Riptides

by | Jun 11, 2024 | CNF, Issue Thirty-Nine

Agent Mulder died in the field. A war. X-Files, season 4 episode 5.  He remembers now. He, once a corpse, now resprung. A lover in high school once told me she was Mary Todd Lincoln in a past life. “I ran to him. Like I run to you,” she promised. We broke up shortly after. Years later, I looped Cat Power’s cover of The Velvet Underground: “you better come come come come to me. Better run.” I used to hate running the mile in school. I’d been running all night to escape. All I wanted during the day was to see the light of someone coming toward me. Even if it meant it was the last light my blue eyes would see.

The only other blue eyes in the family belonged to my great grandmother, who died only several months before I was born. “She gave you her eyes,” my grandmother would coo as she brushed my hair. When I first read about Oedipus poking out his eyes, I thought: “but these aren’t even my eyes. How can I poke out what I don’t even own?” My dad was still alive then, at least for a few more months. But the other prophecy of Oedipus had already come true. Nightly. Against my will. Flock of Seagulls flapped in my head, “and I ran. I ran so far away…couldn’t get away.”

Tori Amos does a cover of that song. Her voice wraps every song in the ocean. I have been part of so many riptides. And sometimes I wish I was part of their salt. Are we still talking about 80s pop bands? I will never not be talking about 80s pop bands. I’ll stick my tongue in a tape deck for Peter Gabriel. I wonder what it feels like at the bottom of the ocean.

My grandmother always took her coffee black. I started in my late teens. To relate to her, I guess. God has it been hard to admit to myself that she was abusive too. But not a riptide like my mom. Tori had this one right– my grandma was a series of little earthquakes. I didn’t even notice until she died and I am still shaking from the impact. It took over 30 years to realize I was shaking in the first place. I thought that’s just what a body felt like.

In Men in Black this poor guy Edgar gets killed by an alien who wears his skin for much of the rest of the movie. The Edgar skin suit never fit right on the alien so the alien walks around misshapen and stretched. I remember thinking, yeah, that’s what it’s like. That’s what it’s like to feel like your body isn’t yours. Excellent metaphor, Edgar. I just always thought my grandmother helped me find my shape, instead of taking it away. Maybe I have no clue what a body is supposed to feel like.

Lately there have been UFO sightings. And I’m ready to be discovered. Agent Mulder, take me to the spaceship. Maybe in the wilds of the galaxy, my body will meet itself in its own weightlessness. Maybe I need to let go of the load. I’ve tried, many times. Just here, on Earth, I keep getting pulled back in. Riptide. Quake. Drown. In space, I’ll be a light on someone’s telescope. Someone will wish on me. I’ll be the reason someone finds there way home after they mistake me for the North star. I’ll be a hum. A hymn. A hmmm.

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