Who is this person I call myself in this place I call the world, but only as it relates to me, my nest, a farmhouse once owned by German farmworkers who stored whiskey and potatoes in the basement for winter survival, then by an African American man who wrote about connecting the black story to the white story while hoarding trash pile-ups in that same basement which is now a space for storing stuff that no longer fits on shelves? Our things accumulate. Our stories meld and mesh and sink beneath the cracks to the deepening roots of trees my body talks to irregularly. I often forget to connect my story to their story, which is much older than mine. They must chuckle when I walk by swathed in rain repellents. Earthen whippersnapper.
Who is this person who learns and forgets and learns then forgets? I speak dollar bills and lipstick. I speak gluten free and kombucha. I speak medical bills and Montessori preschool. I speak iPhone messages and Facebook newsfeed. I speak the omnipresent action that is a finger swiping spam into virtual trash bins. The accumulation buries sensation, feet crunching fallen leaves, heart palpitations, circadian bodily thrumming. The accumulation becomes the suffocating phlegm of respiratory illness, attack of the white blood cells, a mass in the brain, napalm melting, the aftermath of earthquakes and hurricanes enflamed by societal debris. My metatarsals hover fearfully away from the ground. I stand in my left hip. I perch one quarter exhaustion, a roiling gut juts my body forward. Internet creatures remind me how to breath as I sit there and fall asleep . It could be my adrenal glands or dehydration. It could be over exertion. I cough up the residue into a thimble filled with hope.
One day was his story. One day was her story. One day was our story. One day was their story. I connect my story of rape to your story of harassment. You connect the story of your abusive father to her story of incest. They connect their story of being abandoned to their story of being violated. She connects her story of great loss to her story of great sorrow. Our tendrils splay infinitely. They reach and meld and spin and weave sticky microbial webs. Our stories become their stories. Their stories become our stories. Our limbs are part of their exploitation. Our eyes stare into a lucid dream of torture. Our hands grab what they shouldn’t. Our hearts bleed all over unwashed floors. Our bones break.
It takes effort these days to wave, to ask how are you and respond I’m just fine and mean it, to bake muffins and knock on doors, to rally the disenchanted. I speak a forty hour work week. I speak meetings about meetings. I speak a desire to speak beyond what I speak. The accumulation aches. I speak domestic actions. I speak wringing out the sponge. I speak using more water than I need to. I speak wearing clothes from Chinese garment factories. I speak Google. I speak questions I rarely find answers to. Who harvested and killed the food I place into my mouth? Who collects the trash I toss into the bin and how long will it take to decompose, how many fossil fuels have I burned through in the lights I leave on, the car I drive? How do I rear a human to be more than human? If I examined the strands of my DNA what would they reveal? Who has suffered in my lineage from poverty or race or womanhood or for overt sensitivity, for saying no, for saying yes? Who has forced their repressed suffering upon others? Who didn’t know how to relate to a black man or a Japanese woman or a Lakota Indian? Who tossed bombs with the flick of a switch from the cockpit of a plane because he was told it was the only way for the world to survive? Who never hugged their children or told them they could cry if they needed to? Who was told they should be seen, not heard? Who couldn’t say no? Who was ashamed a majority of their life for feeling anything other than contentedness in shopping, a mass produced version of God and a round of golf every Saturday morning? Who couldn’t make a safe place for themselves to be free? Who didn’t know such a place existed?
I can relearn the lesson the Ecuadorian lady teaches me every Tuesday as she picks up cans from in front of the house, and thanks me for them with a container of homemade cactus beans and a wide smile. I can relearn the lesson through the purr of cats and the wag of dog tails. I can relearn the lesson through the declarations of love that pour from my grandmother’s mouth every time I speak to her. I can relearn the lesson by refusing to repeat patterns of torture and complacency and trauma. I can relearn the lesson by washing myself in trees and mud and sea brine. I can relearn the lesson by reading lessons written by others who too are in a constant state of relearning their own lessons. I can relearn the lesson an Indian family taught me on the train from Pushkar to Dehli. They handed me all the food they had. Eat they said. Eat so that our story connects more firmly to your story.