Some people respond to stress by exercising or escaping into a favorite book or movie. Me? I have two ways of dealing with stress. Sometimes I'll get out my girlie fiberglass recurve bow and shoot an end or two. An end can mean a set number of arrows (usually six) shot in a round to determine the winner in a scored event. For me it means everything in my quiver. So anyway, I'm sitting here feeling very stupid and at the same time stupidly proud of the fact that I have peeled about an inch of skin -off of the side of my left index finger because I neglected to wear my shooting glove this morning. Go me.
The other thing is considerably less voluntary. When the going gets tough, I get weird and end up having lunch with my father. Why is this weird? Dad died in 1995. I could go into an explanation about how its part of my heritage or how this is actually a function of wishful thinking or that it's some kind of cerebral dump. Does it matter? Not really. The fact is, when I am emotionally and/or physically stressed out, the next time I go to sleep I find myself sitting at a table having hot and sour soup and crab rangoon with Dad. It feels very real and I'm not just talking about the soup or the table or the Brubeck that's usually playing in the background.
You know how you feel when you talk to someone you love? Maybe you haven't seen them for a long time and then when you talk to them again there's no weirdness or ramping up. You're right back to where you were the last time you saw each other. And, oh hell, I already sound crazy so I'm going to jump in with both feet. If they're dear to you, it seems like there's something intangible that they leave on you and maybe you leave on them that stays with you and makes you feel you're loved by them. I always feel like I did when I was little and would watch Dad draw or paint. He had huge hands and sometimes he'd stop what he was doing put a thumbprint in charcoal or ink right in the middle of my palm. It was just something we did when I was five and now I feel like I have a thumbprint when I wake up from one of those dreams.
So. Last Friday was just weird. I had almost scared myself out of being a playwright and was considering seeing if I could reactivate my admission to law school "so I could actually do some good for goodness sake!" By five o'clock that evening, I'd mentally finished my JD and was preparing to enroll in the Agricultural Law Double L program at UALR so I could save farms from Monsanto. I went to sleep that night hoping for something deep, dark and seamless. Ah, no.
"What are you doing?" Dad was shaking his head and adding sliced green onions to his soup.
He offered me a bowl and I shook my head.
"You need tea more than soup anyway." He poured me a cup of from the teapot and then settled back in his chair and looked at me.
"I don't care how good your LSAT scores were or how thrilled anybody back home is going to be, you know you don't want to be a lawyer. So I'm asking again, what are you doing?"
"I don't even know how to answer that," I said. "I just don't. But I know I need to do something."
"Sister, you are doing something."
"I feel so stuck. I've completely stalled out. Dad, this is not how I pictured my life."
"Does anybody have the life they pictured? By the way, I've been talking to your husband..."
"Dad, I am not going to get married..."
"How are you...? I'm not married."
He shrugged and chuckled. "Same way I talk to you. Anyway, he thinks I'm Fidel Castro and I'm not going to correct him. Why are you looking like that?"
"Horrified. It's me in his dream, sometimes I get a little hammy and put on fatigues and a hat and a cigar, but that's all. It's not like your Tia Marcella has turned into a dybbuk and hovers around pinching his ass."
"Incidentally, she says 'hi'. Punkin, life is too short to be unhappy. Go back to where it's safe and familiar and you'll find a niche but you'll always feel sad and diminished and less than you could have been. That would break my heart."
"Sleep on it and let me know how you feel. You'll know how."
Then it seemed like everything was covered in the heavy velvet curtain I had been hoping for and the next day I woke up feeling the thumbprint.
copyright 2008 Jas Faulkner