She doesn’t go to school much anymore, and I let her sleep until she wakes up in the mornings, nestled in the little elfin hollow, the fairy tale trundle bed in the alcove in her room.
We drive around in the hot, nearing-summer sun in the afternoon, careening over the rough spots in the road that seem to have gone untended since the beginning of all of this. I don’t wear real clothes anymore and I don’t turn on the A/C anymore, my arm hanging out of the window like I’m driving an old pickup truck, wearing loose baggy hand-me-downs from my godmother’s bohemian days in the 70’s and 80’s, the clothes of a nomad.
My job is gone, drifted away over the treetops like woodsmoke. My husband takes care of the money, sowing oats and bringing home bread from a far-off land every day. He leaves the house before dawn and comes home to me, chopping vegetables in our kitchen that now looks like an old farmhouse, the setting sun shining through grass that has grown as tall as me.
And my band of sisters has begun come home from the hunt, from their pilgrimages in far-away lands, gradually assembling back at home, and we gather, cloaked and hooded, under moonlight. We incant the spells of our foremothers with a renewed vigor, a recomposed and reconstituted alchemy.
We feel so close to our ancestors we can touch them, as they hang over our shoulders by day and spit fire into our dreams by night. We can feel them in our fingertips when we write, and in our throats when we yell our battle cries, the Vietnam War protestors and Civil Rights walkers who came before us.
Only this time, the mantra we chant is not “I have a dream,” but “Black Lives Matter,” and instead of protesting a war in a far-off land against a foreign people, we are protesting a war waged by our government on its own people, a division of the military called the police.
We wear masks into grocery stores and defiantly stare down non-mask-wearers, who eventually duck their eyes and avert our gaze.
Our house is small, and it used to make me crazy, but now it fits. It is tiny and nestled in the jungle, like the roots of an ancient tree reached around it and embraced it. Everything is a bit crooked and some things are falling apart, like we had found an abandoned house in the woods, overgrown. It feels all vines and ladders now, like we sleep outside, the home of the Lost Boys. Like we could hitch it to a wagon and drive it away. Like it could be gone tomorrow.
We hear the dolphins are swimming in the canals in Venice now. We hear that the air above L.A. is clear now.
And my godbrother died, from a disease that had ravaged him for years, in the quiet of a world stricken with a plague, and in the furor of a world stricken with dissent. He went out in a world that had reached the point of no return, when we realized that none of us were coming back, and they carried his body out while they chanted.
The child is almost three now and dances and jumps and spins in long broomstick skirts, long ratty cornsilk hair and long dirty skirts all running together, falling into her bed late at night after a wild rumpus.
She is almost three now and has grown loud and wild and rude, always interrupting. She has learned how to protest, throwing herself on the floor with a loud thunk, with no regard for her own safety, howling and shrieking like the oppressed.
The air is virulent and vibrant, with the wolf howls of the neighbors in the evening and the howls of the protesters downtown, the honking horns of supporters and the whoops and cries of the protesters in return. Howling is the language we all speak now.
The child learned how to howl this summer. Howling is our new mother tongue.
I remember, at the beginning of all of this, how jarring the descent from normalcy was. There is no going back, I think now. I am struck with aliveness and electricity. I feel it coursing through my body and shooting out of my fingertips. For the first time, I feel things when I touch them.
The air is at once virulent and calm, charged with euphoric rage and settled by a tribe of warriors who have all come home to rest after a long day.
The sky reads the mood of its people, furrowing its brow in the threat of a thunderstorm or opening its arms wide in blue skies.
“I need to mow the lawn,” my husband says, frowning out at the window-high garden of yellow weeds, flowers blooming so high we could reach out and brush them with our fingertips, as though we live in a tree house, or we’re floating by on a boat.
“I don’t know,” I say, “I think it kind of…”
“It kind of works,” he says.