Take Care of Her – Chapter 6

Chapter 6

“Why do you think you had the dream?” Rachel asked.

“I’m telling you,” Gretchen said. “It wasn’t a dream.”

“Okay. What do you think it was?”

“It was a girl. It was me. It is her. From my picture.”

“Why do you think-“

“I’m sorry, but this wasn’t my idea.” Gretchen said. You told me. You suggested this idea of taking care of myself. Of her. She’s here now I’m taking care of her. ”

“Do you think it’s reasonable, for a capable woman like you, to be so eager for a solution to her grief that she would invent this? To not think of caring for an inner child as a metaphor, but to start believing in a created-“

“She was always here. I don’t think my grief had anything to do with it.”

“She was there. I don’t think my grief had anything to do with it.”

“Is she here now?”

Gretchen was silent.

“Can I see her?”

“She’s right there.” Gretchen gestured to the girl in the corner, her legs in a ring, her fingers playing twiddle games. The register in the wall behind her kicked on and she jumped when the air hit her skin. She giggled and her pigtails shook when she laughed. Gretchen had put them in crooked, but neither her nor the girl seemed bothered by that.

“I don’t see her, Gretchen,” Rachel said. “It’s only you and me in the room.”

“You don’t have to make fun of me.”

“I’m not. I’m really not.  I’m concerned. I’m trying to map out what this coping strategy is. If it’s the best avenue for your work and energy now.”

Gretchen wished she could make Rachel see the girl. She’d love to show her that she wasn’t crazy.

Maybe she was.

But, for now, Gretchen chose to play along. Yes. There were only the grown-ups in the room. Yes. It was just a dream that crossed a boundary. Yes. She would come back in two days to talk again.

Until then, she decided that she wanted to really play for a while. So she left. And she took the little girl with her.

Driving through the city calmed her. Not the bridges. The bridges themselves were fine, but the crossing lanes and jockeying frazzled her. The neighborhoods, she liked. Her hands and feet steered on autopilot and she watched the brownstones and the people on their stoops pass her windows.

“You took a long time,” the voice said from the back seat.

“I know,” Gretchen said. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m glad you left. I didn’t like that lady talking about me. It made me sad.”

Gretchen glanced in the rear-view mirror and smiled. The little girl was there, still in her oversized green shirt. Her legs bounced the front passenger seat as she talked.

“That’s why I left,” Gretchen said. “I didn’t want you to be sad.”

“Are you tired?” the girl asked.

“No. Why? Are you sleepy? Do you need a nap?”

“I don’t like naps. They make me sad too.”

Gretchen smiled.

“You like to take naps. When you come home.”

“What would you like to do?” Gretchen asked.

“Play,” the little girl said.

“Okay,” Gretchen said. “Let’s go play.”

In This Wreck

In this wreck

This mess of

Conflict

And collision

And

Trying to put two trains

Back

Together

From different tracks

Freight and passenger

Local and express

Arriving and departing

From this entangled heap

Of melting collapse

We had a ticket

Itinerary

Baggage

Climbed onboard

And stayed onboard

Together

When the

Course veered

From our plan

Secure in our seats

Until the crash

And now

We’re in the middle of nowhere

Fields

When we wanted cities

Seclusion

When we planned

For distraction

Now

Pull away

Call for help

Rebuild from the ground

If the injuries aren’t

Enough to stop us

From leaving the scene

crumple up our tickets/maps

To stop the bleeding

Hide in suitcases

Among the clothes

We chose

Special

To show

To make a memory

Of a tie with a pin

And a dress

With a rip

But those memories

Don’t always keep us warm

We wait

Prying ourselves out

Pushing off beams and

Coughing on dust

Not strong enough

To step away from

The wreck

Not ready

To walk home

Tear It Off

Tear it off

take the skin

Dig out the infection

Hiding in the pockets

It seeps

For protection

Let it ooze

Out to air

Dry, form your scab

Leave off the ointment

that only collaborates

to drench and drown

Your own protection

down in your guts.

Willing defection.

Can’t run yet.

Soon.

The break will hold your weight.

The clot will staunch the flow.

The healing will come.

Tear it off.

Are You Okay?

It’s the pricks you aren’t expecting that slide in the deepest and hurt the most. If only we could get a 1-2-3 and a chance to close our eyes before the shock.

What is it about the tangential kindness of a friend, or in tonight’s case, a stranger daring to ask,

“Are you okay?”

that results in an absolute torrent of tears?

It’s a fucked up concept. Left alone to our thoughts we can compose and keep the dangling, rabid parts from flinging off and clinging to the nearest sticking place. But the moment a human wants to interact, sharing the core connection of that humanness, the spackle crumbles off the form and the holes beneath are exposed.

But then, I wonder about the humanity of someone who asks those questions. I’m afraid people are not that compassionate and selfless. I look inside and I know I’m not. And then I wonder about the tarnish on my own soul because I ask, am I that jaded that I assume most people are usually not okay, so asking that seems redundant and sardonic?

That’s probably not true either.

I probably do think people are okay most of the time. I see them calm in public. Or laughing at a funny, unexpected turn instead of breaking down. I covet that like there’s a tip waiting for me at the end of the night if I do it well. I wonder, how do they do it? How are they okay? What’s the fucking secret?

There is no secret.

It’s not as entry-level as sharp end/blunt end. The people I stand beside on the sidewalk when I step away in a panic, are not complete messes or totally together.

Many of us are not okay and hanging on by a thread and hearing, “Are you okay?”, is the bolt undone that unleashes the mudslide of messy, dirty feelings.

No one like to be caught covered in messy, dirty feelings. They make you cold and wet and then the car is a wreck after the drive home.

What the fix? The plastic poncho and umbrella that keep us from getting splattered? Is it honesty? As simple as, “No, I’m not okay?”, and then sharing and sitting with that icky closeness. Or should we pretend it all way?

I don’t know.

Yes, lovely girl with the fantastic hair. I was not okay last night. Yes, you are compassionate beyond what my brain can wrap around for asking. I diverted and reverted and maneuvered away from me. In a surprising turn, having to convince you I was okay, when I wasn’t, actually nudged me into the direction of okay.

No one could have been more surprised.

I’m not great with surprises.

Now, I still had to keep my routine. Practicing gratefulness. Remembering non-comparison. Trying to self-affirm. All about as useful as they ever are.

But it gave me something else to think about for a while.

And that was okay.

Slide

Slide

The climb up

fills

every step seems

to soak up through

and build from the sole

to the soul

so that it’s not higher

but more than

greater

above a tally of

numbers

incalculable

What can’t be seen

or figured

when stared up at

from the negative

Equal and opposite

up and down

every contraction

a waiting relaxation

resistance

to elevating

The view from the

peak

mind piqued

that this is the same air

how

when it feels different

less pressure than

on the ground

that can’t be

The ground is waiting

to prove

the thesis

Up is fleeting

Down is stasis

The slide is

inevitable

Only friction

the coefficient

we collude

to ignore

or ennoble

Bottom collecting

its specimens

to return

to the path

For another climb

Her Light

She is

not your spotlight

Focusing attention in the darkness

calling everyone to look

So you see

What it is you can do.

Not your search light

To guide you into harbor

when you’ve sailed your ships

Against warning

Into black and chopped waves.

Not to blame for

Being the siren who lured you back.

She was singing for herself

Not the mirror you held up

So she could see the faults

Not her hand that

Turned and burned you instead

The silence of your fury

Louder than the

Sighs of your disinterest.

Not your torch,

to frighten back creatures

You don’t understand.

She has her own monsters

creeping to her doors

and learning her language.

Carrying torches

Only grinds down

arthritic arms.

She put hers down.

She can’t do it

Too heavy.

The lights are too bright.

headaches are

far too dug in and planted

Photosynthesis the

Power line to

Migration.

Her own screwed in

Halogen

Fluorescent

Mixed white and blue and

Orange

Not matching when seen back

in her balanced eyes.

Her palms aren’t

Scarred and fibrous

As as her heart

to hold the light bulb

In place with bare hands.

It’s low watt but

Still

her fingers blister

fluid leaking

slipping

And she doesn’t have the grip

To twist

Your glass fragile

Illumination

In place.

She is candles and

altars with incense.

Low glow and quiet alone

With her disciple.

One you whispers,

knowing a harsh breath

kills the flame.

Happy in the room

She left dark.

The sun rises tomorrow

Isn’t it pretty to think

So dawn soft

Smoothed hair

Hazy unfocused

hands

Touched in shadows.

Chasing away the light

For just a little longer

Not needing to be

The brightness

But wanted to be

the still silhouette

Casting her own

Direction.

From her light.

Falling Smiles

Laugh

That’s it.

Go on now.

It’s okay. It’s hard.

Try again

That’s not quite…

you have laughed before?

Right?

No problem. Start smaller.

How about about a smile?

Just at the corners.

A bit up. Towards the sky.

A little on each side.

Little more.

Maybe a little more.

You’re twitching.

Oh dear.

How else can I explain this…

Remember when something good happened.

Tell me how you felt. Feel what your face does.

Not like that.

I’m not putting this well.

Christmas morning?

Warm bath after being in the cold?

A hug on the couch?

Yes. You’re nodding. Yes.

And…?

Nothing.

Nothing?

Are you quite sure you’re not a sociopath?

No, no, I’m kidding.

Maybe it wasn’t funny.

I’m sorry.

No, please don’t be upset.

I only wanted to hear you laugh.

That’s not laughing.

That’s…

Oh dear.

I’ve done this all wrong.

Maybe…

Damn.

I’m sorry.

I’ll go.

….trip….

…..fly….

….crash…..

Ow.

Did you…

See?

You did.

You smiled.

I guess I’ll have to keep falling.