Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Maybe I'll just take visitors here for the rest of my life

Yesterday afternoon I wrote a chapter in my memoir at the Sewanee library. The library card I bought for $10 gives me access to the building, the stacks and all the digital downloads for ten years. Until I am 62 I will have access to polished hardwood and special collections and erudite peers. 

I feel inspired and fortunate. 

I sat on the quiet floor, the third floor, with the theological and seminary students. In a soft, worn brown leather chair between the Dead Sea Scrolls and a Rabbinical prayer book, I began to write about my life. 

I think I was too loud for the third floor because a student in leggings and Blundstone boots moved two tables away from me. She moved her laptop first and then came back for her books. I put the top on my Mate tea, folded my laptop and went downstairs to the first floor, which is as loud as an elementary school cafeteria, and put in my earphones and listened to bluegrass acoustic music to drown out the flirty, rowdy non-theology students. 

I wrote about what it was like to wash my children's hair when they were babies. Rinsing the shampoo from their shiny heads, trying hard not to get soap in their eyes. Trying to hold their heads at just the right angle, adjusting the water pressure and temperature just so, aiming the water at the perfect angle so it rinsed the soap from their scalp and then ran backwards towards their neck. Not forwards towards their eyes. I wished I had been a better student in Geometry. I remember what my palm felt like against the back of their sturdy little necks. I needed to keep their heads clean and I didn't want them to cry. In those early days of motherhood, it seemed so hard to do both. My babies were so squirmy and slippery. And my hands, so shaky. 

Some nights I was more successful than others. But today they are young adults out there in the world with clean hair and fully functioning eyes. 

                Dear Melanie of the Early Aughts, 

                It's going to be okay. 

                Turns out there is no perfect angle. 

I wonder what I would have written about if I had stayed on the third floor. 

I paid $10 for a drop-in hot yoga class at a gym next to my tiny house. At the end of the class my teacher placed a cool wet lemongrass-scented washcloth on each yogi's forehead and while we relaxed in savasana on our mats, she sat in a beam of moonlight at the front of the room and prayed for us. The cool wetness on my forehead balanced out the warm lightness of my body and kept me from floating off into the stars.

My teacher didn't tell us about the prayer part. 

I drove home, the gravel on the road and in my driveway popping like popcorn under my city car tires. 

I cooked my dinner while listening to Roxane Gay's audiobook "Bad Feminist." I put oatmeal and flax seed in a pot, frozen cherries and blueberries and strawberries in another. At first I thought Roxane was critical of everyone and everything and I wanted to dismiss her as cranky, but I still listened to her and then I said out loud, "she's just ... she's right". Then I said it again. And she's cranky. She's cranky and she's right. 

I put warm compote and Greek yogurt on my oatmeal and my boyfriend called.

I took a shower and put my sweaty yoga clothes in my Barbie-sized washer. I don't know how such a tiny washer can require maintenance on such a frequent basis. Appliance repair companies don't want to send techs to addresses like mine. The last time a guy called to tell me he was fifteen minutes away he was in Texas. 

I live in Tennessee. 

I opened the window in my bedroom and let the cold mountain air pour into the room. I turned on the electric blanket under my down comforter, and sprayed lavender in the air. I closed the door to my room, a pocket of cold and fresh oxygen building inside. 

I poured a cup of Jim Beam,

sat by my fireplace,

and read an article in the New Yorker that my mother gave me at Thanksgiving. A blue post-it with my name on it marks the page. My name is in her handwriting. I held it to my lips as I read the article. 

Which for all of its many words, was not as moving as the blue post-it note that has my name on it, in my mother's handwriting. 

I blew out the candles. I turned off the fireplace. I plugged my laptop into the outlet. I set up the coffee maker for tomorrow morning. 

I turned out the lights. 

I don't know how I will ever come down off this mountain. 

I will try, when the time comes, but 

I think I have forgotten how to live what the rest of the world calls life. 

I don't know how I did it for as long as I did. 


Buddy said...

Mqybe don't ever come down. - from the state of mind and peace it manifests in you - simply descend back to the other world and enjoy the good and ignore from the bad

Melanie Gao said...

I just might do that, Buddy! <3

Christi L. Parsons said...

I want your tiny house and your giant life!

Melanie Gao said...

Come on, sister! <3