It is strange to be sad during the summer. The sky here in California is as brightly scrubbed and fresh faced as my daughter's, the sun is hot and sweet on my face and shoulders, my freckles bloom despite sunblock, my children laugh, fight, grow, the kittens pee in the corner and clap flies between their paws, the dogs pant and leave trails of slimy water through the kitchen, Bruce sings on the radio. I can see all this. I lay next to Lola tonight and her delicate boned, minature arms wrapped round my neck and ribs, her mouth above my nose so that I could smell her honeysuckle breath, her little feet pressed against my thighs. I felt my heart pound in it's suspension, against the rib cage, the same formation of arteries and nerves and electical impulses that is failing my friend Cathy. Congestive Heart Failure- her diagnosis. It's terrible. I am afraid to write more in case...what if she finds this one day? I have known her five years. She has given Lola stuffed toys from her children's childhoods, complimented Dakota on his height and good looks, passed on shirts to Mr. Curry. She in her early fifties and found out one week before her hospitalization that her daughter is pregnant with Cathy's first grandchild. She has irritated me, frustrated me and been irritated and frustrated in her own right, and I have worked with her for five years, day in , day out, eating lunches, telling jokes, coming to work in silence or in smiles, picking up trash, complaining about aches, burping and hugging and changing and loving babies, five years. The passage of time alone is enough to bond me to someone. That is how I am. For five years we shared the same air and the same molecules and the same sunlight and rainstorms and fatigue and laughter and ' here take this baby she spit up all over me'.
I come home and I am exhausted. I lay down and sleep, a half hour, three hours. I wake, eat a little, read with Lola, play with Lola, miss the boys at camp, lay down with Lola. Mr. Curry is different right now. He is in the place he goes where I do not understand even the look on his face. Everytime this happens I am reminded of the mystery of marriage. We are bound together not just because we love each other but because we share our children, our dogs, cats, our past, our present, our future, promises, loss, hope, secrets. Most of the time these connections are a haven. When things get like this, those connections are exhausting. I wish for a break, to be more individual, to be disconnected for a while, maybe just to be a mother, like when I was single and raising Dakota, or just a woman. Just me. I pull back, I wait. I try to take care of myself, I take care of my children, the pets, the house, go to work. When the evening comes his mood is worse, has more of a shimmering, vibrating quality: I can feel it prowling in the house. Everytime this happens I am reminded of the mystery of the mind. I can feel it and I know if the wrong thing happens- if the cat jumps on him, or the kids make a huge, unauthorized mess, or I say something the wrong way- then he will be very angry, and his eyes get mean, and his jokes get mean spirited, and his tone of voice is mean and loud and I don't have the energy to try to figure out how I'm supposed to be to make this better. I just hate this, and I'd like my husband back.
Something about this summer is slow and simmering. Losing the baby slowed everything down. I feel slow, and heavy, and I have gained ten pounds eating less than I was before, my thryoid slowing down, too. I just stopped bleeding, four days ago. My stomach distends and hurts, IBS, brought on by stress, I'm sure. The days of July moved even slower than June. So hot. So humid. Our cats meow, fight. The dogs lay in the corners of the house. We swam, Mr. Curry and I made love over and over, we spent the weekends arbecuing, sleeping, watching movies, maybe visiting the bookstore. I could not find it in me to do the other things I'd planned- the trips to hike, the ocean, downtown. I just feel so heavy. So tired. So sad.
Dakota came back from SeaCamp and had an amazing time. He had his first kiss and it was as amazing as any mother could want for her son. The girl was sixteen- he is fifteen- beautiful, she spoke five languages and was FRENCH. She spoke only a little English and flew here just for SeaCamp. She kissed Him. Oh my beautiful boy. My firstborn. My beautiful, smart, deep, soulful, passionate, brave, stubborn, beautiful-hearted boy.
Lola sleeps. Dakota sleeps. Ian sleeps in another house, sweet faced, still much younger than his older brother. Mr. Curry sleeps, and I love him. I love that he remembers the first time he saw me, at fifteen, and that I remember the first time I saw him, and that the first time we hung out- at nineteen- he was so nervous the only thing he said for three hours to me was ' OK ' when I asked him to hand money to a homeless man. I love that I can look at my naked body and remember being so much younger and giving it to him, as the gift that sex is, and him accepting it with the proper reverence and joy and gratitude and respect and shyness that I wanted, and knowing we had something special. I love that he moves his hand over the curve of my rounded stomach and has exactly the same gleam as he did when I was twenty-five and my stomach was a flat, inward curving. I love that he loves Will Ferrall for the same reasons I do. I love that opens doors for everyone, but especially the old, sick or female. I love that he has great respect for the elderly, even the riduculously disagreeable elderly. I love that he once jumped in his car and drove straight to San Francisco to kick his sister's boyfriend's ass who pushed her and threw things in a fight, and I love that he didn't hunt the guy down when he wasn't there, but instead simply helped his sister move out. I love that he loves to travel. I love that he thinks I am the most brilliant writer since anyone, ever. I love that he is completely and totally sure that one day my novel will be published. I love that he is in his thirties and still growing, still changing, not stagnent. I love that when he is himself, he is kind to me, and patient, and I love how we work as a team, and how I am kind, and patient with him, and how when we are not, we apologize and try again, and I love how underneath our anger there is still a gentleness that is borne of deep love. But right now, I hate this. I hate all of this dissapearing and not knowing when to expect it back. Can you send me a card? Can you RSVP:
sorry for delay, will be back at the end of the month, love you
It is summer, it is hot, my children are healthy and happy and I have a home and food and I just bought new jeans two weeks ago that look great on me, and I know these things make me lucky. I grabbed around Lola's tiny rib cage tonight and lay there awake as she slept for twenty minutes, just smelling her, just looking at her nose as she slept. Then I held Dakota, listened to his voice. I am blessed, and I am sad.
The summer moves over me and somehow cannot penetrate, like being so cold your bones hurt and taking a bath and still finding the trembling of cold vibrating in your core. I move slowly, I breathe slowly, it feels like holding my breath. My ribs ache. Strange hives without itching creep over my legs. I observe them cooly. What are you here for? I think. I'm not taking any more messages. At night Lola is very afraid of the dark, of going to sleep, since she saw part of a scary movie at her friend's house. I have set up a system to help her: we pray, leave a light on, talk about the nature of fear, how everyone has to learn about it, how it is a feeling not a fact, how safe she is, and I lie in bed with her every night. I feel like a great fake. I am afraid, too. Maybe she knows this and it's my fault she's not getting better. That's parenthood for you. You are deprived of even the sanctity of your own horrible secrets, because even they are drawn out like metal to magnet by the power of our chlidren's connections to us.
I am waiting. My feet move slowly in the pool, kicking. I dive underneath the water and open my eyes and the sunlight is refracted so brightly my skin glows. I let myself go, and float to the surface. My body is boyant and the slick of my breasts rise through the water. Somehow, it is all reversed and instead of drowning I am afraid of surfacing. I am waiting.