@ 2014 Mary Anderson Parks
April showers. I am at the window again, watching the fine mist drift like thoughts. I have been following thoughts down unlikely paths, waiting for the moment when my body will spring forward, like a panther. And pounce. On what? That is the question. It is the question that makes me get up in the morning and brew coffee and drink it and eat whatever is there to be eaten. I am a little hazy about the details, such as who actually is there with me in the morning and just who it is who brews the coffee. I am probably not the one. Not likely. I have quit doing most of those things. They seem to get done anyway, by somebody else. Clearly there is somebody else because those things do get done and I am doing fewer and fewer of them. I still wash my underclothes, and his too, and I enjoy very much washing my body. I like our persons to be clean for those times when we come together and each of us remembers the other one is there.
I have decided to take back some of my power. First, I have to decide which way to jump. Choices. In my mind the panther is on the tree limb, long and slinky and sinuous, hanging out over the garden, aware of the gardener’s every move. And yet I know I am not really in a tree. I have eyed the trees though. There is one I am sure I could climb, even at whatever age it is I am, and a branch could be found to hang from but no, someone mentioned graves, a relative who came to visit, who sat in this room with me on one of grandmother’s antique chairs, a living relative. The dead ones seem more interesting. Their secrets sometimes lift me up and let me fly but other times they weight me to the earth. There are moments I am even in the tomb with that little black baby.
Without knowing the decision has been made, I dress for going out. I wrap a silk scarf around my neck in case there is a chill, and spray myself with perfume and open the door. The window exit would be more fun, but it can wait. I’ll be back, most likely. The graves are on the other side of the city and it might be a whole lifetime of adventures compressed into a day, to walk there.
“Are you going out?”
Where has he appeared from? Hasn’t he gone to work? Have I lost track even of that?
Maybe then I say something, because he answers. “I thought I’d work at home this morning. You seem unusually restless. Could I drive you somewhere?” He asks it hopefully. He never gives up hope. He is like a child.
“No.” I am surprised how clear and loud my voice sounds. I cannot recall using it lately.
“No.” I say it again. “I’m going to walk. I need the air.” I add the last part so there will be no arguing about it. Wise of me. It will be so much easier just to slam the door behind myself and then lose the rest of me somewhere.
Howling. Where is the howling? The panther? No. It wouldn’t. Wolves? Myself? That knocks me off balance. I gather the pieces of me together with an effort that leaves me trembling, so it isn’t all that successful, but the main thing is to keep moving, not howling. I hope to God I imagined it. My imagination is capable of that. My dreams are unspeakable. He will never let me out, that is the point, if I howl. I can howl in my dreams, or back in the closet behind the coats, but not out here on this treelined street where we apparently live. I hadn’t known it would hit me like this. I needed air more than I knew. Sitting in the window is not the same as thrusting my whole self into the world. I see a young woman approaching and I begin to walk rapidly, in case he is following me. I will not look back, though, and betray myself. Instead, I focus on the young woman pushing a stroller toward me. How unlikely! Yet there can be no doubt.
“There I am!” I say, and smile as pleasantly as can be, which is easy because she is I, and looks so cheerful and clean and ready to take on whatever lies in her path. Even myself.
“Good morning! Nice to be out at this hour, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I answer. “Or any hour,” I add. I want so much to contribute something. I can converse, of course I can. I remember all the formulas and I use them relentlessly, shamelessly. “How old is he? Is he a boy or a girl? How are you? Mustn’t keep you,” I say, and I hurry on.
That was good. When I turn back to look, she has turned too. She is staring at me with interest. I have always been an interesting conversationalist. I see that I can revive all that. I wave gaily to the woman and begin running along the sidewalk. It feels wonderful to stretch my legs, reach out with them, stride along with the stride of a long distance runner. I’ve always been a good runner. Why did I stop my daily jogging? And when? How good that I have nothing in my hands. My mind clears as I run and that becomes a problem, the nothing in my hands. I have not brought a purse or money or keys. But he will let me back in. Keys aren’t the problem. Or I could crawl into the garden and climb in the window. He wouldn’t have closed it, would he, locked it as soon as I left? No! The reality is that he is cruising along behind me in the car. I know without looking. This has all happened before. I dive, panther-like, quick, graceful, into the bushes. Ha ha! The car can hardly come here. He can get out, though. So I climb over the fence. Yes! I can still climb and run, run, panther running black now, not golden as a tiger but black as night, and looking as he runs for a tree a tree a tree. Wildness runs through my blood, a warning of something, this is maybe not the best way to take back my power.