“Dammit, Idelina!” Her father came into the Kensington house the morning after his meeting with her mother and slammed the door.
“Watch your mouth, brother-in-law and please don’t slam the door,” Trish said in passing to the kitchen.
Aria came to the top of the stairs, invisible and silent. She had asked Sasha to drop her off at Rudy’s house earlier.
“What happened with Idelina?” Rudy rushed out.
“She said no. She wants her to go back to Germany with her. I’ll have to go back to Germany and petition the court there.”
“Well, I guess you better get ready to go back to Germany then.” Trish sauntered coldly out of the room to the kitchen.
“But what happened?”
“We were getting along great all day. Then we went to dinner and back to Mt. Vernon. I guess we were getting comfortable with each other. It felt like the best of old times.” Miles shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“Whoa. Go ahead but keep it clean.” Rudy’s threw both of his hands up in front of his face.
“She said Aria seemed changed, sadder and then I had to hear about me leaving them for three years.” Miles folded his arm over his chest and shook his head some more.
“You what?” Rudy’s eyebrows were raised, eyes wide open.
“I left man. I had to get out of there, I needed to find myself before I could be of any use to them. I sent them money and called to let them know I was alive.”
“You mean you got a divorce?” It was said with a sarcastic laugh that seemed to get caught in his throat.
“No. I left one day. I needed to get out. It was better for all of us.” Miles’ voice became more quiet.
“What did you do? You left your child and your wife? Never mind. Is she firm with her decision?”
“With the crap she pulled today, now I remember how it was so easy to leave her. ”
“That is so callous man. Y’all can do some really messed up things to women.”
Aria tensed. It was easy for him to leave. She felt the lining around her heart peeling away.
“Like you are perfect. For once can you all have my back? Can I get some support from someone in my family?” her father huffed “Even Idelina’s mother knew the entire time where she was?”
“Looks like Elias screwed things up with H-C too. I am not sure what the story is but it’s rather delicate and deep. Elias took off the rest of this week from work and H-C called to see if I could meet to talk with her. She sounds horrible. She’s such a wonderful woman, like a sister to me, us,” said Rudy.
“I like her, too. She really has taken to Aria too. Damn, that means we lose her too?”
“I don’t know man, I don’t know.”
“Another thing Idelina dropped on me.” He rubbed the back of his neck and then crumpled his ear with his hand before letting go. “She said something about this old dude Herr Rausche in Germany doing something to Aria and that she was ashamed. That’s why she left us.”
Aria’s thickened shell could not withstand the surge of pain galvanized by the words. She had no protection from the truth for she’d been stripped of her filters once she landed on Earth. To her, the pain was becoming too inevitable and too predictable. The emptiness it produced was like trying to contain water in your hands. It leaves through the cracks, choosing to follow gravity, but leaves just enough of itself to distinguish between wet and moist, the difference between what could quench a fever and what a fever produces.
Feeling restless, she thought of the bird exhibit, the young fledglings and the guillet seabirds. She felt like she was being forced to fall.
Kiev would be okay, she convinced herself, he’d understand, she could not remain invisible or contained under these circumstances.
That afternoon she took her grandmothers photos, and the laptop and stuffed them into her backpack. Then she proceeded to Trish’s medicine cabinet and retrieved the Percocet. She left the camera and the picture of she and her mother. It was no use.
“Uncle Rudy, I was invited to go over to Sheryl’s house for the day. Can I go and can you take me?”
“What time do you want to go?”
“Midday,” there was a train from Grand Central that left at 12:45 for Westchester.
“Okay, I think I can do that. I’m glad you are making friends and spending time with them. Aria, I love you little Birdie.”
Rudy, however, came home early, giving her the choice of running an errand with him in downtown Brooklyn or going to Kiev’s studio for a while until he could pick her up after one. That would mean that she missed the train.
“Uncle Rudy, I’ll just call Sheryl and have her parents pick me up from the studio. I’ll text you, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll look for it little Bird. See you tomorrow.”
At the studio, Kiev sensed her restlessness.
“Kiev, I’m going downstairs to visit with Eloisa in the garden,” she said as she grabbed her backpack. Kiev stopped working and stood completely still, tensed, then began rocking. He rocked.
“It’s going to be okay Kiev. I need to do this. I’ll be okay. If you need me tell the hummingbirds. I love you Kiev. And Kiev, promise you won’t tell.”
Aria galloped down the steps with the same lump nested in her throat. “Nothing is going right with the plan,” she said to herself.
“Hey m’fille. How are you today?”
“Okay Eloisa,” Aria put on her best effort to look content. It gave her away.
“Well I’m surprised to hear that, Aria. You know you don’t have to be okay all the time. You can be not alright, but have faith that things will change.”
“Eloisa, I thought you said not to lean into the future. Isn’t having faith leaning into the future?”
“C’est vrai, but this is a different type of leaning. Faith is something that exists so when you lean too far into the future with fear or doubt you can rely on something and then let it go. Faith is the table or wall that you lean against when you can’t hold yourself up.”
Aria was unaffected. The pain had created a membrane between herself and the world. It compartmentalized her emotions.
“Eloisa, I have to go pick something up from the store down the street.”
“Okay doll, I’ll see you soon. I got to go visit a friend after this so I might not see you till tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Aria hugged Eloisa who looked deep into her face and seemed to sense trouble. “Aria doll, there is nothing wrong with you, it’s the rest of us that have issues. You keep walking in your own garden darling. I still need to tell you something between you and me, personal.”
She had an idea. She’d go to the café down the street to send her Uncle Rudy a text from her computer and then to Eloisa’s house and into her garden. Eloisa would understand too. She remembered where Eloisa kept the key.
Eloisa’s garden was different from the garden next to Kiev’s studio. The city garden next to the studio was quite secular in comparison. Aria came out of the back door and was greeted by bushes of lavender that led to a paved path. The path, lined with mint and thyme, stopped at a small pond with circulating water. To the right of the path was a small but old apple tree and to the left were weeping orange blossoms and upright roses. On each side of the small pond stood grape arbors supporting vines that resembled unkempt afros. Across the vines hung a rosary that had been engulfed by woody growth. Further, past the pond, the path diverged and led to the back corners of the yard. In each stood a statue. To the right, Mary Mother of God stood regal as a three-foot statue surrounded by a semicircle of peonies. A bowl of water and several dried flowers lay on a platform that extended before her. Separating the statues was a long row of crawling roses. In the other corner a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi stood under a large patio umbrella. Next to Francis and under the umbrella there were cat and dog beds. Much
of the flora formed lush caves of roses and orange blossoms. Trellises with clematis, honeysuckle, and kiwi dotted the garden. Aria discovered Eloisa was devotedly religious in a quiet and very personal way. She undid the choker around her neck and placed it round Mary’s neck, “Forgive me, Yemenja.”
Under a shrubby rose cave, Aria set up her resting place. As it got later and darker the pain and confusion began to overwhelm her. It was time. She pulled out the container of Percocet and popped three in her mouth followed by some water. Reconsidering the pain she popped three more pills. She placed the photo of her grandmothers next to her face and pulled her sweater around, stretched over her legs and curled into the shape of a comma, so that the garment would cover her better. Several cats began to survey after which they nestled into the warm pockets of her body.
As the night came in, her young soul drifted along a rift of city air into the pain that was her ocean. As she floated, a great blue whale appeared before her and said “Enter my body, remove your self from this mortal turmoil.” She entered the whale’s mouth fully trusting its omnificence. The cavernous chamber was chartreuse and gold. Lights twinkled as if there were stars above. She was beckoned to the whale’s heart. “Come choose, beloved child.” Four chambers lay before her.
In the first room she found fields of wildflowers and wheat that went on for as far as the eye could see. The warmth of sunshine kissed her shoulders and face, beckoning her to choose entry.
The second room opened onto a bluff. Below, a ship with three large billowy sails waited on a calm sea. Two people stood on the bridge calling to her to fly. Their song was like a siren beckoning to let go.
In the third room wild horses ran freely and with abandon. Too quick for pain to adhere, they neighed come ride upon our backs, join the wild ones.
In the fourth and final room she found her uncles, H-C, Eloisa, and her grandmothers standing, waiting to greet and embrace her. Without hesitation she ran into the chamber and into their embrace. Together they turned into shadows and slipped into the vascular network of the great blue.
This is not my first flight, nor the first time I’ve had to save myself. This is not a drowning, it is a thick fog through which I stretch my feet to feel bottom’s round weighty stones for anchor. Grounded, though admittedly some parts sway stunned from disappointment. Where do small birds go in the night to hide, to remain safe? Does the night allow them denial of their fears? Maybe, darkness is faith personified.