I'm thinking too many things today. Each thought piles on top of the other, possibly related, probably not. Each one stinking of anxiety.
It's time for a walk, time to clean some shit out. My friend L asked me if I had a meditation practice, and I said no, or maybe I said something half-assed, like, Kind of, maybe when I go running. But I'd forgotten that, in fact, I do. L said that it's best right after you've been exercising, when your body is tired and maybe you're still panting. This was something I didn't know, but was doing anyway.
Today is a good day for this. I walk straight up one of the steeper hills in town. There are stairs cut into the sidewalk in the last block. I'm panting, utterly out of breath, when I reach the top. At the top is the labyrinth. It's not a maze: there aren't multiple paths leading to dead ends. It's not a puzzle to solve. It's a single path, folding in and in on itself.
I begin to walk. Today is my mother's birthday. She died almost six years ago. I thought I was going to write about her, but she keeps slipping away. My boyfriend J's mentor and friend recently died. I asked J how he felt about it. I'll never get over it, he said. No, you won't, I answered, but it does get a little easier.
I haven't gotten over my mom's death, and that makes me think about Robert's death when I was sixteen. I saw Robert on the sly when I was twelve. I had a hot crush on him, and he introduced me to second base. I thought we were terribly perverted. The last time I saw him was my last day in Provo before leaving home. He took me for a ride on his motorcycle. The next day I called home from Las Vegas and my mom told me he was dead. He'd been riding his bike on the grass in the park, and the cops started after him. He hit a speed bump at 80+ miles an hour.
The path folds, and folds. My parents never knew about Robert and me. There's more to the story, there's always more, but now I'm thinking about Chrissie. I don't remember the last day I saw her. We were in first grade. The last day I saw her was like any other day. The day after the last day I saw her, I walked to her house to pick her up for school. Her mom said she was sick. Then she was in the hospital, and I wasn't allowed to see her. And then she was dead.
We were best friends. I was her and she was me. She was my adventurous, tomboy self. I'm not over her death, either. If I was a fictional character, I could draw a straight line from Chrissie to an inability to hold onto friends. I could paint it as fear of loss. But that isn't quite true. I have good friends who have been friends for years, but sometimes I go days without answering an email from one of these friends. Sometimes I feel like there's no one I can call when I'm feeling alone.
The path folds. The puzzle I'm solving is my own thoughts. I follow the path in toward the center and think about all the people I loved who have died. I think about my marriage, too, like a death. I think about writing about this, about fiction vs. memoir, about how much I should say, who I should protect.
I used to be suspicious of memoir, of self-revelation. Ralph Waldo Emerson said Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures, and I think that's true, and it would be even more true if this were fiction. But I've been reading some very good memoir lately, and if it's done well, it's about more than just the individual experience. It widens out into something bigger. A reader can see himself in memoir or fiction, and feel less alone. Or she can understand something new about the world, or about how to be a better friend or how to forgive. Or she can taste, for a second, the terror of divinity.
I'm at the center of the labyrinth, and look up to see city rooftops. A flag at half-mast, another fully aloft.
I begin to unfold as I follow the path outward, my limbs moving more loosely, my breath deeper and calmed. A white-bearded man waits to one side as I find my way out. I turn once to see him step into the labyrinth, his eyes following the path.