An elevator, a parking lot, an empty hotel hallway, the long drive in my rather banged-up Outback as I take my daughter to and from her school on my way to and from the university where I teach downtown; these are, oddly or perhaps not so oddly, the places I feel I most belong. I’ve been leaving, joining, leaving, starting again, trying again, for at least thirty-three years. I turned fifty about a month ago.
I move from one place to another.
I tell my students when we begin to discuss short stories that in a story you don’t have to tie everything together neatly. Sometimes, you end a beat before a moment imagined outside the confines of the pages. A word, a sound, a sentence might punch you in the gut, or a gauzy image might leave you wistful and yearning for what came before. The end of the story isn’t necessarily THE END.
I don’t tell my students that I that I still occupy the space they are in, one that is a state of becoming. “Does that mean everything is in a state of development for you?” One of them asked. It became a way to make us all laugh at times; where are you in the piece? Oh, a state of development. Another student brought up the idea of liminality. What is that? She wanted me to answer.
Well, I said. During liminal moments, life is malleable, fluid.
I’ve inhabited this spot continuously. Or maybe that’s not right; maybe the real answer is that it’s just all been an illusion, and there has been no moment before transformation. In spite of, or perhaps because of the way life seems to happen and unfold around me, either motherhood, or middle age, or some tired part of my soul — wants to halt it, end on the beat before. If I can live in that moment of hope, the raindrop suspended in silvery beauty before it drops on your head, the voice of the man you want to meet before you feel his breath on your neck, the baby biting my nipple, hard, as I soldier on through and nurse her like a badass, before I fail her, before I fail him — as I will inevitably do — that would be my sweet spot. Given the choice I might never, ever leave that place.
Last spring a giant plume of petrochemical smoke hung over my city for a few days. My six-year-old daughter remarked…