Waiting

Where to look?

I remember waiting by the phone. I remember checking the mailbox. I remember waiting for the mailman. I remember waiting for the weatherman on TV. I remember watching the clouds and wondering. I remember waiting for rain. I remember waiting for the bombs to fall.

I remember staring at the ceiling in my room and waiting. I remember dropping the record player needle onto “Walking on the Moon” by The Police and lying down with my head between two stereo speakers. Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon. I hope my legs don’t break, walking on the moon.

I remember staring out my window at the top of the big oak tree in our front yard. All you got for a view in the South was green leaves, dancing. All you got for company on a late spring afternoon was the sound of a heavy rain on the roof. Rain on the roof felt like some sign from the sky, from the clouds, from God, from heaven: Someone sees you. Someone knows you’re waiting.

On days without rain, you hoped that someone would call you on the phone. A phone call doesn’t slink in silently, like a text does. A ringing alarm sounds at the center of the house. Everyone in the house hears it. Everyone in the house imagines someone with a phone in their hand, at the center of some other house, waiting for someone in your house to pick up the phone.

Who is waiting for us? We’d all wonder. Who wants us?

Now I look around for silent words in hidden places -- like loose change, like scattered seeds, like some clue that someone stopped by looking for me when I wasn’t around. Now half of my heart lives in the void, my phone like a wardrobe with a door at the very back that opens onto tall trees and falling snow.

I wake up every morning and search for footsteps in the snow. Who came through here? What did they want?

Before I had to sit and wait. There was nothing to search for. My house was my country, my parents were my supreme leaders, sometimes absent, often missing, my siblings were rivals and friends and enemies, my neighbors were friendly hostile buddies, my school was a more populated country I visited, my pets were allies, confidantes, babies, protectors, best friends, the only source of warmth on a winter day when the radiators rattled and exhaled half-heartedly, the only source of fun in the silence of a summer afternoon, the only source of comfort in a thunderstorm. My strongest ally was all black with white paws, 2 years old, floppy ears, the most enthusiastic friend, the most devoted soldier.

On the last day of school before summer, I walked three blocks from the bus alone, crying back to my empty homeland. I let myself in the front door with my key. I washed my face and then I sewed a dress for my Dorothy doll, to get my mind off the very populated country I couldn’t visit for three months, to get my mind off the long summer ahead spent staring at the dancing leaves outside my window and waiting for rain. I called a friend on the phone. I told my friend I was sad about school ending. I hope my legs don’t break, walking on the moon.

The doorbell rang. A man was at the front door. He asked if I had a small black dog. He said he had just hit a small black dog with his van.

I grabbed a blanket and locked the front door, a responsible prisoner of war. My dog was lying on the street, still whole. I wrapped my dog in the blanket and put her in the back of the stranger’s van. This is an abduction scenario, I thought, considering how much planning and wickedness it would take to strike a dog with your van then pack a ten-year-old and an injured dog inside. This is a kidnapping plot, I thought, as my dog stood up in the back of the van, stood up at the sound of me calling her name, my dog’s last conscious moment, my friend’s last letter, my only source of warmth’s last ray of sunshine, my baby’s last sigh, my protector’s last stand.

This is an abduction scenario, I thought in the waiting room at the vet, waiting for my mom to show up, waiting for someone to tell me that my dog was dead, waiting for the stars to fall from the sky, at last, sweet relief, waiting for my heart to harden against a world that held its treasures from me, out of spite.

This is an abduction scenario. This is a giant step. Welcome to the moon.

Who plants us in the ground, only to pull us out, roots and all? Who planted me in red clay soil on an early summer day, and thought: This is a good spot for a tender soul, this is a big old house for her to haunt, this is the backyard where she’ll bury her only confidante and she’ll take a Sharpie and draw a picture of a small black dog on a white rock and everyone will avert their eyes and walk back into the house and she’ll stay there, by the rock, next to the broken ground, waiting for a sign, waiting for some sign, waiting for salvation.