Snail slow and in ever decreasing increments, I come back to and move onto some completed changed old self. Never walking into the same river twice, but stepping on the same stones, recognizing the direction of water flow. The books strewn around the house—some closed with bookmarks, some open, face down on the coffee table, on the desks, on the edge of the bed far from where I sleep—they were not there six month ago. I walked around the house this morning looking for the book that I’ve decided to start my mornings with. I almost cannot write, cannot think a single thought before I read the reading for today.
I am my own delicious throwback to days before Covid and quarantine and autism and moving and death and heart transplant and a wild child. Who was that me way back then? I have almost, but not completely, forgotten her.
And the piles of waiting books—from the library that must be renewed twice before I finish them or arriving by mail or found in dusty, hushed shops—stacked on the nightstand and the kitchen table and the mantle. For months the stacks have grown surreptitiously. I did not realize that I allowed congregations of books to gather on so many flat surfaces. Perhaps trading stories among themselves or feeling the tension between different genres on top of each other, and wondering when, just when I was going to open them. The thick one standing up alone by the overstuffed leather chair that is for a history course grumbles, the thin memoire stacked with a few old journals and a empty blank book with a twilight blue leather cover and a narrow ribbon to mark a page, waits patiently for my scribble in the margins. The sketch book that is more than half full since I’ve decided to claim charcoal and pastels as my own, and the new, smallish book with unlined pages that I intend to keep in bags that travel with me. I have plans to write, to draw while indulging in modes of transportation denied me for these Covid years.
I have missed for so long the person who would pile books and value deeply those stacks of literary companions and the words hidden in them. It has been years since I’ve seen her. 10. 12. Perhaps 15.
They have been chrysalis years. Rumination upon rumination. Dark and private. The necessary dissolving of hopes and dreams and expectations, the grieving for people and ideas and plans, and the formation and emergence of some new old self that was inconceivable when first I entered the long tunnel of changings.
And yet, that chrysalis was not at all private time. I have been of the world, not hidden away. I have said so many wrong things and done so many deeds badly. I have made so many mistakes and many people did not like who I became or what I did. I lost friends and grew distant from family. I have been too shy, too direct, too aggressive—said way too much and gone quiet without reason. I have told the same stories multiple times, and left huge holes in my narratives. I have had no interest in the world, in people, in friends, for months on end, and have lost the tone that sweeps listeners and readers into my stories. I have plunged ahead and have given up so many times that I can no longer count.
In the years after David died, I would on occasion recognize that the person I was last month was not who I saw in mirror that morning. That there was some moving and notice of my progress forward or sliding sideways in grieving, the changing from the mire of heavy loss to the tearful triggers around every bend to the sad glimpses of my vanished life now and then. I was no fun for so long, much longer than anyone else could bear. But I could chart my movement because, at least to me, the changes were dramatic. Now, post-move from Wisconsin, post-Covid quarantine, post-teen age trauma and many years later, the changes are small, subtle shifts in my own tectonic plates, hardly registering on my internal richter scale and all of it without fanfare.
Just books left open on the edge of the bed.