—a fractal trail of tears. It bore only the slightest outline of the footprints left behind by the broken hearted. As illogical as it seemed, I wanted nothing more than to be one of them. One of the souls whose form had been reduced to the hushed tone of whispers, to ruinous rumors of contempt and up turned brows. One day—they’d be legend.
A phantom fog encircled the bottom of the bridge, cloaking the river below in a mysterious intrigue that turned her insides cold. She’d contemplated what it’d be like to fall before, but she’d never thought what it would be to jump -until now. It was the first time they’d visited the bridge since…
He asked her why she wore a face borrowed from someone far away. Annoyed at the intrusion of her thoughts, she told him she’d rather not talk and turned toward the ice steel rail, sliding off a red shoe. He told her to stop being so grim, gripped her sides from behind with fingers, too smooth for a man, and blew a breath of bad air into her ear. She recoiled in disgust, forced herself not to vomit. A Redtail Hawk came darting up through the mist, running from some unseen danger. It startled them both, and he kicked her shoe. It went soaring off the side, first straight, then dropped downward and disappeared. A crimson bullet into the abyss. She cocked her head and listened, for the descent, for the landing, for her heart. But there was only silence and somewhere above the cries of the hawk.
My mother used to look to her dreams for inspiration, thumbing through half remembered fuzzy images as the sun poked its head from over the dewy green hills that surrounded the farm. She’d write her crooked scrawl in a tattered journal she kept under the bed, and try to capture the messages sent by the universe that she believed lay hidden amongst the scenes in her head. But that changed with the Mac.