Sunday, May 26, 2013

For My Sister: A Name I Love and a Face I Miss

It took me almost a year to be able to even write about it. I still don't have the right words.


June 18th was the day the summer carved and cut from me, shredding and scattering and leaving the hollow. The sun baked the edges and burned away still more. I poured out of my face and fell out of my throat and rotted in my own belly. Every waking began with the slivered edge of a remembrance of what was, followed fast by the rushing wailing of the remembrance of what was now. I was breaking and broken and crucially crumbling, wasting away in the tender part that knit us together, the part that was carved, the place that was cut, the pieces that were shredded and scattered, the hollow that remained, waiting, growing. I crumpled around the absence and slid inside. I wept my way around the borders of this emptiness; I crawled in the dark of it, finding it ever expanding under my searching palms, my dirty knees, my bowed and broken head. In this way I mapped the shape of the place my sister occupied in the person I was. I often forgot where I was and thought I would find her there, even though there was the place of where she was not. So I heaved and sobbed through a wretched and winding way, and in these crawling, sliding, elbow dragging travels I discovered what the hollow held. There in the dark, wet cold, I did not find a straightforward grief, or frank loss, or blunt pain. It was nothing so simple or neat, not so clean or sane. Inside, instead, I found a living thing. I found an unwanted and strange creature, humming and fluttering along under my ribs. It has a name I love and a face I miss, but it is not her.

It’s a beating and breathing mass of all that she was, and all I was with her, and all we were together. It murmurs what was left unsaid, and remembers what should never have been said. It shimmers with memories beautiful, and shudders under memories terrible. It teems with joys, with guilt, with questions; it dreams in misty ifs and cries in sharp barks of why, why, why? It is frenetic and dangerous, full of teeth and grasping claws that mark me over and over again; it is smooth, docile curves where I can rest my head and hear the beating heart of what it meant to be and to have a sister. In the hollow, beneath my ribs, sometimes it’s so small I can breathe around it. Sometimes I forget it is there and glance down to find its eyes on me, and then I have to discover it all over again through the infinite shock of knowing. Sometimes it’s wild and screaming and threatens to overtake me; sometimes it does, and then I’m in the hollow, in unfamiliar places I have yet to map, crawling again on searching palms and dirty knees, lost. Sometimes, when it has been exceptionally tame and I am feeling especially brave, I make myself reach in and carefully cradle it in my hands. I make myself feel the shape of it, and softly stroke the finality of what it means to have such a creature inside of me. I feel the awful weight of it in my palms, the warm, weeping reality cupped there, the insistence of the necessity of carrying it with me until I, too, am an unwanted and strange creature beating and breathing in the hollow under someone’s ribs. Rare are these brave times, because they leave me exhausted- far more so than those first lost days of crawling, sliding, elbow dragging travels. At the bottom of everything, of course, such distinctions are pointless: whether cupped in my hand or curled in the hollow, I can never, and I will never, be apart from it in any way that truly relieves me. The geography of the body doesn’t allow for such distance. Our proximity is complete and final.

Most of the time, I can be neat and clean and sane, and allow it to live as I know it must live, to dream and scratch and breathe and beat and shimmer and shudder, to hum and flutter along somewhere under my ribs. Most of the time I can set my shoulders and move through the world even as it moves inside of me. Most of the time. Still, in slipping moments I sometimes give in to the need to stand on the slivered edge of remembrance of what was. I shake my head at what is now. I try to fill in the space where I was carved and cut, but it pours out of me. I try to gather the shredded and scattered, but it is forever lost. In this ritual I try to deny what is now, even as I know I cannot forget the crawling travels of the hollow, or ignore the unwanted and strange creature under my ribs.

Despite the hopelessness of it, I do so desperately wish that it hummed and fluttered anonymously.

Despite the hopelessness of it, I do so desperately wish that it did not take the name I love and wear the face I miss.

Despite the hopelessness of it, I do so desperately wish for June 17th

Friday, May 24, 2013

It lives!

How I spent all of March. The IV port where they dumped the killer antibiotics is hidden in there somewhere.

I know I don't have to say it, since the date stamp from my last post is clear, but I didn't write at all over the winter and the beginning of spring. I do have a good reason, though: Tirana turned on me, and went from charmingly absurd to hell bent on destroying me. I destroyed Tirana instead, by simply deciding that it wasn't real. As it turns out, it's incredibly satisfying to deem an entire city and everything in it a bizarre apparition- it made so many things make so much more sense. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I certainly have a grip of entertaining stories to show for it, but in the process I wore myself down into a frenetic bundle of nerves and sleepless, dancing feet mania. The all nighters and street play and new pubs and clubs and friends and roaming like a wild thing was punctuated with unexpected and overwhelming interruptions of sweeping grief that left me on the ground, staring in surprise at the sky, gasping for breath and checking myself all over for bruises and cuts. In the mix there was a month of sickness, resulting in my spending my 30th birthday pissing blood with chunks of more blood in it, crawling on the floor in agony convinced my side was going to split open, and pondering the potential damage to my kidneys and how much a flight to the UK might be if I were to need such a thing. Things were fine for a bit but now, as I type, a bandage cuffs my left arm, right above the elbow, covering the long, straight cut where a rogue mole was sliced out by my good friends (we're all on a first name basis now, y'all) at the Spitali Amerikan. The winter, and the beginning of spring, were all in all a ramshackle jumble of the best and the worst of what it means to give up one's home and roam the world living in temporary places, carving out a bit of space upon which to set up camp for a while. That is to say, I had some of the best and worst times I've had in a while. I danced and played and stomped all over the rain soaked city; I lived like a vagrant and reveled in late nights and early mornings and music and books and new faces; I also sobbed and brooded and raged and sulked and frequently picked at the pain from last June, even when I didn't particularly want to, even when I shouldn't have, because feeling the pain at least felt like having another shared experience, even though I know the time for that is forever over.

So I've been doing what I always do when I find myself on the other side of what might be considered by most to be a pretty hectic and wild swing- I've been reading a lot of books and poetry, and listening to a lot of music, and, recently, writing a lot of rambly crap that isn't very good but feels good to write anyway. I have a new job, this one is about to end (sadly so, I adore my kids), and summer travel plans are shimmering in the distance but getting closer and closer every day.

Let's catch up, shall we? I'll be around. Maybe. Okay, probably. Let's say we'll see and leave it be. I'm just glad to be up and out of bed. It seems like I'm still getting used to that again, ever so slowly, but I'm getting there.