Destabilize

I step into a baby clothing store on a whim, looking for a gift for a friend who’s just given birth. The shop is cheerful and whimsical, with a fluffy pastel cotton-candy interior. I’m a bit disoriented in this foreign world of cutesy teeny-tiny fashion.

Smelling fresh carrion, two black-clad saleswomen croak “Hello” and descend upon me. They bare their teeth into something resembling a smile.

One of them, an older woman with deep-set eyes, indicates the rack for newborns. I peruse the adorable clothing, realizing a simple onesie costs 55 euros…

I have no time to fake a polite exit before the dark-eyed woman re-materializes in a cloud of heavy perfume and the oppressive stink of 30 years’ worth of cigarettes and red wine. There’s something sinister about this husky-voiced woman with stingy hair and George Washington’s wooden teeth, cooing at me with a saccharine voice.

“How old did you say the baby was?”

“Uhm, about 2 months.”

“So it’s NOT a new baby then!”

“I guess not…”

“Et, c’est dans quel pays?”

My eyes narrow in confusion, and my mouth is parted–I’m breathing discreetly through my mouth.

Quel pays? What country? What kind of trick question is this?

“Pardon?”

She repeats herself, cartoonishly enunciating “Quel PAYS?” Her gray teeth stand out against the spackle caked on her face; she looks like a 20’s vaudeville clown.

“France.”

“No, no, no…” Her colleague joins in behind, and they are now both braying at me, in tandem: “Pays, pays, pays…”  All that’s missing here is an undead barbershop quartet to complete this ghastly spectacle.

What did I do to gain entry to this hellish dog and pony show?

“WHERE?”

“The south of France…?”

“Oh, voilà! You know, we only ask because every region’s weather is different, every season is different, which you must keep in mind when shopping…” Her smarmy response disgusts me, and their logic has me stumped.  I don’t belong here in this farce. I respond with logic that might speak to them:

“Well, this is a travelling baby. You know, the kind of baby that travels all over France with her parents, so any kind of clothing would be fine… At any rate, thanks very much for your help, have a great day!” I chirp and fly out of the store.

The air outside is heavy and oppressive, offering no relief from the burning that stings the back of my throat.  I feel foolish, destabilized, unsettled.  Despite their bizarrely condescending behavior, I still suspect the fault lies with me and my insufficient French.

It’s time to retreat home.  I’ll buy the gift another day.

Indulge

A wild strawberry plucked from a vine in the garden, savored as I pass through on my way to work.

A finger of amber rum in the afternoon out on my terrace, with my feet up on the table.

A midnight homemade kebab and fries, a decadent treat. We sing “cheers” as we toast our meaty, saucy sandwiches together, and dip crisp fresh fries into mayonnaise and ketchup. Sinfully, deviously improper. The naughtiness of a midnight pig-out session, once in a blue moon. Not good for the heart, but good for the soul.

The pleasure on our friends’ faces as they taste my cooking; it was well worth adding that extra pat of butter, for a luxurious creamy texture.

A warm bowl of my butternut squash soup on a brisk morning, dusted with a pinch of cumin, fleur de sel, snipped fresh chives. Finishing with a dollop of cream gives an unctuous touch to a hearty lunch, creating an appetizing presentation.

The finishing touch: a gesture for pure pleasure, a reward for being human. Celebrating the artful, deliberate stimulation of our innate sensory pleasures. Indulgence that makes life deliciously beautiful.

As for the resulting light padding that these transgressions produce in the thigh-booty-stomach tri-zone area: I’ll walk it off later.

Nightlight

Still night, heavy air. Windows open, shutters start to vibrate. A lightning storm hurtles in with rapid-fire bursts of daylight, bringing fat raindrops that smack the window frame, just missing their target.

Wide-eyed, I sit on the edge of the bed, stunned by the cacophony of light. Eyes dart east-west, chasing electric cat-tails.

 

Gargantuan bursts of lightning, shaped like the birch trees in the front yard of my childhood home. Jagged, spindly, white-on-black. I huddled under my mom’s handmade quilt while outside, the thunder cracked ferociously. One intense white blanket of light seared the sky, and made you afraid that it would rip itself open. The dread of the rumbling, hellish roar that was to follow. Like a cat’s hiss, a sudden electric scream that shook my bed and rattled my core.

 

But now, the volume’s been turned down. Frenzied white-gray bursts, halos of diffused light dance for me and only me.

This is the deepest part of night, where there is no time. It is eternal, pure and perfect.

Like the timid animal I am, I lay back in bed next to F, stunned into stillness. Our room is a frozen vacuum, illuminated by relentless, pulsing full light. This rhythm lulls me to sleep.

Transfer

Energy, swirling and bubbling, slishing and sloshing, through our bodies. We touch something, which sends a reverberation that radiates outward, to continue its neverending run.

 

Tense energy, swirling, sloshing, through my body. My words touch everyone around me: cold, negative. Eyes and bodies shift, as does something inside me. My inner discomfort has overflowed, and I’ve transferred it to those around me.

Fear, tension, nerves, stress. There’s always something.

Life has showed me that there will always be something. Swirling inside my brain, there will always be some dark shadow that threatens to stands between me and my entourage. I can’t accept that.

I sit down to write. Difficult and uncomfortable at first, it soon feels like I’m scratching a deep internal itch. A soul itch. (Sitch?) The sloshing, watery shadow starts to find equilibrium. Give it some time to flow through my fingertips and transfer onto the screen, in a controlled release of creative energy.

 

A reminder that I shouldn’t stay away for too long.

 

abstract discomfort

abstract discomfort

 

Love.

F is in perfect repose next to me. Dawn’s blue light slips in from between the shades and brightens the hills and valleys of his face. I gently clasp his careworn hand, and he softly squeezes back.

+

He sits at his desk, engrossed. He has the same discerning look as his baby photo that sits just behind. That look, it sparks my core sense of loving urgency. I walk over, fold him in my arms, and inhale his scent. I whisper my words of love into his skin, radiant with his smell. This is home. His hand raises to meet mine, and they embrace.

He’s here. We love. Right now.

+

It’s said by people wiser than me,
That you are to declare
No less often than always
That
You
Love
Them

Before you can’t anymore.

 

 

Herd

8am train.
My own little slice of hell.

It’s the morning business rush; the 9am-ers position themselves along the platform, discreetly eyeing the competition.

The train wheezes into the station, and all order is lost. Herding themselves in front of the door, they commit the cardinal sin of train travel: Never impede passengers trying to exit. Those poor saps barely escape before the herd lumbers on, in search of fulfilling their primal need to sit down. The tense scuffling of feet, exasperated sighs, desperately roving eyes and sudden acrobatic manoeuvres at the sight of an empty seat… I have to admire the organized chaos.

In summertime, add in oafish commoners with ill-fitting cheap sunglasses who lug too much baggage onboard, along with their cross-eyed hyperactive children. Solo travellers scurry on to find an empty pair of seats, plop down, then protectively seat their hardside luggage next to them. I walk by, and they avoid eye contact.

It’s a 15-minute ride. I think I’ll survive if I stand.

I try to read, but I’m distracted by the flutter of conversation around me. Banal conversation, rehashed. Kids, weather, job. I burrow deeper into my book.

Suddenly I catch a whiff that offends my senses, emanating from the miserable latrine. My nostrils are burning. Good God, have these people no shame? Passive-aggressive territoriality at its lowest. How dare they subject the rest of us to the injustice of smelling their beastly morning constitution? Is this what freedom looks like? Forcing others to suffer the indignity of inhaling their ungodly coffee-fueled evacuation…

 

We approach our destination, and these bovines elbow discreetly toward the door. Self-important squares need to be the first off the train. Underlying message: “I’m more important than everyone else here.”

Indeed, we are at the center of our respective universes. Every morning at 8:24am, there are a hundred supremely-important universes fighting an imaginary battle for a prime position on the livestock transport line.

The herd shuffles forward, hooves clacking in the urgent rush. A self-herding mass, headed straight for the abattoir.

 

My heart bays: I don’t belong here.