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.
I stood in the kitchen, because the table was too far away and the trees in the neighbor's yard are pretty, and ate a warm buttermilk biscuit, split, with unsalted butter (we are out of salted) sprinkled with kosher salt and drizzled with honey from the back of the cabinet that's crystallized a bit and crunchy, and then another one with butter and salt and raspberry jam, and the biscuit layers shattered softly on my tongue, and the new leaves on the oak tree next door were yellowgreen screaming with aliveness, and the thought passed through me, "will I look back on this moment as the worst of times or the best of times?" and also, it was a goddamn transcendent fucking biscuit and this apocalypse can't take that from me.
I sat by the open window, even though it was a little bit scary to be so close to the outside, and put my feet up on the sill, which is painted shiny gold, and felt the cool spring shadow air blow into me while I talked on the phone with a friend, and looked up at the blue blue sky, and felt connected.
We stood out in the front yard, throwing snowballs at each other and watching the clouds blow across the sunny blue sky, being careful not to touch anything that anyone else had touched, at the end of the world.
Yesterday I walked through the morning, and it was soft and cool and wet, like heavy dew, beading up on my sweater, and I counted colors, five red, five purple, five white, five orange, five blue, trying to find calm. Purple was the hardest to find. I'm thinking about fives, and how fives are the middle of things, and the hardest, because you can't see the beginning or the end anymore. But six is next, and then seven eight nine ten, and then we get to start over, and maybe that's enough.
I stood in the back yard, barefoot in the cold wet grass, and looked at the full moon, our faces turned towards each other, and I remembered that I am made of the same stuff the grass is made of, and that my house is my anthill, and I live on a planet in space, and there are huge mountains in the rings of Jupiter made of dust and they cast long long shadows and that makes my feel sick and scared with awe and reverence, and we're on a rock that's hurtling through space, and I'm a rock that's hurtling through space, and I breathed out one huge smoky breath, and then hurried back into my anthill, and I can still feel the cold radiating from my feet (now dry and shoved back into thin blue cotton socks) as I type this.
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© Francie Nevill and Every Sweet Thing, 2017.