Wednesday, August 31, 2005

one for sorrow, two for joy

Happiness is a scrunched-up face and crinkled nose. Happiness is hair messed up. Happiness is sun in eyes. Happiness is wrinkles. Happiness is being lifted.

What you can't see is how high lifted--dress flung up, red shoes kicking. What you can't see is the poem James read about his mother, the pink feather boa he wore. Night beat through the windows. We stayed up talking, drinking beer in bottles, all of us. What you can't see is the hill behind. What you can't see is what we didn't know: it would rain for days, the city would be abandoned, the city where once I found a hundred dollar bill under a hotel bed, and silently thanked the woman who had lost it because I could afford to eat. I won't let you down, I thought. I will enjoy every minute, I thought.

This morning before waking, I dreamt the hurricane reached Ohio. A friend drove me around in his pickup truck. We drove by the neighborhood where my childhood friend Sarah once lived. The houses were empty--I knew this--except for the fathers who had stayed behind. It was night. Her father stood in the backyard, building a bonfire with all the furniture.

That's because he's never lived alone, my friend said. It was too dark in the cab to see his face.

I have lived alone. I have started over four times now, but each time I have looked back. Could you abandon the city? Could you leave with nothing, return to nothing? I have thought about it. I have lived through disasters. We all have, but not like this. I would miss the photographs. I would miss the evidence: the letters, the paintings, the dress. What are our things but evidence of being alive, being in love, loving? But all my favorite things are broken, the architect said.

You can see in the photograph we knew. We knew we would have to say goodbye, me and my new friend. Why else do you think we were happy? Because we knew it wouldn't be like this forever. Each moment is there to help you through the next, the way each poem helps you write a better one later.

Later, you'll want this, I thought when I sat in the field with my sweater, my tea. Stay as long as you can. Wind whipped the clouds behind the mountain. Everything was gray or green. It would rain later, but I didn't know this, watching the sun be risen. It did rise, I would insist later to the others. Remember this, I told myself. Set it aside, like counting out stones. Make two piles: one for sorrow, two for joy.

I have to remember, it's all right be happy; it's all right to feel joy. It won't be like this forever. It's all right to be lifted up.

One day you will do the lifting.

American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund
PO Box 3097
Seattle WA 98114-3097