the cat gets lost in the closet, or feels she's trapped, and her yowls, at first loud and indignant, go sad and sadder, quiet, quieter. it's not a large closet, not a walk in, just a normal closet with two sliding doors, one open all the way - open all the way, mind you, because she at first yowled quite adamantly to be let in. there is light from my bedside lamp, but never mind that; she sounds abandoned and scared, only going silent when i get up and peek in at her. she sees me and then she's safe, she's reminded i'm here. if she'd only look out, beyond where she sits, she could see me when i return to bed, but she doesn't. she finally convinces herself she is forever imprisoned and makes herself a soft place to sleep. when she awakens, she'll remember her way out; in truth, she'll pretend it never happened. i will play along with her charade.
life in one paragraph. with cat.
this summer has been one day following the next, all running together too fast, mostly all the same, a corner painted over here one day, a corner over there the next day. there is only one last corner to go, sitting there, mocking me, whispering i will never finish. i need help to move the furniture that sits there, and there have been other interruptions, but soon, i whisper back. soon. at summer's almost end i struggle to remember the days of fun. i tell myself i can count them on one hand, but that's just me yowling at my imagined abandonment, my imagined imprisonment. the truth is that now the morning sunlight bounces off the floor as well as through the windows, that there are moments i am grateful for the long chore of painting these floors, grateful for the meditation it became. grateful to know my arms and aching hands could survive it all. grateful that my back, which almost didn't, did. that last dark corner can mock me all it wants - it will be gone by this weekend. the bedroom walls will be next.
i don't know where the furniture lives anymore. a chair momentarily placed in front of a window nestles next to a plant and gives the cat a place to curl, so it will stay for a while. a white bench that once held a mirror finds itself pushed next to a white table and suddenly, accidentally, looks and feels perfect. as a place to actually sit - who knew? the pieces of furniture returned to their usual places feel wrong on this new floor. stagnant. there will be changes. i imagine everything elsewhere, but still haven't decided where to place the bed.
i'm just getting to the fun part.
last night the stars were warm and full of memories.
today the woman in the mirror has hurt a toe and feels her age.
i am so much younger than she.
the august heat is bright and hot and erases away all the colors. the air conditioner never shuts off and i wear only flip flops, and only those when i must. though the floor is not yet finished, it is enough finished to once again walk barefoot through the house. the concrete is cool under my feet. this winter it will be like ice. i will have to find some rugs.
july has slipped away, and it is august, and i've been so silent. at least on written pages - my heart and hands have been noisy and too busy, full of aches, falling easily into exhaustion. the painting continues, the floor almost done, but the paint cans are empty and i am out of money, so a pause. for some of us, that's how real life is. you pay insurance with the last of rolled up quarters and a couple of ten dollar bills, and you don't buy cheerios because you can't afford milk. there are days i don't write because (very small voice) sometimes i don't believe. that things will get better, that the floors will be finished, that i will have money enough to pay the rent, that i can get through the hard times. they seem endless. i am sure more days than not that the road i somewhere turned down was the wrong one, that the arrow showing me the way was spun by the wind and never mind that i like the unknown roads. sometimes they are hard and the sun is hot in my face and sweat drips into the last of the paint.
broken limbs fall and settle into trees, reaching out, pushing the side mirrors of my jeep closed; his isolation now also mine. plywood is the only bridge across the washed out waterway that crosses the trail to his house, dry for now, but not forever. alcohol and medicine and the rent he pays for a shack he only sleeps in swallow his money; electricity is a here again gone again luxury. his broke down car is his daytime home; the sunshine is free and he can read if he can find his glasses, but it is also hot and there are mosquitoes in the chin high grass. he does laundry by hand with water from the well, drapes his clothes across the car to dry, and leaves them there for days. he says to me how can i live like this? and he worries about just making it to next week, and i have no way to help, though i try. i drive him to other places he can afford, places where the landlords stick to their promises to mow the lawn, where the roof isn't falling in, where there are no holes in the floors, but i know he won't move, that the only help he wants is money i don't have, a mother i cannot be.
he sleeps through the mornings until the heat in his house wakes him and pushes him outside, pushes him to the store to buy beer and an overpriced newspaper that only tells half the story.
no phone, no pool, no pets, unless you count the last of the cats that still sometimes shows up, but who now lives mostly at his landlord's house where it has a different name - even that has been taken from him, though he still uses the name he chose for her. every trip to see him, surprising him out of his car, is harder. i am sharp with him, angry he has let this happen, sharp with myself later, crying as i crawl the jeep back through the trees.
i wonder how much of this story, his story, i should tell, how much i can tell, and i come back home and when i had paint, i continued to paint the floor. my meditation. but now? this pause.
the sun hits the newly painted part of the floor and the house is lighter. it seems to float. when the floor is finally finished, next come the bedroom walls. paint samples are taped to the spot where the light changes the most and i watch those changes from morning to evening. the original choice has been tossed, and the color i like the least during the early part of day is the one i like the most by late afternoon. it goes soft and i like that. i need that. i need a cocoon, a womb, hands to hold me. i need the light on my skin.
i need a nest high in the treetops.
in the meantime, during this pause, i am using up the small cans of white paint i always have. mirror frames, baseboards, an antique arched door i've had forever. i'm letting the original green paint go. i will start with white and see where it takes me. i will make mistakes. maybe. i know what i need in that treetop nest - it's not much, it's less than i used to think - and i know how to get there.