The wisteria is blooming again, maybe the stress of heat and drought, maybe it feels desperate for one last chance to make babies, just in case this is it, and the smell is overpowering, and I say, do you want to smell them, and she says, yes, and I say, look, they are up high, do you want me to pick you up, and she says, yes, and she holds up her arms and I pick her up and she breathes in the smell and we breathe it in together and ooooh at the crumpled up purple flowers, and I watch the line of her nose against the sky, the translucency of her skin and the freckles standing out against her paleness, and I remember telling P, she's like the sun, and we stay there for a moment, on the golden August grass, pressed against the rustling live green wall, and then she pretends to fall asleep, suddenly a sweet boneless weight in my arms, the softness and heaviness of sleeping newborn that her body remembers, and I carry her into the house, and gently lower her down to the blue plastic tumbling mats on the floor, and as her feet touch the ground she shrieks and explodes into a new game.
She was sitting in my lap, small and warm and dense, maze book and crayon forgotten, twisting her head from side to side wildly, over and over again in a blur, and laughing, saying, this feels so weird!, and her hair felt like small soft paintbrushes as it flew back and forth against my lips and cheeks, light and cool, and she said, I'm getting it in my mouth, a stroke of hair, and I said, a stroke of hair?, and she said, yes, and then she said, I'm making a wind, and I felt it on my face.
I took three steps across the back porch to the basement door this morning, and it felt like stepping into a warm bath, and I looked down and saw that the sun came up just to my knees, a lip of hot light, ready to slide up my thighs.
All I could do was work and work and work, I recovered the dull grey couch pillows, each side a different fabric, you can arrange them all in any combination and never get tired, and I mopped the floor and washed the dishes and did the laundry and planned out my week and washed dishes again and crocheted and sorted and folded and glued, and then you were there, and you listened, and it all came out of me, like water running out of a glass tipped over by hands too tired to be careful, my fingers drumming fast on the keyboard, and your love was such a relief.
We're sitting on the porch, all three of us, plywood covered with aging gray paint, underneath a green and white roof and shaded by a wall of wisteria, cut back hard a few days ago and uncharacteristically contained, like a new haircut that's a little too precise, and the kiddo and I are looking down at the ice cubes in a sweating pint mason jar three-quarters full of Shasta rootbeer. They weren't quite frozen when we put them in, and we're watching sinkholes fill up with brown fizzing liquid and exclaiming over sparkling frozen air bubbles, arrested mid-bloop, like lava lamp goo, in wet shining ice as clear as glass, and marveling at the spray of small white scratches floating up against the fat white top of the cube--strings of tiny air bubbles forced up as the water expanded, maybe?--like intricate glass sculptures, bobbing around in rootbeer and glinting in the warm sunlight, as the cool breeze slides over our bare arms.
The world is burning down and everyone is dying, and it's also summer and the kiddo is back home, and life is made of honestly probably excessive handwashing and rage over the neighbors being, like, alive, at a distance that's probably safe but that's just too close for a day that's already included getting the mail and deciding if the grocery store would be too crowded and reading about how many tens of thousands of people have died and wondering if being alive really matters all that much in the scheme of things and feeling ungrateful for being so wrecked when I'm not even sick, I have a home and food and I don't even go out, smashed up with moments like this:
The kiddo is nestled in my lap playing Candy Crush as we sit on the shady back porch steps, because, she says, my lap is softer than the wooden floorboards, while I watch a black and orange butterfly drink nectar from the chest-high flowers along the fence, long, narrow dusty green leaves on yellow stems, and masses of tiny pink flower nubs collected into little oval clumps, like saucers missing their teacups.
The kiddo is videotaping the bees in the yard, and when I watch the video later I see what I missed in real life as I watched her taping, I thought, a random clump of grass, she spots a tiny white butterfly and quietly talks to herself as she walks up to it, "a butterfly!", "I'm walking slow and steady", "I'm getting so close!" and then later she's giggling because we're in the narrow sideyard and all she can see is my butt, "maybe I should be in front", and I'm realizing right now, right as I'm typing this, that the whole world must be butts to her.
I escape the the sunny front porch because they are melting down old candles and the scent is making it hard for me to breathe, and I look down at the sheltered nook where the heat pump drops its condensation, a little white plastic snake dripping into the brown soil, and the square of earth has filled up queen anne's lace, and a ladybug is perched on one white flower, like a drop of blood, and I call out to the kiddo, because ladybugs are the one bug she's not afraid of, she says, and we marvel at it together, we've never seen one with no spots before.
I was walking in the back yard in the sunshine and the warm breeze, and the grass tickled my feet, but tickled is the wrong word, I mean, the way ASMR makes your head feel, or like kissing someone you're over the moon about for the first time, or walking naked into cool water on a hot day, or cuddling with bare chests together--a soft sharp shocking and then profoundly grounding reminder that you are a person in a body and your body is warm and alive and loved.
I never used to like black pepper, except in leftover mashed potatoes when it blooms into something rich and spicy, but now the smell of freshly ground black pepper is floral and savory, intoxicating. I put piles of it in everything I make so I can smell it as it sifts down from its grinder, and taste the smell as I eat.
I found cherry bitters in the back of the cupboard, bought years ago for a party at another house, in another world. I put drops of it in my water glass, which sits beside me next to the couch, and from time to time an air current brings me the scent of cherries, and I remember sundaes with maraschino cherries on top, and Shirley Temples, icy and sweet, making a wet ring on the shiny wooden tabletop at a hamburger joint.
Yesterday I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on an English muffin, crunchy peanut butter, kept in the warm kitchen cupboard and a little drippy, and cold raspberry jam full of seeds, and it tasted like a hamburger, like a ghost hamburger overlaid on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like hot green leaf lettuce and sliced tomato and ketchup and mayonnaise, and it made me think of, no, remember with my whole body, the McDLT, a hamburger served in a two-compartment white styrofoam container in the eighties (keeps the hot side hot and the cold side cold!). The acidity of the raspberry jam, maybe? I don't know. It was delicious.
I walked around my backyard while I talked on the phone, barefoot in the spring grass and dandelions, and then down the mossy stone path to the side yard that is spilling over with flowers, waving and sparkling in the sun, and when I sat down in the shade to rest, I saw that my feet were covered in yellow pollen, so I found the hose, tangled in a pile of long grass, and rinsed my feet with cool water while the sun baked my back, and wondered what the blessing for it was.
I'm sitting on the couch and they are at the table eating a quesadilla and we aren't talking and at first I felt lonely but now I'm just breathing in this crispy spicy cheesy smell; I can smell the butter still hot in the cast iron pan, and the tortilla, I can even tell which spice is in it, I can't remember the name but I can picture the bottle, morita something, smoky and complex and rich and deep red with an edge of heat, and I'm listening to their small human sounds, and I'm remembering that connection is a practice, and it's also just a fact, as gorgeous and life-giving and heartless as a river.
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© Francie Nevill and Every Sweet Thing, 2017.