Z.O.S. A Memoir
Dedication 3 West
Life is not to run off into a dream but to remain [in] one from low to high.
—William Carlos Williams
Sleeves of the kimono dangle to the floor in sheaves of pale turquoise and gold threads. Makeup lights glare over the mirror. The room and windows fade, eyes close. I climb into the sky and place the dot the Zen master in Taos calls monkey mind. My boyfriend and I chase each other around the quadrangle near the student union. He catches me off guard and pummels me into the deep snow drifts, throws himself on top of me and covers my face with butterfly kisses, butterfly kisses and goddamned importuning rhetoric. I am in the shower. Cold water pelts my ninety pound frame. The nurse stands smiling at me, daring me to disobey her. Unread literature texts for finals are stacked on the window sill, unfinished canvases for juries lean against the table. Dressed in bellbottoms, a poncho, hair held by a headband hangs long and straight, I sit, catatonic, beside the table. The nurse holds out a tiny paper cup with three pills. My eyes smile, but my termagant lips mouth the two forbidden words, Fuck you. The nurse monitors that I swallow the pills. I jerk the sheets tight on the hospital bed and square the corners, perfect, then twist brunette strands of hair into snarled rats’ nests. Mauve cream Kabuki actors use conceal dark circles under my eyes. I brush soothing sable bristles of coral blush across high cheekbones, smudge taupe color on my eye lids, darken thick lashes, dot ash rose gloss across my lips. Heavy red frame glasses and rose lenses cover my grey eyes. I rip the telephone from the wall and stumble, drunk and crying, to the door, batter the facing with the phone handle, counting arrhythmic phlegmatic beats. Splinters and fragments of wood fall to the floor, a lingering catarrh lying among pale turquoise and gold threads. The scent of roses and jasmine lingers. The sky and dot and window refracture. I look into the gold leaf mirror, pleased with the effect: a perfect face reflects no inner turmoil.