“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
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
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.