When it happened last time I sensed old, stonewalls climbing up on either side of me and I heard two or four heels clicking on cobblestone. And it was late at night. A castle, I thought.
I have these moments, alone mostly. When an old moment, fragments of one, jostles me back. It takes me to a time and it only reminds me of one or two of my senses and I have to stop and focus. I try to pull back, like a movie camera pulling out of the scene to take in the scope.
Once I remembered a window made of green bottles, I only saw the circles of the bottoms and there was a flickering candle behind the glass.
I remembered a slick black table and ordering something that I knew was too expensive. There was red, too. That was easy, it only takes a second to pull back. I am with Carly. I am in Prague, on our first night and we were hungry and tired and still have our backpacks. I ordered a cheese burger.
I have remembered my foot piercing a sharp shell and I can’t see through the water. It is cold. I am wearing a black, full bathing suit. There is a child with me. And a rowboat. I am in water off the coast of Maine. I am in the Atlantic Ocean. My sailboat is off a ways. Lights turn on around the deck.
There is a woman and she is crying everything out and she is slim and nice looking. A silver bus pole. Her knuckles and she brings her head into the metal pole and I haven’t paid for my ticket. She cries and cries and cries. She isn’t hiding anything. Rome.
These memories hit me like lightening. A flash, and then there is my investigation and slow pull back. But I do not invite them. And they are not always physical moments.
A rocking chair by a window. A third floor. An old spirit but there is no body to her. I am not afraid. A long rifle in the corner. I pull the memory back but the edges blur and fire up into smoke. This is not a room. Where did it come from? A fat man, a barstool and Jim Bean. It’s unlocked. “I’ve had this bottle in my hand since,” he concludes. A father’s suicide. His story. A closing bar and me and the chief. Fisher’s Island.
Broken guitar strings and some attractive man is yelling at me about America. Dubrovnik. Early morning. A couch outside and a coffee and I say, “Well, I didn’t elect him.” And splash open The International Herald Tribune.
A table is above me and chair legs are staked around me, and the edges of the tablecloth. And I am so safe. Feet in socks and shoes pad around. Plates clink onto the table. “Mary Lorraine!” Other feet come in. Voices. “Watch it, hot!” A thud over me. Suit pant legs. Wool socks. Chairs are pulled out, legs come in. Socks.
I have to focus. I have to remember what I’m sitting on. The red carpet. That climbs into the thick, paisley curtains. That crawls over me. White tablecloth. White butter cake. My mother’s parents’ house. When everyone was still hopeful. Before the things that pulled us apart did. Before we were left like we are now.
Morning. Five am. It’s cold. I’m waiting for an outdoor shower. The horse’s breath comes out like a cloud and there is snot. The blue-eyed one. “Indians thought it magic.” She half bucks. Sticks her nose out to me. There is a barn cat. And those diving birds that protected their nest so, like lunatics. Dive bombing anything that came near. Oregon.
I’ll stand on the subway tight between strangers and it will happen. Holding onto the rail. Where am I? And what has happened to me? Do you feel this way? A continual bewilderment? As if life suddenly spit you out? As if you are being reborn over and over and over again? It’s as if fragmented moments of beauty have been dropped into my brain and shaken.
I don’t feel any wiser than I did under that table when I was eight. Or in Rome when I was seventeen. Years later I feel just as confused. And I never know where I am. If I woke up in Thailand I wouldn’t be surprised. If I woke up on a bus going towards Vermont. Or in the open trunk of a station wagon. Snow is falling and it is late. Talk radio purs. Or a living room. We can’t afford to turn the heat up passed fifty-five. I am surrounded by my best friends and I am very, very happy. Ithaca.