It started with a saxophone, someone on the street who was guided by the pensiveness of the afternoon and the ruby sun which was just settling behind shadowy buildings. The saxophone player was dark and ragged but his sound was pure. Then bells, coming from a window below, I could barely hear them. They came and went, babbled with a shyness borne of regret. They might have been the kind of bells that mother’s put on baby’s shoes, but the musician was no child. I sat at my open window, and quietly hummed a bridge between the two. There were other people on the street, but there were only the three of us in the music: the saxophonist, the bell ringer, and me.
Then the wind drifted into the tune, awkwardly at first, it tickled the dry leaves on the tree but didn’t dare abuse its power and take over the music. An ambulance crept down the street in silence, its passenger beyond help. The saxophonist paused, and was gone. Only low bells marked the passing. And then they disappeared.
I closed my window and addressed the evening.
I can not say I’ve experienced the “Perfect Storm.” But I’m at the end of a “Perfect Squall.” It began four years ago with a questionable turn in worldly affairs (the flap of the butterfly wing). It escalated a year ago with the onset of Pandemic and the fear and stress that accompanied it. It intensified at the end of December with a month-long bout of “food poisoning/bacterial hurricane,” complicated by tooth ache. And culminated (so I thought) a few weeks ago with the removal of the affected tooth, leaving me traumatized in body, mind, and spirit.
Grim stories from friends and acquaintances accelerated the spiral. It’s not as if I made a concussive hit onto rock bottom, but I slipped into a muddy murk that sought to pull me further into the abyss. And yet, I am one of the lucky ones! How could this be?
When I thought I had overcome the Fates, I fell. Literally. In the street, splat! Injuring my hand and knee, but not breaking anything (except my dignity, such that it is). A week later my hand is still painful, my knee still seeps. I ache. Fates to Fool, “Gotcha!!”
I’m not so muddled as to believe I’m the only one in this situation, or that there aren’t a lot of folks much worse off. So I accept the challenge to persevere, and hopefully lend an (uninjured) hand when the situation allows. I enthusiastically reject the posture of “self-pity,” the lowest of low affectations when I say that when life pulls you into mud and muck, don’t be afraid to roll around, get dirty, and make some mud pies (with your good hand).
I woke in the middle of the night expecting darkness, and was surprised by the brightness of streetlights and dim windows reflected and magnified by impish snowflakes as they fell in infinite numbers. Hypnotized by the kinetic movement beyond my lodgings, I drifted into asleep.
In the morning I felt the brush of cold on my skin as a phantom flake landed and melted. Snow had begun to infringe on my inner domain. It manifest as mote and mist that not only gathered in the space around me, but clouded the mind, leaving a chill of existential anxiety. I scaled a shaky ladder to inspect the ceiling, the roof, but there was no breach. I combed through my hair, inspected my skin, but there was no entry point. I closed my eyes. The delicate assault continued, within and without. Minute ice crystals, carefully crafted by an omnipotent alchemist’s hand had invaded space, time and memory. I’ve become complacent in its grasp.
The storm outside may subside with the whim of nature, but inside there is no just season.
The sun comes up over Queens in a red haze. I might see the moon set on the other side of the apartment if it wasn’t for the clouds.
The darkness turns deep navy.
I stand and settle, ease into my tai chi moves, Grasping the Bird’s Tail, Pat the Horse, Cloud arms…My body takes over, leaving the mind to clear, or to wander if I’m not wary. But mind does what it does and drifts off without my knowing. The body calls it back, the moves demand it. Where was I? What was I thinking? Old friends, events, pass through awareness and I come back to foot and fingers. The tune of a reggae song arises and I stray to it’s rhythm, the pulse of a serene heart beat. It suits the form.
The world lightens, moves about me. I catch the light of a star beyond my window.
But it moves away. Airplane?
The acidic color of sky, the light from the window of another early riser, nothing is “natural” there…except the clouds, the sun, and the slow movement of the tai chi player…
Day “breaks” but is not broken. It is not seized, but earned. Buildings shine pink with sunrise. My movements end as delicately as daylight unfolding.