The first year I was back home in Wisconsin after leaving Guatemala, I went to the 4th of July parade. I tried to take my dog, and he was a handful. Solo barked at the horses and every dog that went by. I decided that I wouldn’t take him back the next year, but I didn’t go back either.
“Are you going to the fireworks?” my aunt asked. “It’s such a nice spot on the hill. You can see four or five towns’ displays.”
“I don’t know,” I answered at 11:00 that morning.
“Are you coming with us to watch fireworks?” my dad asked.
“No,” I answered at 7:00 p.m.
“Why?” I asked myself. Mosquitoes? Heat? Worry that other dogs might come by? The fact that more and more people have discovered that spot and it isn’t so private anywhere?
I just don’t want to. That is actually the answer, and it is an ironic one at that. I can name what I was doing on most holidays in Guatemala, and at the same time, I was always lamenting that I wasn’t home to celebrate. I bought hot dogs on 4th of July. I tried to maneuver my work schedule to be home the morning of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I convinced myself in hotel rooms for five years straight that if I was just at home, I would be joyously partying on New Year’s Eve, but I haven’t done any of those things.
July heat is upon me now. The kind that keeps my dog’s afternoon wanderings under fifteen minutes. But sometimes we stay out a little longer under the branches of a mulberry tree. I slip his leash around my foot and settle into a spot that avoids ant hills and flattened berry stains. Lying on my back in the shade, tucked away from summer, the leaves above me are black swirls and cut outs. Black lace, I decide. But why does that matter? Because, like the holidays, it’s the reverse that sometimes matters. It wasn’t missing the holidays that was the problem, but the hole cut out in the shape of people and places that I love. I spent those days looking through a reversed design, so much so that I could only focus on the negative space.
Unfortunately it is all too easy to drape black lace across your day. I flip it over my face so easily when I receive magazines in the mail because they are complimentary with the payment for writing contests I didn’t win. I hang it from my window when I wince at the sweet smell of fresh cut alfalfa as plants screaming out at their death. Honestly, the scent of decomposition is worse than death in the form of poop from industrial farming spread across the same field and worked in with water from the irrigator. Mostly I blindfold myself with the crinkly cloth when I constantly mention how someone else values my job with its low salary instead of how capable and productive I feel while I am doing it. I need to stop paying attention to what was supposed to be important, like the holidays I am not celebrating because every day make me so happy.
“What are you doing now?” echoes the question from friends and family alike, because to not be doing something, I should be doing something else, something better. I close my eyes and feel the shimmer of the black lace, the beauty in negative space.
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