Questions

I

Every time I see the mountains
I dream of walking towards them
Til I reach a place of utter calm
Where there are no unruly questions
And stay
Indefinitely

Yesterday I did

The peace dripped from my hands
Like the juices of a forbidden peach
Til we had to leave
An hour-long drive back to spurious composure

II

“I was confused
I thought she was your sister or something”
This from a man who
Heard me speak his language
With my love
“She even has the accent!”
A smile that explodes in my heart and stops at
My mouth
Better to pretend I didn’t understand
Just those phrases
Than feign humility
I’m bloated with hidden pride and
For a few minutes it
Leaves no room for the noisy questions

III

A young girl with catty eyes and
A sea green Minnie Mouse tank top and
A white and black polka-dot bow in her short hair
Sits across from us on the bus
Out the window an old woman slouches on the sidewalk
Begging alone for coins
I see both as they will be and were
The girl, an old widow, no light left in her catty eyes
As her adult grandchildren fight over where to house her
The beggar, an immaculate, smiling girl
Bent into that circle of friends, laughing about a boy’s haircut
Humanity has become to me nothing but that –
Streams of visions of pasts and futures and hopelessness
I never see people as they are anymore
Never
And the existential questions bubble up
Incessant like the sources of the Kabyle mountains
I try to explain all this to my love
The seeing everyone as they were or will be
And the never-ending questions
He finds the former strange
And the latter irreligious
And love is more attainable than answers, anyway
So I bite my tongue

IV

Sobs leak silently from under my sunglasses
Because the infinite questions leaked from my mouth
How did we get here from
Debating retiring to a city or his native mountain village?
All I know is God was silent, as always
And he was agitated
But now he licks his ice cream cone nonchalantly
He’s already used to my emotions, thank God
A drop of melted vanilla touches the ocean
Far, far below us
The waves don’t tranquilize me today
But hypnotism is second best, I suppose
My love asks if I want him to throw me in for a swim
I nod, imagining how I’d fight the cold waves
Dragging my abaya
And stand dripping, shivering on the black sand
Tear streaks washed with seawater
If you can’t see them, perhaps they don’t exist
Then he pulls me away from the beach because
A crazy man with dirt-caked dreadlocks stands nearby
« Are you sure you don’t want an ice cream? »
I shake my head, knowing he’ll buy me one anyway
« You want one », he’s teasing now
Another shake of the head, hand on my mouth to show I’m hiding a smile
He gets chocolate-vanilla with a tiny, forest-green plastic spoon
Because women here don’t lick in public

V

« You know what I’d do if you ever abandoned me? »
This as we walk through the shadow cast
By a nighttime bus stop under a downtown streetlight
« I’d
Disappear into the moutains. »
Will dramatic plan B’s, C’s, Z’s pop into my head
Even in paradise?
I have a sudden vision of
Tamanghasset’s monastery
On the border of nowhere
Living off bread and water
Being lost to the world
Or the counterfeit lunacy of Rumi’s scholar
Scrounging bits of fat from the garbage like a cat
Til I find answers to these vexatious questions
I’m sane, I really am
But
But what?
Aren’t we all on the spectrum of insanity?

VI

I’ve lived with these imperious questions since I was 5
(Yes, love, I said imperious –
I swallowed them by accident, maybe in the womb
Or somewhere before that, I
didn’t choose this pathosis)
They’ve become a part of me
Nestled somewhere between my liver and gallbladder
Some years they’re dormant
A long-term treatment of deceptively incomplete answers
And I talk to God instead of about Him
But when the treatment wears off, they’re parasitic
Feeding off faith and faineance and fatigue and
fear, Or lack thereof
Symptoms:
Chronic ache to take a bite of eternity
Chew, swallow, repeat, til completion
But I’m a finite being
Does that mean I have to die of hunger with a
Smile on my face?

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