In just April-almost-May, when the world is puddle-wonderful, and I am puddle-wonderful, too, full of uishy good feelings and murky little ice-pools of uncertainty, I step outside in the late afternoon and am stunned by the sunshine. There is no old, lame balloonman—none, save the sun—but there is a bit of wee. I am shocked by the blue, by how very very good a small spring breeze feels. The green bouncing in the trees. Wee. Wee. Maybe the goat-footed balloonman is whistling. If I stop. Listen.
So very tired, this time of day.
My newish life—it feels both new and very old, exhaustingly so, nine months in—consists of running out of paperclips and marking attendance and updating reading requirements on my webpage and remembering who needs assignments for his/her day in ISS and showing up at the faculty meeting and the board meeting and the grade-level meeting where we shall determine whether the eighth graders will want fancy punch for their end-of-the-year shindig or if Sprite will suffice. My newish life is bringing a Ray Bradbury story to school just because I like it, and explaining, explaining, explaining point of view and the structure of a sonnet and how to find the passage’s main idea, determine the author’s purpose so you can bubble it in on I test. I (attempt to) teach the very premise of our language: you need a subject and a verb in that sentence. Please begin with a capital letter. Please include end punctuation.
(I don’t even try commas.)
My new love’s eyes are nothing like the sun, and they aren’t brown, either, as I’d once thought. Green, he corrected me. He found me in a guitar closet, or that’s where I found him. The chronology isn’t important. Listen: we found each other. He is my paddleboat. I am his swan. Or vice-versa. There’s crazy love in these waters, inside this guitar closet. Nobody takes pictures, though, except me. Mind’s eye photography. I capture everything. I try.
We pretend to count shooting stars. Listen, I say. I tell him everything. He teases me. I’m talking too much.
I profess great skill on the badminton court. I’m lying.
The Ray Bradbury story won’t be on the EOG. I fear it’s a problem with copyright. Or a problem with weird. With inventive, thrilling fiction. These children are trapped on a planet where the sun only shines once every seven years. Their parents have given all their money away to bring them here and now, no one can afford to go home. They lock Margot in a closet—not a guitar closet—and forget all about her. Poor, sickly pale Margot from Ohio misses Venus’s rare glimpse of the sun.
(He knows I’m lying.)
Kids are cruel. They are. They can be. But, more than cruel: they’re vulnerable. And scared. And eager. And afraid to be eager. Afraid to show just how very eager they are to fling themselves down on the summer grass and, first spying a grasshopper, and second, army-crawling to it, watch the machination of its mastication.
(About the shooting stars and badminton.)
The apartment complex where I am living now is made up of dull-yellow buildings trimmed in horrible brown. The ugliest place in the world, maybe. But. There is the river behind it and even though taking the trash out at night is no glamorous, wonderful thing, it is if I can feel the night air and look up at the sky and let it settle me. There are frogs on the sidewalks. Tenants step out onto their decks to smoke cigarettes and talk on their phones. There is one woman, made immobile by her size, who sits by the sliding glass door as if to advertise her immobility, her diminished ability to enjoy this world. She sits in a recliner with her enormous, naked legs spread beneath her and the lights playing across the wall tell me the thing she’s facing and facing and facing is a television. Walking back up from the dumpster, I pass parked cars with people inside, eating things I can’t quite make out and talking on their phones.
It’s better to be lost. How else can I find you?
In a guitar closet.
Listen: I have something to tell you. It’s spring. It’s spring-wonderful and this world is full of oddly structured earthlings, including the old, lame balloonman. Wee. Such singing in the wild branches! Such wildness. Such spring. In just April-May. I’m full of puddles. On a road that’s winding. When our paths cross, let me remind you of this: I know your eyes. Not their color, precisely, maybe. But I know all the things there are to know about them. So much that I can’t put in this essay. So much I can’t say.
Susan Woodring is the author of the novel,Goliath (St. Martin’s Press, 2012) and a short story collection, Springtime on Mars (Press 53, 2008). Her short fiction has appeared inThe Cupboard, Passages North, turnrow, Literary Mama and Surreal South, among other anthologies and literary magazines. Her short fiction was shortlisted for Best American Non-Required Reading 2008 andBest American Short Stories 2010. Susan currently lives in the foothills of North Carolina where she writes and homeschools her two children.
Read All Columns by Susan Woodring
- What I’m Saving
- Let Me Take This Opportunity to Say
- First Love
- I’m Sorry, But I’m Not Sorry
- Stargazing and Other Miracles
- How to Dance Like a Writer
- Sympathy for Lead, Or: Oh, How I Hate the Alchemists