I should make a North Dakota shadow box with rooms furnished by happy and strange objectified memories. There should be a lazy boy recliner, twin beds, insulation crammed between a window pane, red shag carpet, a missing grape scented watch, a forbidden room, and a bowl of split pea soup for my mother to pour onto my head.
We moved into a two-story house with a long kitchen where dad would cook southern meals and I would sneak bites of shredded coconut from the pantry above the basement stairs. My father subscribed to Playboy. One day I walked five or six neighborhood boys into my parents’ bedroom with the assuredness of a seven-year-old genius to surprise them with something cool. “Look,” I said and pointed to the pile of magazines. A busty woman in red on the topmost magazine’s cover photo smiled back at us. To my surprise, instead of praising me, they looked at me blankly and left.
It is almost springtime and we’ve joined an airstream rally with my husband’s parents. Frogs croak and the sounds of the ocean waves roll in. My son stands beside me on a covered porch asking “What’s that sound?” and “Why you have a flashlight on your head?”
“Those are frogs croaking,” I said and pointed to my left. “That other sound you hear is from the ocean. The waves are rolling in.”
I explained having a flashlight strapped on my head, “So I that I can write in the dark.” I’m not sure what scared him most, the idea of frogs being vocal in an unseen darkness, the concept of an ocean’s waves coming, or his mother’s sudden place in the darkness. The look on his face was perplexed. His next question was bigger still, “Where does the water come from?” he asked.
I was overcoming another sunless winter and left its bed unmade. I crept out of it, feeling a lift in m mood because my son is adorable.
An elderly man who ate a savory smelling rice dish looked in at them. The woman waved him away as though he were familiar.
The woman studied her, turned her hand, and was quiet. “You are long from your family. You live your life as if it’s available to give for free, because above all you will not be selfish. But you will have been.”
When the woman informed her of her future life, she said Florence would, “have a great love and it would fail.” Florence whisked the unhappy possibility to nonsense and waited patiently for the reading to conclude.
Her hand felt ashamed and she tucked it into her pocket, feeling the ticket. Florence gave no indication of caring either way about the reading. She went back out into the stadium and walked to the exit passing statues of gods who seemed to be posed to look out into the horizon, but for one, which looked down scowling as people walked by.
The drunken-master Hibachi chef told us in his mix-match clichéd talk that he was a military man who claimed Florida as his home. He specifically said, “Well, you’ve got to claim someplace.”
This went through my head: by his claiming Florida, it meant he was unhappy in Washington. I say this because, unlike him, I would never claim any place other than Washington as my home.
At the Hibachi restaurant, we experienced a minimum wage working American playing the part of the fool. He degraded himself for tips. He was at least fifty years old and could have been a legitimate chef once with clients who adore his genius of combining plum sauce and fresh scallops. Now, he pretends to pour cheap plastic-bottled vodka onto the food he’s grilling for you. He holds the so-called vodka, which is really water, and shakes it at you, telling you how it makes you feel better at around 10 p.m. (I think that part might not have been a joke. He looked like he spoke from experience.) We giggled at his mania and decided his comedy, not cooking, warranted a big tip. It was like he performed without taking his clothes off. His comedy sucked, but his desperation showed.
Dear Drunken-Master Hibachi Chef,
I think there was truth in your statement, it saddened me. Florida was your only home and now you work in demeaning ways for everyday survival. Who were you in Florida?
The Poisonwood Bible
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Skinny Legs and All
Game of Thrones
Pride and Prejudice
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
and those ideas in my head.
Life is beautiful.
We breathe and smell and feel. I live in fear of life’s ending and so I constantly stop and want the moment, whether it be damning or not, it’s all I have left. This is what anxiety feels like when it’s being managed. When I am most terrified I can’t go into a Target for longer than it takes to pass the first restroom before I find a reason to go home. Something as simple as impending doom would come to my mind. Simple is how I describe it, intentionally, because it’s that believable to me. I’ve been irrational and I’ve been cautious and I’ve been blissful. My husband is the key to happiness. It’s like being married to a control in a scientific experiment. I am smart enough to hold myself to a certain degree of reason, he is my horizon point when I’m seasick.
In Louisiana, there is history rare and unsettling. Few are aware of the soothsayers among them, locally referred to as “seer” (pronounced ˈsē-ər). Her boyfriend’s great uncle was a seer. He was an 80-year-old Cajun who told fortunes with a worn deck of playing cards. He read her cards one day. Together they sat at his house while he told her she had lived many lives and in one life she was so evil that today she still pays the price – each of her lives redeeming her past cruelties. He suggested she was herself once a powerful practitioner of the dark arts, Black Magic.