April Memoir of a Thinking Body
MY LIFE THIS MONTH IN 8 PARTS:
It’s a full moon. We spent the morning looking for it not realizing it was on the dark side of the earth. “Let’s check for it every hour until we see it,” I said. “Deal?” You said deal but every 40 minutes or so you asked if we could look at the moon. In its absence you drew moons with my sharpie pen in my journal, your small hands wrapped around it like it was a weapon that could expose your worldly views, however abstract at two years old. I gave you a page, then two, then four to draw on, then dug a little notebook out of my bag so we could each have our own. We drew moons and stars and clouds and one truck, you told me, until you were told that sharpies are for adults and that you couldn’t use one anymore. You shot me a quizzical look and I shrugged and said, “That’s life kid.”
It’s morning. My alarm chimes softly at 6:30. When I wrapped myself in a blanket too large for our bed the night before, I had every intention of waking up when I heard bells. I had a plan in wait. An aeropress towered on the stove, the kettle full of water to be boiled. Beans measured, eager to be hand ground. My journal was in place. Computer charged. Candles keen. Birds cuddling in the shades of morning light. My book, its stories, restless.
But in bed, my dreams are dense, coating me with the mud of terrible muscle memory: a terror absolute, fear at the hands of a weak man, sadness in my roots of my Mother, heartbreak, the feeling of ‘lost.’ The rampant pulse of my heart wakes me in the night. I pull the blanket over my head like it’s a coat of armer. My alarm chimes. As my eye squint open my body lays still, motionless in the din of morning. I am lead, solidified and isolated. What happened, I wonder. Disconnected from reality, I am unable to sit up despite mental coaxing. I think of coffee, tasting it. I think of writing, spilling out. I think of my body, and I stay glued to the mattress like I am sewn into it. It takes an hour, sometimes two, to become conscious enough to make it through the day. It never used to be like this.
The subway is speckled with the usual suspects, ourselves included. This time we’re the pair speaking quietly but passionately. Perspectives on family and love; theories on the future. The only ones talking besides two womxn with two children talking about them like they’re not there. I keep my backpack on as I shove into a forward-facing window seat. In my head I count our 13 stops down. Everyone ignores us as we hold hands, a practice my younger self would scoff at. A practice my older self enjoys; connection, skin to skin, with another human. Not far away a middle-aged man sits facing us. He’s twitching. Two people nearby read library books. One of the children with the womxn looks at me, moves their lips to one side in thought, and begins to write furiously in their notebook. “That kid’s writing about us,” I whisper to my partner, who looks over at the kid staring back at us again. Studying us, then writing. Furiously. “Probably,” my partner confirms. I smile at the idea. There is a man in baggy pants taking over three seats and someone 16-30 years old listening to their headphones so loud we can hear their music rows away. Everyone looks tired in a palpable way, except the kid writer. No one, as far as I can see, is white besides us. Seven more stops.
There is a woman perpendicular to us wearing headphones, her eyes shut with one hand clutching a big suitcase. The other cupping her iPhone. Her hair is braided in a way that makes it look heavy compared to my stringy, flat mane and I wonder if it is. When she clicks the home button on her phone, the screen illuminates and I sit up straighter, discovering something about her: she was meditating with an app I loved. This, a refreshing twist in the din of our headphone nation. The way we unplug from each other. She begins to browse podcasts and I feel an urge to tap her on the shoulder and tell her I meditate too. I listen to podcasts too. I am trying, too. I tell myself not to be silly. Creepy. Three more stops. She doesn’t want me, a stranger, tapping her on the shoulder. Her iPhone goes black. She pulls out a book. Two more stops. The book she pulls out, I am reading, too. I wiggle in my seat, seeing if I can pull the same book from my bag. I don’t have enough space. “What are you doing?” my partner asks. I felt like a fish out of water. One more stop.
As the train pulls into our final station, we make our way to the door. The kid writer watches us. I nod at them, trying to peek at their notebook without moving my body from where I stood. I can see nothing, but they nod back and smile peculiarly. I leave the train and wonder what life would be like if we all just spoke to one another.
It’s Monday night. I’m hosting a writing meetup in a small room in the Annex. I feel vulnerable and nervous. We’re sitting on dining room chairs writing poetry about major league sports, the genre and subject prompts I pulled randomly from two piles of ideas I made up earlier. After this, we will read each others work, exploring the language of our sisterhood. I will feel connected to these womxn and I’ll wonder if they know it. A line in one of the stories will prompt us to talk about elsewhere. We will learn we are all lovers of the Canadian east coast; that we feel stuck in mainland Ontario eager for our hair to smell like salt. We will bathe in our memories, separate, together. In this bright safe space we will write words about weather and how we want it to reflect ourselves; for the clouds to transgress and change direction every ten minutes just the same as our willingness to blend into a stifling and oppressive system of to dos.
It’s Saturday. I’m attending a writing workshop this time. We are asked to explore our inner critic and I feel two hands on the inside of my chest pushing out against my ribcage. I curve my spin so my belly moves backward, fearful the hands will press out into the visible world. My body pushing this activity away. “What do I do if I fully, wholly resist this?” I ask earnestly, and laugh bashfully. We work the idea like it’s old play-dough, kneading it until it becomes soft again. I ball the dough in my palms. It cracks at the edges, and peer into the cracks like they are crevasses I am trying to pass over in the mountains, unroped.
A cloth bag of carrots, some ginger, an orange and a lemon sit in the fridge at the office I’m currently working at. They’ve been there for a week. I am attempting to overcome my inability to share. The only child wails within me. I don’t want to silence her. I want to teach her. Coax her to be strong and giving and kind. For some reason, she won’t budge. Like a toddler that won’t share their toys, these vegetables are mine and I won’t let them go.
At our holiday party last year, a colleague asked me if I felt lonely sitting in a section of the office separate from the others. “No!” I shouted immediately, gleefully. “I’m and only child. It is my paradise.”
These vegetables are for a smoothie that I’ve been craving for the same length of time I’ve had them. I wonder if they’re beginning to go bad. I don’t open the cloth bag. I let another day go by.
I arrive home from a 24-hour trip to London, my birthplace. The boot of our province is drowning in snow and ice and rain. It’s been 27 days since the first day of spring. I lock myself in our bedroom. I breathe in, ready to resolve, transition, between the two worlds. On my partner’s dresser is a book: Vivek Shraya‘s “Even This Page is White.” I pick it up. I remember hearing an interview with Vivek on CBC last year. Something about gender and subscription and combating norms I think. I remember feeling proud of her. Loving hearing words like dismantle and redefine on the radio. I sit on the mini wingback in our bedroom. Our reading chair. I open the book. I see a section of interview questions. Hmm. I dive in. “It’s more important that I use my voice and privilege, and probably mess up along the way, than to do or say nothing,” I read. I scan a few pages back. Conversations with white friends, I read. When did you first recognize your privilege, I read. How are you an ally, I read. The pages yell at me. This, I have been seeking. Pooling ideas of how my privilege can affect this titled world; how I can be responsible and loud. Vivek is angry when white people are silent about racism, I read. I won’t be silent. I won’t.
I make my way home from work around 6, having made it to yoga too late and feeling down about it. I left wishing in some way my membership gave me seniority over drop-ins. This, woven with toxicity that I acknowledged. How dare you, I tell myself. “But I need this,” my body argues, stubborn and frustrated that my day wasn’t wrapping up the way I wanted it to. Well, too bad, I say. How can you get the benefits of yoga on your own, I add, but don’t explore the answers. Instead, I think about the terrible day I had five years ago and how I ran to the yoga studio I was attending, seeking solace. I arrived shaking, feeling angry and sad, a tornado destroying my body. The only upcoming class was ‘brown girls yoga’ and I begged the womxn at the desk to let me join. “I need this. Please,” I said, tears welling. “But you’re white,” one of them said, looking at me like I didn’t know it. I biked home sobbing, angry at a system that kept us separate. That the structure of the world we know is built on them. Aparts. That ‘safe space’ is a coveted ideal we actually need, even in our sacred communities. My privilege was denied in that moment at the yoga studio. Maybe that, too, was why I was crying.
I shake myself back to the present. As I round the corner onto the street I lived, I notice the bay window of our second floor apartment alight in the dark. My partner had been home from work sick the past few days. The light, an indication they were there. I peer into the window and could see black, woodcut letters pinned to the wall beside my desk: G-O-T-H. I smile at their visibility, previously unknown to me. When I approach our front door a brown envelope is poking out of the mailbox. It has my name on it. In today’s world, I can guess every piece of mail before I open it, but I was unsure of this one. I hold it in my hands, weigh it. I stand there with my key in the door thinking about what I had requested or done to deserve this. It occurs to me as I make my way into the apartment, walk up the stairs, round the hallway, and stand beside my partner who is sitting at their desk. I hold it up with an air of excitement. “What’s that?” they ask.
“This,” I say, with the biggest smile on my face. “This is the very beginning of our long and arduous and amazing journey into adoption. This is the start of our family.” My partner looks at me, studies my excitement, feels it too – their own translation. “Feel how heavy it is,” I say, passing them the envelope. It isn’t heavy. I am speaking metaphorically. ∎