Something about the moon (Goddess Grove, Ch. 14)
Zoraida’s clogs plodded into my room at just the right moment, knocking unnecessarily after she had already entered. “This chain should work. I found it in your Grandma’s things.”
It was for the lapiz lazuli, to haul it around on my neck all night. To make the date even more awkward.
Oh this? Funny story. It fell out of my purse in the shop, and oh by the way, I come from a family of witches.
Zoraida’s crooked fingers laced the chain through a small wire loop as if her hands did this sort of work every day. “It brings out the blue in your eyes.”
“I got that from my dad, you know. The blue eyes. My mom’s are green.”
Grandma strolled in by accident, as if the mention of her flesh and blood pulled her own flesh into the room. She asked why wasn’t I invited like we had something to hide. Like the lapiz lazuli was some secret. Dementia patient or smart ass, she could play either role well.
“Try this too,” Zoraida offered. Somehow a small sprig of my rosemary plant appeared in her hand. “It’s is an aphrodisiac. It will have to do since you didn’t have any agave to make pulque.”
I had no interest in it, but part of me had resigned, given in to Zoraida’s world. You get used to being ordered around, standing there flaccid as someone rubs herbs all over you.
“Beautiful,” Grandma gasped. Her hugs were the warmth that I never got from my mom and never remembered from my dad. So I let her coddle and cuddle me, the way I let Zoraida rub me with rosemary.
“Oh shite, he’ll be here any minute.” I had a way of freezing under pressure, staring into my beige carpet while precious moments flew by.
“Keys, purse, phone,” Zoraida barked. “Aviva and Ben will be staying until I get back.”
“Who’s Aviva?” Grandma demanded.
I let Zoraida explain while I stumbled to answer the door. These last-minute tucks of hair and fabric were the worst way to navigate down the stairs. On the other side of the door was the unknown, the new relationship that could go anywhere. My hand rested on the handle, just inches from his. Only a metal orb and cheap wood separated us.
I knew I wanted him. I knew he wanted me. But this– this potential to hurt each other and send children commuting between houses– this made me almost leave him right there, ringing the blasted doorbell.
“Will you ANSWER the DOOR?” Zoraida’s voice wasn’t something you ignore. Not twice.
The wind rushed in, just like everything rushed into my life. Before I even had a chance to allow it.
“Sorry, I guess I’m a little flustered.” I actually had to lean against the door frame to catch my balance, almost literally being swept off my feet. It was something new with Aaron, the sense that I never knew if I was being swept off my feet or knocked down on my ass.
“You look stunning.” He leaned in to kiss my cheek, sliding his arm around my waist.
“Shall we go?” I was eager to get wherever we were going. I was biting the inside of my cheeks, tearing up the flesh. I could bite down on something solid while everything else swept in without permission.
“Good night ladies!” he said loud enough for Zoraida and Grandma to hear. Somehow the nerves that were eating me up had missed him.
The car bumped and hopped down the jutting bricks of Dobron Avenue, just like those old buggies. For an old-fashioned courtship, it was becoming too literal for my bladder. We drove east, toward Dobron House. Bounce. Bounce. Bump. Ache. Chill.
“Are you okay? You’re shaking!” Aaron pulled over, not realizing it made it worse to linger near the 400 block. He stared at me; I stared at the house. Someone had repainted the shutters and knew it would bug me.
“Please keep driving,” I whispered, motioning my arm forward as if the movement would make the car move faster. Once we passed the house’s block, the pain began to fade. “Did you know it’s an alveolar flap? The t’s in shutter. It sounds the same as shudder.”
“What was that?” Aaron kept glancing over at me. “Do you need a paper bag, or a restroom or something?”
“I’m fine. It’s just that house,” I said, looking back at it in the side mirror. Moonlight reflected off of its eastern side, taunting me. “That house back there… I just… it makes me feel horrible every time I go by it.”
“Oh Dobron House, shit! You did tell me about that and I totally forgot. I’m so sorry Muira.” He was pained to have forgotten. Physically pained. How could I possibly be angry with him?
“Don’t worry about it. I’m not even sure what it is. I don’t believe in…” My arms flew around like a maimed bird, helping me search for the right word. “I don’t know, ghosts? Spirits? Whatever you call it. But for some reason I react badly to that one house.” I hugged my arms into myself for comfort, the way I did when I was little.
I saw into our future, like a carnival joke with a crystal ball. I saw our relationship escalate, saw him recoiling at my extra baggage. You can date me, but I come with witches and haunted houses. Oh, and there’s the kids, the dementia, my drinking… Oh, Aaron.
The little hybrid began slowing down near Central Square, a mix of grilled meat and warm spring air assaulting us through the cracked windows. Nothing turns on a vegetarian like cooking dead animal. Aaron parked at the flower shop, naturally. If I was going to smell dead animal, I might as well be working too.
“I hope the owner doesn’t tow me tonight.”
It was as I stared at my shop’s back door that my stomach growled loudly. I was always making these noises, as human bodies do, but I wasn’t supposed to let my date know I made them.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be eating soon.” Smirking like a goofy teenager, he got out and came around to open my door.
I knew that whenever Aaron left the room, or even pulled away from a small kiss, I felt a pain from his absence. I wanted to say it to him, right that moment, right as he pulled me up onto the curb from his too-small hybrid. I could have slipped it in when I straightened my dress or checked my hair. Instead, I took the arm he offered, and off we went through the park.
I can’t take another step until I tell you how much I ache for you. That is what I actually felt, what the squeeze of my hand meant. Not that I didn’t enjoy the café’s flickering candles, or the small tables set up around a stage, or the trendy college students already taking food orders. It was him. I saw only him in that moment.
“What is this? How did I not know this was going on? I work, literally, across the street.”
Aaron leaned into me, whispering something in my ear about how he had asked Zoraida to distract me for the afternoon so I wouldn’t notice the setup. I’m actually not sure at all what he said, only that he was kissing my neck as he spoke.
“Shall we find a table?” He again kissed my neck after he pulled a chair out for me, then asked a waiter for a bottle of pinot grigio.
“My favorite,” I sighed. “Did you remember? From our first date?”
“It’s not often I get you to myself.” A hopeful hand found its way onto my knee.
“I think I hear music again.”
“Yeah, and this time it’s not your phone.”
The sky, the land, even the water in my glass, all seemed to sparkle a peculiar lapiz lazuli tone. I had always imagined love as a deep red or a soft pink, the commercialized colors of Valentine’s Day no doubt. They never tell you that it’s actually shades of blue that swim around you and make everything fuzzy.
“They’re doing Shakespeare in the park. It’s some theater group from the college. I’m surprised Zoraida didn’t mention it. She was the one who gave me the flier.”
Zoriada. Something told me this wouldn’t be the last time she’d intervene in my life. It was a strange concoction of gratitude and irritation that began to rise in my gullet.
A warm breeze blew over our table, reminding us that May was only hours away. I watched as the napkins and April flew right out of my life. Aaron played a game of catch-the-napkins while I found myself lost in the moon. Almost full, I thought as a few wraithlike clouds slid across it. For that brief moment, it felt as if time slowed. The napkins paused. April paused. Soon they didn’t even exist. It was the same lunar gaze I had practiced since I was a babe.
But our Philly condo faced north. My bedroom had a single window that faced the building next to us.
“Nice moon tonight, huh?” Aaron interjected, disrupting my reverie.
“Yeah, yeah it is. Sorry. So which play are they performing?” The waiter drifted back with our wine, two glasses, and a basket of warm focaccia that I couldn’t resist. Bread. Wine. It was all how Rome fell. With a thud. An alcoholic, carbohydrated thud.
“The Tempest. Do you know it?” Aaron corked the wine much more gracefully than I would have.
“Oh yeah, yeah.” I couldn’t help looking back at the moon. Did it have the power to plant new memories? One of Zoraida’s witch tricks?
“I think they’re doing it Julie Taymor style. Prospero is a female, I guess.” Some flier from his pocket appeared. “It says they’re–”
Now Aaron was looking at the moon too. But irritated.
“What is it?”
“What?” I blinked at him, as if something was in my eye. As if I wasn’t just ignoring him. He brought me to Shakespeare, my favorite nonetheless, and I couldn’t even talk to him properly.
“The bread is great.” With my mouth full, I could escape. I wouldn’t have to justify why I was having memories that couldn’t possibly exist.
“By the way, I was going to mention that I love your necklace. The stone is captivating.” His frown disagreed.
“What? What’s that face?”
“It’s just that your stone… It’s like I’ve seen it somewhere before.”
“Ha! You mean every funeral in town?” Dip more focaccia into olive oil, yes. That’s how you have a conversation. You talk, then eat while they talk. You don’t stare at the moon.
“Actually, yeah, it kind of reminds me of a friend’s funeral a couple years ago. All the flowers had that same dark cobalt color. He died really young.” He looked up at me, puzzled and hurt, as if I had caused the death. As if my necklace had reached out and murdered his friend.
“I’ve noticed people ordering the same flowers every time there’s a funeral. I still don’t understand why. Odd, huh?” I paused, watching him as he eyed the stone more. His eyebrows were thick, and I realized it was a bad time to dwell on it. “Actually this stone just fell out of my purse one day at the store. Aviva and I think it’s a lapiz lazuli, but I have no idea where it came from.”
“Hmm,” Aaron shrugged, taking a drink. He shrugged a lot, I realized. “How do you like the wine?”
“It’s good. Not too sweet like some can get. I must sound ignorant to you. I don’t really know much about wine. I just know what I like.”
“Not at all,” he responded, allowing his hand to wander back to my knee. What was it about the knees that men liked so much? They were just joints, just the place where the your leg bends. “I was actually only thinking about how beautiful you look tonight.”
My growling stomach ruined the moment. Had I not known my own body, I might have thought the local coyotes had found their way into Central Square. “Sorry. I think I should look at the menu and order soon.”
The waiter took his time returning for our orders, obviously not in any hurry as he fumbled with his pen. The Mediterranean Sampler Plate, please. You want everything? The salad, veggie sticks, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, couscous, and pita? Yes, give me that plate that could feed an army while I’m on a date. Aaron laughed at me before ordering the chicken marsala and bruschetta for an appetizer.
“I hope you’ll split the bruschetta with me, you know, since you ordered such a small amount of food,” he smiled despite the playful punch on his arm. “I’m just kidding. You can have whatever food you want. Besides,” he whispered, “I love your sexy curves.”
The space between us seemed to diminish, particularly between our mouths. I wondered why lips mattered, why they even existed. Sure, maybe they helped us eat and form certain linguistic sounds. But were they really just made for kissing?
I was ready to throw my arms around him when my stomach rumbled again, abruptly ending another beautiful moment. I guffawed, in a very Zoraida sort of cackle actually, and Aaron gave me a look. He was full of looks that night.
So we ate, drank, then drank some more. The villainy of Prospera’s character seemed to darken the evening even further. But she was more sympathetic than I remembered; I found myself in tears as she recounted the wrongs done to her and her daughter. I understood her pain, the motivation for her conjuring.
I absolved her. I exonerated her as we staggered back to the car in that same soft breeze. I would have done the same.
“Are you sure you can dive? Dive! Can you dive? I can’t let you drink and dive!”
Aaron had no problem ignoring my inebriated state while he made a phone call. He leaned into the phone, as if I was eavesdropping, leaving me once more captivated by the full moon. I stared at it while he opened the car door for me, while he drove further east, while he hummed to his weird music. It wasn’t until it disappeared behind a cloud that I began to take notice of where we were going. I could see we were headed to a different suburb that I didn’t know well.
“Is this Westminster? Winchester? Those damn British words. They slip in extra syllables when you’re not looking.”
“Westminstershirehampfordshire. You know.”
We eventually pulled up to a place called Waterfalls and I still had no idea what we’d be doing. I knew I needed hydration, something to replace all the liquid the alcohol was robbing away.
“I hope you like it,” he said as he slid out of the car.
With several small buildings, almost like cabins, the place could have been a campground. It was a model village. A mock village. After getting a key from the front desk, we walked to a cabin with an elegant 13 displayed on the door.
“Thirteen! Zoraida said, oh I don’t even. Uh. Something about the moon.” I got that way with alcohol. I cried into my pillow or I talked nonstop.
We walked in to find a bizarre smell. Chlorine maybe. It wasn’t pleasant. Aaron turned on a light, revealing a bed with rose petals covering it. There was a massage chair and a hot tub, and I laughed at the sight of it.
“I know. Kind of cheesy.”
My lapiz lazuli heels clicked past the entry way and hot tub to see what was around the corner. I never took off my shoes if I didn’t feel comfortable in a place yet. It was too intimate, like kissing a stranger. Though in college, apparently, I had no problem doing either. It was only with age and parenthood that I began leaving my shoes on.
I rounded the corner like a race car, speeding past the small bathroom with a shower. How many people needed a good shower after staying in a place like this? They must go through a ton of bleach. I moved faster, trying not to picture it, the germs and secrets hidden in those ceramic tiles.
The bathroom gave way to the pool room, an actual pool room inside a cabin. Who designs these things? Indoor plants lined the walls and wine chilled in a small icebox beside a table of roses and chocolates.
“Oh this is too much. Hold on.” I grabbed his arm, just for emphasis. “Is that a skylight? A window on the ceiling? Who puts windows on the ceiling?” The pinot was still swimming around in my blood.
I found myself staring at the stars, moonlight flooding in. Either the alcohol or the moonlight had me swaying, enough so that Aaron was catching me as much as embracing me.
His arms wrapped around me, he kissed me longer this time. He probably did it to make me shut up.
“I love your hair,” he whispered. “I’ve wanted to run my hands through it since the first time I saw you. I’ve imagined kissing you like this so many times.”
I swore we had done this before. But the pool had been a river, the river. The river that would lead us to the wood circle.
With my face pointed upward toward the moonlight and Aaron’s kisses finally silencing my drunken mumbling, I pointed my arms upward in a V shape. My hands knew instinctively to reach for that moonlight. Polaris. Kisses. Venus. Kisses. Moon. Kisses. I saw Prospera with her staff, the lapiz lazuli resting on my chest, and I succumbed. To Zoraida’s witchcraft, or whatever it was. It was magic. And I liked it.
- to be continued…