Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How We Do It: Part XXXIV in a series


When I forget to take a breath and take a breath, it's like late afternoon sun that slants through a door, sirens outside, through a glass and down a marble bar. The bartender squints, his shiny black head gleams, I take a sip of amber and swallow. A long time ago, I sat in a pale coffee-checked armchair on the fourth floor with my baby girl. She was inconsolable for hours at a time, twenty out of twenty-four, I wrote in my spidery script in the spiral notebook for the visiting nurse. I tallied the baby's jerks. Despite the twice daily injections, the baby jerked and now screamed. One, two, three, four, five, a slanted cross over upright sticks, hundreds of slanted crosses over upright sticks. Two years earlier -- or was it? -- I had walked with the small bald Vietnamese man, at the back of the crowd, his robed bent frame in front, twenty blocks, peace in every step. I knew to breathe and how to. Sitting in the coffee-checked armchair on the fourth floor with my baby girl, crying, I knew to breathe. Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I smile, I said in my head, under breath and through it. The small, bald man gleamed at the front of the line, before the baby, in my head as I sat in the chair with the baby, as I sat at the bar years after the baby, as I lifted my glass, the amber, the sunlight. Breathe and swallow.

11 comments:

  1. You are powerful. I wonder if you have any idea.

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  2. Goosebumps. Always with these.

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  3. Sitting here in NYC wishing you well, feeling things aren't going the way you would like, wishing healing, peace, all good things to you and your children all the time.

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  4. Your words remind me of Pema Chodron's this morning: "There’s no way to make a dreadful situation pretty. But we can use the pain of it to recognize our sameness with other people...Whatever usually drags us down and causes us to withdraw into ourselves is actually the stepping-stone for awakening our compassion and for contacting the vast, unbiased mind of the warrior." You are living proof of this, Elizabeth, in the compassion that you extend to all of us in your community. I wish that you could have a path of sunshine and roses, but you have not been given that. You have been given a heart of love and the vast mind of a warrior, and I love and admire you.

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  5. You had me at sipping the amber....

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  6. I love what Karen said. I can't say any better what is in my heart so I will just send you love.

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  7. Fabulous. I love the way you build threads of reference in your writing, the parallels of the black head of the bartender and the bald head of the man in the robe, the amber liquid with the coffee-colored armchair, the taking in of air and liquor -- perhaps even the contradiction of air and liquor.

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  8. cheers, Elizabeth - always imagine all of us afar, with you when you breathe and swallow (though I wish we could do more).

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