From the Journal: Dampened

by Sara Aranda

Having slightly fallen off the personal blog band-wagon, I wanted to create more of an intimate space with the content I’ve scribbled over the years. From the Journal will be a series of excerpts from my journal writings. The following entry is a recent one, one I didn’t expect to write as things were happening. I see it as a very subtle ode…

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

My left glute started to twitch in the cold. I shifted my weight and tapped my toes against my shins, over and over. The consistency with which I refused to admit my toes were numb helped me stay present. To listen to Sonya. The snow made the trees settle and the icicles look like empty champagne flutes. My glute wouldn’t stop twitching. We were all twitching.

Sonya read poems her father wrote over twenty-five years ago. He wrote many poems about his time in the mountains and of course he wrote in his native tongue. Sonya closed her eyes before she began. The Russian was a song I couldn’t understand, but it fluctuated with every collapse of the throat; her tongue buzzed and slurred with hard k’s and slithering s’s, and it was in her mournful eyes that his truth resounded. This is something no one could know but her.

Grief is personal knowledge. We didn’t need to understand. We read the way the poems shaped her shoulders against the white slopes, or the way her head bowed after each one starting with the chin and ending with the eyelids. Snowflakes dusted her hair and dampened her hands. She’d wipe her hands against her pants or against her reddening cheeks and she slowly dampened herself, slowly unraveling there in the morning glow.

“Society doesn’t teach us to share our grief,” she had said earlier. She invited me because of what she knew I carried myself.

“It’s fucking hard,” she repeated; she read and burned a letter she wrote to her father. I wanted to add, “And it never gets easier,” but she probably already knew that. Twenty-five years is a long time to miss someone; I’m only at nine.

Time doesn’t mean anything when it comes to mourning, but the mourning does change. It flexes, thaws even, but some variation of winter always returns. I was asked to write a letter, to share, but all I felt was a wall. I only knew four of the people. I didn’t like being asked to grieve. I wanted to feel that I grieved on my own terms, and never did I to strangers. It’s just not my nature to hand over such things. But as the morning dampened towards noon, as Sonya’s eyes met mine with pause, as others shared their recent losses, I felt the compulsion to participate. To let go and be a part of whatever was being created on the side of this mountain.

I read a poem out loud, but immediately regretted it. It was the wrong one, I thought, but then realized that my mother and my grief was still a mystery to these people all the same. It was the act that mattered. And just like the Russian Sonya spoke and cried through, just like the twitching only my body felt and knew, did the snow come, did the icicles resound differently for every one of us.

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