minutesofhoney

On Kicking Windows

In Life on September 16, 2010 at 3:09 am

I look like a mummy, today.  At least part of me does.  A little part.  A big toe.  You never realize what big things the little parts do until they’re on the benches, bleeding.  Oh, big toe – humanity’s friend in pursuit of soccer balls, demi plies, and cookie jars on the top shelf.  Oh, my big toe – the fall guy for this girl who kicks in windows.  In flip flops.

It’s the third day after the accident.  The gauze curves elegantly around the width of my foot, leaving “Roast Beef” and its pals free, anchoring “Market” in a fabricky thumb’s up.  It’s a fancy sock!  And seeing how the season is not really summer, but suckiness, it makes all the sense in the world that I’m wearing it.

For let’s see.  This week sees me 13 days from moving to New York amidst a host of heartaches I’m not keen to dangle into cyber-space.  But they’re there.  Even inanimate objects take heed and duck for cover – the car, which stopped running last Wednesday, the sink that broke last Thursday, and the window that gave way way too easily on Friday.

I was trying to air out our basement.  After a month of flooding that culminated in people actually canoeing down our street, my family continues to deal with aftermath.  And, as any Shorewood resident could tell you, aftermath begs for bleach, bleach begs for ventilation, and ventilation begs you to A) hammer lightly on the frame of a window that’s painted shut B) grab a mask, C) you know where I went with this.

My trouble is I’ve always had a tendency to use my body before a tool.  Thank god for that trimester of middle school home ec.  Without it and I’d still be pulling pasta from the pot by hand.  I’d only meant to kick the window ‘open’, but as any writer knows, a confused preposition makes all the difference.  ‘In’ it went and before I knew, I was bleeding ‘over’ the bathroom sink.  I currently cohabitate with the parents, and while it was my mom’s idea for me not to kick things in the first place, it was my dad’s to take me to the hospital.

Gauze, insurance card, car keys, go.  Hallway, ER, wait.  Nine, read ‘em, nine stitches, two x-rays, a bottle of pills.  Aw, it’s only a rite of passage any outdoors-loving, sports-playing kid is bound to cross, which means I’m doing it at 24.  And I still got my ice cream after.

Now I’m sitting in bed.  For all the laughable spin, which is another writer’s mainstay of course, I am haunted by the iceberg of life lessons this mini-trauma’s licked.  Everything can change in an instant.  The cliché is true.  Everything can change in an instant: we wake up and have another packet of oatmeal, board another bus, engage in another conversation with strangers and loved ones in which we say nothing of what we actually mean.  Meanwhile, our well-practiced normalcy is just another layer of paint on an already soaked canvas.  Peel it back with an accidental twist of fate and you’re no longer dealing with the Mona Lisa, but The Scream.

To an extent, I know that I’m only entertaining more existential nonsense, so why not just shut-up and move on?  Because lately the universe keeps pointing this nonsense at me, and I don’t know what to do with it.

They say no matter what befalls us, within months, we’re back to being ourselves.  Is that the philosophy we should cling to?  That “everything changing in an instant” means nothing changes at all?  But if A does equal B, if every ill only further leads us to ourselves, if slaughter, accident, and despair are just troughs on the hilly countrysides of ourselves, well then…Why?

I’m veering into the meaning of life, which is too big a mountain.  My natural inclination upon viewing its peaks is to jump into some ignorant abyss.  Throw my philosophies onto the pile of bras gathering around Lady Gaga and Justin’s feet.  The cult of study surrounding their every move is a lot more comforting after all – at least it’s concrete (‘knowledge’ is too suspect a word) stuff to know.

But then the desperate optimist in me raises its call, begging me to give thanks for what I cannot change.

“Give thanks for accidents?” I say, both eyebrows flying off my face.

“Yes,” pipes the voice I hate and have to house. “They are empathy’s bedfellow.  They live so you may call yourself an actor, storyteller and human being, having tried on many shoes and walked a mile in none.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Obviously, the toe’s confused me.  If anyone reads this post with answers, I welcome them.  Here are the ones I’ve collected so far, twenty-four years’ worth.  I don’t know whether they speak to the question or not, but they handily fill a drawstring bag I loop at my waist: the ending of Hannah and Her Sisters, the rabbi and the river*, and Mom’s answer to Dad’s question. **

*There once was an old rabbi who was very sick.  He was the oldest rabbi in the village and the most famous, learned scholar for miles and miles.  As word spread that he lay on his deathbed, his students gathered from near and far.  They stood around him, murmuring and praying and davening in the crowded room.  Finally one of them asked the Rabbi the question that was on all of their minds.

“Rabbi, Rabbi, tell us, what is the meaning of life?”

The Rabbi coughed.  He did not look surprised.  He raised himself upon an arm and slowly said, “My children, life is like a river.  When it starts, it is a trickle, no bigger than a drop in your hand.  But it grows.  It grows and grows and grows strong and merges with many other rivers, and it grows even stronger, and it moves faster and faster until one day it arrives at the ocean and empties into the great wide sea.”

And the rabbis looked at each other and nodded, “this is it, this is it!” but soon enough another voice said, “Rabbi, Rabbi, I have read the Talmud and this page says that you cannot be right.  And this section of the Torah contradicts you.”

And then another rabbi nodded, “He’s right, the Nevi’im says this and the Ketuvim says that.”

And another rabbi and another until the last one spoke, “Rabbi, please tell us how can you say what you do!?”

And the Rabbi looked at him and at all the rabbis in the room and said, “Well, my children, maybe life is not like a river.”

**Why are the seabirds scattered like lost words?

Because, Marc, that’s just the way it is.

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