BY Abigail Standish

When I was filled with sadness, it was only because I had forgotten the silver-green creek at the edge of my family’s property, which served as the backdrop of my existence. 

When I imagine myself, I hear it trickling, whispering in the way a mother reads a bedtime story to a child. Often it gurgles, like my own laughter, shoulder shaking, billowing from belly, deluging a room.

I am eight years old, surrounded by cousins with olive skin and flat hair. We were belly down, legs out behind us, leaning on our elbows, each holding a fan of playing cards. I hardly noticed the creek then, when I was there. I saw my grandmother through the window preparing lemonade which she poured for us with her arthritic, root-like hands.

Today, I am old and have hands like my grandmother’s, arthritic and root-like, I watch my grandchildren from the kitchen window. I know that beneath their sunshine skin and chlorine bleached hair they are filled with bliss. I, too am filled with bliss because I know what it is like to be them: perennially itching bug bites, brushing tangles out of hair, crouching down to plant bean seeds in the deep, dark soil of the earth and showering the buds with pails of water fetched from the creek, watching as their seedlings multiply and merge with the forest. I know what it will be like. When they grow yet older as I have, I will know how it feels to become each thing that they will be.

Some mornings she will look out her window to see the sun swelling her city with light like a faucet fills a tub. The light will impregnate the space between buildings with the pulp of tangerine, brimming her eyes with sticky orange. She will spend the day as an ocean of the colour. The bits of orange around her will glow brighter those days. The slight bounce of an orange hair bow on a teenage girl will draw her attention to the graceful, puppyish bounce of her gait. This will remind her of her own adolescence, when she existed in a realm outside of those around her. An orange notebook of on a park bench will give rise to thoughts of the journals she’s kept in her life. Diaries abounding with questions and hypotheses about what it means to be a living thing. Journals filled with the comings and goings of enlightenment and the conclusions that life is a series of intoxications, or infatuations, or experiments.

Some of her days will not feel good. She’ll be messy and disheartened. She’ll have had too much coffee, her face will be hot and damp, the skin under her eyes will be greyed from lack of sleep and fallen mascara. The heat of the earth will blister her feet. Gripping the ends of her tangled hair, gravity will pull her to her knees. Perhaps she will miss her home, or feel that she does not have a home. Maybe her heart will be broken, or confused, or tired, or too full, or too empty. Her house will be a mess, scattered with with deflated pillows, empty peanut butter jars, dying geraniums in terracotta pots. From the lists posted above her desk, in her journals, and on the backs of her hands, one might be able to understand exactly who she is.

There will be lists of new words she’s learned: ontology, magnanimity, teleology, credulous, ubiquitous, compendium.

Grocery lists: mangoes, hummus, instant coffee, conditioner, spinach.

Lists of her favourite books:

Franny and Zooey, The Princess Bride, Alice In Wonderland, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Lists of things she could do, if she so pleased:

Live in a cottage, in the stomach of a forest. Spend my days making poems and watercolors, pulling ticks from behind my children’s ears. At night, my husband’s stubbly cheek will brush my bare shoulder, I’ll be lulled by the sounds of his sleeping body. The light gurgle of his swallowing saliva. The sifting sound of skin moving against the sheet upon his occasional movements. At times, the silence of my life will be accompanied by the rain going drip, drip, drip on the roof, in rhythm with the tick of the clock hung above our bed. The rain will slide down, puddling the trees’ roots as their leaves grow up, and up, and up.

As time moves through her, she will accumulate. That is what people do. We accumulate. As our bodies move with time, we see things that change us and help us become. She’ll accumulate a spouse, two kids, a pension. Mounds of books will come and go throughout her life.

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