There are fireworks a few blocks down at the boardwalk. I can see them from the kitchen table. I’ve never watched fireworks from a kitchen table before, especially not fireworks that are being shot from the beach.
I was reading Roxane Gay’s book Hunger earlier tonight, I’m nearly finished. I hadn’t cried reading the first half of the book about her body, but something snapped in me today and I've been crying since I read the sentence "I know that I am breaking the unspoken rules of what a woman should look like." I’m still crying, even though I had put down the book fifteen minutes ago and had come upstairs because I heard the fireworks and wanted to see the show.
Today I was at the home of two very successful business people. At one point, the woman told me, as sort of an aside, that she doesn’t think she is beautiful, but her husband tells her she is every morning and that keeps her going. As a further aside she told me she thinks she is fat, and when I pointed out that she was thin, she said, “Yes. I’m a fat person in a thin body.”
Something happened in my heart and I started making excuses about why I couldn’t stay for dinner. I packed up my things and was on the road ten minutes later. I could eat my food in private, let my food just be food, let my body just be my body.
I passed bodies picking strawberries in the late afternoon heat. The workers were wearing brightly colored long sleeve shirts and hats. Everybody in the long green field was busy working and so I saw no faces, only the humps of backs. This is July 4th, a national holiday, but I guess strawberries need to be picked regardless if most of the nation is headed for a barbeque. A little farther I saw a stand where I could buy ten avocados for a dollar. The night before I had paid $2.49 for one at Whole Foods. I was so busy thinking about avocados that cost a dime I didn’t even notice the price for strawberries.
Everything has a price. Fertilizer. Colored shirts. Freedom.
I have a stye in my eye and it hurts. I can’t afford to go to the doctor, and so I sit with the pain and hope the pain ends and that everything will be okay.
Roxane Gay writes about being fat and about having to work up the courage to leave her apartment because people feel they have a right to comment on a woman’s, particularly a fat woman’s, body.
What does freedom feel like? Is it true that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose? When I list my personal values, freedom tops the list, followed closely by honesty. How do I know when I feel free? How do I know when I am free?
In three days, it will be one year since I self-published my memoir about being adopted. I said things in that book I had never said to anyone. I set out to show what it is like in an adoptee’s brain, and it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done, and yet I survived, and people wrote to me after to tell me I had said things that felt but didn’t know how to put into words. So that is one kind of freedom. To say what you and others believed to be unsayable.
When I meditate, I am silent when I lie on the floor and sometimes I go into a state of bliss. The edges of myself disappear and I am, finally, briefly, one with everything. (I just can’t sit when I meditate. I hate it. But I love lying down.) So silence is one form of freedom.
Silence can also be the opposite of freedom. The colored humps of backs picking strawberries looked silent to me. The woman inside the thin woman who thought she was a fat woman was another kind of silent. She was not saying what she knew to be true which was I am so beautiful.
Roxane Gay broke years of silence to finally write about being gang raped at 13, and about eating afterwards, forever afterwards, as a way to protect herself from further hurt. There is that kind of silence.
The fireworks are still going off and so are the car alarms and the cheers and the barking dogs. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between violence and celebration.
I don’t like where we are as a country. It’s embarrassing and I worry about everybody. Those people who were picking the strawberries, what are they doing now? One time when I worked at a pain clinic a young woman came in because her spine was curved from picking raspberries. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak much Spanish, but I was able to ask her if she could pick from the right side as well as the left, and she said, “No.”
What could I do to ease her pain? Her spine wanted to be straight, but her job was asking her to bend always to the left.
The fireworks will probably go on for hours, sporadically. I think they are beautiful and surprising. I keep looking out the window, waiting for more.