Hi, from Aruba. Whoa! I am in Aruba.
I’m trying to blog more in an effort to remember details. So hi. Here I am.
I have this chalkboard in my room at home where I have written YOU ARE A WRITER: SO WRITE! because I don’t carry a notebook, thinking (naively) that I will remember that man with a speedo, a selfie-stick and a beer precariously taking a photo on the edge of a cliff in Aruba, and how I thought about my mom’s second husband Carl because the speedo man had his beer in one of those cooler things which I just had to google “What are those foamy things you put a beer in to keep it cold?” because I couldn’t think of the name of them (apparently they are called Koozies) and Carl used to drink his beer out of said Koozies. I have been thinking about Carl a lot because there are cacti everywhere here on the island and he collected them- had hundreds in his yard at home. He only drank Coors and I keep seeing Coors ads here so I think maybe, in some way, his spirit is here, and I wonder if he had ever been to Aruba but I can’t ask him because he is dead a long time now and that man in the speedos looks like he may fall into the ocean because of his dumb fucking selfie, so I want to write this stuff down but because I don’t carry a notebook or jot things down. I memorize it until I sit down here, at the table by the window, the wind blowing on my back, and I think if only I had a table at home where the wind blew on my back like this, I would really write, I would really get shit done.
Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to lie to ourselves?
Carl, if you were here, dude, you’d go crazy for the Bringa Mosa Bush and the Yatu Cactus. Also, we hardly wear shoes here and you’d love that. You hated shoes. Especially when you ran on the beach, which to me is just about the worst thing in the world. I tried to do yoga on the beach yesterday and I felt like I ran a marathon, it was that exhausting. My hands kept sinking deeper and deeper into the sand and I had nothing solid to balance on so I kept falling over. You used to run with Monet on the beach at sunset. I miss Monet. Every West Highland Terrier I see is him. We used to call him MoMo. You didn’t, but my sister and I did, especially after you and my mom got divorced and we moved back to New Jersey. MoMo and the cats, Runt and Tiger. And when I drank beer I high school, I thought of you because you were the only person I knew that had drank beer. I don’t recall my father every drinking so lord knows where I got my affinity for it. His thing was speed. Anyway, you’d love it here. So would Monet. There’s so many dogs everywhere. And cactus plants.
And Koozies. (I wonder why they are called that?)
I think sometimes I am afraid of remembering.
I should start writing things down more though because details, they’re everything. I think my mind can store it all, the way that boy with the braces from Houston was collecting rafts in the pool to build a bridge and run across, how proud he was of his achievement, and the way the woman who worked at the hotel bent down by the edge of the pool, a You are making my job more difficult pair of eyes, the way she stooped to collect the glass candles so we wouldn’t break them, her mouth a line of blame. Meanwhile I can’t even remember what I did last week so I should totally start taking notes.
Maybe I am afraid of remembering.
I remember sitting on the floor of the airport in Dallas a few days ago and how there was a little girl in a chair next to me with a sweatshirt on that said Birthday Diva. I asked her if it was her birthday. She had just turned 13 and had these huge stuffed animals on her lap. Her mom snapped photos of her as I sat on the ground and charged my phone. A man talked to me but I have no idea what he said. I wonder how often I lie to myself.
My sister is not feeling well back in the States, in Georgia. I don’t know how to not experience it in my own body. With her, or my mother. I do not know how to separate them from myself. I do not know how to not feel guilty.
I have moments- sitting here, the wind, the perfect Aruban wind and my God, is it ever fucking perfect, I would marry the goddamned wind if I could- sitting here with my coffee and the wind on my back, the sun burning the little patch of skin that is exposed, I do not feel guilty. I feel settled in my body, my ears are ringing as usual, but I am writing and the tinnitus can’t stop me, not when I am truly in it.
I so rarely get truly in it, not lately anyway. This past year I have hardly written a word. Right now though, I don’t feel guilty or like an appendage of anyone else- I am not aware of my hearing loss, or my family, or how dare I be happy because I am in it, waist-high, swimming in the bluest water you have ever seen. I am writing. I hate that hashtag (maybe because I so rarely write) but here I am #Iamwriting and so I am spared the responsibility of my guilt and how it weights me to the bottom of the sea where not only am I deaf, but I can’t breathe. So, there’s moments, brief ones, where I float and I sit on airport floors and watch Birthday Divas, everything still ahead of me, a possibility, not yet a disappointment.
I think I would die if anything happened to my mom or sister. I would literally jump off a bridge. I think how I would not be able to handle it. So my sister is not feeling well, and my mom has this raging infection in her mouth and needs dental surgery and I am looking for a bridge. Just In Case. My husband texts me: Don’t Worry So Much. This was also the refrain when I was a child. Jennifer, Don’t worry so much. Jennifer, stop being such a worrywart.
I stopped externally but then my brain imploded because there wasn’t room inside of it for all the things I was not speaking. I had fire in my head, explosions, shrapnel. No wonder I have ringing all the time and I can hardly hear.
I have dealt with so much in my life (who hasn’t though, really? I am so not special. I do not need a baby violin for you to play me) but lately I find myself saying, I would not be able to handle that, all the time. I have handled so much (cue the violins), I have handled things that break easily and things that are not supposed to break at all- fathers dying, ears going to shit, babies not surviving, but now, it’s like I am the breakable thing, fragile as memory.
I was talking to one of my childhood best friends, whose mom died nine years ago. His dad recently had a stroke so he was sorting through all these boxes in his garage to help his father out and he found all these letters from his mom. I couldn’t handle that, I would lose it, I said into the phone, my eyes filling. Yet, when my own dad died I didn’t cry at all. I steeled up and walked around the block, past the liquor store on the corner, and I ran my finger over fences until I cut myself. When I finally went back home I was a new person, my heart encased in some kind of shell, my finger bleeding, my I can handle anything face on top of my old face. It almost looked the same except for the jaw and the eyes.
I wonder when I lost that face. When I stopped being able to “handle things?”
How often we lie to ourselves.
Yesterday, my friend and I ran across the boy in the pool’s raft-bridge. Neither of us made it across, both face planting in the water after our weight sank the raft down and toppled us over. The key was to move fast enough and to balance your weight evenly. The boy from Houston turned red and gave me a high-five when I asked. He was pleased. I asked what made him think of making the bridge.
“It’s traditional,” he said. “I did it last time I was here.”
“So, it’s a ritual. Cool.”
We drank wine in the pool and I ate a salad with the “catch of the day” (Mahi Mahi.)
I don’t know how I would survive if anything happened to either my mother or my sister.
I also had guacamole and these red and green chips and some watermelon. I would no longer be a person in the world. I would become a raft, a bridge. A carcass. We ordered a second bottle of white wine. I added ice.
I think we lie to ourselves to survive.
I lied to myself when my dad died: I don’t care, I said. I did. I cared so much I wanted to take the iron from the fence and make more pain to make the pain of the unbearable disappear. I lied and it saved me. If I had told the truth, if I had allowed the pain to unconcealed I would have wept so much the earth would have drowned, I would wailed so loudly, that time would have stopped. So I lied and played Barbies and acted like it didn’t matter.
I had to do it, forgive me, Father. (Can Jews say that?) I had to lie. Forgive me. It mattered. It mattered! It was the only thing that ever mattered.
It’s so calm here. I realize that although I am mostly deaf, I still need extreme quiet, absolutely no distractions, in order to write. If I lived in a quieter place, I would write more. I would write all the time.
Oh, the lies.
There’s these little mangoes on the tree at the house I am staying. They don’t look ripe but when you cut them open, it’s like heaven. Heaven is a mango. I ate four in a row just now. There’s mango in my teeth, I have mango and coffee breath, the wind is on my back and I am happy.
But then I remember my sister. She is in severe pain. How do we separate ourselves from those we love? How do we allow ourselves to break away and live a life of our own and yet still be empathetic and compassionate? How do we not let that empathy and compassion swallow us like a baby fucking mango?
I am not looking for answers. I think I might turn the comments section off because sometimes when I write like this, people think they need to mollify me or awww, Jen me, or give me advice. I am not looking for advice. I am looking to write. I am looking inward. In the words of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems,
Wherever it was I was supposed to bethis morning–whatever it was I said I would be doing–I was standing at the edge of the field–I was hurrying through my own soul,opening its dark doors–I was leaning out;I was listening.
I am looking to listen to my own soul. I don’t even know what that means, not really, but I want to get quiet and listen so I can’t betray myself anymore. I don’t use words like soul, very often. I am wary of them. I do not know what my soul is. I am not saying I don’t have one, but I don’t feel confident to speak of it. Not yet. My soul was happy. I am not sure what that means.Maybe it means the deepest part of me, the place no guilt can touch, the place that doesn’t need to write down details because they are stored there all the time, always, nestled next to fathers who smoke and boys who build raft-bridges, and maybe it’s the place that doesn’t need hearing aids and the place that doesn’t lie to itself. Maybe it’s where I don’t feel afraid. Maybe it’s where Carl and Mo-Mo pick cactus thorns out of their feet and paws and where I know that I am safe. Maybe it isn’t a place at all. In fact, I think it is not.I have taken everything on in my whole entire life so I do not know how to do otherwise. How do I learn?There is so much pain in the world, how do you not take it on? How do we allow ourselves moments of I feel good when there is so much that is horrid and atrocious and unfair? You just do, I guess.
You pour a cup of coffee and feel that wind on the back of your head and how good that feels and how much you deserve it. We all do. We all deserve to feel this breeze. We all deserve to separate ourselves from other people’s pain and the pain of our pasts and the pain of being born.
I know we all can’t feel this breeze. I may never feel it again. This may be the only time in my life I am in Aruba. I wish we could all know this though, what it feels like, this warm wind, this perfect temperature.
I have been lying in bed in the morning before I get up chanting “I am safe” to myself, which is what I do when I am depressed. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until yesterday morning. I was lying in bed shivering from the air conditioning, a poster of Audrey Hepburn watching over me from the corner of the room and I was whispering I am safe over and over.
The wind makes you feel like that. Safe. Really. That’s why I wish we all could know it. At least once. I am safe.
If anything happened to my mom I would not feel safe. The center of the earth would collapse and I would sink in without a raft-bridge.
Last night, my friend here fried me an egg for dinner. He knows I love eggs. I put it in my tomato soup and it was lovely. A little salt and pepper and some Israeli couscous on the side.
In the same poem, The Mockingbirds, Mary Oliver talks about an old couple with nothing to give but “their willingness to be attentive.”
I think that is the soul. The place we pay attention without having to. It’s an awakeness. An awakening. I am making more coffee.
I am awake. I am writing. No hashtag. I am in Aruba. I won’t lie to you, dear reader, if anyone is reading this rambling nonsense. I don’t know how to detach from my family. I don’t want to. This is how I have survived. Three of us on a raft-bridge.
My husband just texted, like he is psychic: Everything is going to be okay.
These are my favorite words. Everything is going to be okay. He knows this. I put down my phone, pick up my coffee and finally turn to face the window. The wind on my face feels better than on my back, even. Can you imagine that? I hope so. I hope you can imagine this safety. I wish I could sit here with you and that we could drink our coffee and pick mangoes and that we could convince each other that it is going to be okay. And we would tell each other all the lies we used to stay afloat and then we would watch them drift away. The water is so clear, too, so so blue. I wish you could see it. I wish we could all get in and float on our backs and stare up at the sky, maybe a little wine, if you like that sort of thing, and if anything were to happen, or if we felt afraid, we’d remember we had raft-bridges and we’d know we were safe.