Zoë White: Insomnia

In the garden today while the kids watched turtles R. said that the brood of cicadas that’s been sleeping underground drinking root juice for seventeen years will come out soon. Instead of sleeping I am thinking this: the year they were eggs I lived in three places.

1) Southern Ohio, at the edge of a gully-full of jewelweed, limestone, a cold little creek padded with rust. This I remember: sun-hot plums from the dumpster. The room I chose because of the cardinals out the window though they had no interest in me. The Waffle House sign: two golden hands spread wide in the half-pink sky. We’d drive towards that with our hearts not in our throats but smashing around just below. I loved the truckers there, the way their jean pockets wore down around the circle of a can of chew, the soft wedge of a wallet. I loved the smell of tobacco but not when it was burning. I remember those things and the smell of what the raccoons ate the best of and left by the creek’s edge.

2) That blue room not far from here where V. and I watched the city wind puff the curtain halfway to the door and then suck it flat against the screen. Running. Beer. I remember this: loving how the city’s dirt collected visibly on the skin. And being reckless with borrowed crystal, and the roommate with the pet rabbit she’d take in the shower. And the sky turning orange with Manhattan poking up into it as we spit watermelon seeds off the roof.

3) That western town with leaves big as dinner plates but even so I was sad, lead-dress-at-the-dentist-office sad, in spite of the fennel in everyone’s front yard I’d steal and gnaw, in spite of the way the wind could suddenly smack you in the face with the waterfall you were watching. I loved that.  I learned two things in that town: 1) how to flip two omelettes at once 2) being sad is boring.

Since then the cicadas haven’t moved much. R. said when the dirt warms up they will start popping out of it like rain on a lake. And then they’ll start their yelling. And I guess I’ll throw open the windows, because who could sleep?  And they’ll bounce against the screens, and the night will rev from the Carolinas up through the Eastern seaboard, singing kettles and fire engines, and it won’t matter if there are clouds or stars, all the little grasses will keep muscling into air.



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