Call her unkind, the Collie
Barking at the neighbor lady painting her garage in her pajamas
But, may I translate?
“You there, Sis,” (it’s how the cool girls talk)
“Good morning, and for God’s sake, how long’s it been? How many seasons, since you thought to come out here and throw some color around? Those Days you were gone didn’t deserve you…paintbrush and passion put away.”
Given the dog’s sixth/sense, she knew what the lady’d replied, “un-aloud.”
“First of all, it has been cold, and my hands were shaking. And, countenance and confidence shattered, how could I breathe, much less beautify?”
“And secondly…?” The pooch -amused- persisted.
“Secondly,” the artist offered, “those Days that did not deserve me? Like rungs of a ladder, under my feet they are now. Nevertheless, here am I, despite the cold. Good day, Collie.”
Walking away, back to shade’s solace, the canine’s congratulatory caution, “What, with your whimsy and will, and wonder and wit, the cold may try steal you the morrow.”
“You made it this far
Wonder, man…wandering now
Stop. Push her beyond”
Always these words
Never these feet
Victor’s conscience never bothered him, though
You came here to help her
You came here to fall
Did you not?
Let’s learn if between the two of you
There is enough grit to start
To fuel an industry
“It IS my business,” Cressida thought
And it bothered her so
I always made her wait
“That’ll teach you,” I commanded,
“to feel, to wish and need.”
Someone, but not I
Might’ve offered mercy
“The more tears, the more mess,” I understood.
“And further,” I’d chide, “you cannot permit pieces of who you are to escape and run free -there’s no one who’ll care to clean up after you.”
Then she’d quiet down and stop expecting
She’d fall asleep, and dreamless be
She’d go. Goodbye.
“If I could be bothered to wonder,” I thought aloud,
“I’d ask where.”
“You loved the best kind of man.
What more is there to say?”
she’d gently tell herself,
“To possess the capacity to love,
is the surest sign of brilliance.”
I tempted her to see,
so she’d heal, and Conclude:
“You’ve a brilliant, unjaded heart.
Your intellect made perfect sense
Be well, sweet One.
“…she can’t be from here
With every step she carries
That different dust….”
Why are women amazing, Victor sat asking himself while staring in awe at his smiling Mom and laughing sisters. Honestly, what is it? He finally decided it’s that they love so freely, without thinking first about it. They…. His thoughts were interrupted when quickly, from nowhere, impulsive little legs came running into the kitchen – sliding too fast. Before the inevitable crash into to the stove, Victor’s younger sister Sunnie raced over. Victor swooped in to save his young nephew, but Sunnie was faster, exclaiming, “Careful…oh…I caught you!” Quick to love and fiercely protective too, he marveled, realizing there was so much he shared in common with these stunning yet ordinary women.
“Hey, Starla,” he said to his older sis, “what in the world…? His voice sounded incredulous, he knew, but he couldn’t resist ribbing her about the half peanut butter and jelly sandwich he’d just found plastered to the bottom of the kids’ puzzle box on the kitchen table. Starla didn’t miss a beat, “You try working from home on a snow day while trying to keep these two love bugs fed and entertained!” The whole lot of them burst out laughing and at once recalled all the mischief they themselves had made as kids, home from school on snow days. How devious it’d felt!
As they all talked, he got lost, noticing, as he always had to. Starla has Mom’s stare and strong, symmetrical smile. Sunnie has Dad’s determined spirit and hospitable grin. I’m somewhere in between. A mish-mash of them. I recognize some of me in all of them and them in me. Wherever, though, did my temperament come from? And this flashy smile that comes and goes so quickly? And my eyes -he almost thought aloud- someone once told me they always seem to be contemplating two places at once -here and elsewhere. Victor had not seen eyes like his before. Then Cressida. On that singular first and last meeting, she had the same soft stare and the same come-and-go bolt of a smile. She’s like you, Victor understood. I guess I’m not alone, he thought, and it brought him comfort.
Looking around, his heart wanted to explode. Look at these life forces! All of them, even the ones who run with more magic than their feet understand. This is my clan. We are alike. All this love in one room. Everywhere, there should be more of this, Victor decided.
“…How does one who has shared your air
Breathe again without you there?
And this is how I waste my ways
Breath seized, for fear of losing
What I will never know….”
These sheets are like quicksand sometimes. A comfortable trap. Get out of bed Cressida, she sleepily commanded herself. I sure like to call out my own name a lot, she thought, beginning to analyze what’s behind that odd habit. Our own name to our ears is beautiful and personal and intimate, Cressida remembered learning long ago. It is music. A symphony to be specific. Like his name. Victor. I’ve said it my head how many times? Not knowing why. “And not on purpose,” she lied aloud to herself. A typical name, but it reminds me of one who is up on high – which would explain the atypical light in his eyes, she reflected, thinking again of that day when she introduced herself. It seemed then as if he is someone who sees things others do not see. Or, would see if they took the time, Cressida sarcastically judged.
There’s something about him that I want to unlock but not solve. What is it? Would it help him to hear his name spoken to him by someone who wants nothing from him in return? I wish to speak it while in song. To put his name to music. So visualizing Victor, Cressida sang in her head, “I know that you don’t need me to, but Victor let me sing to you. In black and white and from on high. I don’t know the distance I’ve yet to travel, or if I’m made to get there. Though we are easy. Would you yet hear me….” “He doesn’t know I exist,” she whispers, her thoughts and song trailing off. Being damaged and all, Cressida understood it meant that she’s not really allowed to think about his light-filled eyes anyway.
Oh, go look for the Sun, something said to her. It’s almost sunrise and she’s been in love with the sunrise. Getting out of bed and falling to her window, something – someone – caught her eye. Two someones, a distance away. She watched them hold hands and walk slow, not in step, but better. Covered in the morning’s pink amber light, they were shadowless, since the sun had yet to breach the horizon. Her heart dropped at first, but, determined that ‘Happy for those who are happy’ be her mantra with these things, she decided instead to be struck by these strangers’ solace. It was poetic. Seeing the simple act of two lovers holding hands suddenly reminded her that she needs to start holding her own hand, or even better, not need to hold any hand at all. In fact, Cressida continued, I have to begin to look life in the eye again if I hope for it to hold me. And to put down the gloves if I want life to love me. Put down the gloves.
Gloves. There was never solace, just the silent fight to survive. Which, looking back, is poetic in its own way. There was the absence of seeing and the presence of fear, she thinks now. She never tries to, but too often these days, she cannot help but remember eyes full of glare. Lacking acceptance. It’s then that Cressida clung to what she knew to be the absolute truth: We are nothing but valuable in God’s eyes. “Why,” she asked herself and these hand-holders, unable to comprehend that some people cannot treasure those who they claim to love. And why, she also demanded from the air in her room, did she allow the truth of her value to be wiped out with lies? What smart woman listens to lies, knowing they’re lies, and then accepts them as fact, she accused herself with shocked disbelief, her thoughts spiraling downward now. Why all those years, was everyone else, including strangers and children, the only ones who ever complimented her, told her she’s special, cheered her efforts or reached out for her hand?
This is all too much, too early in the day. And, regardless – she thought, checking herself – do I want to live the rest of my life asking “Why?” This is now, she knew, and instead contemplated, “what legacy will I choose for myself: peace or fear?” Purposely redirecting her thoughts, she innocently contemplated how there should be more hand-holding in this world after all.
“…the Sun when she came
Wore the air of her name
The scent of the rain in green eyes
Burned on my brain as I lift to her hope
Should carry her through, with a dime and her soul
Girl, we’ll meet again in the best place out there
In which lifetime, we can’t care….”
Walking to the window, Victor thought to himself: Since when? It bothered him that he’d been given to distraction at that damn window all evening. This time, of course, he saw what he was sure he’d finally see, so it didn’t surprise him. Someone’s holding her hand. “I knew it,” he blurted aloud to himself, covering a small patch of the glass pane with the steam from his words. I knew the universe wouldn’t allow someone like Cressida to walk life’s road alone.
Scanning the details of them, he saw orange energy -a blur of it. He saw loving, longing souls. It made him smile, then laugh, quietly. Cressida repeatedly reached for her companion’s hand as he launched back and forth from her side. Victor loved the expression of contentment that washed over Cressida’s face when the two joined hands again. This someone moved with a brand of fleet-footedness and boundless wonder that felt familiar to Victor. His height belies his age, Victor realized, quite certain of himself. He doesn’t yet have that awkward, growing-into-his-face look that older little kids do. He’s unabashedly silly. He’s missing a front tooth and a half. I’m sure he’s seven.
What did I do, the sad revelation washed over Victor. She’s genuinely lovely. When Cressida reached out to shake my hand hello, I should have kissed hers, he anguished briefly. Now all we have is the ghosts of each other’s fingerprints forever on our own hands. This notion comforted him. Still, Victor reflected, I should have told her I’m leaving, moving away today.
I know she’ll remember me somehow…I hope. She’s smart – she’ll see me when she looks in the mirror…something. This streaming emotion overtook him and he noticed his hands were shaking. I know she’ll find me, he convinced himself. But I should have kissed her goodbye, Victor thought. He went back to work, lifting up his heart, scribbling down with ink all this noise, and for now, left it at that.
“What of Nirvana
It seems you need to suffer
Though you see True North”
What can I do to go to sleep and never wake up again, she thought, numbly. What can I do to go to sleep and never wake up again, she demanded of herself a second time, and then a third and fourth. “Where has your hope gone, Cress,” she whispered aloud, thinking back to her blog post from two years ago. Convicted, she’d argued it is exactly hope that makes one willing to put their head on the pillow at the end of each day with the wish that they’ll open their eyes in the morning. “Hope wins,” did I really say that, she asked into the darkness. Shocked at her present state of mind, she wiped away the tears from her hair and ears and took a breath, thinking – writer, heal thine own self….
Maybe I’m just cold, she decided, desperately searching for some way to convince herself she didn’t truly wish to never wake up again. Why the hell did I buy a plaid, flannel shirt, she mused, mindlessly grabbing it off the pillow next to her and wrapping it around her shoulders. Because, she replied to herself sarcastically, that’s what the college-age women are wearing this season – belted, with leggings and cute boots. And, who doesn’t want to feel stylish – read, young – a thought that led her to indulge in further self-loathing. Is that what it’s come down to? Flannel is depressing and I look like hell in plaid and I know it, she lectured herself. Will I ever hear my own voice again, she wondered.
And, why the hell did he wear his plaid flannel so tight, came from out-of-nowhere the question she’d buried in the back of her brain when she first saw Victor. Tight, green, plaid, flannel – she always notices peoples’ shirts right away. She forgave the then stranger precisely because he had the nerve to wear it so tight. Plus it was green and she would always forgive someone who had on green. She needed to know and understand, was this man entirely unaware that his shirt was ill-fitting or was he just confident enough in his skin to not care? Without any clear plan on how to find out, she’d walked right up to him and introduced herself, “I’m Cressida, your new neighbor.”
She could hear now that her voice had a tinge of incredulousness in it when she’d uttered the words. He’d gazed thoughtfully back at her while she spoke, like he was drinking in her words, her tone, her eyes, her – everything. And he’d seemed amused. When he spoke to welcome her to the neighborhood, she quickly realized, in strange order, that he was quite a simple man, brilliantly comfortable in his skin. And, he had great guns. God, she thought now in hindsight – had she noticed that fact first, she’d never have cared to introduce herself. No need to go down that road ever again, she was certain. Resigned I am, she sadly but proudly thought, to never trusting myself again.
Victor. Brilliant. Comfortable. But as he told her his name and welcomed her, he seemed to be in conflict. In pain? What was it, she wondered now. What difference does it make, she thought, resigned to helping him….
“…She’s mostly there anyway
I’m just helping her go
How else will she get through the pain
Sayin’ the words that all girls need to hear
These ones are just for her ears
Let’s talk rain….”
Cressida. I wonder what her name means, he thought, looking Due North from his window at his new neighbor. 8pm, on the dot, he noted, loving the fact that he could predict when she leaves her apartment for her regular twilight walk.
When she’d introduced herself to him a few days earlier, he felt uncomfortable, but why was unclear. Now, studying her easy stroll, it dawned on him that he’d just been taken aback in the moment. It was the calm she had in her skin and the simplicity she wielded in sharing her smile. She, he noticed, laughed about the lousy weather that everyone else he’d encountered that day had only been willing to complain about. “I think,” he said to himself, “Cressida sounds Gaelic for “Soulmate.””
But nevermind, he reflected, heading back to his blank sheet music pages. I already have the best women in my life and there’s no more room. Still, her green eyes, it seemed, had silently searched him for help. Like they hadn’t exhaled in decades, possibly. And, maybe that simple smile was hiding some sadness over the rain after all.
Realizing it’s lunchtime already, his mind wandered nevertheless and he made another prediction: some day Cressida would ask him about lunch. Pen to paper and hearing the silent, he decided to help her along….