DislocationBy Rebecca Fish Ewan
March 05, 2018
I’m thinking about dislocation. About place. Wondering how to set myself in it, like Wallace Stevens’s jar in Tennessee, so I can change the place and the place can change me. An exchange. A connection. But then again, I just reread his poem and the jar gives nothing back to its surroundings. This wasn’t the story I remembered from school. I remembered a more generous jar.
I’m wondering how to make a scene that another person can enter into through words on the page and feel welcome in this story of displacement. I want you to feel out of it while you’re here, like I tend to feel, but in a nice way, so you might want to come back.
Y’all come back now, ya hear!
Maybe memory is to blame, how it sets down layers upon layers in one place and then over time gets all cracked and fissured, changing recollections in the process. I remember how much I loved watching the Beverly Hillbillies when I was a kid. Their rags to riches tale gave me hope and a loathing for wealth in every episode. I memorized the theme song and would sing along.
Come and listen to a story…
Outside the sun warms a clear blue sky. I just heard the first dove coo, harbinger of the heat that’s come way too early this year. My husband predicted the heat back in December, like an old seer, he said, “Flies on Christmas,” and that settled it. The desert heat disrupted me when I first moved to Arizona. After finishing grad school in Berkeley, my husband, who was my boyfriend then, was moving back home to Phoenix. I had opted for more grad school, this time nearby in Tucson, because I was in love with grad school. He promised, as I packed my California beach sand and sea shell collection, that I’d get used to the desert heat. “Maybe not the first summer…but eventually.”
Twenty-seven years. That’s how long I’ve been waiting to get used to the desert heat.
In freshman year of undergrad, my roommate had doves. She kept them in a coop on our back balcony. We were best friends from high school. Our boyfriends were pals. We went away to college in Davis, only 90 miles north of Berkeley but still away, so she could become a veterinarian. She brought the doves and some rabbits. And a parakeet. I bought a parakeet, in the hope that buying a parakeet might make me more like her. This green and yellow bird in a cage hanging above my desk, or maybe my bed, definitely hanging from the ceiling to keep the bird clear of the two kittens we had adopted, died.
To impress my roommate, I taught myself to make dove calls. Specifically, dove love calls, but I thought all dove calls were about love back then.
Today, I hear doves cry.
Prince wasn’t a big deal yet in Davis when I lived there. He hadn’t changed his name to a love symbol. Or sung about purple rain. Or died and become a hologram at the Super Bowl. Now he owns doves crying, so I’m just borrowing the feeling his song evokes to convey how much I dread the heat that’s come early this year.
My eyes are getting old. I have to lean close with a magnifying glass to read my dictionary now. Dislocation: a displacement in a stratum or in a series of strata caused by a fracture…a fault. Sounds like forgetting, how time and movement shift memory layers, erode the landscape where I’ve buried all my treasures. So I try storing my memories in things—round pebbles, a silk robe, scrap book of ticket stubs and playbills and cat cartoons, a spoon. Things have mass. Are harder to destroy than recollections. I can touch them with my fingers, hold them up to my nose. I could lick a thing if I wanted to. Whatever it takes to tease the memory out. The ones in the folded terrain of my brain take more effort to extract. I play them songs. Brew them coffee.
The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup!
Davis only lasted a year, but every time I see an old hand-cranked coffee grinder, maybe in an antique store, I can sit for a minute at the small wooden kitchen table and see my roommate studying biology, our mugs full of coffee, not Folger’s but French Roast, fresh ground and dripped into a Pyrex carafe we’d work through each morning. In my sketchbook, I’d draw how her head tilts when she studies. Just this glance at an old grinder sets off the rebuilding of our entire apartment in my head among the cracked and fissured layers of memory—the baby blue shag carpet, the milk crate and bare plank shelves holding up our record player, the view beyond the dove coop of plowed fields, the squawk of the Amazon parrot owned by a man down the street and the matching black leather roller skates my roommate and I bought to make life more interesting in the quiet farm town where people went to become veterinarians.
Or because they couldn’t bear the thought of losing another best friend.
In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe wrote, I was…desolate and dislocated in the world by the loss of her. I don’t know who her is for Defoe, because I’ve never read Robinson Crusoe, though I’ve seen every episode of Gilligan’s Island.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…
I found the Defoe passage in the dictionary today as I researched the origins of the word dislocation. I read it and when I got to the her, she became my other best friend, the dead one. Not lost on an island, but gone forever, except in memory and in the few things I salvaged—her ankh bracelet, the poem book I made for her, the yellow satin robe she gave me—things I’ve tried to drape over the galaxy-sized hole in my soul her death left behind.
I’m willing to uproot myself to avoid dislocation from love. I’m a little imprinted duckling that way. I would move to Davis to avoid feeling that desolate and dislocated again. Or Arizona. Or straight into the sun.
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