I begin walking home from one of the most awkward parties I have ever been to in my life. The man who used to turn my heart into butter before he left nothing to melt is here, sullen, because I came with someone else. My interest in this someone else transcends selfishness—I think they are phenomenal, a “diamond in the rough”, if you will. This diamond’s old flame is here as well, with another igniter. He chugs a beer, puts his hand to his lips and bows out without a word. I wish I could. But I stay. I stand and laugh despite my heart threatening to overflow from my cheeks. I want to explode! But, I spare all of our friends the fireworks, the dramatics, the commonality of my emotions. I am an introvert. I have made myself self-sufficient and independent; funny how metaphorical hearts aren’t self-sustainable. I will cry when I am alone.
I begin the eight blocks home, drunk and feeling like my heart is freezing into the night. I find peace, alone with my thoughts. The sky is an endless expanse of omniscientiousness that I will never comprehend, and really, I don’t know that I care to. I let the frost take my heart as it reaches out and turns off friendly porch-lights and gives in to shadows. My heart scuffs its heels as it walks, into the dry leaves and popping dropped appendages of trees. My feet and nose protest the cold.
I audibly sob and the trees solemnly look down. I say “FUCK!” and the stars twinkle in agreement. Raucous laughter splits the night behind me. I am not alone. Two men are in tow, expelling spit from their bodies like they are testing gravity. They have beer in plastic bags which look so alien to me amidst the organicness of these lonely avenues. I get angry that they are breaking my solitude. Their presence has shattered any peace. I feel defensive. If I were a man perhaps these other men would not perturb me; or perhaps I am made scarlet by my own femininity and I only feel threatened because of the ideology that if you are a twenty-something female alone at night you are a statistic. In any case, I feel vulnerable (on more than one level). My thoughts feel violated, punctuated by fear.
I have a stitch in my side. I press two fingers against it and take up a brisker pace. I do not want to be near these men and their loud voices, their plastic bags, and their copious amounts of spit. I begin to breath heavier and the concrete might as well be the moon beneath my feet it feels so hard and strange. My Achilles tendon aches from the hole in my Toms. I have a drunk friend I drove home one time who turned off the jazz I was listening to and said, “I need to listen to music that spatially grounds me right now.” I had no idea what she was talking about. Tonight I do. I am trying to ground myself in familiars, keep myself from being a deer in the headlights. I look to a rounded window with a light on and walk toward it. I look toward a porch with a star emblem hung on the wall like the Northern star. I keep picking things to focus on to keep myself viscerally present despite my drunkenness and being terrified that I am a woman and the possibility of being objectified.
This exercise in inanimates works. I don’t feel like I am going to hyperventilate. Even with the sidewalk jarring against my feet in its man-made fashion, I feel calmer. I step into a grove of trees without sidewalk for a quarter of a block. My pace slows. The leaves crunch beneath my feet with less finality on soil. The earth feels solid, but not impenetrable beneath my sole (soul). I find myself alone again. I look at the branches reaching to the heavens, leafless limbs mosaicing the sky like a twinkling patch-work blanket and I think: These things have survived decades, centuries, millennia, and light-years and come out more beautiful than I could ever hope to be. Somehow this makes me feel okay.
*Painting: Girl in the Woods by Vincent Van Gogh