A story is swirling. Water drips over me in the shower. It reminds me of my grandmother's paint brush dripping with water. Without planning, she swept it sopping across the textured paper so that she could drop in the paint. The clouds of color ran into each other. In fact when they didn't charge ahead boldly enough, she lifted the paper with two hands and dipped it forward and back to encourage movement.
“It looks like a mess,” I say.
“But you said it’s what you wanted,” responds the Universe.
“It doesn’t look like anything.”
“I think you’re punishing me.”
“Because I said I wanted to be a teacher. So you gave it to me. I said I wanted to work in development work and live in Guatemala. So you gave it to me. Then I left.”
“So you are punishing me for not knowing what I wanted, but still getting exactly what I asked for.”
My story is swirling. At first I ignore it, but like a piece of loose skin around my nail, I can't fight the compulsion to pull it. At least not forever, and especially not in the dry air of the library. So I tug. I stare. I consider the best place to start, but it's not so much about the place to start as it is the desire to return to it day after day. I adjust the angle of my teeth. I hope that the skin won't bleed, but in the back of my mind I know it will ooze redness for much longer than is convenient. After I remove the white rubbery flake of skin, the finger itself may throb much longer than that.
I pull a band aid from the First Aid kit at the desk. Maybe I shouldn’t have let the uneven cuticle tempt me. I throw the crinkly white backing from the band aid in the garbage and return to the book shelves. Anyone who looks would think I cut myself on accident instead of initiating the injury.
“But what does it matter what everyone else thinks?” the Universe asks me.
“Yes. That is my question.” My tone is cutting even in my head.
“Is it that you care what they think about where you are, or where you are going?”
“I suppose where I am.”
“But that’s temporary. It’s not what you want.”
“Do you know what I want?”
“So you are denying me what I choose.”
“Say thank you.”
I open the space in the shelf for the book to take its place alphabetically. By holding the band aid away from the book, my thumb catches on the jacket and pulls against the tape. Then I see it. I see the splash of turquoise blue with green stripes. Underneath another jacket I see a dandelion yellow. The hard covers are stunning, too beautiful to be covered by the plastic jackets explaining their stories. I too can cover up myself in sleek sweaters, brown heeled boots and band aids, but the Universe knows the truth.
I go downstairs to the used books for sale and buy one for fifty cents. I don’t even bother reading the story summary on the back. During my break I sit and pick at the four pieces of tape that hold the jacket in place. I expose the emerald green underneath. I run each finger over the color, and when I reach the finger cloaked in band aid I dispose of the simulated skin covering. A bit of burgundy drips from my finger. I press it between my lips and then run it under the sink. The color swirls in the excess of water. I remember my grandmother’s watercolor painting. This is what a beginning looks like.