tonight, the moon

is the trauma victim frozen in the past, or is the past a persistent and inappropriate intruder on the present?  or, do the past and the present coexist, with no perceptual boundaries separating them?

–robert scaer, trauma spectrum

tonight the moon is low, a white peach cradled by a night velvet & rich as dirt.  i drive through corn fields, past the abandoned school, & watch the brake lights of other cars, my co-workers, travelling through the trees.  the hillside swallows the sky, a mountain, & in this spring nighttime i am reminded of the boy in my ninth grade history class who loved the same songs that now ride with me on the way home, & the way everything became something, a language of outsiders revealing secrets in casual conversation & common gestures.  janet says, as children, we think we have power over the entire world.  when something bad happens, we attribute it to ourselves, to things that we did to cause the bad things to happen, & when we speak up in the best way we can–crying, refusing to go to the grocery store–we feel we are screaming at the top of our lungs.  at fourteen, i keep my secretness tucked close, the meat of me a hard rainbow glitter inside a walnut shell, while sending up signal flares only i can see.  adam sings, waiting here for you.  wanting to tell you.  how i get my ends & my beginnings mixed up, too.  just the way you do.

*

tonight you line the kitchen counter with beer bottles.  in the dark you remove your clothes, hoist open the bedroom window, & pop out the screen.  out, out, you stretch a leg, toes skimming rough shingles.  you steady, balance, bend your body & emerge onto the roof, chubby girl with moon-white skin, knees tugged tight to her chest.  the neighbors with loud motorcycles & too many wild babies are fighting across the street, behind a window draped with a spider-man sheet, & the boy next door who smokes more cigarettes than you do isn’t home tonight.  you add this to the list of things you will do again & again & never tell your mother.  you are twenty-three, one hundred miles away from home, & building a life of secrets, separateness, satisfaction in small rebellion.

*

tonight i am four years old, lying in the back seat of my mother’s van on the way to the babysitter’s house, & we are racing the moon, a coin of buttery-slow mozzarella.  time glows green, dashed & digital, between the two front seats.  reflected on the window where i am tracking the moon, blues & reds of heat dials & air controls.  when i am older, barely a teenager & unable to sleep, i will push my fingers to my eyelids to watch these same colors burst & play.  it is morning, but the world is sleeping still, fog rolling from the hillside like a damp breath.  i want to tell my mother hurry, but i am quiet because the telling takes too much.  instead, each morning i hope she will notice that i am awake, not asleep, & that she will ask, what are you doing back there? in a way that is warm & curious, not like a startle, & then i can tell her.  i can say, we are racing the moon, & if you hurry a little faster, maybe we could win this time.

*

at twenty-six, after eight years living in cities hours away from home, route 322 leads you back.  venango, onenge, otter, county sticky, still, with oil dried up years ago.  you take a job where your mother worked for thirty-five years, & on your way to that job, you travel the same numbered roads she did, you as her passenger, in the same moonlight, twilight, streetlamplight.  you stretch inside her shadow.  she clucks, you’re different than me, & she says “different” like “disappoint.”  you are four years old, the moon out of reach just-so, & you want to tell her but you can’t.  different, disappoint, your belly fizzy with beer, a bottle in your hand.  you want to tell, to tell her or the boy familiar with your favorite songs, to speak aloud, but the telling takes too much.  you pretend you are asleep, disappearing into the sum of yourself, & the person you are disappearing into, adam sings, you, stone glimmering just-beneath the dirt & leaves on a quiet hillside.

*

i make the going slow

coffee for breakfast
to get up, to write, to peddle
on the exercise bike, to buy
lipstick the color of rose petals, & leopard print
lingerie trimmed in bright red

M&Ms for lunch, for dinner
to self-soothe & wake,
rush: serotonin, endorphin, placebo

strawberry jello
one parts water, one
parts vodka,
for dessert
to let go
to forget
the rest

*

after a night of wet, heavy snow, the roads & parking lots puddle into grey slush.  as i stand in line at the grocery store, cradling a box of elbow macaroni, two bunches of kale, & a carton of eighteen eggs, the woman in front of me apologizes: for the items, now bagged, that would not fit into her cart; for the fistful of coupons slowly swiped; for breathing air & existing in the first place.  i say wait & help yank her cart through the parking lot, then load the bags into her car.  she tells me that for eleven years, she was a soloist soprano singer at her church; then she became sick with bronchitis & her voice never quite recovered.  my snow angel, she says, let me hug you.  tears fuzzy my drive home, & i spend the afternoon weeping myself into & out of sleep.

*

at advanced autoparts, the cashier asks if i want him to put on my new windshield wiper blades.  can you show me so that next time i can do it on my own, be independent?  i always think it should be really simple to do; then i try & break every piece of plastic available to me.  i ramble.  i am exhausted after a 10-hour shift at work & preparing for the four hour drive to spend the next three days with the boy i’m seeing.  he says, sure thing, & i work alongside him as he instructs: pull toward you; no, flip it the other way; no, now it’s upside down; no– like this, & i say, thank you; thank you so much.  he smiles.  says, no problem, & when he calls me dear, i am reminded of how i felt as a child when i pictured my imaginary friend, billy brumble, who was like an older brother that would lift & carry my body; protect me; say, don’t you look so pretty, when i smeared my mouth with hot pink lipstick & wore a grey hat too big for my head, a scratchy grey dress draping my body like a table cloth.

*

after i stop for gas an hour & forty-five minutes into my journey, i spend fifteen minutes kicking clumped up snow & ice from my wheel wells at a truck stop.  because it has been snowing hard, i am wearing my reading glasses.  they fog in the cold from my hot breath.  a man gets into the truck parked next to me, & before he closes the door, he looks at me leveraging my snow brush behind the front wheel on the driver’s side.  everything ok? he asks.  i tell him i’m fine, that i feel safer with all the gunk beaten out, & say, thank you for asking.  he tells me to have a good one, travel safe.

inside the truck stop travel center, i buy a twenty ounce coffee & a king size whatchamacallit candy bar.  the boy who rings me up says, whoa, i thought i was the only person who liked these things, & i tell him he’s not alone, that they are my favorite, too.  he says, if you get a chance, you gotta try the ones coated in peanut butter that have chocolate wafers on the inside.  they call ’em thingamajigs.  i tell him i’ll keep my eyes peeled for them & thanks for the heads up.  he smiles, nods his head, then goes back to flirt-arguing with the girl running the register next to him, who wears blonde streaks in her dark hair, rings of black makeup around her eyes, & rainbow-colored buttons on her red work vest.

*

D & i spend our days off together caught in the cuddle zone.  we sleep late, his bedroom cloaked in dim, grey light, & open our eyes only to poke our heads above the pillows, peep at the time on the clock, & burrow back into bed.  when i pull the thick, dark curtains back from the windows, bright winter sunlight spills inside; we shield our eyes & squint, falling face down into our nest of blankets & body heat.  it can’t be daylight, we groan, our bodies static-clung, hand gripping forearm, bicep, legs crooked round knee & thigh.  on the morning when he goes back to work, i lie in bed staring at the ceiling, imagining my life if it were contained by these–his–walls.  i think of the night we spent in his hotel room drunk on his boss’s homemade blackberry wine, the slowness of our hands husking the clothing from our bodies, the way his lips shook & how i asked myself, do you want this? &, repulsed by my desire for the cupping of his hands, the curve of his biceps, the tenderness, many parts of me whispered, don’t.  i think of how, during our next encounter, i said, there are two kinds of people in my life–the people who care about me, & the people who sleep with me; how, when he asked, it’s not possible for someone to be both of those at once? i shook my head, saying, the circles of that venn diagram don’t intersect; how, still, our bodies joined, my mouth a cavern filled with a child’s howls, my face sopping tears & shuddering breaths.  the way he held my body, silent, his fingers brushing at my eyes, until i fell asleep, & how he returns, again & again, to the wreckage i am diving in.

then, i rise from his bed & tug the bedding into place.  in the living room, i fold our blankets, collect our coffee mugs & empty fruit snack packets from the table, & throw a pinch of shrimp pellets to the idiot fish swimming in their tank.  in the kitchen, i wash each dirty dish & pull half-wet laundry from the drier, draping each piece on a hanger, drying rack.  before i pack my things & let myself out, slipping his key under the doormat, i pull on a pair of his wool socks & tell myself to accept the kindness i find in this series of rooms, the heat that rises from the places where we’ve stood: vapor, love, intersection.  i make the going slow.