Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I Will Trade My Bears For Gold
It is the evening after my second day at my new job, my 9 to 5 gig at the library, and I am exhausted in a way I did not know it was possible to be. It has jarred me roughly, this switch of life, and I am in tatters after the full eight hours on my feet, wearing my social face. When I drive home from work I cry because I'm too tired to take care of my daughters and I want to take care of them. After three hours of socialization my eyes glaze over and I can't understand anything anyone says and find it difficult even to make eye contact. Eight hours leaves me collapsed in my bed in the darkness. Twice last week I dreamed of bears.
It is humid here tonight and the air smells like vacation. My feet and legs and brain feel the farthest from vacation I have ever felt, but as I drive home from Target where I had to go to buy the dreaded khaki pants and trainers, work attire, it feels and smells just like the time I went to Florida. My best friend and I flew to the gulf coast for a concert, and after spending the day camping out at the gates to get front row seats, and a few hours screaming our hearts out, we ended up in some joint that memory has left hazy around all the edges. The only clear detail is that I was served the very best cheeseburger I'd ever had, and that we were young women and two young men approached us and we joined them for a night of revelry. We needed a ride back to our motel room and they drove us in their truck, three of us in the back of the flat bed with the aqua-scented, the maybe coconut scented breeze in our hair and that song by Nelly that was big that year playing on the radio. A song that was wistful, that knew it was young. We drove to the liquor store and back to our motel and as the night wore on, a strange thing happened. My best friend was beautiful in an exotic way, a way I could never be, with Mexican chocolate eyes and silky sheets of black hair and cinnamon skin. She was also model-thin, and for years I'd played the shadow to her allure, I had never been the one that was beautiful. But as this night wore on, this night in Florida by the sea, it became clear to us that for the first time in our young lives the men were more attracted to me. It baffled us both. When the time came for such things--not for making love, I did not go so far as that, but the time for making pairs--I was paired off with the better catch of the two, and I remember catching my friend's eye across the room, both of us in wonder. The world was upside down. I have a picture of me taken that night, somewhere. I'm wearing a white halter top and I am smiling with a confidence I rarely catch on myself in pictures. We were young and in Florida and these boys were kind and I was beautiful and when someone said skinny dip--maybe it was me--and we ran out to the motel pool and climbed the gate that was locked around it, my friend hugged her hands to her chest but I left my bikini top and bottom on the concrete and I jumped full in. We were not yet 21.
I remembered all this as I drove home from buying the damn khaki pants, too tired to even be moved by "Thunder Road". But a woman at my new job has had a dream of me. I waited for her to say bears, but no. She said, you were swathed in gold. A gold, diaphanous dress that was luminous, drenched in light, that flared like a mermaid's tale and on your head was a crown of gold filaments, sparkling in the sun. I will take this for a good omen and anyway, it's a blessing for an exhausted mother of two to drive home in the evening and remember that time in Florida when the air smelled like coconut and her body sliced the water like an innocent and torsional mermaid, a Melusine, a thing that changes shape and is free of shame in her unswathed skin, as if the story of Eve had never been told.