Throwing the stick, retrieving the stick

When I’m alone with Mollie we go to the estuary for sunset. We park at the surfer’s point parking lot, wind our way around feet dangling from passenger doors and clouds of pot smoke and open hatch backs, and walk along the trail to the rocky part of the beach. We walk quickly past tourists and other dogs and lean-tos made from driftwood; past clots of families and kite flyers and abandoned sandals. The crowd thins out to almost nothing, and once we pass the first mouth of the estuary, Mollie recognizes her surroundings and bounds for her favorite place where the river and ocean don’t quite meet. She selects a stick and waits for me, ignoring the egrets and herons that begrudgingly cruise to the other side of the river to avoid her. Mullets flop out and back in the water behind her; you can hear disjointed words from the cyclists shouting to each other while passing over the rickety train bridge that frames this spot.

I am here to throw the stick. I throw, wait for her to drop it at my feet, step back as she shakes the water off, pick up stick, and throw it again. Meanwhile there are palm trees that date back to the mission orchards swaying at the base of hills, a California Zephyr shuddering along just feet above the river, people stirring in the bushes beyond a rock formation. But otherwise I’m alone, with Mollie, throwing and retrieving a stick.

Shortly after we moved and M and m were away for a week and I was alone, Mollie and I spent every sunset at that estuary, retrieving and throwing, stopping to sit on the sand berm to observe the sunset. The sun doesn’t set on the ocean here — it sets on a low tumble of hills, so it crumbles along the bottom until there’s just a glowing red sliver, then it’s gone. And each time it set I didn’t know what to do next. I felt like so many parts of my brain were in emergency shutoff. The sun would set and I would sit and think over and over in the same circles until the tide drew up enough to reach the toes of my shoes, then we would leave.

Last night we went for the first time in two weeks, Mollie racing to the stick pile floating at the edge, her head popping up from behind a sand hill as I walked to her. We threw the stick and retrieved the stick.

I want to write about how sorry and ashamed and heartbroken I am, how much I wish we could talk about things, but don’t think this is the right place.

 

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Remember the Day

Sibylle Baier really knocked me over.

no. 29

Our upstairs neighbor lives alone and spends much of his time seated on the staircase that runs along the front of our apartment, on the phone, speaking animatedly in a language I don’t recognize. For hours. He always waves enthusiastically when I walk by and yells “hello, my friend!” and nods, then returns to his conversation.

On warm days he lies on the shady lawn in front of my open bedroom window to talk more on the phone or doze. He wears a turban and often white tunics, white pants, although if you catch him in the early morning in his stairway spot he might be wearing billowy short white shorts and an undershirt.

He’s lying on the lawn now in the late afternoon just outside my window, softly singing the most beautiful song to himself, as the gang of kids from next door skateboards back and forth, back and forth along the sidewalk a few feet in front of him.

Sanjon Road

After a fallout, which was mostly built up as we sat in separate rooms, silent, I ran away but only got to the beach. I walked Mollie up and down from pier to marina. I had nowhere to go and no friends and no feelings and m is with her grandparents, furthering this surreal state. Am I a parent? Am I married? Am I alone? Where is home? And I thought about jumping off the pier or driving off a cliff and not really minding. M can have all our money and buy a house and go to the beach everyday with m and live out their lives. I’m over here on the side anyway, behind this fence, so what does it matter what the distance is.

After the fallout, after this week, maybe because m is still away and everything still feels so surreal, something has changed. Lights have shut off or I’ve turned away. It’s a hardening or a dulling or a dying. Resigning. Shoving broken wires and glass and little bits of skin and fingernail and tears and blood and poetry into a metal box. Letting faces I’ll never see again get hazy. Recalibrating. Unexpectedly cold. Void of feeling.

Things I have to keep to myself because there is no one in my life that should have to listen to this: a growing list

Should I get microblading done on my eyebrows? Does getting a beauty procedure of this caliber done push me into a certain/different category? Does it matter?

Does this transitional haircut indeed make me look like Janet Yellen?

Have you watched “Legends of the Fall” lately? Did it stir up all the emotions you felt as a 17-year-old but now with the extra complexity of having aged and loved and lost and potential perimenopause that forces you to pause the movie when Samuel is caught on the barbed wire because you’re fairly certain you cannot handle it or life itself? Did you also forget how crazy attractive all the people in that movie are, and did you feel weird about noticing how attractive Anthony Hopkins is in it for the first time? He’s a dad but now you’re a mom, so?

Do you harbor secret dreams of living in your own house?

 

Hold on

I want to move to Ventura so that we can play this song on a Sunday morning with the back door open to the yard and there are rainbows cast across the wall from a prism hanging in the window.

I want to walk through my neighborhood in slippers to the store where I stuff vegetables into bags, smile at old people.

I don’t know if I have it in me to live down there. I remember how I was last time I lived in Southern California: Perpetually overdressed, bound up and uncomfortable in old slips and tights and polyester castoffs, desperate to distinguish myself. What if I really just don’t like the sun and athletic wear.

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