by Jamie Etheridge
I see you nine-year-old girl dancing with your sisters all in a line, Madonna’s True Blue spiraling up from the radio and you all wrapped in billowing sapphire cloth like Greek goddesses washed by the Mediterranean. You cannot yet envision your future, but feel already the slick heat of wanting, the cold wet of denial. Be patient is what I would have told you then. But now I know this is a feeling we all learn to live with.
At 15 and angry, you howl along with Metallica as you ‘borrow’ your mother’s steel blue sedan at 2am and drive the empty streets, riffing along with the lonely guitar and crying. Lost is a verb but you carry it like a noun, tucked into an inner pocket for safekeeping. I wish I could have warned you then: anger and abandonment will not take you where you want to go.
One day you will remember the texture of the thick layers of corn meal, meat and tomato sauce in the tamales you ate that time in Tijuana, 19 years old and following some rando dude you met at a bar into a back alley to buy weed. But instead he took you to a rundown shack with light flitting through a broken window and a cornflower blue cloth on the kitchen table where his mother fed you and gave you lemonade and a hug when you started to cry. Remember that feeling of comfort from a stranger, it is a place you will need again.
But there is still so much more to come. In a future where we haven’t yet met, I will smell the scent of New York City streets on you at 4:30am after the garbage trucks have gone past and you are walking home; the sky indigo-dark, your unwashed body a potent cabinet of aromas; lift the shirt for the scents of baby oil, vanilla perfume and sex sweat dried and sticky; your hair smells of lavender shampoo and your mouth of the lemon-flavored lip balm you’re always wearing; to your shoes cling the odor of the subways, a mixture of cold air, urine and bagels; oh how you loved those bagels spread with thick slabs of cream cheese sometimes your only meal the whole day. Life can be just one day, lived over and over, at least in memory.
We will meet by accident on a roadside and in a flash I will see all the women you have been and ever will be. I will find myself in your gaze, thick with knowing. This will be a homecoming. Because I didn’t yet realize your courage would be enough for us both. How no one could stop you after you ran that first marathon, at 33, slick with victory, grin so wide I found an ocean, Olympic, electric, in your eyes and swam there, briefly and let the cold salt water heal my wounds.
Jamie Etheridge‘s writing has been published in JMWW Journal, Bending Genres, X-R-A-Y Lit, (mac)ro(mic), TDDR, Coffin Bell Journal and Inkwell Journal among others. She can be found on Twitter at @LeScribbler.