prologue

“What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.”
–harvest, Louise Gluck

For me beginning anything is agonizing because I know it leads to death. I understand the grandiosity and paranoia of this thought, yet I hold it every day in my hand. Wherever I go, there goes my death, my little shadow trailing me. I am obsessed with control: of others and self, and it manifests in the form of a twisted amulet that I hold in a fist. I never relax my palm unless I am sleeping or in the bath. Once I leave my bed in the morning, I pick up the straw. When I pour my coffee, I hold the plastic straw in my hand. When I take my iron pill, I put it on the counter and pick it up again after I have finished with the water. As I cook pancakes, I put it in my pocket and reach for it, just to touch it, while I watch them bubble in the pan. When I go to the bathroom, I tuck it in my bra and right after I wash, the straw is again safely in my palm. I rarely put it down. Even as I bend to tie my shoe, it’s there. I can feel my bones crack sometimes as I am kneeling and messing with the laces. I imagine grueling endings; what it would be like to suddenly collapse in half in arthritic shatter. I picture the last of my days spent in Ibuprofen and regret for all the sunsets I won’t be able to get to with such bad knees. Or, if it’s snowing, what my feet will feel like sliding across the ash patch on the sidewalk and underneath the metal barrier that keeps me from the river–until it doesn’t. I am fumbling with the divined cylinder object so I misstep; the rest of my accidental body follows my ankles, and I start sinking beneath big sheaths of wide white ice never to be found again alive. When others look across that lake on top of the bridge, they see one tiny human shaped sliver and an abyss of algid current. They don’t see me dissolving into a dream beneath. Will I drop the straw then? I think even in bones my reflex is fist.

I have an unhealthy preoccupation with myself. I mean no self-deprecation, I think it’s my biggest strength, but it’s true. Because of this, I am beset with my own coming funeral. It’s why I check my tires sometimes for no reason; just to make sure there are no loose bolts, or a tear I missed. It’s also why I wrap my Nana’s rosary around my fingers when I am doing long periods of sitting at night and I cannot manage to create another world with my mind. Rest is what I need. I put the lucky, chewed amulet down and breathe. Sometimes a window is open and a shadow passes right through me. Instinctively, I call on the saints and allow them to hold me in their golden nest until I am settled again. Breathe. Breath. Most everything I need is contained in breath. When I walk, they all line up behind me (breathe), and when I turn a dark corner at night, they are already ahead of me like dogs stalking the perimeter. They are howling their location. Wherever I go, there they are. I am free to move wherever I would like all along being carried by great wings of light. But it’s coming. The saints will be there when it comes, but it’s coming. Everything ends. It’s why I won’t get in the car with anyone who has had even a drop to drink. It is why I don’t walk across bridges at all.

Because I saw it once. I saw my end. I was in a curious mood. I was having what I like to call a “premonition binge.” I had opened something major inside of me and was using my own spine as a pendulum. Sitting up straight, I would tell myself, “I am a man,” and the energy shot downward to my base. If it had a temperature, it would be lukewarm. If it had a taste, it would be bland. I would then tell myself, “I am a woman” and the energy rose to the top of my back like flames swallowing the trunk of a tree: hot, engulfing, unstoppable. The “yes” branded itself across my heart. If that “yes” had a temperature, it would be cooled so as not to scald, but it would be hot. There was a gentle fever to it: a bath filled with lavender and infused yarrow oil. It would be lit with votives. It would be a long, warm soak on a Sunday. If that feeling had a taste, it would be God. I tested this with different phrases over and over to prove I was a living lie detector test. “I work at XXX,” and it shot up, and then the lie: “I work at XXX” and it shot down.

I did this over and over all day obsessively. My appetite for information remained insatiable. I was distracted by my gifts. My body became the receiving ground for quizzes all day, and as I met new people, I waited. Show me their motives, our connection, and so on, I would demand. You can surmise the messiness of this game without any further elucidation. I did this with people from the past. I challenged my body to a long gauntlet. Tell me everything body, never betray me, I begged, and it never did. My body knew me, and I knew my body. We were in union. We were YES! or NO! all day. But of course, there is more to truth than games. In a humbling moment I learned, I can just say YES! to anything and my spinal deity moved accordingly. I didn’t try this at first. I was much too eager to prove I had something very special inside of me. But I found with some tricks, it is the conviction of an idea that makes it take form. This is how manifestation works. You say something is true so it becomes true, but it doesn’t always make it rightly yours. My hands were soaked in blood and YES! I was ripping things from everyone, chanting YES! and MINE! all along the Parkway, all along the meandering walks, I was ripping lovers wide apart. It was a challenge to trust myself after that, but I found something else that was more reliable. Something tangible. Something loud.

I had visions. I had sudden trances of sight in dreams and in waking life. My body would feel like something walked right into it: it vibrated and I froze and then a flash of insight would overtake me: a phrase, a song, a sign, an animal. The thing would walk out. I remember walking in the pouring rain one anxious night, I just had to leave my house, you can imagine the stress a psychic writer succumbs to sometimes. I had been muttering something to God and suddenly without a making any sound or movement, a giant possum materialized on the sidewalk in front of me. We exchanged a look and I went on, staggering. It was the same cycle year after year. I would ask for guidance and God would send a possum to remind me to “play dead for a while.” Always around the same time. It would happen like that over and over until I gave up even reporting to anyone what was happening. Sometimes I wrote these things down in a note in my phone, or I just repeated something out loud over and over. If it was a dream, it was vivid and thumping, held gravity that was too strong to walk away from. I wrote it down the next day in my journal. As time went on, I could see that my dreams would happen either the next day or a few days later, sometimes exactly as they were shown. The more mundane were easier to understand: a problem of work; a client needing something, me needing to state better boundaries, relationship dynamics, and so on. I would have a dream about it and then a few days later, the problem had fully presented itself, faced me, and then worked itself out rapidly. I would have dreams of friends and then they would text me with good news or with a related question that I would answer. I would reread it and realize I was answering my own question to God. I would have dreams of people from the past and then something would show me their essence in the presence, or as I found later, the daydream of them that brought them right back into my life.

It was the more mysterious dreams that were harder to unfold; the ones that take your whole life. These are the visions that I started having and couldn’t stop. When the night dream and daydream began the same way and remained reoccuring, I played pendulum to cement some of the ideas. I paused with my spine and waited for the truth to rise instead of forcing it. It took time, but my body still spoke to me with accuracy. I learned to ask more deliberate questions. I wrote down what I heard. Then I meditated. I asked for more clear messages, and at the time, I was very enchanted with true love so they became very particularly worded: how do I attract men and let them go at the same time? That night, a dream of foxes. Show me my will, God. That night a dream of a man proposing to me under the full moon. Show me my soulmate. That night, a dream of a couple making out in front of me during a presentation and me playing a vampire in a movie. There was more that I have left out purposely.

I eventually moved further from my romantic inquisition, but the questions remained. I’m sure this sounds strange in bits and pieces, but I have tracked my whole life, and what I wasn’t prepared for was an ending of any kind. Obviously, the journal will stop. Will I know that last entry is the last? Where was the climax? When do you stop seeing the future and start seeing the end? Over time, these things makes sense. In pieces, no, but as time goes on, everything comes to a conclusion. I asked the one thing you are urged never to ask and my God is benevolent. My God delivers. My God has given me the saints for protection. I was delivered warnings not to proceed first, but I am a giant clumsy haste. I saw my ending.

That isn’t all of it. It’s never just contained in one unsettling phrase. It’s never made clear by one picture, one dream, one drawing, one song, one street sign, one animal crossing. I still grip my straw tight knowing that when the time is right, I will feel the water swim through my fingers without worry, without narrative, without delusion, without fear of letting go for the first and last time in my life. I will be frozen underwater, under white sheaths of ice through a tiny human shaped sliver forever mired in sudden dream. I will be blue when they find me. But there is mercy to this story. The closer I get to that, the closer I get to another question I asked too many times. Some nights, I do not cross bridges alone in an effort to answer that first.

God, who’s answered prayer am I?

“XXX”

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“ I once was a sleeping ocean that in a dream became jealous of a pond.”

–Adrienne Rich