Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Lines Off My Mind’s Shelf
He cut off Hunter, talking about something as we sat around the bar table—
“Will you stop that?” he said to me, smiling.
I was bopping my head as I responded to a text message on my phone. Without looking up at him, I grinned, stood up and continued dancing, spinning around to the music of the room until I pressed send. He laughed and got up too.
“Now, you’re both embarrassing me,” Hunter said.
“You have to come join us,” I said.
He stood up and we all danced solo in the empty room of the Jazz club. We were the only guests besides the man fixing the stage in the corner. The waitresses behind the bar laughed casually at our sparse entertainment. The only light in the room streamed through the front door, white, propped open to remind us of the absurdity that was us hiding in the dark during such beautiful daylight. It was 4:30pm on a Sunday, and it was happy hour.
One hand clenching a fistful of bed-hair at the back of her head. Her right hand aloft in front of her like a limp wing for balance. Her steps follow a rhythm. It is steady. But it also changes from 3/4 time to 6/8 time. Her right hip places an accent on a different quiver.
A horn blows from the traffic flowing past.
She picks up her skirt so that her ankles can ascend the staircase. One two three, and two three. The groove changes.
Her heel slips from her flat brown shoe and there is a rest. She quickly shifts her foot back in, slides into it and catches back up to speed.
A raven soars ahead, unmoving. Suspended. The wind picks up her hair. Limp and winged. The breath never leaves—like the beat can never leave.
“I was intricately woven in the depths of the earth” – Psalm 139:15
Of the earth
The snow is an illusion
masking my youth
I wish I could hold it
I’m old from it.
The labyrinth, latent behind—
my eyes donning
sheets of an unmade bed.
My sister says you are the white and black
I face myself
an injured pigeon
woven in the depths
This is how you were made:
The other day, despite my desires, I was thinking perpetually of her hair. At the same time, it was long and short. Her fingernails could run through it, just thick enough to carve ridges that would stay for a moment too long.
She invited me to her apartment, and, naturally, I arrived there. I was thinking still about her hair, about her name, her motives. Despite my desire to let loose and enjoy myself, my mind rattled like an engine struggling to start.
Thinking as I was, the door opened to show her face. On the couch she sat smiling. Now, I would have gone if it weren’t for a pair of persuasive hands.
“Are you relaxed?” she said.
“Would you like a back rub?” she said.
Thoughts percolated through my eyes; they could not see peacefulness. To where is this leading? Who is she, really?
She answered few of my thoughts—by no fault of her own—for she was not telepathic. However, I melted to her touch and I breathed to her thrust.
It came time to leave, “Good night,” she said. “Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Mmmhmm,” I said. Tense.
Home was empty, no roommates around. I walked through the dark bedroom to switch on the lone bedside lamp. It was cold until I slipped into my pajamas and huddled underneath the duvet. I saw a blinking red light, a text from her, on my phone. The blink echoed into the vacant room, exposing the emptiness with each pulse. I let it beat in the space until I decided I wanted to be in my own company. I turned over the phone to smother the flashing red light and turned my mind to the pictures on the wall. Paintings and photographs smiled overhead, and I sunk low into the bed, in good company.
Before the thought formed in her head, the words split her lips, “I am not broken.” There were two dalmation dogs tackling each other in the distance. The older lady dragging a leash on the ground a distance behind them. The dogs were jumping and clawing. The dogs were angry, or was it the girl?
The girl sat on the curb. “I am not broken.” If she brought these words into the air maybe it would become real. “I am not broken.” The words fell on her ears and she listened. Then she said it again. She had to believe this was true. “I am not broken.”
The mantra helped her stand up. She firmly balanced the middle arches of her feet on the curb. “I am not broken,” she spoke. This is my earth, she thought. I am strong enough to live here. I need not do anything other than breathe. If only her breath weren’t so broken.
’til I’m ill.