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Why I Wake at 4:30 in the Morning [or] Chapter One

The leaves don’t change in Los Angeles. At least, the ones outside my window don’t. In three years they haven’t changed. Not once. The trees bear fruit, most of it falling to the ground—the gardeners have to move it before they can cut the grass. On Wednesdays, I try to wake before they arrive, the gardeners—their mowers and radio-static mariachi. They laugh loudly. I like that about them. For three years I’ve lived here and only recently did I notice they always come on Wednesday. I don’t know why they were here this afternoon. It isn’t Wednesday. There was no music. No mowers. But I saw them from the window while I was looking at the leaves.

Your book of dreams, what sort of paper was it typed on? Did you use the same sort of paper for each dream? Did you type them in the middle of the night or wait until morning came? Do you still write your dreams? Do you sometimes forget about them until some moment strikes you in the afternoon, some stranger smiles and suddenly you think ‘oh yes, last night I dreamt’?

That used to happen to me.

There is something I need to write that contains the words: three years is a long time between I love yous. That is all I know about it right now. I haven’t been writing much lately. I don’t paint anymore either. There is a piece I pull out from time to time. Something I started a long time ago. 

One night at the end of autumn just before winter came; on that night I came home, I was living in New England then—on an acre of land surrounded by trees— amidst gardens I would plant in spring and summer black raspberry bramble I would wade into, flinching when the bramble poked through overalls while I was picking berries for friends. There weren’t any berries that night. There weren’t any friends. It was cold and I was lost. My spacebar was broken so the first line looked like this:

“when.all.else.fails…run.” 

I still love that line. That story still begins that way. The beginning of that story is the only thing that hasn’t changed over the years. I was younger then. The ending has changed again and again. I’m not sure how it ends anymore.

Something about freedom.

I forget right now. I forget a lot of things. When I saw the gardeners this afternoon, for a moment I thought it was Wednesday. For a moment I was in New England waiting for the leaves to change.

But then I heard the children playing next door and the baby crying downstairs. They aren’t my children. I don’t even know their names but they all have brown hair. The girl wears hers in braids. From my window I can’t see the color of their eyes but I imagine they are blue, like mine. The house is colonial brick and belongs to the grandparents. The grandfather toils slowly, working in the yard on Sundays tending a mostly dead lawn while the children sing, playing some adaptation of London Bridge beneath a half-rusted white wrought-iron lattice that never moves.  Year in, year out the children grow and the lattice sits rusting, an aging bridge of London waiting for a wedding, a holy union that hasn’t happened yet. 

The mother lives there too. Sometimes, when I’m in my kitchen having tea and writing letters, I smell the smoke of her green-box cigarettes drift through my windows. I don’t smoke anymore. I stand to close them and watch her for a moment before she slides through the door, disappearing inside. I never see her play with the children.