I Would Have Named it Mary Shelley

I had that dream I have some nights when I’m lucky, where I can run improbably fast and jump impossibly high. I almost always land badly, but it doesn’t hurt, and sometimes I get swept to the side by a brisk wind, and I twist my ankle, but it still doesn’t hurt, and it’s always at dusk at my old neighborhood, and even though I know it’s a dream I’m fine with it because it’s the closest I can get to feeling normal and strong.  (This is following a dream I had about a girl who looked kind of like a plain, young, messy Martha Jones, who said to a boy, “I haven’t gotten close to anyone in five years” and the boy said, “You have.  You’ve been close to me in my mind since I saw you” and I remember thinking, wow, that’s surprisingly mushy and blarglefishy for a person who I invented in my mind to say.  That’s most of what I remember from that dream, besides trying to pick Tupperware out in the driveway of the house I used to live in, and following that strange couple around, consciousness shifting from character to character.)

So I got up late today.  I’m lucky I got up at all.  I wanted to stay in a world where I could do a running jump twenty feet in the air, and breathe easily.

And I did my physical therapy.  And then I started out on my walk.

I found another hatched robin’s egg, and decided to keep it, plucking it out of the grass.  When I reached the lake that probably definitely has a sea monster in it, I saw something that looked like a lilypad skirting right under the surface of the lake, a small thing no bigger around than a clementine orange cut in half.  It was a baby turtle, and it stopped not five inches away from the shore.

In blatant disregard of the code that the sea monster and I have (I’ll leave him alone if he leaves me alone) I sat down as close to the lake as I could, gingerly set my robin’s egg down, and slurped my coffee, watching that little disk of a baby turtle, unmoving against the green mesh pad at the edge of the lake.

Only halfway through the walk and the muscles in my legs were twitching, feeling like chewing gum popping under my skin, like falling hailstones.

I’m not strong.  I considered keeping the turtle. I have a soft spot for small animals that can’t eat me; I can’t pass a worm on the sidewalk after the rain and not rescue it from drying out.  I knew I’d never get an opportunity like this again.  So I picked it out of the water, risking sea monstery wrath, just to get a closer look at it.  The brightest green lines against a dark green face and shell, little red eyes, two littler pinpricks close together — its nostrils.  I looked at it.  It looked at me.  It started to swim its legs around, waggling its tail.  When I put it back again, it jetted around on that mesh mat, hiding under a layer of brown oak leaves.

Probably it’s going to tell all its baby turtle buddies about its close encounter with a massive predator that lifted it high into the air, examined it, and sent it gently down again.  That baby turtle is probably a hero among baby turtles, now.  I let it think that it was hidden, got up, cupped my robin’s egg in my palm, hoping not to drop it… it was already crumbling around the edges.

Dark clouds were in the sky, black smoke rising up from the park by the twisty road, thunder at my back.  I thought that it would be nice to get home without being rained on, but it would be okay if the rain came, too.

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When You’re Afraid of Everything, You’re Afraid of Nothing

It would actually be easier for me to list the things I’m not afraid of:
* people
* babies
* most bugs
* skeletons– not reanimated flesh-eating skeletons, just regular skeletons

I’m afraid of living animals, dead animals, zombies, butterflies, dying, being crowded around by people, and most recently, the monster I’ve convinced myself lives in the second to the last lake that I pass during my walks.

Dead birds make me especially phobic.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s the delicacy of their tiny bodies, or maybe it’s the way they die on their back with the swell of their chest pushed up to the sky, looking like people.

And as I walked around tonight, sure that I was going to be murdered (I decided that there are likely five murderers living in my neighborhood, though, realistically, it’s more like two), I realized that there’s no real reason I’m more likely to be murdered at night.  I could really be murdered anytime.  So, why worry?

Being afraid of everything has made me fearless, probably.

7,401 Steps

 I used to be a compulsive counter. In a way, having a pedometer is comforting.  I like being able to quantify the world around me; it makes me feel safe, it orders the world into numbers.  And having a machine do my counting for me loosens that knot of anxiety in my chest, makes it so that my mind is freed up for other thoughts besides where I’m going, how long it’ll take me to get there, and (yes) how many steps it’s going to take me to get there.

In another way, it’s like prodding a hibernating bear so that you can wake it up and feed it tranquilizer-laced meat. Walking with a pedometer frees my thoughts, but reawakens another compulsion of mine: writing.  Repeating phrases to the rhythm of my steps, thinking through sentences until they’re refined into the perfect versions of the sentences they’re meant to be, and then repeating again, again, again, clips of phrases, sentences, feeling the rhythm through the little twitching muscles in my legs that feel like popcorn kernels exploding under my skin.

And my mind is freed to notice things. Five or more feathers in a cluster means probably there’s a dead bird somewhere near here, better walk faster.  Butterfly, please fly further away from me.  There is a cat.  It probably wants to eat me. Do you know who gets murdered a lot? Joggers.  You know who doesn’t get murdered a lot?  People who don’t go outside.

I don’t like to walk alone.  Not because I’m afraid of being murdered, although probably I will be.  But it’s nice to have company.