The injury aligns with the breakup, a window sash in its jamb. One smooth slide to a perfect seal. In stays the still air. Out there, bees and dew and all the fecund detritus of summer.
This forced meditation is only welcome because it came in with its trunk and has evaded any attempt to pin down its schedule for moving on. All I can do is make it feel at home. I fold myself in beside it and listen to it breathe.
All familiar routines are out of commission. Before this, any hint of stillness was a signal to go find a Zumba class or kick out the door in my running shoes. With a busted knee, the simplest thing would be to sit back with Netflix and ride out the pain.
Before this, any internal chatter was a signal to pick up the phone and call my Mister. Now he’s not mine anymore. The social buzz whips around this empty living room like a downed power line. It sparks, it pops. Without a companion to ground and receive, the simplest thing would be to cut the juice.
The window is closed but outside sears right through.
Daylight has a way of complicating the simplest things.
This weeklong recuperative holiday from work is intended to let me heal from surgery on a torn meniscus. It’s offered up a twin opportunity to grieve the end of a 3-year relationship. Isolated in my house, work on hiatus, endorphins on strike, and Netflix as a numbing agent at best. . . this reads like the Idiot’s Guide to Letting Depression Win.
Creative character development is my saving grace.
Who can I be, if I can’t be the person I though I was?
Where does a single lady with a limp get her kicks?
In one script, injured and alone gets you starving slowly to death in the woods. In this, a different story line emerges thanks to a series of small set changes:
- Surround the bed with books. Literature, history, science fiction. Books of surrealist art, books of essay, books of drawing tips. Stack the bedside table with journals, sketch pads, jars of pencils and markers. Cue up music. Doodle, write, doodle, read, doodle, drift. When the eyes are too bleary from painkillers to make sense of WEB Dubois, close the book and sketch instead his black-and-white portrait from the cover.
- Invite a friend to visit. Ask for the curry, the berries, the small texture your tongue misses. Answer the door in your pajamas. Invite friends to come play board games. When you’re feeling well enough to drive, ask friends to meet you at the farmer’s market. Sit in the shade and gossip over gyros while the bluegrass band plucks and croons.
- Say yes to the invitation to attend a cookout at the acquaintance of a co-worker in a neighborhood you’ve never visited. Even though only three people out of the 20 there know you and you have to hobble across the deck to shake hands, find a seat and ask all the questions. Dance your way into conversation with the NPR journalist who teaches at Duke now, the retired Navy officer, the dude who lives half the year in Ukraine who’s personal friends with John McCain.
- Crash the neighbors’ cookout in your own back yard. Yes, these are the same neighbors whose failure to invite you left you grumpy and hurt last year every time they gathered at the common picnic area right outside your door. But this is a new summer, and this is the re-write of that tired script. When your kiddo says “let’s go,” go. Take your own tablecloth and bag full of the dinner you’d planned to eat inside. Share your your baked beans, your sparkling water, your bug spray. Let the kids careen around as a pack. Notice that by the time the sun sets, everyone is at your table hooting and gabbing, and you’ve got playdates and new numbers programmed into your phone.
- Knock on the neighbor’s door and invite her to join you at the town’s Memorial Day festival. Wander the booths with her, sampling Mary Kay makeup and gathering schwag from the local banks and dentists. Weave your way through the hordes of kids sticky with cotton candy, parents waiting in line for the tilt-a-whirl. Throw a blanket down on the grass and listen together to the band playing purple dinosaur songs while flushed little girls spin loopy circles under the midday sun.
- Go solo to the wacko sci-fi movie night on the rooftop of a local bar. Help the organizer hang a bedsheet and get the projector humming. Sketch in your journal and giggle along with the aging geeks and baby-faced engineers at the psychedelic freakiness of La Planete Sauvage.
- Go to the gym and lift weights. Go to the gym and walk in the shallow end with the retirees. Water the plants on the balcony. Hobble to the corner with the dog and stop to let her say hi to the kiddos on the corner.
When clouds roll in and a damp sky brings the weight of pain, limp back home. Ice the knee, slide into the nest of books and pens and paper and music.
Float for a minute in the cool and loose feel of him. Let his phantom thread its silver limbs around yours. Long for him. Thank him for showing you this art, this weirdness, this courage, this shiver.
Wish him rest, wish him flight.
Then slide that window closed again and turn towards the colors of your own page.
Write the story. Flourish the edges with the scent of honeysuckle. This meditation is only a visitor, despite all evidence to the contrary. Wrap your wound around her instead. Ride the current of her breath up to your unfolding arc.
Image: “Le Jardin” by Cecilia Paredes