Sarah’s New Journal [fiction]

Sarah started a new journal … a journal of perceptions. She likes the word annotations, but her writings are really just thoughts and observations. Some are superficial because her 9-to-5 job does not allow her time to dig deep. Others—from the “mind well”—are very deep … or so she hopes.

Poems and stories she has written are also in her journal. Many of her scattered Internet ramblings are included on those pages. She plans to have the journal grow and age and become a collection of her history. Then, when she is older, she can revisit her past and likely attempt to make whole the bits and pieces scattered throughout. Like any autobiography, she will reflect on why she chose to zig instead of choosing to zag … and vice versa.

She’ll have her good memories, of course, like: Fort Myers was sunny and green and blue and sweet to the eyes and nose. I wanted to sight-see but I was there on business. However, that weekend I was scheduled to go to Kissimmee and Disney World. I imagined the zillions of parents and little kids that would be there. I planned to wear headphones and listen to music and wear my most comfortable shoes. And I planned to wear clothing that would wash well from ice cream, soda and cotton candy spills.

She plans to add her adventurous anecdotes, too: My boss Alice clattered on about our bank’s mergers with European banks. Her transmittals were about an overseas job and my mind was composing a poem that had been stuck in my head for days. When she paused, she grinned like a shark at me before she offered me a job in London. My brain went numb dumb. If I went to England, my poetry would never be the same. I would have to learn big words, like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And I would have to drink hot tea from flowery bone china.

There will be the troubling times, as well, of course: Before I left home, everything had been a power struggle with my mother. I was eighteen and old enough to die in a war, but not old enough to make my own decisions. Once, she actually locked me in my bedroom. I hated living at home. It was time for me to empty the nest so I ran away and lived with relatives. She never came after me or ever called. The second umbilical cord between mother and child had been severed. We both secretly wept.

And the massive fires that swept through southern California, her childhood home: I took a leave of absence to fly to San Diego. My lips are chapped more than usual from all the heat and sun and wind from the past day. Chap Stick and Oil of Olay are big sellers out here. It’s the butt-crack of dawn right now and I am heading out with relatives to help friends pick up from the fires. Several houses are okay and the families, too. Many of the bigger fires are becoming contained. Cousin Brenda lost her house and her parakeets. Cousin Danny and his wife lost their tropical fish. I’m on the phone with many of our relatives as much as possible because these fires are still so tricky due to the winds and the dryness. There’s plenty of dry grassland that hasn’t burnt, so things could change again at any time. I am nervous by what I see and from the stories I hear from survivors.

And, last but not least, her poetry, like this one from California, which she will hammer and wrench at until it and all the others become as good as she can make them:

Drought and dry grasses and winds
We’ve always had wildfires in California
Tonight the moon is red because of all the smoke
Everything surrounding it is black char
Fire and ash-fog so thick we can’t breathe
It came to consume us, to eat us alive
We cannot escape—our roads are blocked
“Stay put and find shelter,” the fireman tells us as our very souls fill with more smoke
We wait to die and pray the fires will take us quickly
We don’t want to end up on the cover of LIFE atop a coffee table in someone’s living room
Where the California fires are a news story on a TV
Where the newest radiance of morning falls on a slept-in bed
Where leafy trees add shade to heat
Where an eastern city glistens with multiplex roofs of dew-soaked houses.

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