warning: the following is very stream of consciousness, and while i think it is very “periodic,” that is, circles back to starting point, it may be hard to follow. sorry. don’t feel like you have to read it all.
It’s spring. You may ask how the wastelands of the north celebrate? Skin. Unadulterated skin.
Sun filters into the basement deli, which smells of burnt coffee and plastic-like sandwich meat. The conversation is interrupted only by the occasional ringtone and the chatter and ring of the cash register. I’m sitting on a couch stained by years of cheap lunches and spilled coffee. The green knit scarf behind me, wrapped possessively around the base of the lamp, has been there for two weeks now, and seems to be clinging there out of fear of its own lost-ness.
A blond girl across the room greets a boy, interrupting his solitary lunch just a little too loudly to be casual. She pushes a runaway hair out of her face, smiling uncomfortably broadly as she adjusts her body language, presenting her curvaceous sorority body to him, in all its spandex and form-fitting glory. They chat with one another across the room, speaking emptiness’ of weather and homework. Slowly everyone else loses interest in the mating dance, going back to their own Sudoku and crosswords and Spanish homework.
The wall behind me is chilly, a stark contrast to the warm startled blue of the March sky, cloudless and proud. The students and professors rushing past appear to ignore the contrasts of brown, dead ground and the clear, bright sky. Hair is ruffled by the breeze that I shiver to remember, still cool enough to rush through my hoodie and jeans.
I am reminded, oddly and suddenly, of the day we buried Cori. Different season, diametrically opposed. November hanging on to summer, as we stood under a sky startled blue like today’s. The trees were also harsh colors.
I saw this autumnal rainbow through the shimmer of tears. Caleb’s sixteen-year-old hand small and scared in mine, while his body loomed with bulky, awkward comfort next to mine. November and March. Like siblings, trying so hard to be different, to stand apart, yet they can’t escape the exclamations, the comparisons of cheek-pinching aunts, “You could be twins! Look at those eyes.”
March, when Abby went home, her little body buried in a coffin that could have been a toy version of Cori’s. I don’t have memories of the weather of those two days, I was still trying to breathe around the dagger-like pain in my chest, fight through the denial. I remember the visitation with the smell of Denny’s, where we changed out of travelling clothes.
Dark? Was it dark because the weather was actually cloudy, or had my life just dimmed through the months following Cori’s death? I remember the sunken, lost feeling as I hugged another Caleb, his little sunny face a reminder of the golden-haired laughter lost. I remember Lizzie’s earnest face as she leaned across the table to me, telling me how thankful she was that I was there. So many windows in the fellowship hall, showing March’s blustery nature, gray and green and brown.
And I am back in Madison. In the bustling center of liberal midwesternity. Two years hasn’t changed some things. A soul bereft of some object of love remains bereft…and yet this season’s shift looks down on peace. The gaping heart wounds no longer bleed at mere contemplation – they ache as old bones before a rain. A quiet sadness, held close to a heart, expressed in solitary tears and unheard sighs. Thoughts of a hand no longer held, a smile’s echo in another face, a laugh whose sparkle is nearly lost in memory.
And the sun’s brilliance reminds us that we are alive, still worshipping our Creator on this side of death, living the perilous line between here and there.
I trudge back up the hill, cross the still salt-dusted street and enter my flourescent lit prison. The lights create soft, effeminate shadows, chalk-dust smudges of reality. In these classrooms, impersonal, each one like the last, it is hard to remember the brilliance of creation – in spring, the shining burst of life and in fall, the last burst of dying. Chalkboards hastily erased, homework assignments upon homework assignments, clocks that tick two minutes back before tocking forward three. Rusting chairs with scuff marks and obscenities carved into the desks. Everything fades to a gray monotony, pain dulled but pleasure’s fire also lost. I can feel my soul slip into apathy, anesthetized by my books and pencils and the grasping fingers of long dead languages. These rooms are cold, unfamiliar with tears, which they swallow and absorb along with the accompanying emotions.
I emerge into the brisk day with a gasp, humanity flooding back, emotion pulsing through veins, feeling the tingle as it rushes to my fingertips. I remember what it is to long for human skin, fingers twined with mine, someone else’s heart beating against my palm. I breath deep, sharply. Love’s pain is simply a reminder of life, sharp edges to sensitive skin.