The thin sheet wrapped around her legs like a comfortable, white cocoon. On her side, she looked liked a caterpillar. The morning had come, she could tell, because she was awake and thinking. Being asleep could still pull her into itself though. An ice cream truck on a beach, in someplace like LA, and a bum nearby asking for ice cream from a cute girl serving it, and the feeling was of a cross current of being little and happy but also possibly out of control or tempted. It made her only slightly mad as she moved into her legs that were barely hers, still so early.
Bugs fussed against the brightening sun with persistent sound, and from her sleep she could hear them. The room was intermittently dark and light with the flap of the curtain. Chris had left a few hours earlier for work, and she slept on, in a period where sleeping on was heavy, but also light, in a way that nothing could be as precisely as it was in that moment. It was comfortable. She thought of Chris, already gone to work, and the haircut she had given him last night. It was interesting how it had happened.
She had gotten home later than she expected with all the groceries in paper bags held tight against her body. She just barely got into the door without dropping everything, and when she got in, candles were lit in three corners of the front room. Chris set them up, she thought.
It was so quiet, and when he turned to look at her through the framed opening, from the dining room table he said, “She’s gone and I am okay with it.”
“Who’s gone?” Cecilia asked as she let the paper bags down along her side and onto the floor.
“Ms. Prastle. You know, the woman who owns…owned...the grocery store on ninth street that I love so much. She died. I found out this morning. I’ve made a lot of progress since then. I can still kind of feel her.”
She gave a pouting, “I’m sorry” look to him, having heard the stories of daily meetings with the woman he loved, like she was his own grandmother. He came over to get the bags.
“The funeral is on the ninth. Will you come?” he asked.
She nodded yes, her eyes on him to let him know, of course.
“What’d you get?” he asked as he peered inside.
“Fish! We can celebrate her life...her death...or whatever all this is…with fish. Yeah? “She said.
He moved slowly into hug her, and she knew her very emotional husband would be with this for a while, rarely able to take things lightly. His blue linen shirt was predictably damp with sweat when she touched his back. Cecilia watched his face and saw the light reflected in his eyes, just a little buried back in the dark brown of questioning.
They cooked buttery white fish with lemon. The spinach shrunk to almost nothing and it was delicious. There was couscous, and after dinner, chocolate. She noticed the sharp detail of eating. Once it was over though, she could kind of not handle anything. The candles still burned, as they offered their soothing glow. She watched them, silently, and she wanted them to tell her what to do next. She deferred to Chris. He had spread out across the couch. His position indicated he was just getting going into it all, some series of thoughts. He had feathered his nest and she knew he would be there all night, pouring over ideas. Organizing them like a wardrobe. Why did she want to kick things?
“I’m going running,” she said on a whim.
“What’s going on, you need anything from me?” he asked, apparently aware from the couch that he hadn’t really seen her yet.
“I’m mad,” she said.
“Okay,” he answered.
“I want to be more excited but I feel so out of it, and that pisses me off. Arrgghh! Why can’t I just relax and settle into some project or something? Goddamnit!”
“You want to cuddle a little?” he asked.
“yeeaaah,” she said long, and relieved.
She got on top of him and wanted to let go of all of her weight. He moved a little and then she adjusted, and they couldn’t quite get cuddly comfortable. She thought it might happen like that--so unable to please herself. He lay back on his side without her and she sat up. Cecelia let her face well with tears from disappointment, of not finding relief from some trouble within her. Some imperfection haunted the balance that would be enthusiasm if she wasn’t so out of sync--and so the relief of crying was helpful. Chris put his pure, loose hand on her back. He looked comfortable and she liked him so much for being there so often even if he couldn’t make it all different.
“I am either tired or wired,” she said.
“I’ve seen you feel balanced,” he reminded her.
She noticed that Chris’s body was easy, like he wasn’t fighting with it. He could do things, make things happen without moving, without talking while she felt she had to move around a lot to make anything happen. Lately, she was tired of it. Hurrying around wasn’t working after years of having done it so senselessly. At the grocery store she had walked right into a woman and made her drop a basket of blackberries. Cecilia had even stepped on a few once on the ground. She could see that the death of Mrs. Prastle was like a calling to Chris, into something way below the surface. Maybe she would follow.
“Yup,” she shot up, “I’m going running,” at once sure that anything other than full movement of her body would result in an intolerable frustration. I want to feel clarity she said on her trot down the stairs from the second floor apartment into the young night. The sensation was immediate. Out the door, she continued. Twilight was sure, and the sight of black trees against a glowing, deepening dark was instantly, and forever kind. She gave in quickly. She remembered nature’s gentle, immediate whip. Though she lived right inside the city, all trees, contact with anything green, blue, even pink or purple probably even orange, which was rough and simple, whatever grew or blew in, was nature. She hooked into it the second she allowed it.
Cecilia ran down the first block, past the local grocery where they would buy eggs, milk, butter, lottery tickets, and rent movies when they didn’t want to go far. Al, the owner, was a funny southern man. He always said the same, “thanks hon’” at the end of every purchase, and never really looked up, preoccupied with running a business it seemed, but sweet, she could see, all the same. Sometimes she wanted to smooth his sweaty hair over his bald spot, unzip his sweat suit, and pat his surely hairy chest to encourage him to relax. Just in her mind she would do it.
There was a little patch of woods to the left up ahead. Sometimes she imagined a fairy community living amidst the green of it. Big enough for all of them because they were small, and with a dark drain nearby, she imagined that their underground neighborhood extended for miles under the activity she could see.
Nature could collapse. The thought burst forth. It could defy the normal sense of a city, everlasting and imperturbable without a human perspective. She ran over a bridge that crossed a canal and felt the subtle bounce beneath her running shoes. Her thoughts were finally pliable and of the mystical scale that was her real life. Anything less was just a glint of real life. But she couldn’t always maintain the momentum of something larger. When set loose into the uncomfortable jungle of the lesser ecstasies she felt locked out from even that little glint. Hardly front page headlines, she took to unhooking from the rigor of being upwardly mobile. She had recently quit her job. She needed to take off, get it straight again, sleep. Stop trying so hard.
She had on her running clothes: a light reflective shirt that shimmered in the glare of car traffic. She also blended into the night with dark, tight, breathable pants, as she moved from street to sidewalk depending on the character of the neighborhood. She would occasionally mitigate running into skipping or galloping, slipping through slender spaces between parked cars at a moment’s notice.
Night had become its darkest, and the city, it’s brightest, in selective sections. Her body was one idea, totally unified. How could she ever go back? She noticed the cautious walk of an elderly woman near a stoop up ahead, bent forward. As she ran by she saw that it wasn’t a woman at all but a middle-aged man, who, as she passed, smiled, and flashed a shiny penny he had apparently just found.
The never-ending surprises were not to be stopped, not by anybody. She could coordinate with ones as perfect as the penny man or as seemingly bumbling as the woman with the blackberries, and the only difference was how she felt. Lucky or stupid, she created the spirit of events. Could she finally get that? Her breath was invigorating, and temporary moments of fatigue as she ascended or turned a corner were brief.
Cecilia rounded the last corner and was on the final section of her regular running loop. She would arrive home and Chris would be in the same place, motionless and self absorbed, as he should be, of course. And she would maybe do the dishes, find something on TV, do push-ups, anything to finish up the day fully before bed. Outside the apartment, a locust tree hung heavy with orange flower-like blooms. She picked one, hanging bouquet. Her heart was full of blood and energy and calm as she unlocked and opened the door to the apartment. She spotted a flash of Chris’s bear body move past the rectangular window of the dining room to sit at the table in what they affectionately referred to as the “chow house”, next to the kitchen.
“Will you cut my hair?” he asked. “I want you to just really go for it. If you feel like going nuts, do it. I am completely open to it.” He sat, facing away from the kitchen, at the table, with a towel wrapped around his shoulders. Cecilia looked at him as he sat there, determined to receive.
“I’ve got a spray bottle and everything so just hose me down and go.”
“Did you find the hair scissors?” she asked.
“Yes, of course. This is the real deal, Ceil’.”
She walked to him, each step closer to her new subject of attention. She took off her sweaty, reflective shirt; put the flowers on the table; looked at his hair, picked at it, just in a bra. She pulled his hair on the left side up into her fingers and snipped.
“You really don’t care what it looks like?” she asked.
“Yeah I care what it looks like but I know from how I am feeling that you are going to be inspired to greatness,” he answered.
“Okay,” she said. She snipped more, in tiny bits only, afraid of making a larger commitment.
“Oh, c’mon, go for it,” Chris said, determined to have something really happen. He smacked her leg enthusiastically like a horse flank.
“Alright,” she said as she lifted her legs, toes to the floor, one foot at a time.
“Yeah, do your excitement dance.”
She cut one whole side short and then moved to the other. She always wanted to give Chris a mohawk. She got the buzzer and without a word of exchange buzzed the sides to a half an inch; a soft Mohawk where the hair in the middle lay to one side. With his tempered style─ it would be just what everybody needed. She left his hair longer in the front and on top. The back part, near the crown of his head fanned out like a male bird’s feathers, ready to mate.
She finished. She pulled the towel off his shoulder and brushed hair off of him. She turned him around, took her hands to his cheeks, and kissed him.
“I hope you like it,” she said as she looked into the rich dark of one eye and then the other.
He touched his head, and fingered the strange textures. His eyes widened and lips turned in with fear.
“Me too,” he said. He got up to check himself in the mirror. She stayed behind.
“Oh shit! It’s crazy,” he said.
Cecilia sat at the table and wondered if he hated his hair or if the feeling of something new was the thrill he had anticipated. She felt free not to care about his reaction. In fact, she was softly enthralled by it all, and sat with her thoughts open like a deck of cards across her mind. The dining room seemed like a holy place, meant only to please its occupants. How had she not known it like that before? Her arms were crossed and her fingers sunk into her damp skin on either side of her breasts. She took a breath that inflated her chest. Her ribs expanded, and her bra became unreasonably tight. She unhooked it and wriggled out of it.
“So do you like it or what?” she asked like an eleven year old might, not quite caring about anyone else. She stood up and leaned against a wall in the dining room. She brought her face to her hand, still sweaty, looking nowhere. And then he appeared, slowly at first, in just his boxers─ the ones she had bought him for his thirty fourth birthday. It was him. It was the him that would appear out of the bathroom, from a night’s sleep, after a party, into her life.
“Com’ere,” he said, his body like a vacuum.
She moved herself right up against him. Her face came close and they smiled and kissed each other, thirsty deer at a brook.
“You love it?” she asked easily. “Your hair?”
“No, I hate it,” he said, “but I love you.”
“You don’t really hate it honey,” she said as she looked into his eyes, sweet in the way she could be. Cecilia touched his face.
“You are just not comfortable looking like a freak, are you?”
“No...but I am a freak…you know?” he said normally, beautifully.
She liked how he towered over and around her. He was complete, like an animal. And all the moments that she had loved him slapped together, and landed into her body. It was easy to make love up against the wall for twenty minutes or so. They changed positions only slightly, and saw clearly into one another without static. Cecilia remembered the most ordinary and comprehensive sense of herself. She was a lover, comfortable with love. She came with love, a focused floodlight, and always brighter on the heels of something not quite right.
She would have to make peace with that, perhaps, over and over again until it was something she could take for granted. She would not push so hard next time. Sleep longer and more easily in the morning, she remembered herself thinking. And there she lay, more comfortable upon awakening than she had the day before; the soft bed, a sure thing. Could she lie there, drifting in and out for hours? Perhaps not. But maybe even just for now, she would release back into the pleasure of something so clearly comfortable. Sleep, like love for Chris, enduring and definite, could be her friend. The spaces of dreams would show her the way.