You’d think with time and experience things get easier. This is true for all manner of things– you better navigate the awkward pauses as an adult, you figure out better ways to repair old clothes, old friendships, old furniture. Break ups, however, do not become any easier. They are always a fresh hurt.
Here in Florida, it’s dipped down into the 30s, and my pomegranates will freeze for the third time this winter. Will all these plants, repeatedly frozen, survive? Are hearts the same way? Love is like spring. Maybe it was a late frost that killed this thing. Maybe it was transplanting it. Absence does nothing for hearts but break them.
You’d think I’d learn.
And you’d be right. It just means I know the story’s ending. I happen to like this kind of tale. I’m the medieval audience, listening not for the unexpected, but for the craft of its telling. I earned this broken heart. It was a tale well told.
Morning casts a different light than dusk. It isn’t in the angle. You know it not by the orange juice glow, nor the crispness the air holds, but by the tiny voice, that one that lives in the light and says, “Okay, let’s go.”
That isn’t a metaphorical “let’s go.” It’s not the voice of a new day. Those are quieter, anyway. This voice is the one that tells you that all you came here to do is done, and it’s time to move on.
So let’s move. I knew this town was done with me years ago. I didn’t want to come back. It’s all ghosts and echoes and empty sentences said to an empty sky. I want that vista filled: castle spires of glass and steel girders. Ants thronging the ground. A hum. A people hum, like motors and conversation and the electric grid singing all life life life that we’ve come now to know, how can it be otherwise?
I outgrew this place before I left the first time. By the dawn light, you can see it cramped end to cramped end, a little suburb of nowhere. It wants to be lazy and electrified. It wants to be, it wants be, and isn’t.
So the sun comes up. The horizon is painted candy colors. I want to put it in my mouth.
“Okay, let’s go.”
I prove to myself once again what I’ve always known: I am never the lark, but an owl by nature. Night is my friend and I require crickets to concentrate. Either that or a still, cold morning in New York staring out a window that isn’t mine watching the streets bustle on cleaning day, when no one can park on the curb. Since night falls everywhere at some point in time and New York is far away, I have to work with the conditions left to me.
The bird I can hear right now is an owl. A friend recently told me a sad truth about them. Though they are Athena’s bird, symbol of wisdom, owls are quite dumb. Serves Pallas right. Harumph. But that still doesn’t make me feel worse for finding favor with the little screech owl, sacred to Lilith, who landed on my head in the hospital trailer of the wildlife center. The night prior, he’d been brought in, struck, shocked, and still. We didn’t know if he’d live the night, let alone have flight. Yet when the kennel cage opened, he burst into the room, feathers flying, and sought refuge on my skull. Most nights, when I feel creative, I can still feel his talons digging into my scalp… not unlike the tactile memory of a lidocaine injection into the gums every time I recall what it is to be uncomfortable.
I’m left then with a strange bird and a system of symbols. Jasmine is the saddest smell I know, and the process of taking hold of imagined things and bringing them to earth feels like a screech owl’s claw in my hair. We can pretend that’s the source of my prickliness.