One of my favorite creative non-fiction pieces I’ve written so far has been published in Longridge Review! Read “Who Is Ben?” online: https://longridgereview.com/virginia-petrucci/
The night begged its own seat in the calendar of seasons. A warmth but a triumph over fire and a confusion over coast.
A frenzy, like lightning it was, like an invitational mystery with a jocular humor. For girls, such skies. Much like the girls I used to be.
The scenes I used to take to and the love drug storms I used to make fall short of this graceful math. This lightning with no wind, this rain with no reason. I am not for such delights. I am not for seeing what is already there.
He times a surprise and I shorten a tantrum. Evolve, is it? And without revolt?
A handicapped breath gives way to a kidnapped cloud; we are not alone, one hopes. I am ever alone, I spoke. My eyes only for ghosts.
I lie in my light-filled, love-filled upstairs bedroom on a long, body-conforming bean bag. The air I feel and somewhat hear has traveled from the ocean, over the Ventura valley and into the space that I occupy, unsolicited. A stranger to mirrors and at odds with nature, I have planned my return to the mountains from the city like a long-lost relative finally coming home. I am tranquil and unwelcome since my thoughts aren’t as smooth as the wind or as joyful as the light or as differential as this three hundred dollar adult sized bean bag.
I am suffering from a paisley boredom, where the things I need to do and the things I want to do mix with the abstraction of relaxation, I thing I never do. When my hours pass unplanned, my sense of self is questioned, my accomplishments are examined, my dreams are ridiculed.
There are my myriad writing projects–all of which have passed their self-imposed deadlines–and un-tracked hours lead to lost words. It is impossible for a writer to lie or sit and simply be. For we are born to delineate, destined to catalog. Even the tranquility of a luxury mountain home cannot bend a writer’s preternatural resolve to unravel the universe and her currents while fastening the truisms and trends of humanity to written permanence. Or whatever.
That precious, vocal horizon with its slender tide and little black islands, rare outlines that are usually bleached out by the chaos of sun and cloud.
I fell upon a sunset with colors partially hazed out by the coastal fog and by the tidal melancholy that flows during the exchange of light for dark, with only a creamsicle skyline to soften the blow. I adore dusk; I find myself in such horizons and distilled sadness. Having fallen into the colors and the peace of alone that I so rarely get to enjoy, I scattered my thoughts to the minimal wind and my limbs to the outskirts of the golf course. The 15th hole, I am told.
I am but an animal and my needs, when watered down from their human extravagance, are the same as the fluttering, everyday inhabitants of the brush I corrupt with my noiseless feet and screaming mind. Little animals—demeaned by their claws and beaks, and exalted by their innocence—speed then slow with irrational frequency. To occupy one of their minds, whose undecorated corners hold un-noble next to my own, is my solemn wish.
Boyspeed upon him, my husband climbs the hill of our little, gated street, full of his own special, jubilant emptiness (he is drunk). He brings friends in whose uncomplicated company he is happy; in his fellow beings he finds reward. I find solace in their absence; a solipsistic wish presently being fulfilled, I do not wish to be discovered.
I find a eucalyptus tree, porous with elderly grace, and crouch behind it, barefoot and unknowable, as I was as a child.
I take to breathing deeply and find a clear mind, proud and voluminous and watchful over the little orchard below which extends into the large orchard beyond, and the furtive skyline beyond that. That precious, vocal horizon with its slender tide and little black islands, rare outlines that are usually bleached out by the chaos of sun and cloud.
I take to reading, examining the luxury of my present situation and feeling only the grace of the mountains in my lungs and the established luxury of this man-made green. I encounter myself in the pages of my novel. I breathe and hush and fear, for my alone is limited and my presence will soon be required in the house whose vast newness makes me feel as though I’m living in a great English hall.
My mind proceeds down its chosen literary journey when out of the quiet bushes comes an awful, halting shriek. Coyote vs. squirrel: I scramble to find a solution to this barking mystery when—shooting.
I scream—a proper girl scream—and roll with boy scout alacrity out of the way of the assaulting stream of water. Sprinkler hour with no warning bell. I jump up and whip around myself, trying to catch sight of anyone who might have heard or seen me in all my ridiculousness as I was mauled on a perfect Friday afternoon by a golf course sprinkler. No one—and yet, embarrassment floods my mind just as adrenaline floods my veins. I realize that it’s time to occupy the great new cool hall with its happy guests and human perfection, so at odds with nature and so aligned with comfort and dignity.
I gait away from my home, and towards my house.
I had just had my first hypnotherapy session. I wanted help with my focusing inabilities, because I work from home and I’m essentially my own deadline maker, which is a terrible thing for someone with high levels of anxiety. We ended up discussing layers of my past, and the cycle of abuse and traumatic insult that has dictated much of my own self-destruction. My ____, my _____s, the ____, ____, another ____, the “___”, the ____s, the this, the that, the you, and my irrepressible propensity towards servitude. It hurts, and I cry, and I feel fear and shame, and then I invite it all back in again.
I looked at myself—my young self, four years old, she was a large, goopy, coffee-tan octopus with massive holes into which magazines had been stuffed. She wore a pink bow. Her arms—handless—were soft and grabby. Her tentacles trembled. I told her it was okay, that she could rest. I put her to sleep with a blanket on the chair at the hypnotist’s house, and I think she will be safe there.
I looked at myself again—my brain chatter, my maladaptive daydreaming. He was a series of awkward triangles, defiant and narrow. Each angle was a different colored square, like those unfortunate 80’s sweat pants. He was black and transparent, except for the squares, kind of like a stippled drawing. His resolve was unclear, but it was there—bolder and hungrier than Matilda’s (the octopus wants to be called Matilda). He has a drive, and goals, but needs external moderation. He gets angry with me, and won’t let me focus. He is the opposite of Matilda—dreamy, young, unstructured, material—she wants me to be pretty, famous, popular, rich, savory, Oriental, loved. He wants me to be successful, powerful, prolific, feared. The two are, I now understand, complete opposites, competing for my attention, my energy. This imbalance has manifested itself so dysfunctionally thus far that I am lucky I have not succumbed to the tragedy once read in my palms.
After the session, I felt that all was gray-soft and dead-white, and I could see strings attached to everything: a graceful web with an invisible spider, connecting each and all. I walked slowly, calmly, staring and perceiving, but less head-driven. I simply existed, and it was lovely.
Five minutes into my drive home, I saw what at first looked like two blonde brooms dancing in the street. The cars all slowed, and I realized a pitbull was in vehement pursuit of a Chihuahua. They were running so fast, and so mechanically, like crème puppets bound by the duty of hunt and be hunted, that my brain struggled to keep up. I watched, helplessly, as they hurdled across the street into oncoming traffic. I gasped, hand on lips, fingers on steering wheel, foot on brake pedal. They were running too fast, and the cars were coming too quickly. Nobody saw them.
There was a moment where she almost made it, but she pulled back for just one second, terrorized by the onslaught of wheels. A woman’s car, a blue minivan as old as 1992 and as tired as $400, struck her. It was exactly like how they show it in the movies.
The wheel rolled slowly over her head and bounced along, a large black scrap of the car left behind next to the motionless dog. The Chihuahua, whose role in the initial canine scrap will never be known (I long to find fault in all of this), escaped, presumably unharmed. As the pitbull was hit, the Chihuahua became airborne in some bumble-grapple with the laws of physics. He should not have survived, but he did, because he vanished.
I have never openly screamed in the presence of crisis. I pulled into the center lane, threw my hazards on, and approached the dog. I think I ran, and then stopped, unsure of whether or not I should touch her. I knew the cars around us would stop, and it didn’t really matter anyway.
“Is this your dog?” I cried out to the nearest man, who had made his way into the street. He was a biker, older and tougher than sound. He didn’t answer me, but continued to approach, shell-shocked. I crouched down next to Good Girl, whose real name I’ll never know. I stroked her lightly, out of love and infantile curiosity. She was still breathing. I cooed at her, when another girl ran up to us, determined to help. I called out for one of the on-lookers to bring us some water. I called a local shelter, then another, but both were on their lunch break. I decided that we had to get her into a car and take her anyway, because by the time we got there someone would be able to help. It was then that the woman who had hit her walked up with her daughter, tear-stricken and guilty. She didn’t say she was sorry, although she smelled sorry. Her own dog had recently been hit by a car, she offered. I forgave her silently, although my judgments mattered the least. When I announced that we should take her to the nearest vet, the dog had stopped breathing.
The biker, now crouched down next to her, had his hand on the back of her head. His Highland Park machismo was peeling off in the form of tears. He whispered things that I do not remember. The five of us—me, Girl 2, Biker, Guilty Woman, and Guilty Woman’s Daughter—all crouched down in a circle around her, and put our hands on her in Paleolithic prayer. I felt the strings from my hypnotism pulsating with the kind of grace even painters do not understand, as part of this strange dog’s death found its way under my fingernails, into my flesh, into my blood, and deeper into the plum orchard of my memory. I put my hand on the biker’s back, and held it there even though it made him tremble with discomfort. I wanted a piece of his pain, not only to alleviate his suffering but also to add to my catalogue of reason: the more I collect, the more I realize that there isn’t any to be found. Then the strings became lost in the gray of the moment, and a homeless man came up to us, attempting to help the situation by pointing at cars and mumbling, his eyes fixed on the sky. He, too, had loved a dog. He, too, had neglected the pursuit of reason, years and years ago, in some alley of some city that I fashioned with my heartbroken whimsy.
The biker moved his dog out of the street, and we followed delicately behind. He situated himself on the earth behind the sidewalk that was in front of the Hispanic grocery store. At least, it might have been a grocery store. I asked if I could get him anything. He said no, vacantly, and I should have, could have, and would have, but my car was blocking just enough of the road to frustrate the traffic. The darkness of our audience began to envelope me, and I wanted to get out of there, and then come back and stay forever.
The thing that plagues me about this hijacked afternoon is not the gruesome visual of the dog getting hit—there was so little blood on the street when we picked her up that it made me hopeful that she just might come back to life. It was not the absence of reason, because the weight of meaning was still there, something deeper and colder than any chain of logic a brain can throw together. And it was not the dissolving of my hard earned celestial strings, because those eventually came back, as they always do. What plagues me is that I respected the distance of propriety and did not give of my proximal energy. I should have hugged her, kissed her, smelled her. I should have traded my breath with hers so she could feel the glory of my own personal revelations, achieved only an hour prior. I should have hugged the biker, although he would’ve hated me for it. I should have kissed the tired ground, and thanked the spider behind it all for this miracle of pain. I did not, and I’m sorry.