for days the world shifted into some kind of something i’d never seen before, like it bubbleized, and i was smack there in the center. life became a cell and i was the nucleus, the kids floating about in the cytoplasm too, dna and mitochondria-like. the cell was exactly the size of our apartment, lo and behold. there was nothing beyond those crazy cell walls. they held us together so we didn’t float apart into the unpredictable dynamic called Everybody Else’s Life.
i cried, because that’s what nuclei do (so i’ve decided) and i wrastled the cosmos for answers to all the interrogatives, knowing i’d get nothing in return. i pouted, whined and let my senses get knocked about by the steel-bright sun and rna-stored smells from pasts i’d like to forget. just thinking made me nauseous so 70% of my energy went into emptying my mind. no thought no thought don’t think don’t think don’t think. hostile forces gathered on the other side of the mail slot and occasionally dispatched messengers to shove their cruelty past the flaps and into our warm home, financial viruses delivered to break my spirit and remind me of the vulnerability of even the best of membrane-based defences.
i ate crackers and drank home-made lattes. i took naps at nap-long intervals. i sobbed as quietly as i could in the bathroom, emerging red-eyed and weakened, stunned that my spirit was as fragile as all this. who had broken me, and how, and what could possibly put me together again? where do things go when they disappear? endless questions pinging through my addled mind.
the day came, though, when i had to emerge from my kúlu-kennd safety. i took a shower, washed my hair, and let it decide if i was truly ready to go outside. i helped it dry, and watched as it shaped itself into something pretty wonderful. i dabbed some powder on my face and, with caution, darkened my mite-hosting lashes wondering if the final image in the mirror would smile softly back at me. it did, so the day had come to present it again to the world.
my daughter cheered me on, gave me a mental high five and a verbal firm and friendly slap on the back. go get ‘em, mom! she rooted. her brother was with his father so there was nothing, not even a slimmest excuse, for not carpe-ing the diem. i donned my best urban action pants, and trainers so i’d be able to sprint home in case of doom or danger, parka’d up against the arctic chill, slung my intrepid messenger bag over my shoulder, and stood, ready, at the front door.
i opened it, felt the outside loft fresh my skin, and heard a crow caw three times as it flew past our tree. this boded well, the gods were on my side. out the gate and into the human rabble, bodies floating past on their way to parts undisclosed. bits of paper with unintelligible writings caught my eye, stuck there and there between fence strats and tufts of freeze-dried grass, and cats crossed my path the way they always do in this town. there was nothing to fear!
life would unfold as i walked through it the way i expected it to, the way it always had. tourists snapped photos of the neighborhood, some with an amateur’s faith that the high cost of their new compact would guarantee a good result, others with a wannabe pro’s ability to strike and hold an awkward pose while fiddling an ever-fickle fancy lens back and forth before rapidly firing off thirty shots of our chronically non-moving church-style pyramid on the hill. a friendly face greeted me, and gave me a chance to prove that my voice outside the bubble i’d been in still worked. i still existed!
i wandered streets i have wandered thousands of times and they were as they’ve always been, though in the days prior i’d doubted their core reality. if i am not witnessing a space or a place or a face now, in real-time, it isn’t. nothing is, until i see it. in my bubble i had turned off all the noise, no exterior facts or photos or words infiltrated, making me free to imagine all sorts of wonders and horrors, though i did my damndest to block any idea of anything at all. and now here i was, stepping past that familiar wad of gum long-pressed into the sidewalk in a three-lobed formation, and then there i was at the corner store buying a pack of gum myself, greeting the perpetually high owner as if no days at all had passed.
just as i suspected, no one but me had noticed my absence! this was easy, this same routine, this path oft-taken, and all my fears were the worries of a insular, brain-fogged and stay-at-home soul who had refused to change out of her pajamas while time whirled by.
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