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 shoes against my shins over and over. The consistency with which I refused to admit my toes were numb helped me to 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 own tongue. Sonya closed her eyes before she began. The Russian was a song I couldn’t understand, but it fluctuated with every collapse of her throat; her tongue buzzed and slurred with hard k’s and slithering s’s, and it was in her eyes that his truth ultimately 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 them against her pants or against her reddening cheeks and she slowly dampened, too, unraveling there in the morning glow.

“Society doesn’t teach us to share our grief,” she had said earlier. “It’s fucking hard,” she repeated now. I wanted to add, “And it never gets easier,” but she probably knew that. She read and burned a letter she wrote to her father, in Russian. Your whole life is a long time to never know someone, let alone miss them. I’m only at nine years.

The act or state of mourning itself changes, it flexes, thaws even, yet some variation of it always returns. It doesn’t fold neatly with time. So when I was asked to write a letter, to share, all I felt was defiance. I only knew four of the people, and two of them, barely. 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 loss, I felt the compulsion to participate, to question why I even had rules for how and when I grieved.

So I interjected before Sonya moved on. I read an old poem I’d written, but my voice didn’t sound as musical and there were no snowflakes alighting my red cheeks. I immediately regretted it. It was the wrong poem, I thought, but then realized my mother and my grief were still a mystery to these people — just like the Russian Sonya spoke and cried through, just like the twitching only my body felt and knew. The snow continued and so would our lives, but then I remembered the icicles, all different in their lengths. How they hung, how they dampened, how they resounded all the same.

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