Yes, Mom, I Would.

I screamed as I fell, Jess’s hand clutched in mine, frozen together in a grip of terror and adrenaline.   A choked sob, mid-pitch, coming from the back of my throat and halfway down my esophagus.  It had barely leaked out when we hit the water, our clinch broken by the impact.  Shock was what splintered the fog of panic.  The water was COLD, probably no more than 45 or 50 degrees and the current wasn’t moving at any sluggish pace.  As soon as my head broke the surface and I spotted her own blonde one, the fright of the fall was behind me and forgotten and I started to swim.  My skin began to numb and I quickly realized this wasn’t a leisure lap.  I was being pulled back under the bridge–the opposite direction of where DJ had climbed out and where I needed to be.  In the nanosecond that this hit me, I’d put authority behind my strokes and started to make headway toward the shore….

 

It was the first beautiful day of the spring.  Everything had thawed by then, but the weather itself remained stubbornly in the 50s.  Out of nowhere, the temperature hit 80 and everyone was walking around campus showing nearly illegal expanses of pasty-white, winter skin.  On weekends without RA duty, I spent the majority of time with my best friend Jess either in her apartment smoking weed or down at the bar shooting darts.  That early afternoon, we’d thrown the windows wide and rolled a joint, trying to decide what to do with the day.  Our friend, and one of her newest roommates, DJ, came out of his room in a pair of board shorts and nothing else, flipping his 70s style red hair out of his eyes.  “You guys wanna go jump off the Morrisonville bridge?”

The bridge was a favorite spot, secluded and down a dirt road.  It had long since been out of use and was now just a hang out, a place to drink a couple of beers and laze by the water.  Located over the Saranac River, I’d been a couple of times, and had seen my friends jump, but had never done it myself.  Jess hadn’t either, and bolstered by peer pressure, companionship and false bravery we agreed right away.  There wasn’t any delay at all and after we’d changed into our bathing suits, we climbed into his Jetta and sped off toward the spot, finishing the joint on the way.

As we got closer, my stomach started to tighten, and, whether out of anxiety or the effects of the pot, I started grinning uncontrollably.  We were laughing in excitement and camaraderie and soaking in the youth and beauty of the day when we arrived at the cement divider that kept anything but foot traffic from the bridge itself.  DJ had been on this adventure tens of times already and was cool as ice as he stepped over the concrete, but Jess and I leered at each other in hesitation and near-frenzy.  We’d both been here before, but the water had never looked so far from the bridge.  It was about a thirty-foot drop and I felt a thrill in the center of my chest as I looked over the railing.  There were two places to jump from, either the platform of the bridge itself, the level on which cars used to drive, or at the top of the arch which added another 10 or so feet to the drop and could be accessed by a hairy and rusty climb.  I wasn’t messing around with my inner daredevil and gave a solid “NO FUCKING WAY” as DJ began to ascend to the upper portion of arch.

He ejected a laugh and then leapt, a straight pencil dive into the fast-moving river.  Jess and I watched in unease for his head to break the surface and hooted and clapped as it finally did so.  As his body cut through the water, we climbed over the railing and found each other’s hands, breathing deeply as if that action would have an effect on our own trembling ones.  DJ made it to shore and climbed out, shouting back to us to go ahead, but to be careful, the current was stronger than he’d expected and the water much colder.  He stood on the bank, his intention being to wait for us to get there in case we needed help or hauling out of the water.  Now was the time.  And neither of us was ready.

Laughing and giggling maniacally, we pranced from one foot to another, very nearly peeing ourselves in hysteria.  The water was SO far away and my mini-phobia of heights was doing nothing to bring it closer.  We counted down, 3-2-1 and then didn’t jump, laughing harder as DJ egged us on.  There were HolyShit!s and OHMYGOD!s and ICan’tBelieveWe’reGoingToDoThis!s.  In fact, I think those were the only three statements we made to each other, making up in quantity for the lack of quality in our vocalizations.  There was no rethinking, we WERE going to jump, it was just a matter of screwing up the courage and DOING it.  Minutes lapsed by, what felt like ten, but was probably closer to 2.  We couldn’t keep doing this, I told her.  “Let’s stop being stupid girls,” I said, and she hugged me, agreeing.  “This is it, DEFINITELY on 3 this time” and we both nodded once, settling the matter, FINAL.

Gripping her hand in mine, I met her eyes for the last time and then squeezed mine shut.  It was the final countdown…probably the 3rd of its kind and we weren’t going to go through it again after coming to one.  This was IT.  Terrified, we clung to each other and took deep breaths as DJ laughed at us from the bank.  We were laughing too, but not out of mirth; it was nervous, jangling laughter that came from our throats and not our stomachs.  Usually the only one with trepidation, I was glad to have her there, standing (trembling) beside me, staring down the height.  I could conquer anything with that girl, and this, so far, was the scariest.  We counted together, 1—2—THREE! and headed for the water.

As I climbed out, I realized that for the first time ever, I hadn’t worried about what was IN the water before plunging ahead.  Turning back to look at what I’d done, large branches, almost trees, floated by, debris pulled along from the winter melt not yet subsided.  We’d jumped during the most dangerous time of year on the river, and like those branches, thoughts of old news clippings of drowned 20somethings floated through my head.  Later that day, I’d swear I’d seen ice chunks, inflating the size of my fish for effect.  Alive and unbroken, I shook off the unease and gave way to an adrenaline smile, linked by arm with my companions skip walking back toward the trestle.  DJ made a couple more jumps that afternoon and Jess might have, I don’t really remember.  I was content with my one, okay with never doing it again, and I watched from the bridge platform, smoking cigarettes and feeling the sun on my face.

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A Momentary Lapse

There is a beautiful breeze flicking in through my windows and the chimes are singing to me over potted sunflowers.  The day is unwinding with ease and I am sewing up loose ends, reminded of past self-promises as I fill in the blanks of book journals and bedstand reviews.  If I close my eyes tight enough, I can imagine that I’m someplace beautiful and that friends’ physical presences are just a short jaunt in the car away and that my throat doesn’t feel as if it’s growing a marble of bruise on the left side.  Days of sleepless torment stretch behind me in wicked lengths and I’m guilty for skipping the gym this morning, but today is a good day, and I feel a small warmth in my soul that I hope will grow rather than blink out.

The thing about depression is that it’s possible to never really realize you’re in one until a day like today comes along.  A day when it’s somehow easier to breathe and the loneliness can be held at bay by with a little imagination instead of pounding on your door like a SWAT team busting a meth lab.  And if it’s a deep funk, one that you recognize every morning right before it throws a bag over your head and beats you with a potato in a sock, then these days are even sweeter.  The black is in such sharp contrast to the bright rays of world’s possibility that you squint, almost snowblind, opening your door to the sweet air outside.

I can’t remember when this cycle started for me, but it almost always occurs during a lull, a period of thwarted forward movement.  I truck along, meandering my path only to be halted by a move, a disappointment, a plan gone wickedly awry; and suddenly my world shifts, and disorientation takes a hold.  Sometimes it’s only days, nothing a couple shots of whiskey and a good PeeMyPants laugh can’t cure.  Mostly though, it’s a long slog…long enough that in the middle, neither the end nor the beginning are visible and IT begins to look like normal.  I’ve never medicated myself, (though it has been professionally suggested on a number of occasions) so these times are hard fought with my own fists and teeth.  Whether this is folly or not, I can’t say, knowing only that my experience with mood enhancers is akin to Febreezing an old couch that smells like cat piss.

The most recent fog has been the longest, blanketing my landscape on and off for over a year, bad days outnumbering the good.  Managing to escape for only short stints, I’ve dwelt, instead, on the craggy surfaces mired in puttied shades of black and grey.  It’s felt like a losing battle, slip-sliding out of control down and down with no way to spot a bottom.  I was told once that the early to mid thirties is when dysfunctional coping mechanisms begin to crumble and their once comforting and effective presence becomes less and less so.  That’s been true of my experience, but old habits die hard, and I haven’t had the chance to develop something new against the constant onslaught of storming thoughts in my head.

Because it’s been so bad, I do my best to smile into the sunshine of days like this, to remember what it’s like to enjoy a day in solitude and peace.  I remember the feel of a normalized mind and the pleasing caress of possibility.  Instead of looking for huge cosmic signs that I belong and am “Allright”  I marvel at my tomato plants grown from seed and the stack of books yet to read.  On days like today, I feel good in my skin and am thankful for my first world problems.  On days like today, babies are born to endless possibility and I’m moving on the path that the Universe set out for me.  On days like today, I think I’ll make it.

Tonight, I won’t get sleep, and I’ll feel bloated for missing step class.  I’ll brush my teeth and worry that they’re getting more crooked by the day.  My stomach will churn in anxiety over whether or not the Old Man’s contract will be renewed and if I have enough money in the bank to cover the time he spends looking for something else if it isn’t.  In bed, in the silence and dark, the world will come crashing back down, it will sit on my chest and bounce the air out taunting me with what it can do.  But now, right now, I feel good.  The sprinklers are painting misty rainbows across the front lawn and my toenails are freshly painted and I am OKAY.

The Zen Booger

Today, I threw social aplomb to the wind and became my very own punk song.

I worked out very hard this week, pushing each muscle group further than normal.  Part of that has to do with my level of stress of late and part just because it was time, training-wise, to shove forward a bit.  In any case, today, my body was spent, and instead of following my regular, end-of-the-week yoga class with it’s intended 70 minutes of steady-state cardio, I called it quits after Savasana, heading straight to Starbucks for my Friday frappucino.

Frozen coffee beverage in hand, I wasn’t out of the parking lot when I decided that I didn’t feel like going straight home to spend another morning listening to my Inner Girl natter on about how lonely she is.  I hooked the wheel left and headed toward the main thoroughfare.  A museum is what my Soul craved, but we settled instead, me and It, for retail therapy.  I took a jaunt first to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of Macbeth (Shakespeare in the park next weekend!) (And I’m only now remembering that I have an old edition of The Complete Shakespeare sitting on my shelf in there….) and then headed across the street to TJMaxx.  (It’s no Marshall’s or Nordy Rack, but when you’re stuck in the land of the Carhartt sombrero, you can’t be picky.)

I always start my trips to this store with the jewelry counter.  I’ve made some pretty good, thrift-conscious finds there, and the clearance case usually boasts a cocktail ring or two.  With a langour borne of months of inertia, I systematically scanned the quadrants of each glass cabinet for little treasures and determined them to be empty of anything that had to be had.  (No small disappointment since sometimes there is little better than the discovery of a trinket suitable to you and only you….)  This brings me to the shoes, but having just acquired 3 new pairs (beaded flip flops!!), my heart wasn’t really in it so I moved on to sheets, furnishings, kitchenware and, finally, tank tops and sundresses.

With a good portion of my upper body weight, I pushed a row of hangers to the right and began to rifle past each item in its turn.  click click click click click in rapid succession, leaving myself only a first glance to either pluck or pass.  (Gut reaction is the key in stores like this, otherwise it’s possible to spend hours looking at nothing in particular.  Hidden gems twinkle right away, but only for a second, and very quietly.)  Click click clicking away, I was interrupted by sneaking sneeze that left me only barely amount of time needed to get my face securely shielded by the crook of my left arm.  I made it, and nothing of substance sprayed out, but my nose did promptly begin to run.

I looked about for the bathroom, and spied, instead, a sales “lady”  in the process of rehanging one of three total garments in her hands.  She was in her approximate 50s and wore a scowl that seemed to indicate she’d just been accosted with an odor, noxious.  “Sorry, miss?” (I was VERY generous in my form of address) “Do you happen to have any tissues hiding anywhere close?” I sniffed.  “Or a bathroom?”

(Now, it bears mentioning here, that I was kind and solicitous in my query.  The very model of social etiquette and manners.  What follows in her reaction was so contrary to what the situation warranted that even now, almost a full workday later, I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.

With a long, irritated sigh, the woman raked her eyes up to meet mine and gave me a look of disgusted contempt.  “What is this,” she spat, “your HOUSE?  Do I look like your MOTHER?”

I was stunned for a second.  It shut me down.  But a quick look at a girl who had been shopping the same rack on the opposite side of me confirmed in a jerk of the head, that what I’d just heard, was indeed outrageous, rude, and totally unwarranted.

What I did next I cannot explain to you.  I don’t know what possessed me, I don’t know where the idea came from, I don’t know what to say for the type of person that this makes me.  I can’t decide if it was hilarious or trashy or just plain punk.  What I can tell you, is that it felt good, and without equivocation, the shrew deserved it.

With a straight, innocent face, I grabbed the sleeve of one of the shirts she was holding, looked her dead in the eye, and wiped my runny nose.  And that, shut her down.  As I turned and walked away, not a single word spoken, I watched the irritation and loathing drain from her face and morph, instead, into a mask of shock.

I am the master of Escalating Retaliation.  Chances are, I will yell “PENIS!!!” the loudest in a quiet library.   Lots of times, this is embarrassing for me and ill-played.  Rarely, fleetingly, it’s not.  In the vibrating hum of spectacular timing, instinct and agility played their hand and I struck my blow with grace and attitude; the perfect one-liner launched off the tongue with deft speed and accuracy.

It was uncouth, yes.  Disgusting?  Without a doubt.  But I can’t say I’m embarrassed.  I would, in fact, go so far as to say proud.  A single action proved a point that even the most succinct tongue-lashing couldn’t have touched.  I went the tiniest bit overboard, certainly, but there’s humor here, and I can’t help but laugh, a little to myself and a little out loud.

Don’t mess with me sister, because I’m a little bad ass.

i fall apart when no one’s watching

In a store, I discover,

a hole in my ear

And everything is leaking out onto the floor.

(?!)

My inside thoughts are seeping their way outside in a slowlavaooze  and I’m staring down in alarm and this liquiddark stain is spreading like molasses in a snuff film.

It doesn’t hurt and world, in a muffle, dances on down a loooong foreshortened hallway past my hollow numb sockets.

I’m staring at this stain,

and at my ear,

and at this stain,

and one is growing and the other is shrinking and I just kind of rest my hands at my sides palms outward.

suspended in solution,

slow-motion leak,

deadened head underwater.

Rasping air pressing past a pressure narrowed pathway,

and on and on, that viscous trickle,

spilling

because the seam gave way.