Before first light my thoughts strayed through the room’s darkness, its own firmament, dreaming awake, casting back in my memory for some strand that would distract me from the tension in my body. Each time my legs relaxed, a surge of adrenaline would course through me. I had become trapped for the first time in a long time in the terribly cycle of being too tired to rest.
Years ago I would worry so much about sleep and whether I could perform the next day– drive to the university where I taught, that I would become enraged. Then I would have to get up and drive through the darkened streets, windows rolled up, venting in my car.
It felt that when I tried to rest there was too much space around me, or I felt too vulnerable, that I had to remain vigilant in order to protect myself. I know where this comes from– a child lying at the back of an adobe house waiting for parents sleeping off a drunk to wake up and start fighting again.
I had also begun to think of someone I had just written about, again, of a time when he came to see me after my father died and we made love in my parents’ old bedroom, and I had begun to cry in the aftermath. Our yearning for each other had stunned me, so that I was overcome. That I would dwell on this now, when I knew it would be useless to keep trying to rest, if I were thinking of something that happened over thirty years ago; perhaps as some have said to me, I am trapped in the past.
The sun burns across the windshield as I drive over the frozen puddles between the turn-out pens, crossing onto the neighbor’s property where the easement runs. No one is up at this hour I think, as the first rays of dawn strike off the metal rails, cold horses lifting their heads from the somnolence that keeps them warm, wondering if I am the one who will feed them.
The easement we have been ordered to use by new neighbors who do not understand the Colorado way, that people help each other dig a ditch, or bring a heating pad over if someone is hurt, or have a cup of coffee and talk about their shares of water or someone’s cancer, or the high cost of hay in March, winds around a slab of concrete and then past the brick house where the grand dame of the boarding stable lives. I decide to splash into another puddle thinking she is not awake– to punctuate my passing, like a tom cat spraying a post.
As she often stops and stares at me when I drive through, watching me as if I am an intruder, I turn my face toward her house to stare at her, a little fun, to pretend that she is there. I am driving at 5 mph, one eye on the road.
Then, it looks as though something is caught in her front door, a curtain; I look at this phenomenon and suddenly see her in the doorway, storm door half open, her flowered nightgown, looking out at me, from the cloister of her house back against the skein of trees stark against the dawn.
Eeryone says she’s crazy; some people moved their horses, afraid she was going to poison them. A year ago she told me I was crazy when I rode my horse and broke my leg in a fall. We went at each other for months before it calmed down.
Accordingly I gratefully turn left onto the main dirt lane that heads south past other farms, to the main road. Tess sits next to me on the seat. Perhaps Doug has gone back to bed, having been a good sport about getting up with me at five, sitting with me while my pain meds took effect. Perhaps the neighbor will go back to bed and not muster up old hatred again today.
I drive along Elizabeth Street, morning and night merging on the floor of my mind; stars and sunlight mixed together. I pull in to the parking lot where the cars belonging to those I am getting to know are coated with frost, and where there is stillness.
I come in to the cave of my apartment, stepping out of the surrogate wife and mother to all living things I am when out on the place, into my house, where for a moment I don’t recognize myself. Who is that, suspended in time, hung up in exhaustion, besieged by memories of old love.