Cargo

When I run south along the Hudson in the early evening the sinking summer sun blinds me just enough that it’s easier to close my eyes completely and let my feet snap beneath me in a silent vote of confidence. As each step catches in momentary suspension I trust my body to carry me to the next. They say all our suffering is self-created, and in the private dark behind my eyelids my mind turns over the same tired, beaten thoughts.

They jangle and clank against the walls of my body with each connecting stride. Most are now no more than smooth tumbled sea glass, no sharp edges for me to grab onto—no defining shapes to pluck out of the constellation of thoughts. Now just heavy blocks I insist on carrying along as treasure or talisman, rattling around in the hollows of my limbs and torso. Smaller bits collect in my fingers and toes. It painful, mostly—arthritic, crunchy. I mistake all the racket for music, but body knows it’s just noise.

Today of all days something feels different—some new tenor to the air. The world feels more temporary, more like a gift. How might I be more nimble to explore it? The memory in my legs carries me to the southern tip of the island. The tide brushes against the shore where the old fish market once stood, and I remember how much I miss the bustle and the stink.

I stop without thinking to unscrew my left hand. It pops off as easily as a mannequin’s, and I empty the sea glass into the dirty city water. I rest for a moment and do the same with my right, which is more difficult. Then each foot—and for this I must bounce on the free one to shake out the last noisy shards from my joints, all the way up the trunks of my legs and up to my belly, out onto the pavement.

As I screw back on my feet I realize I may topple over with the new, unbalanced swaying weight of my head. I wrap my palms broadly across my crown and with a counter clockwise snap, I pluck off the top of my skull, quickly, while no one is looking. I stoop, bending forward in a toe-touch stretch to let the final contents clamor from inside and onto the ground. Yellow, red, and blue, some milky and semi-translucent, some green, some white. They seem so much less impressive than I remember when I first placed them there, first buried them deep in my body for safe keeping.

There, over the mound, the drowsy sun whispers an invocation through their surface that is too faint for me to hear. But I’m already gone, already picking up pace.