Saturday, August 11, 2007

Terra incognita.

August is here now. My bare feet make quieter crunches on the gravel in August, though I go shoeless to take out the garbage all year round. My mom has always hated that; feet should be in shoes. Someday I'll walk barefoot across broken glass and hot coals and I'll be glad for all the summer evenings I walked barefoot on the chip-seal avenue in front of my house, the times I braved the hot deck out back, and my endless adventures scuttling up the walnut tree to my customary branch to play the watchful jaguar above everyone's heads, without anyone's knowledge.

August has a different feel. Everything is fluid, like the rocks beneath you have shifted and left your velocity in a constant state of change and your position at any moment more uncertain than Heisenberg could even begin to guess. Before you're fully awake, it's almost bedtime, and you vaguely remember having planned to "do something with yourself" that day. There's a nebulous idea in your mind that now is your last chance to prove that you exist, that tomorrow will never be today, that School or Life or Something Really Big is coming on fast and that it won't slow down to avoid tipping you over in your little canoe adrift in the middle of your Pacific-sized ocean of aspirations. You're in trouble, you think. Maybe.

My sister and I used to catch pet grasshoppers in the tall, unmowed parts of our back lawn. Their tobacco juice stains would mix with the smears of garnet red that the soft gem raspberries had left on our hands. We would expertly catch and release our quarry after christening the larger specimens "Hopper" and their smaller companions "Hopper, Jr." Yesterday we had the world our way.

Today, though, things have changed – shifted again before I could grab hold of anything solid. A split second and the world has transubstantiated from something sheltering and womb-like to just an illusion of the same. The colors blur now. A head-on collision steals a 20-year-old college student from her parents' rearview mirror; it was a one-way trip to the funeral home, not the dorm. As I pet my cat, I know that she has eaten more today than some people. The people who should be by my side are for some reason somewhere else.

I want to climb into the green, cool foliage of my tree again and pretend that I am the neighborhood's Benevolent Jaguar Guardian. I want to taste an unwashed raspberry, to stumble across the hidden antidote that will assuage the pain of knowing. But the Secret August Worlds are merely an eyelid away from the world outside, and nothing will erase the truth. Yet the Secret Worlds of August live on. Grasshoppers are attainable if you are quick and willing to squat in the tall grass. Calloused feet will get you far if you remember to hide your winces from your mother. School won't start until later. Welcome to your August evening. Live it well.

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