Eva El Beze grew up in San Francisco, CA in an anarchist theatre collective. Eva has been published in magazines, anthologies, journals and books for her poetry, lyrical essays and CNF as well as won awards for stage and film scripts. She divides her time between California, Europe, India and Africa teaching workshops, learning, creating and supporting women in their healing.
Miles from nowhere in this god forsaken middle America stretch of land. Everything is flat and they will not let me continue unless we're all together. The weight of my possessions dig into my shoulders. I am antsy. I am exhausted. I still want a fix. My legs sink knee deep into the freezing glistening snow. It deceives me with its beauty. I guess I will take my time. Those empty, lonely, wood shacks aren't going anywhere. They will be there waiting for the strike of my pocket knife on flint. Lentils in old cooking cans after I slip and almost fall into a rushing river trying to collect fresh drinking water. Trying to get through the long days so I can go back. Back to mild winters and wild adventures. Back to the survival I do not need to be taught.
In the morning, after sleeping outside, a mouse is trapped in my homemade snare. His tiny body is frozen and his eyes bulge out of his head, asking, why? Why did I set that trap and why did he walk into it and how come after they make note of his dead self, do I bury him? My heart aches for that poor little mouse. I am sorry I do not have incense or prayer flags or anyone but myself to recite a hymn for an unnecessary death. After, I get in trouble for not having my gloves on. My hands are purple, stiff, throbbing with icy pain but I am simply experiencing the same cold pulsing he felt and all the other creatures felt around camp as one delinquent after another shows their dead animals to egt permission to move onto the next meaningless task...
When one of us, trudging slowly along, has to shit, everyone stops. The line slows. Halts. Drop your packs. Get comfortable. Whomever has the shovel passes it down the line. Start digging. Start feeling the bounce back of metal clanging on frozen ground making no headway. Making no sense. I look out at the horizon wishing I could walk off the face of the earth. I wish I could run through this knee deep snow making it to some other side where none of these self appointed counselors exist. Where their opinions matter not and none of us are forced to give forgiveness we do not feel.
I ask if I can move closer to the fire but those chairs are only for those of us who are cooperating. Answer a question, move closer. Say it's okay, move closer. Agree you are the only problem, move closer. The smell of sweet smoke as the logs pop makes my body ache for warmth. The kind of warmth humans can not give without something in return. She tells me she know I want to move closer and she knows I want one of her Snickers® and she knows all about me because there are some very real questions answered before bounty hunters wake someone in the dead of night to get on a plane to middle America where it's cold and mice lose their lives in the course of survival training. She emphasizes REAL. Winks. She's been around. Knows “how it is” on the streets. Knows what my real problem is but wants me to figure it out. She wants me to get honest, but no too honest, so I do not get left behind when everyone else gets to go into town for a hot shower, pancakes and milkshakes. I turn my back to the fire. I will not let this small cold piece of an experience break me.
The week before, you helped me pick out my clothes for school the next day. What a wonderful mask you used to hide your face. To hide what was coming. I noticed the hollowness of my ribs poking through. What do you think? I asked both of us. You and my reflection in the mirror. A mirror with a long crack running top to bottom. Covered in stickers, photos, lipstick kisses. My good luck charm. Kiss the mirror before creeping into the unknown. Isn;t it funny how sometimes, when we choose something new or different, it si the precursor to setting the next twenty into motion? Why was it that day I chose a short skirt when I never wear skirts? Why was it that evening I was even planning on going to school the next day when I never went in general? Why did you think sending me to an ice prison would create the closeness that had been lacking for so long?
Before you woke me in the dark hours of early morning saying people had come to see me you asked for a hug. Why? I got slightly irritated. Slightly on edge. As if we were friends. I listened as you climbed the stairs slowly. Shut your door gently. Made a phone call. Everything was off. Out of place. Uncomfortable. You came back. Later. Whispering my name.urgent. Pleading.
“These people want to speak with you.”
They were rough. Prickly.establishing who was in charge. It was not me. She wanted to be the good cop. He would be bad. You set me up. Backing into the harshly lit hallway as Thing 1 and Thing 2 flicked on my overhead light.
“Listen up. You can come easy or go hard.”
Thing 2 bad cop had ill fitting jeans with a fanny pack. Thing 1 good cop wanted to make friends. Wanted to help me help myself.
if we were on the streets I would eat y'all alive, trading your bones as curious trinkets. If I can dress in private I can get high. One for the road. Thing 2 bad cop won't let me say goodbye. You were too busy in the kitchen sobbing. How typical. You were the victim and he was nowhere to be found. I was on my own. Traveling to the biggest mind fuck of my life. Hurtling towards the best performance I have ever given. Once I played the part I was assigned I was free to go. Free to go to the next arranged program. I had made it to that pancake breakfast wth chocolate milkshakes and thoroughly relieved parents desperate to believe we had all been broken down and rebuilt into shinier versions of their once precious babies.
You and him showed up weeks later. After I spent long bored days playing parcheesi in empty laundromats. Setting off the bedroom siren each time I needed the toilet to piss and sob. Each time I needed to stuff my mouth with tissues and scream into my fist, gagging on the difficulty of winning a standing ovation. Big Bobby confessed his darkest secrets to me laying on the couch in the basement with the television on, low and humming. His tears flowed and just when I thought my body could give him warmth if I lay crushed beneath him he turned to his plate piled high with cheap chocolate cake. A poorly chosen, sad substitute for the cold beers and dead deers he longed for in whichever shit hole he hailed from. And, when they finally came for me, we all played nice. Hugging stiffly. Making horrifically boring chit chat as my keepers looked on warily. Unsure if I should go even though they had no say in the matter. Even if they looked at you and him seeing what, exactly, I was up against. We three sped across flat long stretches of nothing. The sky was bright blue. Cloudless. Signs posted 80MPH speed limit so he pulled 120. miles from nowhere heading towards a damp musty mildewed motel nestled among giant redwoods and rednecks. Somewhere along the way brother joined us leaving you begging we didn't make a scene. You wanted everyone to go along with the plan. Smile. Make believe it was all business as usual. I bit my tongue, biding my time until I knew I was in the best possible position to manipulate my way back down south across the border to the dope opera I ached to star in.
When you came out of the shower I was placed in the center of the bed all geared up to give it my all. I cried. I pleaded. I shrieked. I pulled at my hair and slapped my face as if I was slapping you. I punched the mattress and kicked at the walls shaking plaster dust onto myself, shivering with the memories of Idaho survival wilderness boot camp hell. When you closed your eyes to take a breath and strengthen your resolve against my onslaught of painful truth of the history of our family tree I darted to the door slipping out barefoot. Feeling my way blindly through the snot tears choking me I made it to his room where I knew his desire to be cool, to be the good guy, would allow my manipulation a fertile soil to take root in. you kept banging on the door to be let in. I kept giving brother the look to take his hand off the door handle. He wasn't in my bag, yet. I need a few moments more to seal the deal. We call this whole thing off. We all go home to what we know. I'm the problem. You all are the victims. And, when he finally gave brother the nod to let you in, you knew. You knew you had been defeated. You knew that when push comes to shove I will watch you topple over the edge of the cliff. Won't flinch. I won't cry. I'll just scramble back down the other side of the mountain feeling sorry I didn't check your pockets for cash as I go to meet my connection and find a clean work.
The next morning we stopped by what would have been, should have been, my second prison. The dismay on the wardens face as he explained our change of plans. My change of plans. Her sad attempt to convince me to stay. They had horses. You whispered how I used to love horses. Couldn't I just try? Even for a few months? But, all that freezing snow. All those miles humming sad mournful Cat Steven's songs. All the betrayal you abandoned me to take. I ask him if we're done? Ready to go?
The house is cold when we enter. I think I hear the echoes of Thing 1 good cop. The footsteps of Thing 2 bad cop are still embedded in the carpet outside of my door. You keep saying something about needing to check my room before I can be left alone. He tells you to give me a break. And, a joint.
I slam the door and feel relieved when the jamb shakes plaster dust onto the top of my lucky charm mirror. I lock the door and put lipstick on. Heavy blood red. I cook some hidden dope and shoot up quickly. It slams me hard. I kiss the mirror sloppily, light his joint and slip out of the house. Welcome back, Eva. It's a wild, wild world. At least, San Francisco, isn't as cold as Idaho...