Every square inch of a very large desk is covered with paper. Stacks and stacks of paper, but so orderly, so neat. Each stack tidy as a brick, the relevant context and content of my life organized by brute force and held in place with a whisper. A whisper.
There is no map. I always forget the map, maybe because I can't imagine it's all that much to remember. A leviathan can't be quantified. Somewhere on this desk is a list of things to do before they get away. Tangible actions with consequences and the memories stacked randomly might as well be five thousand loose photographs in a box. I'd panic if I didn't know they were filed. Somewhere.
Last night, during the time of dreaming at the beginning of sleep when we aren't sure we're all the way under, a windstorm blew those stacks apart. Like leaves, they really are like leaves the way they shift and flutter and fuss until mostly settled. A stack of Elizabeth blew over my head. An entire life that began at conception halfway through the second week of March, 2020. I didn't reach. I mustn't reach. The time of reaching is over but the pot boiling over doesn't agree. I slam the lid on the pot and look to turn the heat down but the heat source is too deep to reach. I whisper at it instead. Settle down. Just settle now, this is mostly how it should be.
To be perfectly frank, it hurts like hell having a baby. The worst sort of extended pain imaginable, I'm told. I don't know if that's the truth but I do know that the fertility gods wipe the memory away. We are left with a memory of a memory. That is the physical beginning; the middle change when they leave is an entire other sort of escalating contractions that bring the other sort of rips and tears and leave you just as breathless and on your back but this time there is no warm, slick infant on your belly. The pot boils.
The papers made a random slideshow and Elizabeth, so much younger than the others has always been La Bayadère; and it's important to remember that the soloist is never really alone. In this ballet, there are three and two performed a pas de deux until she was born but that doesn't change the delineation of the principles from the corps.
Lucia's face stalls three feet off the deck and is joined by Michael. They hover, face down and we look at each other. The arrival of Elizabeth makes a cluster and this is when I reach and the pot boils over. The scream is epic and it is endless and it wakes me up and I am unhappy about this because the papers are gone, every one of them. I want to run downstairs and jump in her bed and scream
ELIZABETH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE DON'T GO.
I don't do this thing.
I want to run downstairs and burst through Michael's door and scream
MICHAEL! TURN AROUND! I'm right here.
If Lucia was in the house I might have run to her first. She's got wounds I can't even see and my mother heart insists if I just hold her tight enough, close enough, long enough, I can make it stop hurting, at least a little. But she if formidable and smart and I will have to find other ways. I am also formidable. And smart. And maybe just a little bit wily.
In truth, it's just a paper storm and it's just a paper boat but the other side of labor and delivery is the exit that hurts almost more than anything. I remind myself that it's just a paper storm.
And bind them with a whisper.