Boyne City, Michigan, U.S.A. – March 2007
If I stand real still and silent, I can hear the ice break on the lake. It is a brutal snap that reverberates. I flinch. It sounds like breaking bones. The silent inertia of winter is fading. Soon it will be time to set off once again. My stepfather, littlest sister, and her children come down to the shore. Their voices and footsteps crunching on the thawing sand drown out the ice’s transformation.
I’ve been hibernating in the land of my birth. Once again in transition. The South Pacific is now a memory. The possible paths ahead have merged. The destination will be Poland. Apprehension has taken the form of nausea. What if I’ve made a terrible mistake? Will my husband decide that I’m not worth the risk of the unknown? There is no going back.
A few weeks ago, during the darkest and coldest time, I had a dream. I was staring up at a murky sky. A black bird – a crow or a raven – circled overhead. It suddenly flew down at me, directly into my liver. I felt a jolt of pure energy. And all around me were spirits. They jostled each other to get a closer look, as if I were some long-awaited newcomer. I told an acquaintance who knows about such things. Her reaction was grave. I knew what it meant, even before she told me. It’s a very clear death omen. I’ve been aware that my liver is fragile. But the liver is also the center of anger. Maybe it has something to do with that, we agreed.
We walk around the edge of the lake. The children throw rocks on the ice. Sometimes they bounce. Sometimes they break through, leaving deep holes behind. No matter what happens, the children laugh. I have hardly spoken with my sister over these past few months. J is a stranger to me now. I have spent more time with her children, who now live with my mother and stepfather. They want to be sure that they don’t end up like us.
J and I are alike in many ways – blonde hair, blue eyes, left-handed. As children, we always thought of others before ourselves. As a result, we were swooped down upon and pecked to shreds. We’ve both tried to take ourselves out of this existence. Because it’s either that or build an invisible, impenetrable barrier around yourself. We’re both still here and we’re both pissed off. We just drown it in different ways. Her way is literal. I’m afraid I will lose her. But in some ways, she’s already gone.
I seek the right words, but they all seem trite. Anyway, in order for someone to take your advice, they need to respect you. In the early days, after I first left home, my visits were precious. She would come running to me, arms outstretched. My little sunshine girl. Please don’t leave. Please come home. And yet I walked away. The cheerful shine of love in her eyes has become glacial contempt. Needle thin icicles piercing my heart. I walk alongside her in silence. If only I would have stayed. Please come back to us, Bug.
The next morning, we wander again to the lake’s edge. The ice is now paper-thin. It tinkles as it floats on the tiny waves. The air is infused with a soft glow, as if ice vapor has decided to linger on its journey skyward. We leave the lakeshore and enter the woods. We weave amid the naked tree trunks, taking care not to step in freezing puddles. My niece starts chanting the silly diarrhea song that we taught her. J laughs. Her infectious, staccato giggle hovers above us like a promise.