Courage, to me, feels like a four-lettered word, something one curses one's ill-wishers to have to possess and exhibit; we wish for our loved ones the unexciting, adventure-less mediocrity which keeps them safe, predictable and found. Ever since my house burned, I have been forced to wind myself tightly, to keep all parts of my self in a knot that cannot be undone by storms, strife, disease, fires, floods, or any other avatar of apocalypse. I have wanted to destroy all backups and other paraphernalia of my essential hard drive, so no byte of me may be lost, no loose ends may break off, ricochet and end up orbiting strange realities.
This is my attempt to log the impossible Odyssey I have set upon. Since my house burned last Fall, I find myself at a loss, with extra hands and fingers that have forgotten what it is like to be me. I have stretched my arm out in front of me in this darkness, but cannot see it any longer, the darkness being so unrelenting. So I must resolve to lift up my foot and place it somewhere other than where it seems to have rooted, hopefully, somewhere forward, wherever and whatever that means.
I went back to India for ten days, and when there, as usual, I sought subconsciously to inhabit my home here. However, I found my memories haunted by what is not there any more, from the feline I lost to the fire, down to the bunch of safety pins that used to live on my bedside table. People ask me what I need, needing to help me, but I cannot answer and end up roaming dazed through the kind, generous world full of plenty, unable to own or recognize. I have been committing to nothing, refusing all need to own, even for a cup or a bottle, for fear of adding to the burden I must keep moving with. All beds I have tried to rest on have felt un-mine; they are either too high or too hard, the pillows seeking shapes that do not fit my neck or head.
I know, if I want to retain the core of who I am, that I cannot go on like this for long. So I have been making conscious efforts to exercise my lip-stretches, blink the darkness back, choose blindness to all that is not there anymore, which is the hardest, since all that is lost glares in sharp relief every time my glance falls on what I have salvaged, tried to replace, or accepted.
So I took a very frightening step this past weekend: I bought groceries to stock the fridge and larder in the house I am staying at present, hopefully until mine is ready. This chore of buying groceries, something I used to do with such familiarity, felt like exercising the awkward vowels of a forgotten language, not having indulged in it since the house burned. The act of stocking up on my child's lunch stuff, soups, breads for ledges un-mine felt like I was trying to cheat on extra, forbidden rations in a time of famine. The ultimate step was when I brought in turmeric, hing, and cumin, and lodged them on the kitchen counter, next to the salt shaker a generous friend has given us. This has changed the very topography of the counter, and I cannot decide if the familiar spices taunt me, seem forlorn, or make a statement. Now, I have to remind my fingers to navigate that counter again.
I begin and end each day with the sight of my burnt, hurting home. No one has begun work on it, even though I have signed promises, been cited by the city for owning an unsafe dwelling, and have taken residence behind it.
My familiar, the ash colored cat, refuses to abandon it and continues to live in her burnt home, haunted by all that was, all that can never be. Kind reader, if you should pass by the broken lock and barred door, where cold shadows await, where the ghost cat sits at her vigil, hang a prayer on the dried branches, that my world be verdant soon.