BEYOND THE BLUE RIDGE
by Grace Maselli
In spite of the anxiety that flares in my stomach, I get ready to move 300 miles away. The upcoming relocation fills my gut with disturbances—tiny cyclones whirring counterclockwise through the commonly known organ. These feel like hundreds of small cyclones the size of my grandmother’s Lucite earrings, humming and moving excitedly through this interior terrain. It’s a state of abnormality, a place with no homeostasis. I know inherently that my stomach is an environment that prefers the company of dinner rolls, it’s the part of my physical “instrumentation” that would rather be soothed by my fat Nona’s hands smelling of yeast, her body reliably covered in a clean-smelling cotton dress, not the bitter pill I call change.
Instead I’m forced to brave a major adjustment (a commotion) that comes at me like a wind-and-pressure system, when what I really want is this: to lean into someone’s muscle and skin while I eat toasted almond slivers and wear three-quarter-length evening gloves, like an imaginary Audrey Hepburn in love with a man who’s a father figure. What I want is ease rolled inside luxury, topped with a dollop of passivity—my life as calendula petals lazing around beautifully inside a garden salad. I want to idle away time on a velvet chair with an iridescent ribbon in my bushy hair, while a cello plays darkly yet softly in the background. Instead of coping with change, I want to be surrounded by people with manners, the kinds of social graces that come with good breeding and a strong sense of curiosity.
But there are no three-quarter-length gloves I can easily find. They are beyond my reach. Instead there’s me, alone, staring across a basement of corrugated boxes soon to be filled with the perfunctory objects of my daily life, and the other more precious things I keep— talismans to elicit something longed for: good futures for my children, a promise from the universe that I will never be confined to a bed in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. I long for a trip to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and time to write from an Urgent Place. Moving only interrupts the flow of everything. My capacity to desire anything is divided by displacement into tiny pieces of colorless confetti.
These goods I own I will allow to be packed by a team of strange men within forty-eight hours and hauled inside the sunless cargo area of a big truck. This truck will pass horse farms, Guns & Ammo shops, and the hazy condition that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains blue. This will be the trip up and over the Mason-Dixon Line into my once-again northeast.
But what I want is to take the north out of it completely. I want to kick concern and vigilance in the teeth. What I long for is due east in the direction of Ravello, a town in the Mediterranean hills vaulted high above the Amalfi Coast. It’s a place where the zest of lemons moves deliciously, surreptitiously, into the heart and settles like a small white feather on my honeymoon memory, a long-ago trip that fills me with delight. Birds in Ravello chirp like happy, balking ladies in pink girdles reaching gently for the last arugula sandwich on a plate. Following the rules of nomenclature, we made love in Ravello more than once at the Amoré Hotel—with the long-ago man who smelled like powder and green tea from a freshly opened pouch. I want to go back there again and feel that freedom and desire more than once.
What I really want are days that stretch into nothing but what I want: the under-cooked piece of scrod handed back to a waiter and an existence where bonbons are placed deliberately and reliably in my candy dish. I want guilt-free desire. And a life of disdain for clutter in the house, in the mind, in the heart, of disdain for the deadness of conversation packed with nothing I want to hear. I want only what can fit in a small box, a wise woman once said to me—the deed to a debt-free home, prospectuses on issued stocks, a locket with the faces of my children.
What I want is to guillotine the hungry ghost of guilt that comes with my deepest desire. I want to trick it with an invitation to a séance that tells it like it is, gives me what I want without strings attached. I want the wit and wisdom to quell the ghost with scones and a true story about contentment and willingness to roll with change. With an open heart I want to laugh in the ghost’s face, sneer at its cruelty, do a hokey-pokey turnaround with a dirty but luck- drenched penny in my pocket, and a dream stashed in my new shoe 300 miles from here.
Grace Maselli is at work on a collection of essays and poems. She studied for seven years in New York City at the Writers Studio founded by American poet and author Philip Schultz. Her work has recently appeared in 42 Magazine, Poydras Review, Streetlight Magazine and is forthcoming in The Penman Review. She lives outside Philadelphia.