She woke up dumber in the new southern town than she had been in her northern home the last time she fell asleep. The intellectual disparity over those few sleepless days was astounding, many folks would later say:
“How could someone become so stupid in six short days?”
Six days filled with the lurking of one imaginary great white shark that followed her around the world. The hallucinatory sequence ended in clear tropical waters. Even though she had no son, she ran out from the safety of the white sand beach into the clear, luminous, water (a water whose color was so entrancing it had no name, merely a color code number: #22BED9 — on that code everyone could agree).
In she went after the son she didn’t have only to find herself at the bottom of an enormous darkening aquarium filled with rock outcroppings, and many great white sharks lying inert on the sand. All of them waiting for the monstrous shark that appeared from the left and swam between her and the shore — now inexplicably a half mile away …
She awoke when she heard a voice lamenting the late hour: “5:45 in the god-damned morning!” Then something about “bagels… and crowds.” But the voice belonged to her father—now dead five years, so this could not be.
She felt unalterably stupid — imbecilic — like the Stooge that couldn’t even make it past the first cattle call of tryouts for the “Curly Joe” spot that needed filling sometime in the late 1950’s.
“My goodness, I’m a fucking dolt!” She said to the popcorn on the ceiling.
She picked up her phone, went into the bathroom and composed this note on the Werdsmith app while sitting on the cold toilet:
“Happy so and so… madness so and so… I’ve drawn and quartered the last day of my old life. First, I set it in stocks and forced it to reflect on its insistence on the passage of time. I denounced it as a heretic and forced it to abjure from the heights of the glorious strappado. I singed it a bit on the pyre. I rolled it on the rack. I pilloried it, used the cudgel, prodded its eyes with a red hissing poker, beat it with the bastinado, used the Spanish boot, and finally pulled and impaled its tongue until nothing remained if it.
This will be my annus mirabilis (she had no idea what this meant anymore, but she wrote it automatically): the one by which I’ll measure the rest of my life. The pivot point. There is my life before today, and my life after — this should mean something to me.”
“People, die everyday…” There is gothic organ music swelling and ebbing in the ether. There is someone muttering “bummer” in the next room. The smell of acrid pot is wafting in on a warm eddy of air blowing under the hotel room door. There are ochres and yellows on the walls and an overall orange mood to the room. Next door someone is repeating: “people, die everyday, die everyday…” There is something important here, but I can’t decipher it — not yet — but I will.
It’s comfortably warm now and a woman is moving about, beyond my line of sight, by the bed, with pleasant food on a white tray. I sense it but I can’t see her. This is an inviting place, I feel comfortable here. But I don’t understand why it’s a “bummer” and why someone continues to repeat: “people, die everyday, die everyday…”
smeared with blood and flour.
Mother flower. Mother Florida,
the wet bone.”
— Kaveh Akbar / “Mothers I Once Was”