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SubtleTea Writing May 2006 contest winner: "Waking Accidentally in the Dark" by Margot Miller

Margot Miller holds a PhD in French literature from the University of Maryland. She is an independent scholar and occasional lecturer, specializing in contemporary women writers. She is currently writing fiction and memoir as well as teaching French women writers in translation at the Academy of Lifelong Learning, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD.  Her resume can be explored HERE.


Congratulations to Margot for winning the Tea's May 2006 Writing Contest!  She will receive a free copy of Literary Angles: the second year of poeticdiversity (Sybaritic Press 2005) as award.



graphic award designed by David Hennessy of maidixarts



© 2006 Margot Miller

Waking Accidentally in the Dark


Some explosions leave a clean flattened area, a new place on which to build, but hitting a deer on a country road wasn't like that at all. It felt more like the collapse of a house eaten away by a leak in the foundation. There would be a lot of rubble to pick through, hard to parse and settle.


When I'm able to stand up and take a shower, I see tracks running across my belly like sidings in a railroad yard. So many tender seams, so many places to come apart.


I dream I'm walking up a hill from a river into a city. I'm on the left side of the street and three semi-tractor-trailers come along one right after the other, closer and closer to the sidewalk then right up over the curb. I'm squeezed, just in time, into a recess in the wall of the building. The end of the last truck has left me a very small opening. I call for help but no one comes. If I slip my head above and my body below turned sideways, I can just pass my neck through that space. I slip out, falling to the ground.


Bolt upright in the dark, I cannot shake the image. I try to go back to sleep, but I'm awake, again, in the darkness. I touch the scars on my belly to reassure myself that nothing has come undone.


Each time I come close to the idea of testing myself on my own, I am reluctant to proceed to a conclusion. Wait a bit; it's always wise to wait and see. This game of Patience grows foggy until it becomes indistinguishable from a kind of willed helplessness. Each time I rouse myself from my lethargy, I turn back to see the known world receding in the distant shadows where I am always drawn to something unnamable, unable to distinguish its essential nature from all the rest, wanting to take only that part with me, having to go back to be sure. Something about losing control not quite by accident but not quite on purpose either, even in total confusion, makes me think I am over-steering, and it will kill me. Somehow, no matter how many steps I take forward, I always manage to take a number of them in reverse.


I begin cleaning out closets and thinning the bookshelves, as if some process has started without my knowledge, something I have to do to keep from disappearing down a rabbit hole of complacency or exploding, or both.


Now, I dream I'm at a train station by myself, waiting, only to learn that train after train has come and gone and I've waited outside the station instead of going through to the platform on the other side. I go home where we are in the midst of house renovations but we've been robbed. Thieves have taken a small music box that my husband loved. It had been his mother's. They were coming back for more and warned us not to resist. My husband said it didn't matter since we already had a large music box, the one from my family; it's the size of an infant's coffin, heavy and difficult to move. I'm helpless. More things go missing. We don't talk about it.


It's getting to be a pattern, waking in the dark, too soon, or is it too late?


I clear out the attic, the basement, the garage, and haul everything to the church rummage sale, the Goodwill, the library, the Neighborhood Service Center. In three months I take out ten station-wagon loads of things, and as many again during the next ten. We decide to redecorate and wonder privately if we aren't just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but neither of us gives voice to these intuitions. Renovation is always one part anticipation, one part investment, and one part denial.


If I'd taken a different route, would I have been spared the accident? Did I want to be spared? Isn't it better to know and live consciously from painful knowing than to live from it inadvertently, blindly, frustrated, angry? Sometimes, when I wake in the night, alone now, I think darkness was a kindness.








All work is copyrighted property of Margot Miller.






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