I've been considering what I'm afraid of and what I do about it. Most recently, I'm afraid, again, of flying. I thought I wasn't anymore until the right side of my Chicago-bound plane felt like it dropped off a shelf. Was I afraid of the wind? I wondered. The trickiness of weather, or the awful last-phone-call plummet? Or just the fact that there are a lot of screws, possibly loose, and zippers, and sandwiches, and where do all these in-place things go when a plane drops? My diversions are looking down at cities below to gauge the horizontalness of wings, taking out Hemispheres and pretending I'm reading. Aversions might make up more of my actions than actually looking at or dealing with what is front and center. I am trying to write about New Orleans and memories and instead I'm looking at plane tickets to other places even though I hate planes and I miss that colorful city deeply.
I have this little café on Chartres Street in my head, the one in front of Beth's Books, and I can't even remember the name of it, but it's there, clear and cobblestoned, with its white doors open and Andrew Bird coming through the breezy windows. I am sitting in there on a faded red chair with my friend who is a writer for a magazine and I am envying her over a big cup of coffee and a hundred ungraded papers from my seniors. Today, I miss one of my students, Shakayla, who probably has a one year old baby now, but it's funny where my eyes are versus these distant leanings of my heart.
A diversion is to turn something from its course. I often wonder if I got to all my places by way of diversions or direction, or if direction is a product of many stacked diversions. In my writing workshop, one writer mentioned that she had attempted suicide, and the woman on the other side of me immediately scooped up a handful of clicking-together chocolate-covered raisins. That made me feel good because I know I've done the same sort of thing in search of something other than awkward.
What do you say when someone says they can't remember the room they woke up in after they tried to kill themselves? Do you wish they hadn't tried to kill themselves or do you just wish they hadn't brought it up? Both, I guess. Chocolate can be a nice distraction, moving, too, and literature, conversation, red wine. My mom has a hard day and a haircut at three. I've done a lot of thinking when someone's trimming my ends. I often feel that I need more breathing room like that to decide where I need to be at the moments I need to be there. If I could be anywhere today, I would be on the levee with a white Russian dacquiri watching driftwood frame the sunset over the Westbank.
In my class, another writer says, “I needed help here,” and “I wasn't sure where this was going,” but I don't understand why everything we read is supposed to “go somewhere.” She says, “I had to read this twice,” and I want to say, “Some things should be read more than twice.” Another woman likens my all-over-the-place piece to a lazy river, and this fits, because I used to float down one, and it's not lazy at all when you are looking for snakes, sandy banks for a picnic, rope swings, rain, and the yellow house with fast water out back where one of my students drowned. Floating is complicated. Fear, before, and forthcoming things are everywhere.
I am also afraid of small repeated things like centipede feet and spider legs, or more harmless groupings like honeycomb and the striations underneath mushrooms. I'm supposed to write about cities, hunting, bread, objects extending themselves into conclusions. I am afraid of writing the wrong thing. When I left my house this morning, blackbirds were clinging to the vines on my building, then flying away from them, then u-turning right back towards the plant-strung bricks. These animals don't come to conclusions, they make series of small decisions along a continuum of being. I want to be like this; intelligent in my returnings and leavings, and able to trust in the abundance of awaiting branches.