Oh, the river, oh, the river, it’s running free,/And I’ll join in the joy it brings to me/ But I know it’ll have to drown me,/ Before I can breathe easy,/ And I’ve seen it in the flights of birds, I’ve seen it in you, /The entrails of the animals, the blood running through, /But in order to get to the heart, I think sometimes you have to cut through, /But you can/ Just keep following the heartlines on your hand. . .
I. Car Tires and Chicken Wire
You’re not in a street fight anymore, he said. You’re building an empire. A small empire, but an empire nonetheless. Your strategy needs to change. A broken bottle isn’t going to do it anymore, you need to think bigger.
He echoed what Miss Spice had said to me in a different way. You’re a lady. Like, you, Deb act like a well bred lady at almost all times of your own accord. That means you should attempt to cuss less. Work on it. Get a thesaurus.
In this time, I’ve gotten my hair cut, redid my closet both by taking the doors off and by doing a big purge and bought my first two piece bathing suit in years. I felt okay in it which was a first possibly ever with that.
I scryed in my black bowl with my coven sisters. Something large loomed in the background as it did when I last scryed. Company’s coming. Who knows of what kind.
My old tricks are no longer working. I need to figure out what my new tricks are and how to use them or be buried under the ghosts of my old ones that always threaten to surface when I make forward motion.
You are the silence in between what I thought/ And what I said/ You are the night time fear/ You are the morning when it’s clear/ When it’s over you’ll start/ You’re my head/ You’re my heart. . .
II. The Thin Line Between Sisterhood and the Kardashians
When my sister and I were younger, all disputes could very satisfyingly be taken care of by a knock down drag out brawl. I’m not talking a lady-like cat fight/pillow fight, I’m talking we would try to break each other’s noses, claw until we scarred each other and leave each other bruised. We were about the same size and very close in age so it was a fair fight. We’d slam doors and pretend to ignore each other until one of us knocked on our shared wall.
Our twenties were spent blissfully in loud bars with louder boys and rotgut shots of whatever we could get our hands on. We didn’t fight much, there wasn’t much to fight over. We prowled where ever, whenever, wearing whatever. The world was ours and we could get anyone to do anything we wanted or close enough to make it so all our starving ghosts were fed. The bottom of this blissful point in our sisterhood fell out when I divorced and she became pregnant. We weren’t the maiden sisters walking the world together arm-in-arm anymore. We quickly became strangers to each other, neither of us able to understand the other as adults.
We tried. We wrote each other long emails. We fought loudly and harshly, shoving our mother in the middle to settle our disputes again until we realized we wouldn’t always have her there to fix the harshness that was between us. We tried to learn to relate to each other again but would spend weeks not speaking to each other. Those weeks, I would be half a person. Nothing was right and nothing would be right again until we were reconciled.
We shifted in January. The new year brought a softness between us. We silently agreed to disagree about what we couldn’t understand and focus on what we could. Motherhood had changed my sister. The hurricane had changed her. She lost several exboyfriends to sudden deaths. She couldn’t be who she once was and she didn’t want to be. She learned to be firm with her tiny son when he was bad and to show him that she loves him without drowning him in it. I changed too. My career shift, my new marriage, my shift in priorities. We learned to be sisters again. I text her and spend as much time with her and my nephew as I can and she reaches her hand out to me to be my sister, the kindest person I know.
When my head was in the toilet on my birthday and I was freaking out in the way that only a Type A can when she’s drank far more vodka than was ever necessary, she sang me Soft Kitty until I went limp and put pajamas on me. On the sixteenth anniversary of our father’s death last weekend, I slept as much as I could and then spent most of the day eating cookies and watching home movies with my mom and sister.
There was one with my dad helping us swim and when we were jumping in the pool, it was the story of my sister and I and who we would become. I hesitated at the edge and almost jumped a few times before finally jumping to my dad. My sister didn’t even look, she just threw herself immediately in without a second thought, confident that she would be caught.
My seventh birthday was at a roller rink and we watched my mom skate lazily as she gossiped with another mom as I shot around the ring around and around, in a race that only I knew I was in. My sister squeezed my arm as we watched and whispered that next year she will me throwing me a roller skating party. I said I would wear leg warmers and 80s music only. She got me palms from Mass and then called me and said, Is your bra on? Good. Put on some clothes. I’m getting you in ten minutes, bitch. We’re going to see a woman named Svetlana about something.
We spent the night together as maidens grown, getting into misadventures and pouring our hearts out to each other. The next day, we cooked together in unison for our extended family. I was stressing out and near tears because we have ill family which always trips my wires, especially when Easter comes early as it did the year my dad died. You’re doing so good, she whispered to me. Everything is perfect. You’re doing so good.
She’s my rock. I would be half a person without her. Just like the figure skater we once we together, she makes it look effortless. Her foot could be bleeding through her skate boot and her smile would be even more blinding for it.
Holy water cannot help you now/ A thousand armies couldn’t keep me out/ I don’t want your money/ I don’t want your crown/ See I’ve come to burn/ Your kingdom down/ Holy water cannot help you now/ See I’ve come to burn your kingdom down/ And no rivers and no lakes, can put the fire out/ I’m gonna raise the stakes; I’m gonna smoke you out/ Seven devils all around you/ Seven devils in my house/ See they were there when I woke up this morning/ I’ll be dead before the day is done
III. If You Have to Cry, Go Outside
I see you there at the edges of my periphery. Waiting, your blond hair peeking out. You are always patient. I’ve sorted my house, my relationships, my body, my career. I won’t be able to hide from you much longer. You know what is owed to you. You know what twisting paths through dusty tomes, dustier professors wait for me. You know the late nights and early mornings, waking up with cemetery dirt in my hair, the taste of pickles in my mouth and the smell of candy shops and hospitals in my nose. You know that you’ll take me places I never intended to go. Places that make me cry. Places that make me laugh. Places that make me suffer. Places that make me ecstatic. You’ll wait the few weeks until I’m fully yours for the first time in years. You’ll be waiting. I’ll be ready.
Just say yes.
I’m gonna be released from behind these lines/ And I don’t care whether I live or die/ And I’m losing blood, I’m gonna leave my bones/ And I don’t want your heart it leaves me cold/ I don’t need a husband, don’t need no wife/ And don’t need the day, I don’t need the night/ And I don’t need the birds let them fly away/ And I don’t want the clouds, they never seem to stay/ I don’t want no future/ I don’t need no past/ One bright moment/ Is all I ask/ I’m gonna leave my body
IV. Rock Bottom
She could never tell her sister, the true reason for her visit. Her sister would never believe it, anyway. She wore what her sister could never have for it was the clothing of the living – the sold out emerald lace Burberry Prosum trench, the oversized black Dior sunglasses, the Alexander McQueen butterfly clutch, the sunset orange Christian Louboutin heels and the gold and crystal Alexis Bittar earrings. All of these things would become property of her sister’s as she wanted it to be. Her sister couldn’t understand that she too understood a marriage that wasn’t working, what it was like to be denied things that she wanted (her sister). All her sister could see was the grey world in front of her.
She willingly gave up her finest clothing at each gate, hoping that her sister would see that it was for her. It was always the living that kept them apart, so she gave that up too for her sister. She allowed herself to be hung on hook to show her sister that she knew what it was to suffer, too. But her sister was too emmeshed in her world of pain to see what she had done for her.
In the end, there was nothing further to be done to bring them closer. No purse, no amount of suffering or humility would ever bring them together as they should be. She accepted that too and returned to the living. She woke up.
And oh, poor Atlas/ The world’s a beast of a burden/ You’ve been holding on a long time/ And all this longing/ And the ships are left to rust/ That’s what the water gave us/ So lay me down/ Let the only sound/ Be the overflow/ Pockets full of stones/ Lay me down/ Let the only sound/ Be the overflow/ ‘Cause they took your loved ones/ But returned them in exchange for you/ But would you have it any other way?/ Would you have it any other way?/ You couldn’t have it any other way/ ‘Cause she’s a cruel mistress/ And a bargain must be made/ But oh, my love, don’t forget me/ I let the water take me
Don’t mistake progress for an end. You need to have all your wits about you in 2013. Honey badger’s sheer fierceness and determination won’t be enough to continue what you’ve started. You need to learn new tricks to obtain what you seek. Keep shedding skins like a snake. Keep learning like a fox. Keep outsmarting like a rabbit. Keep preening in new ways to attract a mate like a crow. Keep running. Run faster than you have before, a trail of your past behind you, the unknown in front of you. The cliff is coming, you can throw yourself off it or cling to it but you can’t avoid it.
Miles and miles in my bare feet/ Still can’t lay me down to sleep/ If I die before I wake/ I know the Lord my soul won’t take/ Keep walking and running and running for miles/ Keep walking and running and running for miles/ Keep walking and running and running for miles
We desperately want life to be Instagram. Perfectly posed, perfectly colored, perfectly frozen. That will never happen. We can pretend for moments that life can be like that. Sometimes those moments can last for longer than we think – hours, days, months, even years. But it’s a lie and you will never get to where you are trying to go like that, no matter how much we want to fool ourselves into believing that it can be so. Life is terrifying. Security is a falsehood. And that’s okay.
You need to think bigger.
Everything is perfect. You’re doing so good.
Just say yes.
She woke up.
The cliff is coming, you can throw yourself off it or cling to it but you can’t avoid it.