The he is Jake Lamar.
He asks us to use first, second, or third person POV and to describe ourselves. I am sitting in an AC-less room in Vienna talking about writing with my fellow MFA classmates. This trip is the first time I’ve met a lot of these people, and the first time I’ve met Jake. When we go around the room reading our exercises, I wait until the last second to volunteer. I am not one to speak up when I’m nervous. And I am nervous. Before I even start to speak I feel the lump forming in my throat, a warning sign for tears that are not welcome.
Let me get this clear: I am not a crier. I never have been. But in the past year or so, I have cried more than I have since JJ died. My mother got ill last May, and is thankfully in remission from her ovarian cancer. She is the only thing that can make me weak enough to cry. She is my heart. But sometimes, I don’t think even she knows this. The reason I’ve tried to practice not crying is summed up in a quote from the book Eat, Pray, Love.
“I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said — that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.”
Makes sense, yes?
So here it is for the rest of the world. This is not amazing writing. But this is a small piece of my heart, and I want to share it with you.
You are thicker than you used to be. Your hips are wider, more forgiving of your plush stomach, having embraced another life inside your belly. Your hair, your eyes, your hands, they are the same now as they were then, pieces of the puzzle that have avoided the exhaust of a drinking glass without a coaster, a dog’s soggy mouth, a toddler’s quick hands. Your hair still expands with the heat, getting coarser as the day goes on, forcing it into a hair tie at the end of a long day, the best relief from the humidity. You are stronger, much like that hair tie needs to be. But while you’ve gained strength, you’ve also been given softness. You’ve learned what coming home after a long day at work means when a small child has been anxiously, and not the least bit patiently, waiting for you, his eyes darting across the street as cars pass, squealing every time the car is black, hoping it might be yours. You’ve learned to hold onto the images of his face when you arrive, the delight so bright in his eyes you wonder if you were ever the same way waiting for your own mother, because you can’t remember feeling that way about her, although you wish you could. You try to pull that softness into forgiveness for yourself when you think about your mother in the hospital last year. You start to wonder how a mother/child relationship can grow so far apart and you let tears fall in the shower, hoping no one hears as you think about the passage of time, how much you’ve changed, how much they’ve changed, and you cling to it as the water rolls down your face, hoping you can freeze your child’s face at the end of every day and you hope your own mother did the same.
So there it is. That is me.