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Archive for January, 2014

billings

You shouldn’t return to a dead place. But sometimes you have to. Sometimes you gotta saddle up, Sally, grab that hazmat suit, and learn to live with/among/around/inside that moldering, poisonous corpse—and you’ll never grieve it, you’ll never miss it. This carries its own lessons, I tell myself.

We’re moving. We’re leaving Billings—our on-again/off-again town of ten years. You know what, a town’s not a lover. It’s not. This isn’t a break-up. But maybe I’m wrong to think it’s on our terms alone.

It always feels like a brand-new experience, cleaning out my file cabinet, my dresser, my makeup bag. Every purge is different. Among the larger items to be shed: 1) My job. 2) The cage where our ferrets lived.

Ted and Squizzy thrived here. Running up and down the stairs. Offering their heads to be scratched like dewy-eyed little dogs. Billings was their home, God bless them. It wasn’t ours.

Driving to work and on errands, listening to Peter Jefferies’ “On an Unknown Beach” on repeat, I’ve looked at the houses, the railroad, the stores, all covered with snow and silent and easy to imagine, in their transformed state, as if I’m seeing them for the first time, as if they’re wholly foreign to me.

I’m a pale intruder
on an unknown beach.
My back to the water,
my feet in the sand.

Finding no recognition
as each sign of life
invades the precision of this
aging land.

The essentials have been boxed, we’ve scrubbed the bathroom and scraped the caulk. I’ve sorted and examined everything I own. Every letter, every bank statement, every bobby pin and earring back—and I’ve hauled half a dozen trash bags through the snow to our dumpster (the contents of my middle school sketchbook buoying everything along). I kept the journals.

All these things I’ve gathered and thrown away. Bulging in garbage bags, diminishing in my rearview. As for the boxes in our garage, awaiting the U-Haul—not more precious, necessarily. More alive.

My instinct is doubled
as the waves roll by.

The two great oceans of my life—one tide going out, the other coming in. This skinny beach between them.

But my vision is halved
and the foam and the green
as the insects talk to a
blazing sky.

These are not peaceful oceans. They are sometimes turbulent. They are crashing down, or they are sucking the sand away with them. They are ruled by separate moons. I am not the moon.

I am the girl on the beach. I am the girl putting things in boxes.

I am the girl who knows you don’t get to say goodbye the way you want to.

I am the girl with the love.

I am the girl who will write about the same things, deal with the same problems, all her life. They are mine. They crash down on me in the night. They splash at my ankles, leave beautiful shells in the coarse sand.

I am the girl, the grateful girl.

s

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