When did I last feel this way? Saturated, as if I can’t absorb one iota more, almost goofy with it, punch-drunk. But I don’t pull myself away from the discussion, don’t want to miss the moment, drawn to these people, swimming in this rich, lively human broth together.
Downtown, early morning, I see my bus coming. Just before it gets to me a cement truck blocks the bus stop. All at once, my worst fear flashes, not getting to the retreat in time. But here I am, late at night, a good, good day behind us. Bone deep tired. But oh so glad.
I drive the U-Haul north. Tension slides away. All is bought, organized, created, packed for the writing retreat. I’ll drop everything off, return the van. The low desert hills beckon when I come to, soft, beige, slanted with late light. I want to rest in their curves.
I am five, white in a mostly white school. I take out my clunky, fat, foil-wrapped sandwich of hard brown German bread. Everyone else sits with their white bread tucked into tidy, thin plastic bags. I feel crude, ashamed. I don’t know I’m the daughter of an immigrant.
The anthology with my short story, “Between My Ribs,” was released on November 1st. It felt like an auspicious date, part of the Halloween, pagan new year, día de los muertos set of days when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. A magic time, a good day for the book to be born. As I write, I see another layer. In my short story, the veil is thin, too. I grin, loving this connection I am drawing now. But I don’t know why I didn’t announce it, didn’t tell you all about it right away. I think maybe it’s a little bit because I am not one for tooting my own horn, as they say. It makes me self-conscious. And maybe, too, because there is a part of me who feels silly to be promoting the release of my first short story. But I bought extra copies, and one of my favorite people in our writing group at the library bought one. I got to inscribe it for her, and it was such a delight. My first signing. And I am bringing copies to the writing retreat, even if it may be a little goofy, even though it is not my first book but my first story. I am bringing them because I love the idea of them sitting there. It makes me almost teary with a kind of tender gratitude. And now, finally, here I am telling you about it, my dear readers. I wanted to tell you right away, but I didn’t. I hope you’ll forgive me.
After I let go of my car, a weird thing happens. I finally give up bleach. I stop buying Ajax, switch to Bon Ami. It’s as if making the choice to live car-free leads to ending household chemicals. But it is not conscious effort. It is more subtle, maybe even cellular.
When I let go of my trusty, old red Jetta, I didn’t expect it to last. But it did. It stuck. Cars and trucks produce nearly 1/5th of all U.S. emissions. In southern California it’s akin to treason to suggest this. But if you want to change the world, give up your car.