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What Remains


Then sometime later I am out in the front yard, flat on my back in the weeds, looking at the stars overhead. There are people coming and going in the driveway but I am beyond any inhibitions. The yard is big and overgrown and I feel safe.  I can feel the dampness of the ground under me, that strange taste in my mouth- beer and tinny like blood.  I am spinning, not because I am drunk but because everything is always spinning. Only when we let go can we open up enough to feel it, to bear it.  We are so fucked, so long gone that only by being altered in this way can we feel what is real. Everything I've ever known races through my veins and I am not afraid of the speed with which my mind works and I am not trying to hold any of the thoughts- just let them race through me, spin as fast as the earth under me.


At some point she is beside me in the grass holding my hand and we are laughing and laughing at the oldest joke, which is that life is hard and beautiful and crazy.  And I am voracious with want. I want to eat everything, the laughter, her voice, the trees, the Earth under me.  


Then it all spins off and we are back at the party and she is playing the tambourine with the band and she is for the moment attractive and normal appearing. I am not dancing any more and the spinning is getting way too much for me. I marvel at her, how she can move between these two realities.  But I worry for her too. She is so beautiful and seemingly carefree in this moment but she understands about the spinning.  She catches my eye again and winks as if to say, “It’s okay I’m just having fun with it all, trying it on.” 


It is all tangled up together, what I knew laying in the grass about how we can't bear it most of the time. That to feel connected to earth means we have to feel what has been done to earth, to all of us.  And how she is my sister in struggle because she understands this. I feel I am on the verge of something big and scary and life changing. 


Then she comes up to me and hands me a tab of acid.  I take it.  Thinking yes, this is what we need to really go deep, all the way in to earth, to each other.  It will be great we will trip together and be really close.  Then I think no, this is not a good idea you are already on the edge.  So I spit it out.  I tell her, “I don’t think I should trip.”   But she already took her tab. “You can’t leave me alone.” she protests, so I take another.  I don’t know what the hell I am putting in my body.  Putting stuff in to get something out.  The American way!  I begin to laugh to myself and two hippy girls dressed like they are in a reenactment of Little House on the Prairie move away from me.  


But I was right and wrong.  Right to leave the vaginal pride sticker firmly in place.  Wrong to think tripping was a good idea.  We leave the party after awhile.  Leave all the white hippy boys treating tripping like another thing to fake your way through.  Be cool. Be cool.  We get back to our house.  We live with seven other people at the 14th Street house.  It’s a big Brady Bunch style home with an empty in ground pool in the backyard.  We get there and I head right for the stereo. I need music and movement and to let all this swirling settle into some conceivable pattern.  There must be a pattern or is it a rhythm?  I want to talk about patterns and rhythms.  Or I want to dance them which feels like talking.  Really I want to dance and suck and fuck and laugh and crack open but I will settle for dancing and that knowing shared smile when the song goes all the way in.    


But she is distant.  She says she needs to call her boyfriend.  She needs to lie down.  Lie down?  How the fuck are you going to lie down with all this going on?  She says, “Don’t be mad at me but this is too much.”  I hear her saying I am too much and deep in my heart I know that it’s true.  She goes upstairs to her room and shuts the door.  


I just stand there with a Jimi Hendrix record in my arms.  It’s gold and glowing and Jimi is wearing a feather boa.  He looks at me, slightly reproachfully as if to say, “Well?  Now what?”  I hug the square record album.  It smells like childhood, woody and a little sweet.  I walk to the bottom of the stairs and can see her light on and I can hear talking.  She must be on the phone with her boyfriend.  I think she is crying but I’m not sure.  I feel scared.  For the first time in a very long time I let myself feel how completely scared I am.   


I think of calling Mom.  If it’s 5am on the west coast then it’s 8am where she is.  She wouldn’t be mad.  She would talk to me.  She would talk about patterns and rhythms.  She would say, “Yes love life is scary but it is also beautiful.  Remember to be kind to yourself.”  But we don’t have long distance on our phone.  And a collect call feels like more than I can muster.  It’s comforting to know that option is there.  I put it in my back pocket so to speak.  


I’m still standing there unsure what to do when I hear car wheels on the gravel drive.  One of our other housemates is arriving home.  I panic.  Mom or Hendrix I can handle but not any of my housemates.  I run to my room and pull a big wool sweater over my t’shirt and skirt.  With seconds to spare I am out through the back door and scrambling down the long wooden stairway that leads from the deck to the pool.  The pool remains empty and has a lot of trash in it.  It was like that when we moved in and will be like that when we leave.  


I strike out across a field behind our house headed to the woods.  There is the hint of dawn in the sky as I tromp through the field but in the woods it is thick and dark.  I make my way slowly and within 20 feet I come upon an old fence.   The fence post is rotting and leans towards me.  The fence enrages me. It’s violence, it’s symbolism.  It is anti-pattern and anti-rhythm.  Even here in these woods the mark of property and ownership like a permeant scar.  I kick the hell out of that fence post with my boot.  I kick and kick and it collapses.  Like the tower in tarot.   I smile for the first time all night.  Truly smile.  


I hear a sound in the distance, as familiar as the wood smell and the gold record album.  I make my way towards it along the fence and kick at every rotted post I pass.  The fence runs along for maybe twenty more posts and then ends at the water.  A small pond.  I step out from the cover of the woods, the sky just slightly washed pink at the edges and listen to the spring peepers.  The sound becomes everything. Their patterns soothe me.  There is method to this madness.  Break off the hard edges. For the moment I am soft and round and held by the horsetail and skunk cabbage growing in abundance by the pond and by the beauty of this green song.  Their soft wet bodies hidden but their voices insistent drowning out everything else as they demand.  Live, live, live.


I don’t know how long I stay by the little pond. Drugs and emotion scramble time.  I crouch down stretching the sweater over my knees.  My hands rest on the damp ground and I breathe, for the moment it is enough to just breathe.  I want to hold on to this.  This is who I want to be.  


I return to my room.  Everyone that is home is asleep.  The sun is just finishing it’s rise.  I fall on to my futon exhausted.  As I roll over I look up at my ceiling.  There is a giant sheet spray painted like an american flag and in big, red letters it says,  “America, a bright and shining lie!”  It is the flag we use for our street theater.  The piece is called Imperialist Choir. We all stand on the flag in our skeleton masks jumping up and down screaming, “Collateral Damage!”  


The last time we did this at the march in Seattle just after the ground war began we were told by the peace keeper for the march that this was a non-violent march and they would appreciate if we kept things peaceful.  She was the one who pushed to the front of our group and told the peacekeeper that expressing rage and anguish at our country murdering people was peaceful and peaceful doesn’t have to be quiet.  He just looked daggers at us and walked away. 


It occurs to me, why do I think I need to look at that when I lay in bed?  Do I worry I will forget my own rage?  Why do I think I need to rub my own face in horror when I am trying to sleep, to dream.  This too is a pattern revealed.  Punishing instead of healing, fighting even with your own spirit. I want to hold the softness of the dawn and the pond.  I want my strength to come from that as much as my boots kicking at the barriers and my bravado that keeps me safe.  


I climb precariously on my bookshelf and reach out managing to just grasp the corner of the sheet.  I am losing my balance, I am walking that fine line between survival seeing you through the madness and survival owning you.  

And so I jump with the corner firmly in my hand.  Pulling everything free, landing around me, rearrange the patterns, trust the rhythms.  Rest and rise again. 

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