We went to Petra but did not see the monastery. When you go, Marcia said, you have to see the monastery. She followed a Jordanian guide at night, to see the sky, but rain came, the rock was slick, and the sky hid. We walked to Petra in the bright morning, leaving a street of restaurants and souvenir shops to wind through ancient, quiet caverns. Claire was two and half and surprised us by walking all the way to the Treasury, racing ahead and turning back, cheeks pinked by the early heat. Grant was six months and I carried him, belly to belly, dipping my face to blow air on his neck, lifting him to nurse in the dark mouth of a cave carved from red stone, soot on its ceiling, a scent of cat piss. We ate mid afternoon lunch with a crowd of tourists. We talked about what to see next. The monastery, I said, thinking of Marcia telling me that even in the rain, it was beautiful. Claire was tired and Grant was heavy and the monastery was up a steep hill of uneven steps. We could ride a skinny mule led by a skinny boy. We wandered dusty ruins, walked past impossible columns, stood in the amphitheater. And I knew we wouldn’t trek up to the monastery. We could. We could but we were tired. That year after my son was born was a yield to motherhood, and that afternoon in Petra a stone to mark: let go, let go.
I remember the late afternoon sun turning my children’s hair to gold. We walked out of Petra and I thought I probably would not see the monastery, ever, and that was heavy and light.
Now I am wondering what to do with this story.
Now I am thinking of story as story, only.
When my daughter was born, I labored several hours alone before I called my husband to come home, it is time. I was alone when the baby shifted and my right leg went numb. I sat wide to ease the pressure on my hips and the baby dropped. In my body it was like an audible pfff-wok, two distinct, startling movements setting my daughter in place to be born. I looked down at my swollen belly and said to her, You’re ready. She and I were about to be new, together.
These two experiences are more than the words here.
I am writing a collection of stories about living abroad. A year ago I wondered if I could write a multigenre collection, tucking essay alongside fiction. A year ago I thought I might write a memoir about summers home, that odd way of knowing family, friends and country six weeks at a time.
Since January I have played with a different idea, to write a collection of stories without distinguishing my lived experience from the work of my imagination.
I lived it
if I put it on the page
I was there
when it happened
These are first thoughts. But I am finding a way to tell it all.