Maybe around the next corner? Not this one. This pass looks so familiar, I know it’s nearby…but where? Why did I not pay attention? I just let you drive as the hot summer wind swept around me, eyes closed, my face to the sun. Surely there are a million other places to dip my feet in the water. What do I think I’ll accomplish by finding this one? Will it confirm the existence of those sweet summer days, will it bring back the assurance that everything will be allright?
It’s a strange sensation, knowing that it was real, living now in the unrealness of the aftermath. Searching for my own closure, as you gave me nothing in the way of explanation, nothing but an admittance of fear. Fear of the future. Fear of Forever. As if that can ever be quelled.
I wait for the emptiness, the longing, to pass – it always has, in the past. I’ve been in therapy, taken medications, performed countless burning rituals by the light of the full moon under the direction of friends, strangers, shamans. I’ve researched ways to clear my karma of this attachment. Meditations, chanting, counting beads, candle gazing. Quotes of affirmation hang in every room of my house. “The measure of success in this lifetime is not of what you accumulate, but how gracefully you let go of what is not yours.” Hundreds of salutations to the sun, the moon, to Shiva, Lakshmi, Ganesha. And still you linger. Why?
There has to be a way, I know it. There has to be a method, some ritual, some penance to be sustained. Time is ticking. I need to move on.
Talking with you brings nothing but frustration. We don’t speak the same language. I know this. I should know not to be fooled by your well rehearsed act of understanding, your utterance of key phrases in your flawless accent, mimicking so accurately a native speaker of truth. I should remember by now that it will appear that we are on the same page until I forget not to trust you. I’m not a stupid woman, I see the writing on the wall you built between us. I don’t have to have a translator to understand that I’m not welcome.
I’m trying to stay out. I have no interest in squatting in your less than inviting waiting room. And yet you keep appearing. You come to my work. My work? Granted, I told you you were welcome. But for crying out loud, do you sincerely not feel my anxiety when you are in the room? What are you trying to prove? Have you forgotten that it’s part of my job to make everyone feel welcomed?
And so now I drive. When I can no longer see clearly, when I need reassurance, when I want out of this state of disengagement so badly I can’t even cry about it – I drive. And I look for that place – our place – that sweet oasis of running water. I need to believe it was real. I need to walk into the flow, to submerge myself in remembering, so that I can walk away with grace. Dripping wet. And with grace.
It’s not a completely random and wandering quest, this. I have a map. I limit myself to one hour stretches of searching, I follow roads that look, sound, feel familiar. I look for roads on the map that cross the river, so many rivers, so many roads. I trace those roads on my map with a red pen once I’ve driven them, so I know they are not the ones. My map itself is evidence. Evidence of my search for completion. Evidence of progress in that search. Evidence that I will not waste my time searching the same roads over and over. I keep my map with me at all times, where I can reach in and feel the texture of the weave of the paper, reminding me of my quest for closure.
As I progress, the red lines capillary out, covering up more and more territory – oh! That’s it! I’m almost there! That has to be it, the lay of the roads on the map, the broad crossing. I smile to myself knowing that today will be the day. Today will mark a new era.
It’s overcast, not a particularly pleasant day to be driving around the Tennessee countryside. The gray sky has a sense of heaviness, a pressing. My sinuses tell me a storm is likely.
Now that I know where I’m going, it all seems so obvious, how could I not have seen before? I figure this is perfect timing, middle of the day on a gloomy Tuesday, surely I’ll have the river to myself. And I do. No sign of any other souls as I park and begin the rocky descent past the black-eyed susans (or are those the brown-eyed variety?) and those little purplish blue clusters, and the orange butterfly weed.
The river opens up before me as I approach the bridge. Without hesitation I walk in, head downstream. Under the bridge, around the bend, memories flooding back – the river otters’ home tree, the elk bed, lounging against your perceived strength, naive enough to fully surrender. I lower myself down into the water where the current moves quickly over the rocks. I find a couple of somewhat sessile rocks at the bottom of the river with my hands I let my body to go limp, to wave in the current like seaweed as I hold on tightly to the smooth, cool surface. Underwater my hot tears and the cool stream waters mix, loosening the incredible tightness around my heart.
Fully immersed, my ears are filled only with the sounds of rushing water. I let go with my hands preparing to feel the current take my body downstream and it takes a moment before I realize something truly frightening. I am not moving. Someone or something holds me in place in this stream. With strength that comes only with the adrenaline of sheer horror, I instantaneously spring off the floor of the river, arms flying in blind terror, knocking to the ground who or whatever is holding me. It’s you. I caught you by surprise, knocked you clear to the ground, hit your head on the rocks.
Unconscious, you lay in the stream, almost completely under the water. The stream carries the blood away from your peaceful, beautiful face. I place my hands on your shoulders. I push down. Through my tears I can barely see you under the water, but I can feel how limp your body has become. I hold you under longer. Just to be sure you are really gone.
With a sigh the sky opens up and now it is the rain that mixes with my tears as I stand on top of the bridge and toss an armful of Susans over the edge. I watch through the soft rain until I can see the flowers no more. I get back in my car and drive. Away.