Grey


1.

My eyes watch the road open. Light falls to the earth in beams. Lines of evergreen, rustling. Moments later, it is there. Pouring through the trees. There is no way to know when it arrived. It is just here. Pulling. I watch the streaming, the bending on these hills. I am walking, now. Somewhere. To the top, or bottom of this place.


This is not a dream. This is a moment that feels like an accepted happening. A moment when you didn’t know you knew exactly what to do. I had to walk into the fog.


2.

It is true that fog will not let you look too far ahead, or behind. But what you see in front of your feet is definitive. A pile of corn stalks. A piece of clouded quartz. You look at things harder, and longer. I have looked at this snake hole for almost five minutes. I’m not waiting for a slithering, but I know it could happen.


The best view of fog is from a steep hill. I always try to stay away from flatlands and mountains. Both are too convinced of themselves. A steep hill would be perfect. Deciphering the land through the fog is difficult. I am reminded of opening my eyes at nighttime, underwater. Out here, I catch myself holding my breath.


3.

I remember the first time you told me you loved me. It was summer. Later that night, I caught a beetle. I wondered what it was thinking when the world went blank under my palms. Its legs were so still; I almost thought it had flown away. I thought about you and I knew I loved you. There is much to wonder about. And there is only so much I can tell. That night, I was doing my very best.


4.

I threw a pebble as far as I could and I swear it was floating. I would be curious to see a bird fly. I have decided to start counting my footsteps. A lame attempt to re-learn how to walk. I imagine that is the first step in learning how to fly.


There might be nothing out here. But this fog needs tending to. There is so much grey. More in one place than I’ve ever seen. I am beginning to think that this had to happen. That we’ve known for a long time.


5.

Do you remember how it felt to look at snow falling straight towards our upturned faces? We were outside the apartment complex in thick, damp clothes. We picked out single snowflakes, focused on them, and fumbled them away in the muddling white. Then we looked in front of us, and immediately the pace of the falling snow seemed more manageable. Intuitive.


The fog is not like this. You could look up and see a sky. A rusting sunset. Corroding reds, deepening and fading. Changing their seams slowly. Wondrous saturation and clarity. You might feel safe. You might feel not alone. But you will begin to wonder where the fog came from and panic. You will forget what it feels like to run with your eyes open. You will forget that fog is not like the snow, or rain, or ice. Fog began right behind you.


6.

In my grandmother’s old home, there is a crawlspace. I was always too short to make it inside. My sister and cousin would crawl in and write on the walls: sign their names, the year. My mom had done the same when she was a child. I told my sister to write my name for me and she wouldn’t. She said I wasn’t old enough to have my name written there. So, I watched her flashlight waiver in the dark while they sat and wrote. One night, I went to it alone, with a folding chair. Then I heard something, coming from the crawlspace. I don’t know what.


I ran upstairs. My grandmother sold the house before I could write my name.


7.

I can see air falling right in front of me. I don’t know how that could be. I feel whorled. Subdued. Frantic. There are things I wish you could see, especially now. I keep whispering to you, Come look at this. Everything can become urgent when you are alone for too long. Everything is being dropped around you. Catch what you can.


I would like you to be with me always. But this isn’t the way this place is. Or any place. This is why we leave parts of ourselves with the other, temporarily. Being out here is the first time I’ve wondered what I’ve taken from you, what you’ve taken from me, what we couldn’t catch.


8.

The first time I felt the dizziness, my mom told me I should eat a large steak. Iron levels. Anemia maybe? I almost pass out at a steakhouse. I end up in the emergency room later that night.


The doctor says Good news, you have normal blood.


It flows.


He says no anemia. Not pregnant. Okay, so, testing. He says my chest might be wrong. Not good.


It’s late. 2am. The room is cold. I take my shirt off. Censors. Maybe it’s my heart. I put my hands to my side and lie down. I look straight up. The ceiling tries to hold still. I’m inside grey curtains. A swaying. Dim fluorescence. A woman stands over me, the nurse. Her machine bleeps.


And then a shadow. Behind the curtains, hovering. A faceless head, staring. Moving hands. The voice asks Need help?


Like it was in my ear, while crawling up legs.


She says No, we’re fine here.


The machine bleeps quickly. I am sharp. He stands, and tilts his head towards my face. I watch his hands touch each other. Shadow fingers. I hear the rubbing. No breaths. He leaves.


The nurse draws water into me before letting me rest. Maybe dehydration. Maybe exhaustion.


I tell her There’s something behind the curtains.

She says no one is coming back here again.


I almost ask her to stay. I watch the water drip into the tubes for hours. I watch the curtains. There is a whirl in the room. Melting grey. It gets worse.


When she comes back I tell her I feel better. I work too hard. I just needed a rest. She agrees with me. I am thankful. I watch the long needle pull out of my arm. Like a silver vein. I am released. I walk past rooms. Big and small windows. Everything is silent, and dark. Then, I see him. From behind an opening door. Staring at me. Shaking hands. Uncoiling and recoiling.


I never told you any of that.


11.

My legs feel like they are a second behind—like I might always be late. I have lost count of my footsteps. I am imagining wings. I am imagining my eyes suspended in telescope glass. I imagine that I am always behind myself—watching. I comfort and scare myself. I slow and speed into grey.


There have been times when I stumble to the sink after a nightmare. I thrust the glass under the faucet and listen to the water. The way the sounds change with the filling. Rising to meet the edge. Once this became a habit I could cut the water right before it all spilt over. Let me show you.


12.

I have seen grey places. I did not expect a cavern to be one of these places. Everything is dark there. Grey is not immediately dark. But there it was.


I was with other tourists, walking in the emptiness and openness. We couldn’t touch anything. Our touch could stop stalagmites from growing. After hearing this, I did not want to touch them. Instead, I stood beneath petrified features. A world inside a stone. There was no need to touch.


We saw cave salamanders. The tour guide pointed them out. They crawled along rocks. They like caves because of the coolness and the water. Salamanders are calm. I imagine we’d all be this way if we lived in a continuous climate we loved. August wind. Sleeping in light. Looking over at you. Rolling over in sand. Squinting. Freckling. Fucking. Sunburnt backs. Coming up for air.


One of the salamanders crawled onto the walkway. A straggling couple from Milwaukee stepped on it. I heard the sound. Have you ever broken a crystal vase as a child? When you could reach for the shards tentatively, but without fear? When the crystal glimmered on the dull, wood floor and you could let it sit there without wondering what things would be like if you hadn’t broken it. When grey could also be gold. I kept walking. They did too.


The last feature the tour guide showed us was the hole that led to the caverns’ discovery. A dog had fallen into the hole years ago, and when it’s owner crawled in to save it, he saw the caverns. The tour guide pointed his flashlight to the hole. It was high up in the walls, big enough for one person to slide through. The day fell into the chamber. The light was white against the stone walls, turning them grey.


I have imagined the man falling in instead of his dog. Immediately, he checks that he is not hurt, and he is not. He looks around—blackness. When he looks up, he sees where he has come from, which seems so far away. The hole is too high to climb out. He sees his dog looking down to him, confused. He understands that this is the way it might be. He becomes very still. He decides to sit down. When he looks into the dark, his vision slowly adjusts and he can see the rocky walls. He can hear water dripping. He calls to the hound, but understands that he is alone.


After its discovery, the caverns were named Dixie Caverns after the dog, not the man.


13.

I am running, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like I have fallen. Every time I look at my knee, I find that it is skinned, but this is not what I am thinking of. I am thinking of how to break the impending fall, I am thinking of you.


I can feel a hill under my feet. The thinning of fog. The way it flows past you instead of against you. I might be close. But, fuck, I don’t know where I’m going. This probably seems obvious. Don’t let it be. Don’t write us off.


Listen to me. I don’t care what you have heard, it is okay if you blink when something is coming at you. I’m going someplace.


14.

I remember driving with you one afternoon. We see a traffic light that is flashing green, yellow, and red all at once. We drive through it, only to realize what we have seen a minute later. We think it’s strange.


I don’t know that I will soon love you. I only know that, with you, I could see these colors. I didn’t know what that could mean.


15.

Fog is strange. You could look up from a hangnail to find yourself deep inside the mist. It will be there, commanding your attention. Asking you to look closer at the road. At the mud on your boots. At the way your legs bend to move to forward. Back to the hangnail. It arrives, and we act as though its arrival was completely unpredictable. We act as though we haven’t accepted its existence by living.


I have searched for a correct way to look, to know, to love, to fear. All I know is this: once fog begins, it is already leaving. Sometimes, it helps to think of it this way. That it is always going someplace else.  

Copyright © 1999-2017 Juked