My last step in making stock is taking that big pot full of vegetables and meat and of course, the glorious broth itself, and pouring it through a strainer into a larger pot. I’m left with stock, and the spent vegetables and bones go to the garbage.
Yesterday I accepted that no amount of nesting is going to make me ready to parent this living, breathing being, but I was determined that at the very least I would get every last thing done in order to be ready to give birth. This determination had me walking to Duane Reade at 7:30 PM to buy bendy straws and giant maxi pads, and then popping over to my food co-op for lime froze fruit bars (which they didn’t have; which nobody seems to have; this neighborhood has officially gotten too fancy) and arnica pellets. Also, an onion, bay leaves, and chicken parts for the stock I planned to make and then freeze and then, of course, be ready. For giving birth. To a human being. It was on the walk home from this last round of errands that my eight hours of constant buzzing energy finally crested and washed away, leaving me yawning at every step.
Home, and thankfully, B. was all over dinner. I got the pot of stock going. We ate. Watched Broad City. And then he went to bed.
My brain, however, would not be still. It skipped over birth and landed on today, and how I would fit writing, swimming, seeing my mother, and heading to school for a student thing into a block of time that could reasonably hold two (maybe three) of these activities. As a visual for this brain activity which continued well into the middle of the night, I offer a child playing with a set of blocks for hours, obsessively ordering and re-ordering them. It must have been three in the morning, and I was sitting there peeing, going, “Well if I swim until 10:15, and am downtown by 12, then I can write at 1:30 and…”
This morning it began again, immediately, but I stretched and meditated and got some calm going. I went up to the kitchen, put a piece of bread in the toaster, put the strainer in the sink, and proceeded to pour 3/4 of my pot of stock straight down the drain.
There was a lot of screaming. I’m saying “motherfucker” more than I used to and this seems like an odd time to develop that habit.
I stood, kind of laughing, still muttering, “Fuck, motherfucker” while picking chicken off the bones.
Until, finally, came the sadness and the thing that I’ve been avoiding with all this whirlwinding about.
Today, three years ago, was the day my cousin died. My mother tells me that one way to say it is, “He died of suicide.” To try to find someway to show that he was a victim too, that it was a thing that took him, not simply an action he took. It was outside; he was found in the morning, and my uncle says the tree itself was beautiful as was the grass and the light and that he himself was beautiful. He always was. At some ages, startlingly so.
My cousin struggled for years. We all saw how the movements of a day did not work for him. Interacting with us required great effort; as if his skull were a prison from which his thoughts and feelings could not escape. It feels like we all failed him; that we were a clan in the most ancient sense and that we lost one of our own to the predators outside the hearth. Or that we were supposed to be his net, and we let him slip through.
In the days after he died, I felt like the air itself was pressing down onto my shoulders. All I wanted to do, my image of comfort in that week, was to be on my hands and knees under a table. I wanted the table to take the weight; I wanted to hide there. B. pointed out, “Like a child; that’s what children do.” I guess so, but I wanted to disagree, explain it again, say, No, it’s not a comfort-child thing, it’s that the air was heavy and if I was under a table then the table would help me carry it. For me, it was a literal, not a symbolic, need.
When I meet my mother today we’ll walk to the river and have a prayer and a remembrance there. Yes, that’s what that particular pocket of time was for; the thing I was shuffling around and penciling in. Really the only thing that matters. But I am writing now. And I think I’ll swim. And I’m crying as I type and I remember that there is no readiness; that these flurries of activity are what I do to distract myself from the wheeling of a universe that I cannot understand and whose forces can take me at any time; sweep me out of a day and bring me exposed and face to face with the giant infinite expanse of what it means to be alive.