Monday, March 1, 2010

Callicott's Rainbow by Wendy Sumner Winter - flashquake Nonfiction - Volume 9, Issue 3 - Spring 2010

Callicott's Rainbow by Wendy Sumner Winter - flashquake Nonfiction - Volume 9, Issue 3 - Spring 2010

I heard they were painting over Callicott's rainbow. Things happen that way, I suppose. Room must be made for fresh canvases. Cracking paint gives way to neon lights. Names are changed; and history is covered with fresh sod.

I never knew about this place before I knew you. Like you, it had been there all along, something I could have seen if I'd only opened my eyes, if only I'd traveled out of whitewashed East Memphis to gritty Midtown.

Now, its history has merged with my own. I've danced in front of this stage where Elvis swiveled his hips, decades before our births and tripped acid where my parents romped to the sounds of the Allman Brothers. Now, I hear, they're tearing down The Shell.

I had to drive by today — just in case I don't get to see it again. I wanted to concretize it in my memory, to encounter it empty and let my mind fill it as it willed. It makes me sad to think about it being gone, or even just modified, as if the changes might have some import, some impact on who we are. On what we mean.

As I slowed down and looked, my mind flashed back to the day we met. Here. Under the rainbow. I can see the sunlight oozing through your copper curls, the tips of your fingers as they hold a cigarette to your lips, and your eyes squinting behind the swirls of smoke billowing out of your nose — the breath of a bull.

I remember. We walked in the moonlight to the golf course, following the narrow dirt path that ran alongside backstage. I raised my peasant blouse to show you what was underneath, the skin of my breasts a white butterfly reaching toward the moon. I didn't know any other way to capture you, didn't know that you'd been mine since we were children running around the maypole at my parents' house, since the moment our hands touched, electrifying you into an awareness of girls. Of me in particular.

That night I danced in front of you and we kissed. It was both hot and cold, new and, somehow, not: like we'd been there before and always, and this was just a return.

We've returned, year after year, on that same day, Earth Day, to dance under this disappearing rainbow, to tell each other our story, our history. We've sat on the splintery benches, unmowed grass tickling our calves, listening to our own generation's contribution to history. Jim Dickinson passing the baton to his boys; FreeWorld bending the grooves of Santana. We've slapped our knees with the rhythms of drum circles, Sunday afternoons in the park.

My car idling behind me, I lean against the rickety chain-linked fence. To my right a fire pit is dug out under a low-branched tree, where hippies cook vegan burgers and sell granola from tattered backpacks. The grass grows thin around the spot, trampled for so long by so many black-bottomed feet. We've watched our friends become parents, creating tiny versions of themselves: tangled hair, patchouli-scented tie-dyes draping off their tiny shoulders and dragging in the dust or mud under the tree.

This place seems holy to me. And in this moment, quiet and still, it also seems somehow sad. And I feel pushed out of Eden. I wonder what will happen when our totem goes white, when the story wears thin from too much repetition? Does that happen?

I turn to leave, but stop, take my shoes off and feel the coolness of the ground. This ground will always be here. I and drive home now, where you've begun watering the grass, my flowers, fed the dogs and laid out the backgammon game on the front porch. You hand me my cocktail, kiss my neck, and I tell you the story of today.

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