I am driving back from the grocery store when I see him in a beaten up Chevy with a dreamcatcher hanging from the rearview mirror. His paunchy face is looking downward, dangerously- the car swerves on the road. It is autumn. I am cold from my malfunctioning thyroid and the California lizard winds- scaly, thin, freezing. I am listening to Prince and singing under my breath, purposefully using the wrong lyrics to amuse myself, wondering what Prince is really like in bed, that tiny man body, that pompadour, the perfume, sweet velvet eyeliner, high voice. Does he hum to himself when he's licking a woman clean? I am picturing the bed of Prince- a thickly layered circular majesty suffocating with oversized pillows.
I look up and he is looking down and my hands on the driving wheel instantly shrink two sizes and my feet shrivel and slip of the gas pedal and my body becomes the body of an eight year old and I can no longer drive or control my car and a great, shuddering fear and grief clicks the camera closed, and opened, and I am in a different world and time, and I am not safe. It is silent and the silence is threatening. It is cold and the cold is winter. It is fear and the fear is a warning. Only then do I see that it is not him. The man looks up just as we pass each other and he has a large, ungainly nose, puffy lips and a square head. Not my father.
The song rises again into my consciousness, my hands and body and feet grow and like Alice I am returned to my rightful size, and like Alice I awake from a dream that was not a dream. I pull the car into the Home Goods parking lot and press my forehead against the wheel of the car but it is not hard enough; I grip the steering wheel with wet hands and yank the thing into my forehead until finally it begins to hurt, and hurt, and hurt, and after a minute or so, I begin to cry, and the crying becomes something humiliating, something other, something high and shrill and wailing and completely unwelcome in this suburban palace of manicured grasses, elementary schools, street corners of pharmacies and Mexican food, the psychiatrists tucked cleanly and neatly far back into boxed corners on the edge of town. I listen to myself cry and think about how Indian people have that beautiful, out of control sounding musical wailing that reminds me of opera, and how I have no place to hide, and how I want more than anything in the world to be in that moment in the wide wide world and thrust my face into some rich uncontaminated soil and wrap my hands around grasses and feel the complacent face of sky watching my ritual. I think about why I am crying. I listen to what my brain tells me, and it has an order:
First: I want my daddy! I never had my daddy! I want a daddy!
Then: I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!
And: I don't hate him, Lura forgive me, I don't and I can't, I tried....
Then: I want my sister I want my sisterIwantmysisterIwantmysister and this trails and repeats and loops and so this way I know it is the true place of my grief. Oh Lura. My sweet baby sister. I am so, so sorry beyond even knowing what I am sorry for, knowing what I am sorry for, I am sorry for more and for everything and for not taking care of you. For not knowing how. I am sorry. I love you. I miss you.
The emptiness of her loss spins from my crying mouth like a fragile ghost, misting around my chest and face, and I view it with ragged breath. I look into the loss. I bow my head because this is a place of suffering and grief, like an unmarked burial site in the middle of the Iraqi desert. No one names this place, and I cannot explain what it is that happened. I had a sister. I still have a sister. I lost my sister. She left us. She left me. I don't have my sister, anymore. It has been ten years.
Wherever you are, you are loved. You are so loved.