Monday, June 6, 2011

It's All Here In...

and i was sure my heart would break
when the sun sank down into california
i felt your breath on my neck, it was hot and good and pure
and i wanted to warn you

and it's all coming apart again
it's all coming apart again
it's all coming apart again
it's all coming apart again

-"It's all here in Brownsville" The Mountain Goats

She'd lived in California most of her life, and driven out to the coast on evenings in every season. Winter, when the waves were vast and heather gray, and the tamped down brush on the shore was stripped of flowers, and the clouds were low. Spring, when the wind had flung around the sudden poppies, and the blue-backed Cliff Swallows were out on the rocks. Summer and early Fall, when the day wore the last light strangely and you could see the whole fist of the moon in the still bright sky before the sun went down. She knew how close you had to get to the ocean before you could dig in the sandy soil and feel the water welling up under your fingernails, and she knew to drive farther West when the day was warm but the fog refused to burn off near San Francisco. You could chase a clear sunset as easily as a storm.

This was the place she'd come on Friday nights to watch boys burning some small illegal fire down on the beach, building it up: a bier without a body, and loping around the light with bottles of micro-brewed beer. It was the place she'd come in college after her first tattoo, looking around the empty shore and unbuttoning her shirt so it left the left side of her breastbone-- and the flying loon she'd carved there-- bare. It was the place she'd come four years later when she'd gotten it removed, after a lover with a thing for birds told her the kind of loon she'd gotten couldn't fly at all, and only paddled in the water and hissed like a goose.

She'd finally moved away for graduate school, going to Boston because everybody said go to Boston, and the program was good there, and they'd given her a lot of money and let her write her dissertation on Edward Hopper. She'd aquired several beautiful scarves and a good coat, and her mother had died, and they'd scattered her ashes not on this beach, but on another one farther from the city, where they'd gone on vacation when she and her brother were young. She'd gone back east and bought a hedgehog on impulse even though all the literature said: "do not buy a hedgehog on impulse" in big letters on the very first page. She'd named it Josephine, after Edward Hopper's wife, because she felt a little guilty for not writing about the woman instead of her husband. She'd been a painter too, after all, although no one ever talked about her. A month later she'd accidentally poisoned Josephine by putting the wrong kind of cedar chips in the cage.

By her third year she'd discovered that she liked teaching, and was good it, which was a relief. And now she was back, with Jack and a mostly done dissertation, the old baby blue Honda parked up on the hill. He was tall, his steps were long, and he'd walked ahead of her far off down the beach, the distance and the dark whittling his body away, the fog on his back and shoulder blades and ankles. She could barely see the one hand he'd raised to put his fingers in his hair near the nape of his neck, and though she could hear the gulls above them she could not see them at all. At night, at home in her childhood bedroom, they would lie, someone's head on someone's chest, a heart sounding like water dropping heavy in an empty bucket. Everything takes everything apart. The light going, the fog on the water, the invisible birds wheeling in the air.

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