body, Creativity, Growing Up

Drink Loose the Noise

What young self didn’t know was that cool is a lid that screws down tight on the swelling delight of yes.  From the edge of her ancient eye, older self notices women in the dark corners of the bar bouncing in their seats.  Girls titter near a post trying not to sway — girls who are surely women but seem so far from their fullness.

The dude in an oversized plaid suit and orange ponytail hollers into a microphone while the bassist ducks his eyes under his fedora and yanks on steel strings.  Two spaghetti-armed boys blow brass right through the back wall.

Older self stands and strips off her sweater.  She steps toward the unnamed sister, the one in a cherry red tank top and spiked gray hair. She touches her arm and draws her onto the space in the center of the room.  The worn Persian rug there is a far cry from a welcome mat, but carpet is no great challenge.  Years earlier, she sent her young selves scurrying off to road-test every surface. Concrete, rooftop, mountaintop, pier.  Boardroom, waiting room, snowfall, bed.  Every floor is a dance floor when it’s time to dance.

It’s always time to dance.

She pops her hip and snaps her hand, beckoning to the one across the room who’s been having trouble sitting still.  They are three now.  Soon they are five.  Soon nine.

Low ceilings press in on the battered cafe.  Amateur pencil sketches hang crooked the walls. Light shifts and a gleam slices across the bowl of the saxophone.  Soon it’s a glittering ballroom.  Soon the pulse of the Cotton Club on a Saturday night.

The wall of dudes collectively holds confines itself to straight faces and non-committal postures until one man, pushing 70 easy, steps into and sheds 10 years. The young women form a ring of cool, turning their taut backs out for protection.  The rest shimmy and grin knowing there is no outside and no in.  Guarding one’s soft parts is a survival skill for certain,  but the older ones have learned the taxonomy of danger.  They can differentiate battlefield from playground now.  It wasn’t always so clear.

Here, the belly is free to roll towards the snare’s smash and crack.  That’s lightning for sure, but older self unfurls anyway inside the grounded body of her scars.  She twists the lid loose and drinks the song’s bright rain.  She is growing older still.  Time is running out, so she runs out into it.  She fills her bones until they spill over with dance.


 

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Happy 100 Days: 87

We swipe the last of the paratha across the bottom of the silver dish. This was something new, Chicken Kadai. (“How was it?” “Oh,it was kadai for!”) He pours the final splash of house white from the half carafe into my glass and then his. We are re-visiting a story that he knows but we rarely discuss. As happens when we are liking each other again, he finds a way to phrase the questions no one else would dare ask and I find ways to open doors with my answers. We are not the last to occupy a table in the restaurant. The other couple has only just started their entree, but still, the servers have long since ceased re-filling our water, so we tumble out into the brisk night.
 
“Your call,” he says. “Someplace for another drink?”
 
I consider this. It is enticing, 9:30 on a Saturday night. Cars whoosh along the boulevard. Colored lights and warm chatter invite from somewhere just around the bend. I decide to reel in the vision of what comes after this in-between. “No,” I say. “We’ll save a few bucks, like we promised. If we want a drink, we’ll buy a six-pack. Stay in. Finish this conversation under a blanket on the couch.”
 
“Wegmans?”
 
“Let’s go.”
 
In the store, we wheel the cart past the produce, past the bakery. He stops to squeeze a loaf of something dotted with pumpkin seeds. Then, he strokes another with a golden crust. “Like this,” he says, gazing at the gleam under the plastic sheath. “I want to get it like this. With that chewiness, you know?” We adopted a sourdough starter months ago. He is a much better father than I had expected.
 
I consider the cookies. He asks me if I want a treat, knowing I do.
 
“Let’s make some,” I say. “You have baking soda, right? Vanilla?” He nods. It has been too long since I have been in his kitchen. I used to know, but then there was the distance. He is out of butter now. He pauses at the beer and I leave him to it, heading on down to the dairy fridge. He is trying to watch his cholesterol, and the array of options is dizzying.
 
He approaches. “Country Crock?”
 
“I don’t think you can use it. See?” I point to the side of the margarine. “Not suitable for baking.”
 
“But that’s the generic. It says it is 48% oil. This one is 39%.”
 
I hold them up next to each other and try to puzzle through the fine print. “I don’t think a lower oil content is better for baking. I think it’s worse because it is more water. Maybe?”
 
Then he is holding up butter to compare. I find a butter blend, then two kinds of Smart Balance, one with canola oil and one with olive. We are trying to measure unknown quantities, the saturated fat in this one against the moisture content of that one. We juggle six different tubs. The poor butter sits alone to the side, denied entry but still on display just to advertise its failings. Its truth, its singular purity, is irrelevant in this contest.
 
“Fuck it,” he says. He dumps all but one of the tubs aside. The survivor lands with a thunk it in the basket.
 
We wheel out through the deserted produce section, grabbing a bunch of bananas on the way. He stops by the broccoli. “What is this?” He picks up a conical, fractal-studded oddity in sea-foam green. It is clearly brassica, but beyond that, it is a mystery. I believe I knew the name once but can’t call it up. “Romanesco,” he tells me. I realize I was imagining pieces never placed.
 
“What would someone do with it?”
 
“I don’t have any idea,” I say.
 
“Should we buy one and find out?” He digs around, finding the perfect one while I create a bouquet from a leggy artichoke, a rhubarb stalk, a yellow zucchini, and a single loose carrot. I tell him if we ever get married, this is what I want to carry down the aisle.
 
“You’re beautiful,” he says, laughing. He folds the romanesco into a plastic bag and places it in the cart.
 
Back at his place, I lose momentum for making cookies. I eat an unsatisfying square of Hershey’s chocolate instead. It is the only sweet in his kitchen, and it is waxy enough to keep me from coming back for seconds. He is made of stronger stuff than I am. Or maybe just different stuff. He opens a beer. We jabber on about important topics soon forgotten while he prepares the proof for tomorrow’s loaf. He realizes he is out of whole wheat flour. I remember that I am supposed to write something happy. I touch his back as he stirs white flour in. He never pours the discolored hootch off. He keeps it all in, everything unknown and alive, claiming “this is what gives it that flavor, you know?”
 
The sour whang lingers in the kitchen. In a nearby unit, neighbors bark at each other, their teary distress echoing at odd intervals against the balcony. That was us just last week. That was some other us a million years ago.