Thirteen Interludes From Vacation
By Zibia Bardin
The following is an excerpt from a longer work.
I visit my grandmother. Outside, the earth presses its face into a pillow.
My grandmother’s back is to us when we come in. Her spine is jagged and veers like an unresolved conflict in impossible directions. Her hair is bright white. There’s not a lot of it. I feel there are great big oceans between each piece of me today. Continental drift. Her room is filled with things, a telephone, magazines, old receipts, flowers, oddly placed framed photographs, rolls of paper towels. The objects seem to have been lifted from the backdrops of other people’s lives and piled here.
She is very slowly eating a meal: chicken, broccoli, mashed potatoes, apricots. Everything is blended. Chicken smoothie. Next month, she will be 100. Her picture from the navy is hung very high on the wall, right next to the fire alarm. She blinks out at me from it in dark lipstick and satin skin. I wish I had known her then. Everything I had planned to say to her has been slowly turning to sand in my throat for the past hour, so I don’t say anything. I sit in the armchair next to the bed and drift. She lets me.
Jeffrey drives and plays the radio, which announces to us something about a fifty-thousand year old comet, to which he remarks, “I’m very suspicious of that. Who was around to say that it was fifty-thousand years old? Who was around back then?” Last semester, I had to memorize a lot of stuff about carbon dating. I look out the window. The cars go. Carbon exists in two isotopes. We can tell time by looking at rocks and measuring electricity inside them from thousands of years ago. It is beginning to rain. Jeffrey tells me he thinks the government did 9/11.
I am trying very hard to get my driver’s license. I am still working on parking.
Jeffrey is the driving instructor I hired.
DRIVING TEST RESULT: FAIL
FAILS to ADEQUATELY observe/use CAUTION: 10
FAILS to SIGNAL: 5
POOR engine CONTROL/ accel eration: 10
DELAYED BRAKING/ABRUPTBRAKING: 10
INATTENTIVE to traffic: 10
Image One: The sky spreading over itself at dusk: a spilled glass of water on a paper tablecloth: the blue whale in the Natural History museum. This is my favorite color.
Image Two: Your eyes against the flush of September and the godly green of the trees behind them, I leaned over on my knees to look at them better. I barely knew you then and I was completely porous to your every word, gesture, the way your eyes held light like a baseball glove.
Image Three: I am sitting behind you in the canoe. The down on the back of your neck is gold and you are wearing a red bathing suit with no back. The water is black-green. Sometimes when someone says something funny, you turn to look at me while you’re laughing.
Image Four: It’s raining a little bit on the roof. We all went up here to see the fireworks but they had ended by the time we got there. The wind is light blue and I can feel each rib cage expand and contract next to me. Someone is passing around a bottle of champagne. They gave us a new year. I think to myself that my grandmother was born in 1923.
There’s so much held in an interlude, a second, a glance, the moment before the lights in the movie theater come back on—and in this case I’m stoned in the back row sandwiched between my parents, weeping at the end of Everything Everywhere All At Once, because everything is not everywhere all at once, everything is certain, immediate, at once love and the warning of its end.
Going, going, going… And I am watchingwatchingwatching.
Permanently trapped in the projection room,
unable to to unsee the beauty which flashes before me.
the sky, your eyes, a red bathing suit;
I grew vines out of my head that I hoped would one day traverse glass
but no matter how much I called in the rain the cat was gone.
The body forms energy minimized structures;
An arrow aimed for zero,
and all this, the colors, like a long sun set, is a dying of the light, is the end of days:
I plan every word but I end up in the arm chair with sand in my throat,
asking if it’s alright if we just sit here for awhile.
And how is it that the descent into zero can passes through this,
your inopportune phone calls,
words flapping under my skin like seagulls at the beach:
and all the while the blue’s being wrung out of the sky again.
When you left I carved my heart out every night but in the morning it was full again.
and I can not, for the life of me, stop this filling,
the drop, the fallingness of standing still–
I had my finger on the mechanism but the trick didn’t work,
or else I never learned how to pause the record,
how to pull any kind of trigger anywhere,
how to make a very small path through sand
but just wide enough to get your shoulders through,
even in the rain, even in the dark.