Cloud-gazing is a time-honored portal of childhood and I have accessed this portal throughout my entire adult life — each time I need entry to another place or even moment in time. Sometimes I look beyond the obvious elephants and ships on the ocean to what message the image might carry for me in this exact moment of our meeting. What is it this bunch of balloons needs me to see, remember or to do as our paths cross only once moving away from each other faster than we are toward. If the balloons drift past too quickly for me to comprehend or to divine their meaning, I know a dragon or a butterfly will shortly be along to tell me again, as often as need be for me to remember. Until the next time I seek solace in the itchy grass beneath my neck and embracing my legs, each blades’ edges reminding me to be here now, to look around while being grounded. What message is here for me this time? And for what purpose will I return again and again — my lifetime membership to this playground of possibility renewed automatically with each use of the portal.
He wasn’t much for dreaming or for cloud-gazing that man to whom I said, “I do.” He wasn’t much for anything or anyone not expressly connected to his own advancement or to his cloudless story of his own creation. He was easily provoked and always disgruntled. The tea leaves’ reading he pursued was dark and alone. Invitations to join him in agreement, pity and emotional poverty I readily declined. My sky still filled with clouds and my ground still covered with grass. His sky was always dark and stormy and his ground was no place I wanted to willingly lie down and get wrapped up. But I felt trapped, held by the gravitational pull of covenants and commandments, the seal of others’ disapproval and disappointment, the obligation of procreation and parenthood.
He disowned his own grandparents.
Made it legal, got a notary public to sign and seal the letter of declaration in his own handwriting. He told me to sign my name, as if this were mine together with him, this burden of story and dark clouds and wanting that which he thought should be his, entitled by way of internal suffering. To exist in his orbit was to co-exist with a reckless child, out of control, lacking any sense of personal responsibility or decency toward others. Only ever MINE I DESERVE THIS YOU OWE ME I DID THIS ON MY OWN I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING and so on. Exhausting. Always.
I refused to sign his letter. An isolated act of independence. One that did not go unnoticed or without punishment, retribution, retaliation. Always his clouds conjured payback because his storm was always keeping a scorecard. His ground is strewn with hard objects against my bare feet; I always step with caution on that ground. I’ve been injured so many times when I skipped lightly, mistaking rocks and gravel for fresh grass.
His mother didn’t know to tread any way but with love. I can imagine the depth of her pain when the phone call came from her own mother — and not from her own son — about the notarized letter she had just received in the mail.
I had two notifications of the receipt of that letter I did not sign:
1. A package in the mail containing a beautiful one-of-a-kind matryoshka we purchased in Russia for his grandparents. There was no note included.
2. A phone call from his frantic mother certain there must be a mistake, a misunderstanding, a message she never received.
His retribution for my not signing: explain to her myself the mind of her own son, which gets its directions from storm clouds, stony ground and a life story whose past, present and future are as dismal as the dark-inked signature of the notary.
My portal to that other place is well-worn and the clouds in my wished-for sky never see the storms that can’t escape me.