love = you + me

My horoscope today mentioned a beautiful quote from Maya Angelou, one that I didn’t know was floating in the atmosphere:

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.”

The news from New York fills me with firecracker happiness. The news from Norway sinks my soul deep down. So much love, and hope.  So much pain, and suffering. The two emotions are so close that they hold hands and kiss.

Sometimes it’s hard to stare at the stars when you’re getting kicked from behind. Your neck may strain; your focus may waver away from the light. But the stars are always there, above you, watching you. They don’t let you out of their sight.

Another quote, this one from George Washington Carver. My friend Carla included it in a beautiful facebook note:

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. “

When I was around fourteen my best friend and I had fallen, quickly, away from one another. Our wings were too wet when we flew away, really. She had started hanging out skaters, drinking her dad’s beer and laying down on basement couches.  I was left alone, jealous of her, jealous of the boys’ crude affections.  I focused more on my friends from the plays I was in: glistening gay boys who complimented my eyes and body openly, without ulterior motives. Near the end of the summer that my best friend and I ignored each other, we were scheduled to do a summer field study for the honor’s biology class we were both taking our next, and last, year of junior high. Before the scheduled field study my chest was full of angry moths; I kept having to go to the bathroom , and kept begging my mother to call my friend’s mother and call it off. Say I’m sick, I whined. Say I’ve got my period. Of course she wouldn’t let me skip out on the field study.  Mom knew we had to meet both for the sake of the assignment and the sake of our friendship. As I walked to the dirty, sticky forest where my friend and I  had agreed to meet, my legs quivered and my heart kept beating sideways.

The forest was a place where we usually spent all summer, back when we weren’t so cold to one another. We would sit on a stained mattress by the filthy creek and pass smooth stones back and forth to each other before throwing them in the brown water. We held our heads close and whispered things about the boys we loved. I remember the way her hair smelled in the sun (Pantene, sweat, and the distinctive musk of her bedroom). To meet her in our special, quiet, secret place after a summer of distance felt like a funeral to me. I wanted her to smile at me. I wanted to smile at her and I wanted her back.

When I saw her sitting cross-legged in the bank of the creek, staring at her hands, I almost turned around and walked back home. I figured I could do the assignment on my own, or take a lower grade. Anything to avoid crying. She looked so pretty sitting there, wearing a slate blue t-shirt and cut-off jean shorts, her waist-length,  dark blonde hair tumbling around her shoulders. The trees were ringing with the almost deafening screams of cicadas in heat. I walked over to where she sat and whispered a brisk hello, and pulled the paper for our assignment out of my sweaty jeans pocket.

She nodded and looked at creek, and picked up a long, thin something that was at her side. It was a plexiglass insect specimen case, filled the brim with butterflies, beetles, bees stuck with pins to white cotton. There was even a dainty, cornflower blue winged Karner blue butterfly, right in the middle.

“My brother’s. From when he did the project last year. He said if we don’t find everything on the list we can use his.” She still hadn’t looked me in the eye, though I was searching her heart-shaped face for clues to whether she still hated me or not.

“That’s nice of him.” I whispered, still trying not to cry.

“Well, he has a crush on you. It’s because you wear those v-neck shirts all the time. You can see right down them, you know.” And haunting her lips then, hesitant and slow, was her trademark smirk. My heart, oh my heart burst into a thousand bright butterfly wings at that smirk.

“I know you can see right down them, why else do you think I wear them so much?” Then came my smile, lopsided and gap-toothed. I remember I placed my hand on her knee and said we should start getting more specimens. My heart sank back down again, though, when I realized I had forgotten the milk jug, cotton balls, and polish remover that I promised to bring. We needed that strange assortment of household objects to humanely kill the insects that we found. We couldn’t crush them over the head or poke them with a stick; that would ruin the perfect specimens that we needed to get A’s.   I was scared to tell her that I had flaked out; I thought our friendship wasn’t cement again yet, that it was still vapor.

Luckily her smirk reappeared and she jumped up, rustling the dead leaves beneath her. “Let’s just go to your house and get them. I haven’t seen your mom all summer, either.”

When we returned the forest was quiet,  even the cicadas had stilled their roars. The sun was barely breaking through the tree canopy, and together we tiptoed over mud and broken glass to find the most neon green of the caterpillars and the most docile brown grasshopper. As we smothered the bugs  by covering them with the milk jugs that were cloudy with ammonia fumes from the nail polish remover on cotton, we sang lullabies and leaned in close to one another. At one point, while I was running after a healthy junebug,  I looked over at my friend.  She had a dying butterfly cupped in her long hands, making  little flutter movements as if they were wings. The butterfly faded away, its own wings slowly stilling.

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4 thoughts on “love = you + me

  1. Despite the fact I’m sitting in a space where the only green is a handful of plants that share a small wicker basket, this entry transported me back in time, to this forest I never actually have visited but feel now is part of my soul. Breathtaking.

    Have you seen the “60 photos” collection from some of the new marriages? If not, I’ll have to find it again and link it. Also breathtaking, if via a different route.

  2. Oooh, find the link! And my goodness…I am blushing. I’ve been wanting to write that for a long time…it just wasn’t coming out right. It’s still in dire need of a good, heavy editing hand. At least it feels right, though. So glad you’re here, Deb!

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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