How a room transforms with the sound of a lone voice, reading aloud from a book written seventy years ago. What a respite from the constant intrusion of thoughts -- "we need a new coffeepot" -- "did I pack the wig?" -- "I wonder what she meant by that comment?" Absolute relief is found in language that thrums with its ability to make you laugh one moment and cry the next.
Yesterday as I made a long drive, the grey road collecting underneath the wheels of the car, I asked myself to recall some happy Christmases. It was a hobbled attempt at cheering myself. There have been many happy Christmases in my lifetime, so I figured I'd find solace there, and I flipped through the mental files for some specificity, looking for the file folder marked, "Dancing to Rock Lobster in Front of the Tree," or "The Scent of Mushrooms and Onions." I found a parade of garlands, ornaments unpacked and squealed over (that green sequin bell my sister made with its little pearl ringer), but I was unable to linger in any reverie for as long as I wished.
I passed a cellphone tower disguised as the world's tallest silo and swerved into thoughts about communication. Do I owe it to my "followers" my "audience" my "friends" (are they even friends, they just follow my posts, and even then I'm not sure if they do, they probably have unfollowed by now, disgusted by all my hoopla and poetry), to share my loss, disappointment, feelings of helplessness? No. I'll save that for the people I see on a regular basis, the ones who care. I should meet with them over coffee. I'll email them. Email? Call them? I don't want to talk about it at all right now.
At the end of my grey road thoughts was a performance with a variety show, the welcome transformation into another person for a couple of hours, the glee of engaging and interacting with an audience, and dinner with a friend, who I shared my sadness with over a plate heaped with spinach. Iron brings strength.
Then there was the road back home with the radio blaring, the wash off of makeup. Brewed tea, sagging eyelids, vapor of thought curling out.
I woke up this morning, and instead of my usual early writing ritual (I am so tired of my own clouds), I made myself some coffee, picked up a favorite book, and came back to bed to read. At first I read to myself, but the words were so musical I had to hear them, and I began reading out loud, to no one. The room shared the story with me. Somewhere in the middle of a sentence about a man who fears the titles of medical books, I started to cry.
All the folders of specificity were open now. Awake too early to go downstairs to the glitter under the tree, I'd climb into bed with my sister, and she'd read to me. The physical closeness, and the words of L. Frank Baum, or Lewis Carroll, or Laura Ingalls Wilder, the sound of the coffeepot being brought to life downstairs by our mother, were all served up from the filing cabinet in the part of my brain that was inaccessible to me just the day before. My own voice, which is my sister's voice. Christmas past, present, future. My sister, always so far away and so close.