I married Isis on the fifth day of May,
But I could not hold on to her very long
So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away
For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong.
We drove through the night, relator chirping about in the frontseat while I sat in the back, staring out the window, watching the scenery, crystallized in the cold January ice, seeing things I’d seen before, only different. Dave sat in front, chattering about with the realtor as I blew into my hands, trying to blow the cold clear on out.
Carefully, we approached the last house on our list for the night, a hulking monstrosity built in the 1970’s, similar – but not identical to – the house I grew up in. Cold crunched the tires, making a somber squeak, as we pulled into the driveway, the lights blazing inside bode a warm welcome from the howling night. Dave and the relator zipped on ahead to greet the owner as I stood there a moment alone, under the tree, which, in the frigid January wind, tinkled mournfully like the world’s saddest windchimes. I looked up and noticed the streetlights as they caught the ice encasing the branches, and the whole world seemed to shimmer for a moment.
I stood there mesmerized, not feeling the cold seeping into my bones.
“Becky,” Dave called. “You ready to go in?”
As we rode through the canyons, through the devilish cold,
I was thinkin’ about Isis, how she thought I was so reckless.
“It’s so beautiful,” I said that spring as we drove through our neighborhood, the trees lush and green, their branches happily intertwined from either side of the street as though they were trying their hardest form a canopy above. I could spy bits of blue sky between the leaves, but driving ahead, it appeared as though we were driving through a secret cove to our home.
“It really is,” Dave agreed, “It really is.”
Then I rode back to find Isis just to tell her I love her.
She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise,
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed.
“What’s this?” I asked, blinded by exhaustion and in dire need of a bed to rest my body as the early morning dawn rose, the sun wrangling it’s way upward, as if to remind us that if we had forgotten, once again, we’d been up most of the night at the hospital with our young son and infant daughter. The words ran together in an alarming manner as I tried to piece together the letter that had been unceremoniously shoved into the mailbox under the tree I had, what felt like a lifetime before, stood and listened to the music it had created.
I gasped as though I’d been sucker-punched.
“The tree,” I said. “It’s dying.”
“Which one?” Dave asked me, blearily trying to understand the words I was stringing together. I nodded at the Ash tree, which had once sung me a mournful song, as if to warn me that things would not always remain the same. Tears inexplicably filled my eyes, which I quickly swiped away, blaming them on exhaustion.
“That one,” I said simply. “That one.”
I came to a high place of darkness and light,
The dividing line ran through the center of town.
“They’re clearing the Ash trees from our side of town,” my mom told me one afternoon, the following summer. “They neighborhood looks so different.”
I fixed my gaze on the tree outside my window which had once sung a lone haunting melody, and, lost in thought, murmured my displeasure as my daughter crawled up my leg, trying to figure out what Mama was staring at.
“They haven’t started here, yet,” I said hopefully, still looking at my tree. “Maybe my tree will be okay.”
She simply stared at me, words unspoken.
The wind it was howlin’ and the snow was outrageous,
We chopped through the night and we chopped through the dawn.
The earth woke up this spring, telling me tales of a mild winter, the ground cold, but not frozen as I planted flowers of purple and pink, the tree slowly waving its barren branches above me as if to warn me. You don’t mean it, I said to the tree as I worked in the yard, growing something beautiful where none had grown before. You can’t mean it.
The tulips I’d planted years before bowed and bobbed in the warm spring breeze, as if to say, “almost time, almost time.”
Silly flowers, I thought. What do you know about death and dying? All you know is rebirth, starting over.
The tree dropped a branch, long since dead, next to me as I worked the earth, as if to say, “believe me now?”
When he died, I was hopin’ that it wasn’t contagious,
But I made up my mind that I had to go on.
“Mama,” my daughter asked a couple of weeks ago. “Why’s there a purple and pink dot on the tree?”
My heart sunk.
“Because it’s dying,” I said simply. “It’s time.”
I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty
There was no jewels, no nothin’ – I felt I’d been had.
“Did you see that there are no-parking signs outside?” Dave asked on Monday.
“The city must be taking down our tree,” he continued.
“Finally,” he said as if he’d been waiting his whole life for that sign.
I nodded again, turning my back so he couldn’t see the tears.
How she told me that one day we would meet up again,
And things would be different the next time we wed.
If I only could hang on and just be her friend
I still can’t remember all the best things she said.
Branches half dead now, entire sections of the tree destroyed, the tree still stands in front of my house, as if to thumb its finger at passers-by: yeah, I’m still here.
Not for long. Not for long.
Trying in one last attempt to save itself, the tree has grown saplings that jaunt merrily from the bottom, a sign of renewal in a time of death. I want to run out, screaming, give up and give in – let go, it’s over.
It’s time, I tell the tree each morning. It’s time. It’s over. Give up. I’m sorry I didn’t listen – you were right.
The branches sway lovingly at me, creaking a new tune – it’s final tune: we must move on, we must move on.
This time, I listen.
I still can remember the way that you smiled,
On the fifth day of May in the drizzlin’ rain
Last night, as I lovingly tongued my bottle of NyQuil goodnight, I set my internal alarm clock, as I always do when something is going on the following morning. Lately, though, with my anxiety levels being through the roof, I haven’t really needed it – turns out the cure for “not being a morning person” is not “no cowbell,” nor is it, “suck it up, Buttercup.”
Nope – it’s anxiety. Who knew?
7AM, I awoke, flutter-byes playing basketball in my stomach, rolled over onto my stomach and groaned – what was so important that I’d been woken up WELL before any sane person would opt for wakefulness? It hit me like a smack in the face: first day of school.
Wearily, I slogged out of bed and splashed some water on my face, trying to look presentable “enough” to the other bleary-faced parents who’d be dropping their kids off, determined that this time, at the very least, I wouldn’t be the youngest parent there, which increased the likelihood that I’d be able to, for the first time ever, get into the Holy Cult of the Mothers (they’re like the Caturday people, but harder to infiltrate). Maybe I need to apply or something.
Bumbling down the stairs, I poured at least half a cup of scalding coffee on my hand before I realized what I was doing. I stared down at my hand, my daughter standing nearby, trying to understand what I’d done.
“Aren’t you gonna say, “FUCK,” Mama?” she asked, completely seriously.
“I’m too tired, Girl Pants,” I replied hazily as I attempted to add some of the Blue Stuff to my coffee, managing to get one out of three packets into the coffee cup.
Aunt Becky: 0
Alex was bounding up and down and racing through the house, chasing the cats and beams of light and random dust particulates floating through the early morning sunlight, beyond thrilled that today was the day! I quickly decided that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to siphon off some of his energy and use it for my own personal gains, so instead, I curled up on the couch and tried to restock my Tiny Tower I’d so thoughtlessly allowed to go dark while I slumbered. My 8-bit people needed Blood of the Bean! And Porn!
Amelia and Alex bargained with Dave over who got to have a donut first, why, and which donut looked, upon taking a bite, more like the letter “c” than the other. Apparently, sibling rivalry knows no bounds.
Finally, my middle son twirled and whirled his way over to me, where he landed gracefully (too graceful to be MY child) in my arms. He stared up at me, blinking.
And in those blinks I saw the baby who cried every moment I left his line of sight, the toddler who spent the entire day after he learned to walk trying to kick a ball, falling down, getting back up again, and trying once again until he mastered it.
I saw the child who loved animals so much I called him Saint Francis of Assisi, the child who protected his little sister, teaching her of the cosmos and the heavenly bodies. I saw the child who’d curl up in my arms, reminding me that, while everything feels like a whirlwind, it would, indeed, be okay.
My heart filled with pride as I kissed the top of his head, my eyes full, for once, of happy tears.
He blinked again up at me, studying the lines of my face as he asked, “Mom, can I take the Powerwheel to school today?”
And just like that, the infant turned toddler turned child started his first day of school.
All in the wink of the blink.
Important to note: THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT THE DAVER. I JUST HAPPENED TO KNOW TOO MANY DAVE’S.
Back before the Internet, before I had crotch parasites, during the age Jesus copied my Bio/Chem 216 notes off me, I went off to college in the city. I wasn’t particularly excited to be going off to college, unlike my roommate, who told me, at one point that her name meant, “It Means Butterfly,” which is why, she explained, our room was covered in motherfucking butterflies and filled with her crap.
I’d always lived alone – my brother a full 10 years my senior – which meant that I wasn’t used to sharing my space with anyone, let alone a cell with electric pink carpeting I called the Maxi-Pad.
It Means Butterfly wasn’t, either.
I can’t recall if she had siblings or not, but I do remember that on certain days, she’d lovingly invite me to use anything from her razor to her underwear (which I did not), and others, she’d toss my bed, swearing I’d stolen the TV remote, even though I never touched the TV, which got a half a station if you considered watching television to be an act of trying to understand what one pixelated person? was saying to another? It could’ve been Animal Planet that I was mistaking for a sitcom for all I could tell as we did live on the 17th floor of a 17th floor building, that building was composed entirely of cinder-blocks.
Unstable? I’d say so.
(It Means Butterfly, not the building)
One day, as I tried to slip in and out of our doom room unnoticed by her (she was busily chomping down a salad dripping with ranch dressing – which I noted because she chewed with her mouth almost entirely open – and squawking at the hilarious things her boyfriend, Dave, said to her via instant messenger) she caught me.
“Becky,” she said. “Dave is coming to stay with us for a week. They close campus at SIU on Halloween because there were riots and he’s coming up to stay.”
I looked around our room, no bigger than a jail cell, that was overflowing with Precious Moments figurines, and shrugged. “Uh, okay?” I replied, trying to get out of the room before she could corner me – It Means Butterfly wasn’t overweight, but she was one of those girls built to plow the fields of corn or soybeans or whatever, whereas I was nearly a foot shorter and built like a bird, bones ready to snap if the crosswinds happened to be blowing the wrong way.
Dave arrived the next night while I was carousing about the town with my friends, eating delicious Thai food that cost (mostly) pennies, while plotting adventures and scheming our way into Gold Coast parties. I didn’t see him until I woke the following morning, my head thudding from too many Long Island Ice Tea’s the night before. Groggily, I noted from the bottom bunk, that there was a dude scratching his bung mere inches from my face. If I looked the right way, I could see into his boxer shorts.
(SPOILER ALERT! I didn’t look.)
I shuddered, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, while It Means Butterfly’s stupid seagull alarm clock went off, as I reminded myself that I did not, in fact, want to commit murder before I hit my 19th birthday.
Slowly, It Means Butterfly got dressed and made her way to her 8AM class, while I rolled over, trying to tune out the kissy-face noises she and Dave were making at each other. Finally, she left, and I got up ready to kick the ass of anyone who tried to elbow me in the elevator on the way down to campus.
It wasn’t until I came back in from changing in the bathroom and washing my face that I realized that yes, in fact, there was a dude in my room.
“HI,” he said, as I walked back into my room. “I’m Dave!” He reached out his hand for a shake and I took it, shaking it, shocked by It Means Butterfly’s boyfriend. He was kinda cute. And a metal head. This did simply not compute with everything I knew about It Means Butterfly and her Precious Moments Collection.
“Hi Dave,” I said warily, wondering if this was a trick. “I’m Becky. Nice to meet you.”
I went off to class, only to stop by Pashmina’s room to quickly tell her, “PSST – Check out It Means Butterfly’s boyfriend, dude. He’s not…he’s not gross!”
Pashmina, no friend of It Means Butterfly, as she’d not once, but twice, broken Pashmina’s precious bubble chair, which inducted her squarely into Pashmina’s Archenemy Hall ‘o’ Fame, was still half-asleep but managed to squeak a note of surprise behind me as I left for class.
As all good things do, eventually come to an end, I had to return my dorm room, where It Means Butterfly was sitting squarely on Dave’s lap, all but dry-humping.
Now, I’d just broken up with my long-term boyfriend, and if there’s one thing that people who have freshly broken up with their long-term boyfriends DO NOT need to see, it’s other happy couples cooing and humping each other. Especially if it’s on your desk chair.
I snuggled up in my cloud sheets for the night, wrapped up tight as a tick and listening to something vaguely depressing on my discman, because, well, I WAS MOURNING A BREAKUP and when you’re 18 A BREAKUP IS FOREVER WAH, WAH, WAH, even if your former boyfriend had a small penis, you get to be all emo about it. It’s written somewhere in the 18-year old guidebook.
Breakups = forever lost love (with a small wang) = emo time.
Just as I was falling asleep, I felt the bed begin to…shake a little. The bunk-beds we used were so unsturdy that if you breathed near them, it would set off an hour’s worth of rocking back and forth. This rocking, though, it was…rhythmic and OH MY FUCKING GOOD LORD OF BUTTER THEY WERE HAVING SEX. GROSS GROSS GROSS.
I practically levitated out of bed down the hall into Pashmina’s room where I began spitting out the story, It Means Butterfly trailing behind me, trying to explain herself. I’d been clear: no sex while I was in the room; the room was so small that there was a great likelihood that simply by being near two people humping, I’d get a penis put somewhere I wasn’t expecting.
By chance, a friend, Derek, an RA from floor 4, happened to be in the room hanging with Pashmina and her roommate at the time. “Oh poor Becky!” he said, accent dripping of California. “Come on down and stay on my floor,” he said. “I promise my guys will treat you well.”
I dragged my cloud blanket and tired ass down the stairs and onto the elevator. Finally, ensconced in Derek’s room, after he received several high-fives from his “guys” for having a girl in his room, I snuggled up to eat a peanut butter sandwich with James before we slumbered off into the Land of Nod.
“Night Derek,” I said, after we turned off the lights. “Thanks for letting me stay.”
I laid down on the concrete floor, covered thinly by a thready blue-carpet and tried to go to sleep. Was nearly there when I heard that old familiar squeak-squeak-squeak of the bed. Holy motherfucker, I thought as I sat upright. He’s fucking beating his meat.
I made up some excuse about having to “get back upstairs for something or another,” and made my exit as quickly as I could, leaving a baffled Derek in my wake.
I climbed, once more, back into my bed, before yelling, “You guys start fucking again, Imma make a porno of it.”
They were mysteriously quiet for the rest of the night.