Thursday, October 23, 2008

Prisoner in my skin

I woke up this morning to the sound of my phone ringing. It was Raven.

"There you are," she said. "I called you three times, how come you don't answer?"

"I'm asleep," I said, rolling on to my bad, eyes closed. "I got in late last night."

"Where are you?"

I had to think a minute. I rubbed my eyes. "Tucson. I took a detour in New Mexico; stopped at some jewelry places and got some really pretty pieces to send to you and Hannah."

"What time is it there?"

I glanced over at the clock. "After 8," I said.

"They don't have daylight savings time there?"

"I don't know, Raven. I was asleep," I said again, hoping she'd catch my drift.

"You made pretty good time, though, if you're already in Tucson," she said, completely not catching my drift.

"I did, I made really good time," I said. I stretched my legs and sat up. She obviously wanted to talk. So I would talk.

"How far is that from Austin? Like 1,000 miles?"

I sighed. "Raven, seriously? I have no idea how far Tucson is from Austin. I'm really tired. Can we talk about something else? Something I don't have to think about?"

She was quiet a minute. Then, "Did you go out last night?"

And then I realized. She didn't mean to make idle conversation, she just didn't know how to cut to the chase. Maybe she didn't really want to know. But she had to ask. That's what friends do.

I pulled into the bar at quarter to eleven. I was shaking, but I also felt alive. Heart racing, pulse beating loudly in my ears, I gripped the steering wheel and watched the people in line, waiting for a chance to prove they were cool enough, hip enough, attractive enough to be seen, to be granted entrance into the club.

I watched him without him knowing. He was slender in his jeans with touseled hair. He rode a bike, I don't know what kind, and as he climbed off, I watched him stretch his arms up to the sky so that his t-shirt rode up just enough that I could see a pretty slice of stomach. And in that moment, I knew it would be him. He was the one.

I got out, slammed the car door behind me. I walked up to him, put my hand on his shoulder. He stopped, turned, and smiled. He cocked an eyebrow. "Hey," he said. "Help you with something?"

I smiled, so sure of myself, never hesitating to wonder how women are supposed to act around men. I let my hand drop to my side. I tossed my hair. It all came so naturally.

But when I opened my mouth to speak, some part of me remembered, recalled that it had always been long hair and curling lashes and a narrow waist and a round ass and cherry flavored lip gloss that had sparked my flame. And I was torn--torn between wanting, needing to take this man to bed, to ravish him and leave him breathless--literally--beside me so that I could be full of his life, his energy, his viality, and between my true self, and who I am, and what I have alwasy been. And I wanted to sceam and tear my hair out, because I felt for the first time that I was truly a prisoner in my own body.

But instead I faltered, shook my head. "I thought you were someone else," I said quietly, ducking my head down and hurrying back to the car.

Safe inside, I hung my head over the steering wheel and cried my heart out.

But Raven didn't need to hear any of this.

"Yes," I said after a moment. "But nothing happened."

I heard Raven catch her breath. "You swear, mija? You swear nothing happened?"

I nodded, though she couldn't see me. "I swear," I whispered.

"Because if you're not careful, and the police catch on..."

I've already thought of that, I thought, feeling my skin pimple over. "I know," was all I could say.

Raven was silent a moment. Then, "Well, look, I wanted to call you before you got to the ranch. They don't have internet out there, and--"

"No internet? Are you serious? Fuck me," I said. "You didn't mention that."

"--and I don't know how good the reception is, either," she said as though I hadn't interrupted. "So I just wanted to tell you that I love you, and I am holding space for you, and I hope...I hope..."

Her voice trailed off, and I thought I could hear her crying. But maybe it was just my imagination. "Get better," she finally finished. "Get better and come back to us."

She disconnected without saying good bye. I started thinking of all the things I should have said: that I needed to talk to Hannah, that I needed her to check on my Dad, that I loved her, too. I should have said these things, even if she knew some of them, because theyw ere things you say out loud because the saying affirms them, makes them real, and rivets you to the world. Speaking words aloud is a sacred form of magic, and I know this, and I didn't do it.

"I love you, Raven," I said to my empty room. "I love you, Daddy. I'll be home, soon," I said, shoulder shaking, crying. "I'll come home soon."

No comments: