Stuff I Talk About

by Christina Ledbetter

Past and Present

The fight or flight rang the buzzer to my brain on January 3, 2019. He stood on the street awaiting my reply, knowing my address by heart.

Who’s this? I asked.

Remember me, your old friend? The one you first met so many years ago and kept around for – what was it, one hundred weeks? three hundred weeks? – much longer than whatever any good therapist would recommend, no doubt.

I leaned my head against the intercom, one palm against the speaker and listened to that familiar companion from so long ago. Apparently, I spoke back hurriedly: Please, come up –

Benson and I in a heap of luggage in the backseat of a musty sedan. Our sweat from lugging the suitcases and backpacks down the stairs, through the alleyway and into the street strained and failed to evaporate in the space. The silent Uber driver stopped and started through Houston’s twisty maze of three-stories and sidewalks while I twisted the bracelet I’d clasped on that morning and tried to will the light-filled setting in which I’d received it into the present. I slid my finger back and forth over the MCL etched in the thin gold plate.

Have I mentioned my first name, the one nobody calls me by?

Mary. My first name is Mary.

My treasure-of-a-friend Carrie gave me the bracelet at her bridal luncheon. She walked around the private room of the café reserved for parties like ours and spoke so gracefully of each woman before handing over the gift boxes. I wore it to remind me that God answers prayers.

Why’s he going this way to the airport? We should’ve taken 11th. The odd route the driver followed with its dozen stop signs triggered my carsickness. I let go of the jewelry and dug my thumb into my wrist to alleviate the nausea.

Our first flight would take us to the Middle East. From there, we would continue in the same direction until we landed in our new home.

We’re moving to India.

Visceral fear.

Then a reminder of God’s words to Joshua: “Do not be frightened.”

I held it together . . . snapped a picture of the bracelet and texted it to Carrie.

***

It took me three days to write those scant paragraphs. A few sentences typed out from my perch on the new trampoline under the cedars on this plot of land we tried to sell last year (the same land which God in His divine kindness saw fit to receive not even a kicking-the-tires offer, providing us a haven straight out of Narnia where I heal and break and heal again).

Now rest. Rest and rest and see where God has brought you and feel this blanket that your mom-in-law mailed against your face.

Six more lines click-clacked from the small couch lined with Indian kantha quilts I bought years ago from a well-traveled seller in a Texas market, so far before I knew Mumbai would someday be my ten-month home. (If I’d known how cheap I’d be able to snap up the kanthas someday, I might’ve (but probably wouldn’t have) taken a pause longer before purchasing. No doubt I’d still have handed over my cash. But a pause? Maybe.)

A couple of hours by the water to pull myself into the present. I’m here on the bank of this creek. Feel this rock beneath my skin. Touch this grass. See where you are?

Another few sentences formed in my head as I cut branches and held them out for the neighbors’ goats this evening.

A jaunt with the mongrel through the front field to shake me back to reality. Calm down. Christian folk music playing over my kitchen speaker. Praise. Pray.

I used to write in chunks (tidied up later, of course). One drafty page in a free-wheelin’ sitting proved easy to come by. But now, as my throat and organs and tissue feel the rust falling chip by chip off the chains which held me mute, as I churn up muscle-tense memories, my body tries to work in reverse. How I want to take you to every textured thread which led to me falling apart. (As if I could trace the paths of the Lord?) How I desire to paint for you every gray and magenta scene, every deep dark thought and allow you to smell every scent and stench and feel every one of my fibers tightening even as I type this now from an armchair in the cottage which is so safe and so calm and so unchaotic and beautiful . . .

Yet.

Remember me, old friend? The fight or flight which helped you sputter along? That wild and fierce part of your brain, that shoot of adrenaline which kept you just as alert as the deer in your front yard who hear the single twig snap? I’m here anytime you need me. Just muster up a memory. Come on, tense up.

I’m here.

I’m here.

Categories: This and That

Talk to Me Here

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