Thursday, August 05, 2010

When your letter came

I reached for a knife, my apartment so muggy I had to struggle for space in the air. Moisture bickering with skin and cloth all night had kept me awake, and now my legs were stuck to the chair, the soles of my feet to the tacky wood floor. Perspiration's insatiable quest for purchase in armpits, back of my knees, all down inside my shirt was ongoing. I'd woken to its sense of humor which included a sheen the entire length of my body, the sheets underneath a swamp, twisted and damp from my efforts to woo elusive Morpheus all night in a moon-filled room.

Slitting open the envelope, I read that your lemon trees had been plucked by thieves in the night. Alas, I knew how much you looked forward to those lemons each summer, the tartness just sweet enough to be eaten right off the tree. I was glad to hear you were fine with the theft of lemons just at their peak, but the sun garden view of life portrayed in lines squiggled across the pages, my vision blurred with sleeplessness. On my way to the desk to write back I stumbled in the murk of residual tiredness. Already daybreak's gradual light brought with it a breath-sucking humidity, my flip-flops clacked stickily against bare soles, and outside the cicadas had set up a hissy rhythm with their tiny backleg maracas.

Struggling into an already dank tank top and shorts, awash in sweat like a murderer lying to cops, I went out hoping no one else in the neighborhood was up, and walked the streets until breakfast despite rivulets zigzagging my skin and sogging my clothes. And as I walked I planned a response to you there on the west coast laid out in your hammock and hat with nothing but hands grasping breeze. I wanted to say how much I missed you in this heat, how the days seemed to fold up into pockets of lethargy followed by bursts of cleaning. How your handwriting's a lot like his.

Later on, I squirmed in my chair at the desk,writing, skirt adhered to varnished wood, and suddenly he was there. Like those whispery sounds heard in closets, the flashes in peripheral vision as I round a corner, faint muttering late at night. His passing leaves a little phumpf on edges and corners, that glows in the dark, that makes me fill up and strangle with grief for nothing. For awhile I used to arrange little tableaux of things left behind, a ring or wisp of scent, his comb with one broken tooth .too good to toss. Then I noticed the times with him I remembered had begun to take on new significance, to take up room, to solidify. I was reluctant to embrace such a loss of broad memory, and so on my knees in that big closet off the front room, I systematically went through boxes, picture frames, packets of letters, old clothes, and whatnot, pulling out every last scrap. I boxed them up for the trash, and carried them into the front hall.

Then tore up the letter to you, and began again. And hoped the reply I wanted would float in through the screen on the air of predawn streets, and that by the time this saline wash now blooming from my every pore, this flushing and frizzing and prickling, subsided the words would've written themselves into a proper reply. Because my insomnia-battered muscles and aching head were just not up to the task of connecting the dots for you, reminiscing over days in the past when we had all the time in the world for distance like this.