I was struck by how small and lonely my car looked there on the snow-brushed cement patch of a parking lot. Amidst the naked trees and the brittle branches of brush standing bravely on the snowy hills, something that contains and catalyzes my life was made small by dormant nature.
Even asleep, it bests me on my best day.
In my brown boots, black pants, black jacket, brown hair, I suppose I blended into the broadly-stroked sections of trees. I crunched the snow on a runner- and runner’s-dog-trodden path. Behind me lay a small, white, lonely cottage that more than likely held some historical significance-of which I was completely ignorant-and its accompanying nondescript, colonial equivalent of a garage.
In front of me was a wide swatch of open field with snow and slumbering grass, rimmed with stoically trembling trees, cut down the middle with a path drawn perfectly with a surveyor general’s hand. I was currently enjoying his handiwork.
The sky was in twilight’s last few grains of sand. The clouds were moving hastily and haphazardly, as if seeking warmer days as recklessly as their biped subjects were. In one corner were clouds stretched like abused cotton balls and in another, they were clumped together as if in anger to bring rain and wind.
The path lured me onward, much whiter than the surrounding area by nature of its relative smoothness. Somewhere within my gut, I felt a tug.
Yes, the alleged call of impulse. I had heard of this and remembered it vaguely.
It struck at a most inconvenient moment for Miss So-And-So of my kindergarten period. She and I were going about our days: she was pouring her heart, mind, and soul into our learning of numbers and letters, and I was half-listening, making circles and faces on my already-completed handout. I had learned numbers and letters weeks ago; these were old news.
Yet something was making a peculiar noise outside, beyond the window’s view. I couldn’t quite place it. It sounded like a cat, or perhaps it was a squirrel. Maybe, if I was lucky, it was a dog. This, of course, was of much more interest than old-hat numbers and letters.
It came: the familiar tug of the gut, and my tuckus parted from the seat and I was up at the window before G became H.
Then came my name (which was neither a letter nor a number) from Miss So-And-So’s mouth, then a question as to my doings (to which I had no answer), then a demand involving my tuckus and the still-warm seat. Then the afterthought of a please.
Being a get-along kind of kindergartener and something of a goody-two-shoes, I had no choice but to do as Miss So-And-So said. So, my tuckus was placed in the seat again and my fingers went back to my circles and faces.
In this way, Misses and Misters from kindergarten on up had used my goody-two-shoe sensibilities against that elusive tug of the gut such that I rarely feel it even now. Or if I do, I swallow it with a cup of coffee and go on with my day.
So, given an open road, the tug of the gut came back. It surprised me. I thought it was angry with me. I’d neglected it for so long, why should it come back to me now? But here it was.
And off I went.
My brown boots took off as if given Hermes’ wings. My arms pumped with collected strength at my sides. My brown hair was a mess in my own wind, streaming behind me like a wild battle flag. My ankle bent to the side and I nearly took a tumble in the snow, but caught myself, not breaking stride. This patch of road was rough, so I picked my way with speedy efficiency over rocks and pockets.
I sprinted out of my body for a moment and looked down from above at my silly self running over snowy dirt, looking quite doplic. At any other moment in my life, I’d have stopped the display of extreme lack of dexterity for fear of someone seeing and using it as a weapon against me, but this night I did not.
I carried on, given speed by that tug of the gut.
A lone, fat tree on the edge of the path came quickly and my gut pulled me up next to it like a winded, bridle-broken horse. I touched its trunk and found it to be one of my favorite varieties of tree: a sleeping zelkova. Its trunk had fiery lines like wasps or wind-driven bits of hail had slit scores into its flesh. Next to it was a sign.
“WARNING: Sinkhole. Stay Back from Edge”
with an unfortunate man sliding down a hill, who had not only suffered a great fall, but apparently a beheading as well. I observed the broken English, mulling over whether the addition of a ‘the’ would have been so hard, when my gut drove my feet forward again.
I hooked my arm around the sign and tapped the icy ground beneath the sign with a toe (just one of the two goody shoes). Nothing happened, so I placed my whole foot tenderly on the ground and gradually shifted weight. Again, nothing happened. I stood and looked for a sinkhole.
I stepped forward. I stepped again. And again. And again. Until I found myself in the middle of a field.
I was out, standing in my field.
Mourning my regrettable joke, I mentally proclaimed the sign a liar and a cheat. My now nearly frozen toes tempted me to go further, but even though I had stopped, my nose was still running and my teeth were beginning to clap. I put my hood over my head and stood for a moment in the supposed sinkhole with my hands in my warm pockets. I gazed at the moon darting in and out of holes in the clouds.
Why is it, in movies, that the moon is always full?
The moon is hardly ever full, but it needn’t be full to be beautiful. It whisked aside the remaining breath of cloud and beamed down at me and my field, giving me a cold shadow. Its minions of stars crept out from cloud cover, as well, sparkling and twinkling with a kind of icy mischief. They certainly knew something I didn’t.
I knew then that I needed that reminder.
They had watched me in all hours of my life. I couldn’t see them, but they had seen me. They saw beyond what I gave to others, what I laid out for others to see.
I lay out clothes to wear, and jewelry, sometimes makeup, I think out words to say, I conjure up movements, I cut out feelings to feel from the immense backdrop of emotion I experience daily, all per Miss So-And-So’s standards, who has grown into my leering peers, my well-wishing advisors, the informative voices from my television screen, the tapping thumbs behind my palmed screen. Nevermind the tug of my gut, I’d gladly step off the edge into that well-advertised, well-lit, five-star-rated, doctor-approved, Jennifer-Aniston-endorsed sinkhole if the sign told me to because I am a get-along, goody-two-shoes kind of kindergartener who has simply grown out of her Mary Janes.
“Warning: Sinkhole. Stay Back from Edge”
Words to get along by.