When Cancer steals the first Wild Woman you ever knew, there will be a terrible breaking, the kind that starts at a single point and sweeps suddenly outward in a thousand directions, like the sharpest spider's web.
But then, way down from beneath the shattered map there will come this pressure, a kind of intense need, not clogged with grief like you thought it would be, but something like that feeling you get right before a grand adventure. Nerve wracking but at the same time, not unpleasant.
And you'll think, “Oh my, this could be interesting.”
Soon everyday things will become surreal and amusing.
There will be a day when winter and spring cop a feel as they pass each other in the hallway, and as you're walking to the mailbox, the pulsing fragrance of willow will mingle with the tang of melting snow. When this happens you will lose the understanding of what motivates people to do anything at all. Later at home you'll sit motionless for 30 minutes while the cat kneads at your forearm and generally makes herself comfortable. You will consider this time well spent.
You will discover you like Jazz. REALLY like Jazz. One day you'll wake up and Charles Mingus will just be there, gettin in your soul and making you crazy. You've never been to a jazz bar and you'll be afraid to go because part of you thinks that kind of atmosphere could actually cause you to dissolve. Because if there was ever a portal to another dimension, it would be found in a jazz bar. The doors just keep opening.
Your body will begin to process time at a different speed, and your mouth will form the word caramelize like it's some kind of incantation. Your tongue will become a pleasant demon, all languid sin and slow, slow simmer, so when you say the word caramelize, the world around you will fall into that patient rhythm and anyone within earshot will emit the tiniest quiver. They will understand the word for what it is – a delicate barrier to something magnificent, and they won't be able to help themselves.
And when the waitress asks if you'd like to hear the dessert specials, before she can finish speaking you'll say YES! Which is how you usually say it in your head only this time you'll say it out loud and for godssake could she skip the apple crumble and get to the chocolate and the cream. You want a warm mound – a facade hiding a molten core, something you can destroy, your spoon the battering ram that will fell the walls and be bathed in the spoils of war. That – on a plate. Yes coffee, yes yes.
In the fall you'll design bizarre immersive eating experiences to test on your best friend. First, you make sure she is hungry, because hunger heightens the senses and makes one both eager and open to suggestion. Then you stew plums in brandy with cinnamon. Next, tell her in great detail of the homemade vanilla ice cream you have waiting in the freezer, with dark, full-bodied beans from Madagascar. While the plums are cooling, lead her outside onto the deck, where the warm hug of summer has given way to the first fingers of frost. Stand there, looking into the darkness, listening to the coyotes. As you wait your noses reset, picking up the last desperate strands of potted thyme, the whisper of wood smoke, and everywhere the heavy, sweet burden of dying vegetation. You start to feel chilled. The coyotes are closer now. You can hear them just across the road. Perhaps they'll come down the driveway this time. Perhaps they'll get closer still. Just as you reach this dramatic cusp, when mental and physical faculties are holding hands in giddy desperation, lead her back inside, where the room has fully succumbed to the influence of syrup. It’s like walking into a cloud, the ghosts of fruit flesh and alcohol masticating in your nose and lungs. Immediately it is on your skin, perfuming your hair, clinging to your clothes. You are enveloped, made welcome. And then, when pleasure has been suitably deferred and worshipped, you say Yes, it is now time to eat.
All of these things will lead you to the conclusion that you are a certain kind of person. If you imagine that creative people are looking for ways to peek behind the big curtain before it's time for lights out, you have to imagine the avenues people tread to get closer to the veil.
There are are those of the ethereal clan, air and fire, who seek to empty out, to be light, clear, purified. They fast and meditate, jump out of airplanes, hike for hours and crave the sun.
Then there the earth and water types, who are drawn inexorably towards saturation. These ones enjoy a certain... capacity for pleasure. They possess the ability to just slow right down and absorb.
You will know absolutely that you are of the saturation variety. And you will come to understand that it is alright for you to adore the world in your funny little way, always inviting it for dinner and asking it to stay for just one more drink.
Knowledge like this is like a battle cry, or in your case, a battle sigh. No point in arming yourself – ecstasy can't be achieved without the possibility of being wounded. Sandpaper creates a smooth surface by going against the grain.
This will be the start of your own tiny crusade, and you will be glad to be fighting. And as you saunter into no man's land with icing sugar on your cheek, you'll tuck into your pocket a small reminder of your quest.
Start now. Then go real slow.