I wake in the night, as the rain starts. Staring into the dark, consumed with the rushing sound of tree leaves rustling and responding to the water pouring forth. I feel like the only person alive, awake. In this tree house, on the second floor of an old building, huge birches and oaks surround my windows. They speak and respond and hold my living space like sentries. It’s been raining for 10 hours now. I can do little more than wander around my house, and sit quietly listening to the sound, thoughts flowing along with the lulls and roars like water on waves.
I imagine my friend Mike or Ben who sail and what their eyes see in the rainy times on a boat. How water from the sky changes everything. I hear the sound of a distant train and the muted sirens. I walk Nia in the park and the ground is mostly standing water, no one else enters our territory of deluge.
It’s a good thing, the rain. I’m churning inside and reaching for every peaceful moment. The rain helps. The sound. I sit in meditation and my thoughts go something like this: I need to be working. I should apply for that MFA program. Am I good enough? What will I write about? Am I ready to be a writer? My ideas are dumb and simple. I should publish more. When does that article come out? I should call Mike and Kristina, I miss them. I miss my friend Karen, if she still is my friend. I don’t think she is. She’s never gonna tell me why. Maybe I’m imagining it. I will be ok. Why are things so fickle in life? Does she not love me anymore? Does anyone? Broken heart. You’re being a victim, stop it. Breakfast? New England. I live here. It feels so different here. Nia. I’m lucky. I want to be quiet all day. I wish Heather was here. Be quiet now. Be in the now. Rain, leaves, rustling, listen, just listen. The sound is so good. Come back to your body, just listen. Oh, there is your breath. Oh your breath. Oh. Your body. So much joy to be in one. So good.
At some point I vow to just watch the litany, reminding myself that is my only job, to be a witness. I think about these words and how I’ll write them. I go back to my breath. I feel no small amount of pain and anguish today and I can’t pinpoint it. I’m not afraid, just noticing. I’m trying to get better at noticing things before I act on them. Memory floods me. I’m thinking about memory because I’m reading my friend Lucas’s book about it, about loss, about family, about himself. About love.
It’s my first semester of school. I’m a kindergartener. I go to the public elementary down the road where the mascot is a cowboy and where everyone believes they are one. Cowboys ride the range; they are tough. They do not complain. They hate outsiders. And I ride the school bus. I am the hippie kid, not an Indian but still. More than that, I am odd. I stare at people with my blue eyes. I stare into them. This has not changed. It also helps me recognize my friends, instantly. Cammie is a beautiful, big, strong blond girl, the eldest of a group of girls. Everyone in her family is obese but she is beautiful. And she is mean. Her cousin Inga, is tiny and dark and even more beautiful, but she is kind. I like Inga and she likes me. She tries to be my friend. Cammie hates that. First, on the bus, she asks me to sit with her in the back. She asks me about the bracelet I am wearing, a silver and turquoise band that is from my mother. It is special to me. I feel beautiful in it. I am only 5 after all. She asks me if she can see it and unsuspecting, I offer it to her. Just as we slide over the cattle guard, she tosses it out the window so that it will not be found later.
After I have been punished for losing it, and my mother finally understands what happened, my grandfather takes me in the old blue truck and we look. It is gone. It is public and humiliating. I wonder if I imagined it, if I made it up. I question myself completely. This is one of the first moments I come to know hatred, what it’s like to be hated, and injustice. It is a moment I begin to understand who I am in relationship to others. I am an outsider, she has marked me as such and this never changes much for the rest of my life. Or if it has, I mostly never know. Later at school, she threatens to kill me if I speak to Inga. Inga and I never become friends.
Even my best friend, takes me down to the ditch one day and tells me to take off my special dress, and then throws it into the water so that it is lost. I was too trusting. She was toughening me. I still to this day love her. I know if I ever needed her, she’d be there. Even if it came with pain, her loyalty is unwavering. But she too taught me that the ones who love you can also hurt you. I have come to expect this. It has mostly proven true.
I later came to know that Cammie’s father beat her, beat her sisters, beat her mother. They lived in a dark, rundown house where things were pretty bad. I have compassion now I think. In fact, I never really hated her at all. I know my best friend didn’t mean to hurt me either. She was a child and was jealous, it happens. I’m a grown up and it happens to me. It is human, a part of our tapestry. Kids can be mean. I see there is a bigger story. I wasn’t the victim: life wasn’t perfect; love isn’t perfect. I survived all of this and more. In fact, in many ways, I did so beautifully. It was when I started to write.
But that doesn’t change how it shaped my story, shaped me. It doesn’t change those dark, beast voices in my head when a friendship fades away. I feel the very same: anguished, frightened, and certain that it was my doing some how. Some how, who I am is reason for this, for the hurting. And that there is nothing I can say or do to change it. I am at the mercy of wanting to love people and wanting them to love me back. The truth is, we all are. Every one of our hearts has been shattered by loss. I know this too.
Recently, I have been imagining that someday I will return home to New Mexico. I don’t know what that will be like or what kind of living I’ll be making but I can feel the truth of it starting and gaining momentum. The man who loved me most so far in this life, said to me recently that he knew he’d never have my whole heart because I loved that place, more than anything. He explained this was a part of why he chose someone else. His words made me feel like I had failed, like maybe there was finally a person who would say yes to me, every day and not just for a while, and that I had thrown it away, that because I am who I am, I missed this crucial detail, and that again, this hurting was entirely my fault. This is, of course, a very narrow slice of the truth. There are many others that go along with the story. But it fits conveniently into how I see my own flaws and my own history. I can admit it’s narrow but I still feel it viscerally.
And then I remembered Gillian’s wedding last month. As we were rolling out wedding cookies around the kitchen table I looked around at her bridesmaids and wondered, what is it that joins us all, why are all these very different women so familiar and comfortable? Then, I whispered to her, Oh, I think I get it. All of us are people who have always felt we didn’t belong. She laughed, asked, Are you surprised? No. Not really.
Every time I meditate lately, it’s like coming home. It’s like coming back to myself and I feel a huge relief in that quiet, even with the rustling thoughts. I have to believe, that there are others out there like me and as we come back to ourselves, maybe we can also come together somehow. So, if you’re out there…
Meet me at the edge of the fence; where the gate leads out to the pasture, where the water meets the land, where the rain touches the ground. Meet me where the sky starts to get huge. Meet me where the words are quiet ones, where the exchanges are simple, honest, where I can look deep into your eyes, don’t look away. I’m waiting for you. Let’s wander together maybe. Let’s have a party under the stars.