I fell asleep once in front of tending a fire, an over sized teddy-bear as my pillow. When I awoke, it was startling. My hair thrown back, my feet half under me, the long slender piece of wood I’d used to prod the burning logs poised like a weapon over my baby/bear, I became a flame bronzed sculpture of the classic pose a woman makes protecting her child. Perfectly confident in myself and my action, I awoke the devil’s daughter because the sleeping bear Must Be Kept Safe. I was ready to spring, defend.
I’m a little worn out from feeling like that all the time. I would appreciate respite, a chance even to merely rest aside someone else who is responsible for guarding others, like the two of us together would not have to be quite as alert to ward off danger and so have a chance to relax.
I have been silent here not from lack of content, (quite the opposite), but because my ex-roommate, James, in a fit of infinite wisdom, decided to take my modem with him when he moved out and hasn’t answered his door yet when I go across the hall to ask for it back. Tomorrow I plan on leaving a note. Thank you for the concerned letters. I am not as absent as the internet currently claims I am.
My New Year celebrations began as whispers in water. Distant from the occasion, I was swimming through SinCity, (click for pictures), nothing astray from the usual. Dancing, moving, the occasional warm hello. Matthew passed me while I was talking with Sarah and I ran my fingers through his hair when his back was turned, as I used to do. He held me close for a moment, said he was sorry, then walked away.
Counting down from five seconds to midnight happened on the dance-floor. The music calmed, we stopped thrashing about and reached out for each other, holding hands with whomever was next to us. There was an announcement of free champagne at the pool table. “Five,” we shouted, “Four.”. We started jumping with every number. “Three. Two.” and at “One”, I put my hands up and threw a prayer. May it all be right again some day. I miss you.
Precious Lasilana and I were meant to skedaddle off to the Annex House-party on the heels of midnight, but it didn’t quite work out that way. First there was a brief medical emergency, a friend of ours, incautious with a high-tension social situation, had an anxiety attack and had to be sent to the hospital. Then we lost each other in the morass of black fishnets and too tight corsets. Finally Nick found me, told me that she was outside waiting. First, I thought, say my goodbyes. A hug for Christopher, a faux swoon for Meghan, and a moment being lifted off my feet by Ross, and I thought I was gone, but no. I turn and there he is, that annoying bane.
I’m going now.
Ah, I hope you had fun. Good night. There is a motion for a hug.
First you’re going to kiss me for New Years.
I don’t think I could handle that.
It didn’t ask you if you could.
I don’t have a choice in the matter, eh? He smiles.
No, I don’t believe you do. Find us a dark corner.
On the back porch, in a tiny pool of space that the smokers have left by the rail, we stand together, quietly examining another with words. “How have you been?” “Stressed, you?” “Maybe worse, hard to tell.” “Yeah.” We hug and something snaps and melts, it’s small, but I can feel it in his spine. Our faces are both buried in hair, in shoulders, our arms are warm. We pull back to see again and abruptly, Richard yanks open the door from inside, “Matthew, Jhayne, sorry, it’s an emergency, you have to come now!”
I begin to laugh, because how consummately flawless is his timing. If we were a film, this would be the moment where the music changes. Our heroes interrupted. I kissed him anyway, and then we ran impossibly quickly, hand in hand through the thick spiky crowd of heavily made-up women in towering heels and men in leather kilts and g-strings, all the way from the very back to out front the building.
On the ground, propped up by the wall, is an unconscious girl in a green fairy costume surrounded by too many people who don’t know what to do. Immediately, Matthew and I pull off her panicking friends. Lasilana is already there, she had caught them trying to pour water down the girls throat in a poorly thought out attempt at reviving her and now as we arrived, she began holding people back, trying to calm them down, giving us room to work. I took her clammy body from the cold wall, lean her sitting sprawled against my own and tilted her head back against my arm, trying to open a clear passage for air. We get her name, Jennifer, from one of the smeary tear-faced friends and I begin saying her name, pinching her lightly, checking the tracking of her eyes. Her breathing was laboured as I checked her weakening pulse. Matthew gets on the phone with the paramedics.
One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand, feels a little like the counting inside from earlier, but she doesn’t get to four. I switch quickly from her wrist to her neck. Still no pulse. Four is simply not on the agenda unless I do something. Matthew is busy on the phone, almost standing on the street, and I can’t see Lasilana. I assume she’s behind one of the cement pillars calming crowd people, so I go it alone.
The heel of one hand in the middle of the chest, between her breasts, the other on top of it. I press down hard, pulling toward me sharply, press down again, again, remembering what to do without any consciousness. She coughs, fiercely gasps, and her eye-lids flutter. Something comes up that was blocking the air in her chest and her heart thuds almost audibly. I count eighteen a minute. The world spins again.
She is alive.
I sit with her body against me, one hand holding her jaw forward, trying to prompt a response from her until the medics arrive. I don’t even know if anyone saw what I did. We interrogate the fiance, find out that she’d only had one drink, but also a pill and a sip of something that might have been GHB, but nobody knows for certain. We can’t find the guy who gave her the drugs to confirm anything, but at that point, it didn’t really matter. His description is fairly generic for a fetish club, he probably left after midnight. If we’re lucky, he was from out of town. In the end, we sent the fiance into the ambulance with her and explained the effects of shock to her friends. Lasilana lit up a cigarette and Matthew and I fell into each other.
Again, I begin laughing. “Are you laughing at me?” “No, love.” I take his hand and we begin dancing to the faint music coming through the wall of the club. We’re calm and in control. I am, in fact, for a while. My forehead rests against his chin, then I start crying, just a little, through the smile. It’s a painful fairy-tale moment. Together we saved a life, together we’re singing softly to the music, I never meant to hurt you, together we’re dancing almost as flawlessly as we worked as a team.
“Too precious to discard, too painful to keep.” It’s nice, no matter I don’t know how much it’s meant, no matter that I said it first, months ago, the sentiment is appreciated. It sums up so much of my painful year. It casts the right kind of glow to what happens next. He steps back, holds me a step away from him. “I think it’s time.” We’re gleaming, mischievous now. “Are you sure?” “Can’t think of a better time than now,” he says, and I can’t help but agree. There’s tears in my eyes still a little, but my heart must have shone like the moon on fire that moment. I begin to take off my rings and Lasilana approaches, “Would you like me to take those?” She proffers her hand, “Yes, please. Thank you.” I’m so glad.
“Are you sure? I’m not sure I can do this.”
“Never more sure of anything. I owe you more than this.
Really you should be giving me a swift kick between the legs.”
“But then there would never be any children and that would be a shame.
You might want to close your eyes.”
“No thanks darling, I want to see this one coming.”
My hand felt like frostbite. As the snap of impact echoed off the building he put a dazed hand to his face and blinked his eyes. My fingers were imprinted white across his left cheek as if they’d been painted on with chalk. “Now I know why men roll with punches.” Lasilana approached and gave me back my rings, asked if he’d disappointed me in bed. We laughed and said Yes, but that was old news. “Not even with both hands and a flashlight” he said. I felt like we’d just starred in a series of events that had the strange accuracy of a post-typewriter conspiracy.
“I’ll call you.”
“That would be good.”
Then Lasilana and I, we walked out into the night like two vessels setting forth to sea.
For the first time in a long time, I felt beautiful.