Gianina Opris: Collected Silence

Spring '07 TOC

            “Never mind about flowers, there are other things that are more important right now.  I must organize myself.”   I kept repeating over and over.  I was a different girl then.  “What’s the matter with me?”
            Nowadays, when I go out with my husband P.J., I feel surrounded by my teenage years.  The other night when I was walking with P.J., I felt like I was at Cheena Smith Beach.  Again.  The sunset was lilac-orange, dark orange.  It was dark and hard to see.  “I want to jump in the water,” I told P.J.  “I bet you can’t catch me!” 

            I ran down a dusty hill and rolled all the way to the shore of Ventura Lake.   I closed my eyes and decided to enter this rocky cave of water.   The salty smell of this realm kept pulling me in.  The cold water was going to hurt my injured body but at the same time it was going to feed my heart with energy.   I removed my red shawl and blue skirt.  It wasn’t cold.  I found the moon.  I followed it with my eyes as I took off my thick gray socks and threw them on the chilled sand.  My face felt as if I were playing some sort of clowning pantomime about the girl I used to be.  I found myself stumbling onto rocks, big and small black rocks.  The soft sand stopped me from going forward; I removed my bra, the one my mother had made for me with the brackets in the front and my knotted blue purple handkerchief with my black knitted sweater, until I vanished in the hunter green water.

            “Mirabella, where are you?”   I heard in the distance.
            P.J.  saw my clothes scattered all over the shallow water.  He got completely naked and had no choice but to search in the lake. 

            The night continued, and I remained in the water, swimming as fast as I could to the other end of that enormous lake.  “I still have ten more years to swim in here.”
            I had appetite for spaghetti a la moderna.  I forgot about my bruises and bleeding knee.  I sat on top of a big rock right next to a pole that read, “Do Not Litter,” and slowly put my socks on first and then the rest of my clothes.
            “You forgot your sock here,” I told P.J. when he came out of the water.  “Get out, before some cop sees us.   See it – here in my hand.”
            “Mirabella ... how did you – ?” 
            “Don’t ask any questions, darling.  You know I’m no foreigner to this lake.   I’ll come back to play with the rocks tomorrow.  I want spaghetti now.” 
            Solitude was the best part in our relationship. 

            When I first met P.J., we got to know each other by talking a great deal about things, I could never remember what.  Endless childish chatter.  We put our faces together as we talked.  We both disliked the phone.   We wrote caring notes to each other.  One afternoon, in December, his heart started to pump so hard, and then I saw it – tears came out of his eyes.  “Just keep close to me and everything will be fine,” I reassured him.  “Do you remember the myth about Proteus I told you?”
            “Yes, but I cannot turn into Hercules,” he had said.

           That marked a turning point for me, even though I could never define our future.  I was able to talk to him about my childhood.  I had been a happy girl – the little girl in the fairy tales.  He transformed into a boy when I told him about the sacrifices I had made as a child.  My solitude.  My world of fears, silly thoughts, magical seconds.  My presence. 
            Before he put me in the car that night, he dried my hair with his shirt.  “Did we marry in 1943?  I don’t remember,” I kept repeating.  It felt as if I were in love again after he covered me with the thick blanket he always kept in the car. 
            “Now where are you taking me?  Are we near the ocean yet?”  I said, almost asleep.
            “I thought you felt like having spaghetti.”
            “Yes, and a big glass of wine!”
           
            Our communication seemed to have changed now that I’ve been home, not able to ride my bicycle.  On happy days, I find the words more easily when I speak.  The other afternoon, I heard P.J. teasing me “watermelon smile, watermelon smile.”  He used to say, “I love listening to you.   You are like Shakespeare.”   
            That afternoon, P.J. took me to the doctor.  I heard him talking about me.  I had been looking for our wedding pictures in the kitchen cupboards late the previous night.   I left the house and he found me in the front yard near the pansies. 
            “What are you reading?” I asked P.J. the next day.
            P.J. had started a new habit of reading in the mornings, while I sat in front of the T.V. watching this funny character with the body of a mouse and large round-leaf shaped ears.  It amazes me to see how Topo-Gigio sings with his guitar, and I love his face when he is put to sleep by his only friend, Braulito.   When I’m sitting in front of the T.V., P.J. spends time looking at my face. 
            “Your smiles are so extraordinary,” he said the other day, while I was watching Topo-Gigio. 

            I know I’m pleased when I listen to Mother Goose Rhymes, especially to the one’s P.J. invents for me while he fixes me lunch.  Maybe it’s the innocence in them that brings a certain  reality to my mind.  Or maybe the word “mother” makes me smile.  It feels as if we are children.  I asked P.J. to take me for a walk around the block, yesterday afternoon and he seemed very excited – it made me remember the first time we made love after a party.  I sensed his fear about our swimming adventure but he took me walking anyway.  “Are we near the ocean?” I had asked him several times.
            “You are making sense,” he told me with his soft voice, holding my hand really tight.  “I have made arrangements for us to visit our friends Luz and Rafa at their beach house.  It’s only a three hour drive.”

            I stared at him in silence thinking I should write him love notes.   I didn’t say a word the rest of the night.   I remembered the portrait of Virgin Mary I saw on top of the book P.J. had been reading in the mornings.   Her face ... at peace.  That night I slept profoundly.   
            I gave a little grunt the next morning when I woke up.   I have had the ability to sleep like a dog lately, any hour of the day and most of the night, without having any anxiety.   I always feel in one place now. 
            “When are we leaving?” I questioned P.J. when he was still asleep. 

            Our morning rituals definitely have changed.  Nowadays he has to wash me, brush my teeth, dress me comically, bottom parts first, feed me plain oatmeal and sit me in front of the T.V., making sure I have my red shawl near me.   My humming has something angelic that P.J. needs, so he can be a completely happy man.   The house hasn’t changed.  The rooms are filled with large amounts of books, letters, tea boxes, candles, dishes, glasses, aspirin, envelopes, newspapers, paper and pencils. 

            P.J. noticed it was time to depart and we left without even looking to see if the back door was locked, or if we left a note for the mailman telling him we were going to be away for the next three days.  My desire for the beach house was intense and we were nearly 60 miles away from it.  I asked P.J. to read me the road signs.   He mentioned “Mount Mother Giant” and the “Unicorn Road,” but the others didn’t want to stay in my mind.  I remained quiet the rest of the trip.  Things didn’t appear clear to me until I saw a blue horizon line following me all over.

            I spent the next three days possessed by my imagination, taking me to this memorable region.  I swam in the cold water.  I perceived the names of characters I had read in books, but I couldn’t even write the initials of my name on the little pieces of paper I had in my pockets.  I played without words and started a display of tiny white paper squares in the sand near the beach.   I placed small rocks on top of them, hoping it would make a good metaphor.  I was thankful for that.  At night, it was hard for me to leave that realm.  My search for a fresco lake became perpetual.   Since that day, I have disappeared.

:: TOC ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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