There are things that make me happy, but that also haunt me. For example, having a song playing in your head that you associate with a particular time in your life. While it may evoke beautiful memories, it also evokes something altogether terrible.
I find myself on occasion singing in my head the rhythmic beats of a non coherent language. It goes a little something like this: “boom, boom, shh, shh” followed by “Now drop!” Each syllable is matched by a bodily movement. The “drop” is a split second jump-squat. The song is part of a Zumba mix I used to practice daily as an at-home workout during graduate school. I practiced this routine so much that I still remember full sections of it after not having glanced at the YouTube video in over a year.
Sometimes your life’s soundtrack isn’t terrible but does cause your vision to blur because that time can’t be brought back.
Another happy haunt for me
are basil leaves. Yesterday, my mother decided to make my father’s recipe: An avocado-basil pesto with white wine mixed in with spaghetti cooked in butter. I think pasta is a wasted carb that takes up room in your body for no reason other than to satiate, so I didn’t eat it. Then again, I’m allergic to avocado, (insert gasp here), so I couldn’t have consumed it anyway.
As I took out the bunch of basil leaves bought at our local Fairway, a waft of sweet and sharp herb scent swept me away to another time.
I saw snapshots of my old house, of my old backyard enlightened by a summer sun. I heard my mother cackling from the second-story window facing the backyard as I dodged bumble bees while trying to clip basil leaves from the burgeoning green basil plant growing in our yard. I felt the heat of the sun tanning my forearms and felt the creeping of embarrassment redden my already rose-hued warm cheeks because I had the sneaking suspicion that the brothers who lived next door and who were also my peers, caught stealing glances of me hopping around with scissors and leaves like a forest nymph.
“I smell my childhood,” I said out loud yesterday. I remember the basil leaves being made for pesto, or thrown into a plain pasta. I remember the basil leaves being planted between a folded onion-tomato omelette on a summer Sunday morning.
And as I’m typing this, a part of me wants to let out a cry, but only in my mind’s eye. My eyes are dry. My hands are dry too now that I think of it. Actually, my scalp is dry as well- I was just searching for a conditioning hair mask earlier this morning.
There is a lingering faint smell of garlic bread in my brother’s wake. He’s off to the O.R.and the baked loaf still sits in its entirety on top of the seemingly pristine granite island. It came out warm and fresh from the local farmer’s market yesterday evening, and so the condensation soaked through the wax white paper bag, causing me to place it in the plastic produce bag and then again in two other plastic grocery bags. It looks like a packaged organ that my brother must have seen during his time on the hospital’s transplant unit.
I was in charge of the bread yesterday while he went to wander the market aisles in oblivion, a therapeutic activity he never has time for. I was not privy to the garlic bread condensation that moisturized my patchy hands until they began to feel unfamiliar. That is to say, my hands began to feel unusually smooth, lubricated almost, and certainly dampened.
I looked down at them and then inhaled deeply. And all I remembered were the garlic knots from the corner pizzeria in the neighborhood I grew up in - a favorite treat of mine.
I’m happy to say that I am developing new happy haunts.
The birds that chirp here are varied. There aren’t just two fighting one another. There isn’t a single pigeon, instead there are bright red birds, black and orange ones with pointy beaks, birds with crowns atop their head, and small black Ravens.
I’ve seen rabbits hopping along instead of squirrels scurrying.
There is the sound of lawn mowers that are mostly being wielded by homeowners as opposed to laborers. The laborers here don’t ogle me, instead throwing up their hand in a friendly wave or nodding in acknowledgement of human-to-human interaction.
There are the sounds of kids voices at the nearby school, but not from fighting or harassment, nor are there any profanities, so commonly heard of in New York City.
There are school buses pulling up and adolescents exiting with backpack straps on both shoulders and pants above their hip bones.
There is a corner deli that smells not of charred bacon, but of gourmet styled sandwiches. There is wood paneling inside and a nice umbrella seating area just outside.
Instead of satellites and window air conditioning units jutting out of identical houses from the exterior, there are manicured lawns in front of uniquely different looking single-family homes. Roofs are covered with solar panels and there are white picket fences without any graffiti in sight.
Culs de sac replace dead ends.
And I am coming around the bend as well, moving along without a dead end in sight.