I watched Snickers, our twenty-year-old cat, pace the downstairs this morning and thought of a Bengal tiger pacing her cage at the zoo. I looked up and zoo-goers peering in through the dining room windows. A woman held a small girl up high and pointed toward the cat. The little girl stared wide-eyed at it, looked back at the woman, her mother, and made an O with her mouth. I picked up Snickers, who seemed much heavier, padded to the window and held her up. The little girl became our eldest, the mother became my wife, I became a father tiger, and we all stared at one another like strangers slowly recognizing one another. Then I set Snickers down, looked out the window at the empty street, the grey sky, the rain coming down. I looked up the empty stairwell to where I knew you were all sleeping. Snickers padded by again. She looked up at me, opened her mouth, and roared something that I wish to God I could have understood. Then I left the zoo locking the cage tight behind me.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Here’s the things with memory: it dogs me. At this moment, I am being followed. By the ghost of my first-grade teacher whom I disappointed. By how I treated Allen Mawson, the things I said behind his back. Even by the award I won for a short story about a girl and a waiter in a restaurant crumbling into the Atlantic. I write memories down, but the pages stick to my elbow as I stand up and every step sticks more paper to the soles of my shoes. I tell my therapist about this stuff but my voice echoes and follows me out to my car which reminds me of the Volare I had long ago. The one I used to sometimes steer with my feet while my best friend laughed himself silly. The road was just something we drove across and left behind like some forgettable movie projected on the rearview mirror. Thinking carefully of that moment, my legs crossed one over the other as I sit in my therapist’s waiting room, I feel my toes grip the wheel and turn it this way and that. My friend’s laughter crowds out the dogs of memory barking in the distance as we drive away.
Monday, April 11, 2011
The rain refused to come. The weatherman had predicted: Showers this morning. Heavy rains later in the afternoon. But morning stayed dry. And afternoon was windy but without precipitation. Early evening, the air smelled of rain. The temperature had fallen. Grey clouds were thick and unbroken. Outside, children and dogs played in yards. They hadn't watched morning news. Hadn't read the paper. They barely glanced at clocks and seemed content to talk to themselves and the dogs. Their eyes seldom glanced skyward. They didn't study the barometric pressure. Instead, they threw sticks for the dogs with little expectation that the dogs would retrieve them. No matter, they seemed to think, we'll get it and throw it again. I watched them from my chair, looking out my window. Wondering when it will be safe to go outside.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Feeling far from myself, I logged into Facebook and asked the world what we would do with our lives if we could choose anything at all. (As if there was some good reason we couldn't choose these things already.) One friend wrote that she would take photographs or refinish wood furniture. Another would bake granola. Right away another said she would own a yarn store, and another said she would teach and go to writing workshops around the world. One laughed at my idea that I would write about photographers, wood finishers, the sweet smell of baking granola, the girl looking out from the door of her yarn shop, and the teacher taking her own classes. I wrote, I'm not kidding, I'll do it right now! I meant it too. But the writing proved difficult and though I could post it on the web it wasn't the same as publishing and when it was done I felt the same as before. I logged back into Facebook wondering what to ask next.
I took my nine-year-old girl to Starbucks. Grande, decaf, black, I said. My girl ordered something much more interesting. Caramel Apple Spice with a cakey treat. I asked if we should sit or get in the car and drive. Let's sit. I don't want to spill this in the car. We can watch the cars. So she and I sat at the window. Two Verizon trucks went by. I think there's a place down that way, she pointed to our right, where the trucks live. What do you think that woman in the parking lot was doing before she came here, I ask. Oh, her, she was at the dentist's office. That's where she works. She sits behind the desk and says, it's your turn, honey. This my daughter says in a Brooklyn accent. We've never been to Brooklyn. There's a Starbucks there. I'm sure of it. And out the window of that Starbucks stare a girl and her mother. She asks her girl what the man in the brown jacket was doing before he stopped for coffee. Her daughter smiles putting on an accent her mother can't quite recognize: he’s an English teacher. He doesn't like his job. Wishes he was a poet. He's come a long way for a magical cup of coffee. An escape. Her mother smiles and asks where people talk like that. The man in the brown jacket smiles at them. It's a Syracuse accent, he says. Trust me. My daughter sounds like that almost all the time.