Victoria Was Here
The day I got my leg stuck in the crook of a tree and I cried for help and no one came and I thought I was gonna die alone, the air was rich with possibility. For reasons I have since forgotten I was climbing the Japanese plum tree in the front yard. I had already explored the pokey branches, already found the farthest point, already imagined myself atop a pirate ship searching for land, which sailed me straight into the nether regions of my brain where I pondered BIG questions. Can girls be pirates? Does the ocean ever end? How long is forever? And beneath the open sky I set myself against the task of imagining answers that involved the whole world and the universe and infinity until my mind itself hurt. And so I reset my course where I discovered that the ocean, in fact, ended in the world’s largest waterfall. And I sailed my ship right up to the very edge where I felt the weight of the drop as we all fall down.
This all had happened on the bow of the plum tree, whose sticky sap and prickly branches awoke me to the afternoon heat. Or maybe I awoke because it was snack time or nap time or time to make mud pie. I was not very old. But on my way down I made a costly error. I shifted too much weight to my right foot and landed into a kind of standing split, with my left leg lodged inside the Y of the tree trunk just at the bend of my knee.
At first I did not think my predicament was permanent. When one can create alternate endings for infinity, it’s hard to submit to the clanging gong of reality. Thankfully the general limberness of childhood meant I was flexible. But no matter how I wriggled or tugged or maneuvered the standing foot, the other leg refused to budge. I spoke to it tenderly asking it to relax, whispering both commands and spells: calm down, come out, open sesame, abra kadabra.
And then I panicked.
“Help me!” I screamed. “I’m stuck!” I called. “Somebody! Help!” I shouted. “Mom!” I pleaded. “Dad!” I whined. “Carey Jo! Bell! Jake! Somebody! Help!” I wailed.
In pleasant memories, the awareness of time will pass quickly. The vacation you needed, the romantic getaway you wanted—all pass by too soon and with the flame and flicker of joy in a happy time. Still, in other memories, time stands still, heavy with enchantment, neither progressing or slowing, as you bask in the delight of your lover and the sheer stillness of all else. But occasionally, time moves interminably and there’s a sense of never-ending and foreverness and general refusal by time to move any quicker. And these phases almost always coincide with painful experiences unmoved by prayers and pleadings and promises to God and though you cast a thousand wishes, the universe itself is silent.
That afternoon I grew hoarse from my cries. I scraped the stuck leg raw. I wept the salty-tears of every ocean. I learned that infinity is not something that can be measured but an experience where one forgets the beginning and cannot see the end. And so I prepared to die because what else does a 5, 6, 7 year old do in such times? And with no conscious thought or calculation or belief at all, I shifted my weight whereby I sprang free, falling backward onto the grass. And I rubbed my leg, which had long since gone numb, as I waited for life to come back into the muscles and for color to return to a darkened world. And I stood up, a little wobbly, and lurched away, dragging the gimpy leg behind me, not unlike a zombie, whose resonance I admit did not entirely displease me, until I stumbled back inside the indifferent walls of my very own house.