March 13, 2005
March is the cruelest month—will gray winter never end?—and no sign of the lion lying down with the lamb (or anyone else).
Shall we pause to take stock?
Female (liberated, at least from creepy husband), age 52, height 5’5”, weight 120, bone density excellent, minimal cellulite, maximal hot flashes.
Possessions: 2 Best Cats in the World; 1 degree in creative writing and journalism (what was I dreaming?); 1 dead-end job transcribing medical reports. 1 charming 1920s bungalow with 30-year mortgage and badly in need of new windows, trim, and roof. 1 aging Subaru wagon, 1 bicycle. 3 recycle bins.
Green eyes, somewhat nearsighted; long hair, braid optional (blah light-brown, but disguises the gray strands appearing); “terrific ass” (impartial testimony of ex-husband); no-longer-firm jawline; 1 and 3/4 breasts.
Months since sex: 27.
It starts like this:
She’s twenty-three again, and that’s the magic, she knows the exact year, feels it in the way her skin presses tight against braless breasts, knee and hip joints smooth, no clicking or catching as she flows down the splintery steps of that funky old cottage in the cedar grove. Her bare toes grip the rough boards, savor the moist grass for the sheer pleasure of being alive. She throws out her arms and spins across the yard, embroidered long skirt wheeling out about her legs. The sun winks on off on, striping down through the branches.
A deep chuckle. He stands straddling his bicycle, flashing a white grin as she slows, steps forward, squints against the man splitting sun rays. He shifts, summer sunlight streaming over him, and he’s all golden—tanned and shirtless in ragged cutoff jeans and a strand of hippie beads, long blond hair shimmering.
Lindsey looks down and now she’s naked standing there. She’s all sun-gold, too, her breasts perfect round and smooth and she looks up, he’s naked, beckoning, wow she’s floating and she knows it’s a dream then.
She’s back all those years behind him on his bike and they’re flying fast down the hill. His hair streams out longer and longer with the wind of their flight, twining through her own tawny locks, and she laughs. Long flaxen hair sprouting, curling, twining into psychedelic paisley swirls and birds are nesting in the profusion, a home for the honey bees, the Wonder of their Hair! But then the strands whip out tangling in the bushes, and she’s yanked backwards from the bicycle as he flies on solo.
Lindsey lands on her bare feet flinching at gritty linoleum. She’s walking down a long hospital hallway of gray doors and glaring white walls. She shivers, tries to wrap her hair around her nakedness but it’s only long enough now to barely cover her breasts, the one withered. She’s ashamed and hunches as the first door swings open.
“Washed-up.” Her ex Nick’s head pops out of the doorway, Jack-in-the-box on a hinged extensor, dark hair a polished cap.
Lindsey tries to run, but her feet are too heavy.
“Gotcha!” Snap. Another door springs open, Nick’s face popping out with a painted leer.
“No!” Lindsey heaves herself past him as the corridor squeezes in on her, struggling to run as her ponderous feet hold her to a gasping shuffle. She looks down, gropes for the strands of cloaking hair but she’s gone bald, flesh shrinking around the bones and all her substance sagging down around her legs.
The demonic heads snap in and out of their doorways behind her, laughing. “Think you’ll do better than me?” The next door crashes open, blocking the corridor. “Get real. Look at yourself.” Coiled spring unleashing, his head darts forward—that familiar crooked smile, eyes pinning her.
Lindsey sucks in a breath as her hand tightens to a fist, flinging out to punch the leering face of her so-ex-husband. But his head’s gone rubbery, bouncing back at her. She pushes past it, but now more doors pop open before her, Nick’s twisted grin on all the maniacal puppets.
“No exit, Babe. Face it, you’re going nowhere but downhill.” The voice, cool, amused, comes from behind her.
She whirls around, and it’s the real Nick standing there, raising his palms, chuckling. He winks as he runs a hand over his dark hair, gleaming like the blue-black feathers of the raven perched on his shoulder. They cock their heads in a synchronous movement to give Lindsey a sidelong glance. The raven chortles and sidles down Nick’s arm to grip onto his fist. He raises his other hand to stroke the glistening feathers.
Lindsey’s rooted, mesmerized by the black mercuric mirrors of the raven’s eye, Nick’s eye. He turns toward her then, lifting his arms to launch the bird skyward as the graceful folds of a midnight silk magician’s cloak swirl around him, and a scalpel-sharp sword materializes in his grip. He glides toward Lindsey, eyes glimmering with amusement.
“It’s only an illusion, Lindsey. It won’t hurt a bit.” He whips the blade in a flashing ring of light, swinging it toward her neck—
“No!” Lindsey flails against the drenched sheet tangled around her legs, finally rips it off her, flings it to the floor. “Damn it!” She stomps on the crumpled sheet for good measure.
Then shivers, the sweat gone cold and clammy. Can’t she divorce Nick from her dreams, too? She scrubs at her sticky face, gropes for the alarm clock, squints and blinks at the glowing display. 5:03 am.
“Crap!” Her back hurts, bad knee throbbing. She rips the damp bottom sheet off the bed, too, and fumbles for her robe, all goosebumps in the pre-dawn.
HighJinks and Sombra twine around her ankles, mewing anxiously, tripping her as she stumbles toward the bathroom. She starts to snap at them, gropes for a lamp and switches it on, sees them staring up at her, vaguely accusing. “Oh, god,” she mutters. A prayer? To whom? To what?
She drops to her knees and gathers the cats against her, hugging close. But this only alarms them and they squirm free, running for their bowls in the kitchen, mewing. “Sorry. I’m sorry.” She pulls the robe tighter around herself, gropes her way into the dark kitchen and shakes out some kitty kibbles into their bowls as they skirmish for position. “No fighting, you two. You know—Peace, Love, like that?” She pulls open the back porch cupboard, feeling for the clean set of sheets, maybe she can get another hour of sleep if she doesn’t really wake up, then realizes she didn’t wash them after yesterday’s night sweats. “Damn!”