Goodbye, April

“Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free.”

Thursday, April 4th, 2013. 

April has arrived, the month of picnics, the emergence of sunglasses, the stirrings of inner life after the inertia of cold months. It’s as if everything is slowly thawing, the days have finally grown so much longer. Spring has always been a joyous occasion, the time you seem to dream the most. Waking dreams, while driving on a road that is momentarily empty in the morning, when you walk in unfamiliar neighborhoods with their ancient houses with porches, when you slip into the bathtub full of warm, sweet-smelling water.

Underneath the warm surface you hear only two things amplified — the knocking of your heart and the steadiness of your breath. Your heart sounds like something remote, not like a pounding organ — more like someone clunking up a flight of eternal stairs with a pair of heavy boots. Or ceaseless hammering from the house next door, someone forever hanging a painting on the wall or building a bookshelf. And then there are the external noises of the outside world which sound even farther away, the muffled mumbling of the TV downstairs, the footsteps of people moving about. From another place completely, not here. In the world of water only what is living underwater counts — what you can hear is that immediate stillness, not the ebb and flow of the ocean waves but its inner peace, the sound of your own breath a constant guide. You are reminded that you breathe.

In these moments, you imagine yourself the heroine, or anti-heroine, of some film equally as dark as the last one you saw. It is like in dreams where what is disturbing makes logical sense, is alluring. You were always attracted to dark things. You have always known, always wanted to believe, in the existence of a different reality, the kind you glimpse when you are sleeping. When you listen to a song, watch a scene. The mundane-ness of life is lifted — there is so much to notice! The small things, the infinite spaces where a possible other life may be lurking. You see flashes of yourself in different houses, as a child again, as a teenager, walking along different roads. You’ve lived everywhere, every courtyard you walk across has once been a routine. It’s like deja-vu in a place never seen before — in your imagination, you’ve lived a thousand cinematographic lives, all a secret. In spring, the romantic in you surfaces.

Photo by Ricky Romero

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In Which You Lose Control

It seems silly and mundane, but I’ve recently conquered my fear of driving. After eight years of inhabiting cities with decent public transportation, Philadelphia now means a new job, a new life, new necessities, and giving some TLC to an old car. I believe that my nervousness at having to maneuver a car was always closely linked to a much deeper fear that I’ve always had, that of having no control and/or being controlled by external forces when it comes to my life, my relationships, my goals. A stubborn independence, that automatic defensiveness when I feel that someone is trying to make a decision for me or tell me what to do. Though I attribute that to parents who took more of a backseat attitude where it mattered while I was growing up, the inflated pride many times becomes a defect. 

I was involved in a small accident once years ago, and that split second of total surrender to panic while having no immediate command of your limbs was terrifying, akin to that feeling in those dreams where you mean to brake but instead accelerate into a pole, or the side of a house, or where you want to scream or run, but your body is paralyzed. Ever since returning from Madrid, this new sense of independence and responsibility (financial and familial) has directed my endeavors towards figuring out how the next stage of my life should play out. I’ve dedicated months to job searching, working and tutoring part-time, watching entire seasons of Dexter, running, going to writing groups, catching up with friends, clearing out my email inbox, and karate chopping my sister because I could. Now life is really starting to get into gear, and it seems I have full reign of things. Even though I don’t really know what’s in store the next couple of years, it’s OK because, like driving, once I’ve figured enough things out, it’s time to sit back and let go. (But keep steering.)

 

In sleep the collision
into a tree is like that
of a tin-colored,
remote-controlled car
banging blindly into
your basement shelving units.
With a wide flick of the switch
the machine responds in delayed
fashion. Reverse to brake.
Watch it careen into a wall.
Your foot on the wrong pedal,
engine shaking in disbelief.
Mouth on the wrong word.
A year swallows five suddenly;
you’re here without
having expected to age,
you need a rehearsal
for the unintended.
In that dream where you lose
your teeth they say it’s
the same fear, the one that
runs you off the road —
no time to devise an action
for what your nerves should
have gathered by stomached reflex;
but the muscle memory
fails you, the tree comes
spinning into view, the vocal chords
stopped up, damped.