“Hey, Mom. Look what I drew! It’s a rainbow monster!”
“That’s pretty cool, buddy. Is it…um…farting?”
“Yeah! And, you should see what it’s doing in the part of the picture I drew with invisible ink!”
I didn’t think I’d ever write again.
I’m not trying to be dramatic; if so, I would admit this with a slumped neck and the back of my hand held to my forehead. If you’re not dramatic like a southern belle, well you’re just not dramatic at all.
No, there’s no drama in the statement that I didn’t think I’d ever write again. It was just a matter of fact; a brick wall into which I ran. Actually, I just kind of walked into it and there I gazed into the mortar every day, trying to move my feet forward while facing that brick wall. I took steps, but I didn’t go anywhere.
What bothered me, was that this didn’t bother me. I was okay with being in this place, because I didn’t really have any other choice. There was this ho-hum acceptance of where I was over the last couple of months. Ho-hum, brick wall, la dee dah.
So what were the things that kept me from writing? If I had to guess I’d say first and foremost, winter. If I could weave you any tale with grandeur, it would be my disdain for winter. It would sound very Shakespearean and involve a lot of “doths,” like, “Back off winter, I am doth DONE with you.”
Because of my husband’s schedule, I spent a lot of January in a bad place; a lonely, dark, FREEZING COLD place. Hi, honey! Love you! It was so bad that I actually looked at homes for sale in L.A. Mmm hmm, Los Angeles, people. I needed real people to talk to and I didn’t care if they were complete strangers and mostly said, “Dude.”
But, February meant my husband was home more often and it means that March is coming soon and thank goodness it’s a short month! *said with slumped neck and back of hand to forehead*
There was also the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. No, I didn’t know him. I didn’t even know his name was spelled with one ‘l’ until he died, but when he passed it felt like someone came up behind me at the brick wall, picked me up and threw me into it.
I know people who have died from heroin overdoses. I know people who are in jail because of heroin. It’s personal. And, here was this guy with nearly-limitless resources, talent, assistants, managers, and no doubt housekeepers and a nanny, who could not keep this demon at bay. That scares me.
What about the people who are struggling to just keep their jobs and houses out of foreclosure, and take care of the kids, who might have the urge to take away some of the stress and pain? How do we stop them from using heroin to take them to a place that makes them feel better? How do we stop them from trying it the first time? How do we make sure our kids don’t try something the FIRST TIME? I still don’t know the answer to that. Damn it.
And there was Dylan Farrow (I will not type his name here), the terror threats in Sochi, and so much unbelievable news that I just couldn’t be that One. More. Voice. on the Internet.
But then something snapped, and by snapped I mean it was like a twig soaked in water, then bent back and forth until the bark came off. Then I twisted the wet, woody fibers underneath and gnawed on them a little. It was like that kind of snap. All of a sudden, or not suddenly at all, I wanted to write again.
And, I can’t really tell you why. Maybe it was my med changes, spring on the horizon, tougher workouts, completion of some work projects, more time with friends…I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. All I know is that I turned my back on that brick wall and I was writing.
I don’t know which direction I’m heading, but damn it feels really good to be moving again.
The 1977, brown Cadillac climbs the hill, already narrow from the cars parked on either side of the street; the space made more confined by the girth of the steel box in which I ride.
We pass the green house, on the right, with the sidewalk buckled from the root of an oak tree. As we approach Gram’s house with shrubs running the length of the exterior, the engine slows from a quick hum to a low grumble. This is where my dad lives now. Sometimes he isn’t here, but Grandma always is.
The car pulls to the curb and I climb out onto the small patch of grass between the street and the sidewalk. I bound toward the concrete steps, my hand grazing the sticker-bush that is hanging over the wrought iron handrail. I reach the wooden porch and the gray, peeling paint crunches beneath my feet.
I knock on the thick wood door and peek through the glass window that frames it. I hear the grandfather clock chiming 3:00. Dong…dong…dong.
Gram’s wrinkled hand grabs the key from the its perch and she greets me. As I walk across the shaggy, orange carpet, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the full-length mirror on the closet door.
I collapse onto the green and white floral love seat and we spend the next hour watching M*A*S*H reruns on the console television that sits in the corner. My dad comes home. My cousins and I shoot rubberbands behind the TV where they pile upon others, covered in dust, which have gathered from one year to the next. At 5:00, two of us go outside, walking over the buckled sidewalk and down the hill to the pizza shop where we have a standing Thursday order.
After dinner, I sit on the porch and watch cars go by. I climb a tree, but only if she isn’t looking. I smell the rose bush in the corner of the backyard, next to the chain-link fence. I shoot baskets on the hoop that hangs on the garage next to the alley. My cousin and I walk a few blocks to a mulberry tree where we gorge on fresh fruit until our hands are purple and our bellies are full.
Upon our return, I go inside and climb the steps to the landing where I look out the window into the neighbor’s yard. I go into Gram’s bedroom and smoothly slide open her top, left dresser drawer.
I remove tiny Avon lipstick samples and look into her mirror while applying a deep red shade to my mouth. I purse my lips together, then rub the top one to its mate and wiggle them around until I am certain they’re evenly coated. I blot them on a tissue and make a popping sound.
I climb over the stair railing and slide down on my stomach to the living room; my ride hastened by the thick layer of wax atop the wood. After settling back onto the love seat, I lay my head against the flat, gold pillow. My eyelids grow heavy and I doze off as the baseball game plays in the background. Johnny Bench is at bat.
I wake to the sound of a car horn blaring. My mom doesn’t come to the door. I stumble to put my shoes on, then cross the room to where Gram is sitting in her corner of the sofa, under the bright light of the table lamp. I kiss her soft cheek.
As the grandfather clock chimes 9:00, I head outside, down the concrete steps with a quick one-two rhythm, then I open the heavy car door. I hear crickets chirping in the bushes.
I climb inside and the car turns the corner as it leaves one home for another.
As my 15 year old daughter came out of the bathroom last night, her 11 year old brother was waiting outside the door. When she entered the hallway, he jumped toward her with a loud, “BOO!” and scared the daylights out of her. I laughed. Mostly because she does her fair share of frightening people around here. Paybacks, dear. Paybacks.
I saw everything from where I was in my bedroom so I gave my son a thumbs-up and said, “Good job! You got her, but you’d better be careful because Dad scared me in that exact same spot when I came out of the bathroom one time and I almost pushed him down the stairs.”
He stared at me. “Really?”
I said, “Yes, really. I didn’t do it on purpose. It was just a reflex.”
And, the hearing impaired kid who suffered with belchy acid reflux for years said, “Ohhhh, I get it! So you burped and it almost knocked him down the stairs!”