At Last

Whenever I get ready to move, I go through my writing. I think it’s a response to moving to the unknown. (I start writing more, too—perhaps a good strategy to keep myself writing regularly is to habitually experience new things . . . )

I wrote this about two months before moving to Tucson last year. Now I’m moving from Tucson.  

The writing is still raw – it’s a response to an assignment from one of Maya Stein’s Feral Writing Workshops. A vignette I think I can take off with for an expanded piece. 

* * * * *

williamsburg bridge from the east river

It’s when I make decisions, real decisions, that they stick.

Like the decision to quit smoking – I thought, what a pathetic habit. I quit. And that was it. I hate cigarettes, the smell of them from the car next to mine, person smoking with an opened window. I can smell a cigarette from across the street.

My apartment in Manhattan. I had long quit smoking, 15 years or so (20 years now). I walk into the lobby of the building, fluorescent lights and pale green paint. Up two stairs and the smell, an old man – I see him – sweet mocking voice – pale eyes, watery and pink, grey wool pants with egg yolks crusted on the thigh, a yellowing undershirt and red flannel jacket embedded with cat hair.

Come here little girl.

He hovers above me, and by the time I slip the key into the door of my apartment at the top of the stairs, he has my throat. And I am more angry than afraid; he is familiar and I am not a little girl anymore.

I have to breathe him. His pressing down on me is worse when I step through the door. My chest burns. I smell him everywhere, on my clothes, in my hair.

If I could ignore the smell it would be easy.

My husband doesn’t understand how I hate the old man, how I hate him. How I hate him for staring at me from his perch at the window with the fan in it. Where he smokes.

I hate having to ask him to wash his hands or his hair or to brush his teeth when he comes to bed.

At last I recognize the old man.

At last, fresh air!

I am so grateful for fresh air. I am so grateful for kindness.

At last is a long way away that will suddenly be behind me. That’s how it goes. At last I rode my exercise bike after being sick for almost two weeks. At last, I am beginning to feel normal. At last, I will get the results for the biopsy.

I don’t want to be afraid of at last never happening.

Small town long slow tumble. Too slow. Too slow. Too slow.

And to stay awake in the heat, move slowly. Heat of the new city, move slowly.

The cold here makes me want to sleep but not sleep. I want to walk to a café and sip coffee and talk to other writers, other artists  – then write, then paint, then ride my bicycle.

Sunset purple and orange, white turns pink, turquoise, violet. Quick, don’t want to miss it. Shadows, stars, thick orange blossom air.

Bicycle float, glide in the night. Breathe.