Monday, July 10, 2006

At first, we thought it was laughter. The Novelist and I lay on my bed, on top of the quilt, mumbling about things; how nice the day was, I think. Suddenly we heard it, and we both grew quiet. Then the only sound was that of my hair brushing the pillow as I turned toward the window to hear it.

Laughter? We lay perfectly still, straining to hear.

No, not laughter; hysterical tears. It was a young woman’s voice, overlapping with a strong tenor speaking loudly but patiently. I didn’t realize how tense I was until The Novelist uncurled my hand from his. Show me it’s not violence, I prayed to the noises. Don’t let it be violence.

The sobs jerked out of the woman like each one was a labor pain. She was inarticulate, arrhythmic, sometimes choking and gagging on her own cries. I envisioned her curled up on the floor, hair sweeping the tile, rocking and sobbing.

Was she pleading? Was she angry? The Novelist said, “I thought she was laughing.”

“Me, too,” I whispered. We held our breath, listening.

The man raised his voice again. “You need… settle… be fine… You’re okay.”

“Stop it!” screamed the girl between choking fits. “I have to cry… Stop it!”

We listened for a long while. My ribcage seemed to shrink. I had to remind myself to breathe while I thought and remembered.

That’s the sound I made when Shane died. I didn’t know where the sounds were coming from. I remember those sounds and how much they hurt. It was like dry heaving for hours. I remember the actual sensation… Feeling like my face would crack open in its contortions, feeling the pain in my chest, where my heart was.

Those were the sounds I didn’t make when Grandma died. I started to cry. Someone silenced me. We were in the hospital. I’d disturb people. Those sobs are all the sounds I stopped making.

At some point the cries became a song.

Uaahh huh huh huh huh
Uaaaahh huh huh
Uaahh huh huh huh

“That poor girl.” I had almost forgotten he was there. He turned closer to me and I turned to him, his head below my chin, my hand brushing through his hair to his neck, soothing him. I kissed the top of his head.

“It’s stupid to tell her to stop.” We were silent again, listening.

“It’s a terrible thing to hear a soul being ripped apart,” The Novelist said. For some reason, this angered me. I found my throat clenching and my leg muscles flexing.

“That might not be what it is,” I snapped. “She’ll be… I hope she’ll be fine.”

“It’s amazing how close laughter is to crying, and how laughing can lead to crying and…”

“Crying can lead to laughter, yeah, I know.” Was I being bitchy? Why?

I rolled onto my back again, now holding The Novelist’s hand across my belly. We were still and quiet. Quiet and still.

“I wonder what the purpose is… of laughing and crying,” I said. “I mean, how would crying be a more desirable trait in a mate? How does it work with evolution?”

“It’s probably just something that developed,” said The Novelist. “I don’t know if it’s evolution. Maybe natural selection?”

“Maybe. I just wonder when it started. And whether it’s a trait of a more sophisticated animal. How does it help us?”

“Well there’s so much we don’t know about the brain…”

“I know,” I said. We both took a breath. “I wonder if it’s a trade-off, somehow. Like we get these complicated brains that are capable of amazing things which got us ahead, but there’s a glitch in the system. This brain makes us cry.”


We mumbled a while longer, until I was so mumbly that The Novelist declared beddy-bye time. He patiently helped me out of my skirt and let me lie like a dying fish.

I woke a few times, opening my heavy eyes to see him awake, staring at the ceiling. Then awake, sitting cross-legged, noticing me. He swept my hair back.

“I get so tired,” I said.

“I know you do,” he said.

Ahh, Muse...

I found this photo while I was idly cruisin' around some photoblogs. It's beautiful, and there's more beauty to be had at the photographer's website, linked above.

Seeing this made me reflective (like watah! ha!). I spent my Friday night and Saturday with Becca et al. I was feeling really terrible - each little thing could set me off on a snark-fest or brimming tears. And no, before you ask, it is not that time of the goddamned month.

The thing is, I'm making progress with my best pal therapist, and in case you didn't know, making progress hurts like a motherfucker. Every step I take forward feels like a huge one. I think of tiny 7-yr-old Jo trying to emerge from some darkness, lugging a huge sack of memories. With each step, the sack rips a little, letting out words and sounds and images in a fierce mushroom cloud.

This photo, and my images, are making me think of the terror I experience when faced with a choice. Large or small, positive or negative, I become paralyzed with fear.

On Saturday I went to the beach with Becca. I had brought a change of undies and clothes, just in case the water called to me. I didn't think I'd go in. I contemplated that water, let my toes swivel in the sand, and remembered the taste of a surprising wave. I remembered little jo jumping the wakes as they curled. I remembered swimming, swirling, diving, floating; my body weightless, each sensation gentle and reassuring. And then came the question I fear most whenever I make a choice: what if I like it?

Would I actually enjoy myself then? Is enjoyment allowed when I'm not fixed yet? Will I ever work properly?

The water on my calves felt good, but the water on my knees felt better. The water on my thighs felt good but the water on my hips felt better. The water on my chest felt good but the water enveloping me, carrying me, pushing and lifting me... it felt infinitely better.