Butterfly

Back in Starbucks, but this time in Greenport, because there’s no power or water out at my house still. Starbucks out here is different from in the city: everyone’s clean-cut, in shorts and Topsiders, but because they use boats—not because they’re hip (they’re not). The employees don’t have any music playing, so it’s just conversations you overhear. The clientele is doing as much blah-blah-blahing as I am. (I haven’t been staying at my house, and every time I have a conversation with the person or people taking me in—mainly LB—I feel like I must sound like a record played backwards and in slow motion: hhaallb, hhhaaallllb, hhhalbbb. I need my power back so I can go home and protect the world.)

One nice thing was watching a teenaged boy with his dad at another table. The boy had fabulous curly hair (his dad had gone bald), and gorgeous, full features, like a young Mick Jagger, but an angel, rather than someone with sympathy for the devil. He looked so angelic and soft, in fact, that I thought he’d have the voice of a little girl when he spoke. But he didn’t: his voice had already dropped. When I heard him speak, he went, suddenly, in my heart, from being an angel to a man. What a thrill: like watching a butterfly fall from a cocoon, his wings unfurling as he plummeted.

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Doe

I thought I hit a doe last night. She was about the size of Scout, with little white dots on her fur. It was one in the morning, and I wasn’t driving fast on the backroad, home, my brights cutting a tunnel into the warm, dark night. But I was blasting the radio (Stevie Nicks), and puzzling over the difference between looking at something, and knowing you’re looking at it, when the little doe ran into the road. I saw her, and I hit my brakes, and I swerved very hard, but the music was so loud that I couldn’t hear either the clunk or the absence of one. I imagined I hit her, my brain having done the math while it was happening. She was moving too slow; the turning radius of my car was too big.

I parked the car on the side of the road, and walked back, the brush at the side of the road dark, the woods beyond it buzzing. There was a bright moon overhead, and my lights were on. What would I do? (I remembered a story Baker Roshi told me, about hitting a deer when he was driving with another famous Roshi, and then shooting it, to put it out of its misery. How, at one in the morning on a deserted back road, would I put a tiny deer out of its misery? And why would I? And yet, what would be my alternatives? Pain ran through my body like electricity.)

It had been one of those days. No, not those days—it was like this: I had cried all the way into the city, and cried all the way back, big wet salty tears that left my eyes swollen. There is really no rhyme or reason when it comes to grief; little things trigger it, and then there it is: the pain in my body all day had been so great that I tried imagining a heroin haze, or the relief of suicide, to make it better. Nothing helped.

So when I was walking towards the doe, or the space where the doe might or might not be, I felt, instead of real fear, a kind of bottom, like the sharp rusty bottom of an old metal pail: the little dying doe did not make it worse—it just made it more of what it was: it is not pretty, life. I mean, sometimes it is—I love my daughter, and all the birds and trees outside my house; but the end of things that you love, problematic or not (and it’s all problematic), is inevitable. One minute you’re thinking you’re going to see someone again, and the next minute they’re gone forever, without having said goodbye. Without having said, “I will always love you.”

It’s easy to contemplate when you’re fat (literally) and happy eating personal pints in your bed with your longtime partner watching Law and Order, but it’s not easy, in actual fact. In actual fact, it leaves you lying in ditch, sometimes, in agony, dying, completely confused about what just happened (you had seen it, but you had not known you’d seen it), having just a moment before been young and happy and flying across a road, a song in the air, headed into the future.

Dad Memory: Name

My father called me “Treeshee” (don’t know how to spell that). He’s the only person on the planet who ever called me that. My relatives, at that time, pronounced my name, “Patricia,” like “Patreesha,” so I guess that’s where Treeshee came from.

I haven’t been able to write to you lately, because something else has been happening, some kind of internal swoosh of energy, like clouds of stars out there in the universe, needing to do its thing in silence. That sounds so self-involved and high falutin, but I’m guessing that we all go through galactic changes every once in while, so.

For some reason, I think I’ve told you, I decided somewhere along the way that my dad was a very bad guy. But I’ve come to realize that, though I know he had his faults, I think I cooked that bad-guy thing up as a way to distance myself from the trauma of losing him. I’m just beginning to remember exactly how much I loved my dad—like Maudie and I say to each other: “THIIIIISSSSS MUCH”—and I’m beginning to remember how devastated I was when he died. We never said goodbye, or got a chance to tell each other how much we loved each other. He was just gone one afternoon, when I got home from school. I was a kid, so I loved him, honestly, like Juliet loved Romeo. There. I said it. I was madly in love with my father at the time that he died.

So. I got a little damaged, being ten, and having no idea how to process such a devastating loss. I’m not exactly sad now, now that I have begun to look into this. What I do feel, though, and have always felt, is a sense of floating through that swoosh of universe so alone it’s like being re-traumatized moment by moment. It’s worst at night, when I’m alone in my house, the darkness pressing in. Maybe that’s the samsara we all long to be liberated from. I pray for the courage to sit in the fire of this present moment, at ease.