When I was waiting for Santa Claus – the night had never been longer
When I was stranded in Europe with no where to go, no phone, no map, no money and no words in their language and the people on the streets had it so much rougher than I and the man I was with couldn’t protect me and the clock never moved and time was not my friend and the ground was hard and my body cold and the sky was dropping rain that hung in the air and I was so hungry and thirtsy that each breath begged to drink it and the men in bars laughed as they walked to their cars at bar close and the one hit the other over the head with a golf club and there was so much blood and the ambulance took 45 minutes to come and the woman begging for a light had orange juice oozing from her bandaged arm as she reached toward me and the only one sober was lying but told the true stories of how the others became stranded in the night with his few words of English and only inches of personal space and spit that flew from between his two rotted front teeth and the black man danced in the street to his mp3 player and they said he’d come from Africa and couldn’t get home and no one had comfort and we all felt alone, the night had never been longer.
When we left the hostel in the forest at 4am to walk eight miles to make the train on time and the man who just spoke Spanish cackled as he took our room key back and said with wide eyes, “good luck”, as if he knew that luck was not enough to make it out alive and the trees all seemed as if they could house a predator and we had no weapons but pepper spray and a can in a sock and the women at the exit by the part that was the zoo were dressed in hardly anything and leaned into the windows of the cars they rode away in as they negotiated terms in words I didn’t know and my legs burned and burned and burned and I couldn’t stop and I wasn’t safe… the night had never been longer. The walk had never been longer.
When I tossed and turned in his bed, anxiety animating my legs and I knew, KNEW, something wasn’t right with us but I didn’t know my worth and I didn’t know love so I didn’t know what and at 4am I finally left and the giant snowflakes were orange in the light of the campus street lamps and I felt comfort as they melted on my face but I felt afraid as I walked quickly toward my car for fear of being taken but in truth he was the only one who ever took me without permission… the night had never been longer. The winter had never been longer.
When my nipples were bruised and bleeding and she would only sleep in my arms and I sat up in the bed and read the sign on the door a hundred times and I was hungry but couldn’t move and I had to pee but couldn’t move and everything hurt but everything was sweet and I was sweating through my sheets which no one told me would happen and her father was asleep because he didn’t have the milk and I was waiting for her inevitable stirring and fearing that her cry would mean I waited to long to meet her needs and was an imposter not a mother but a failure and a fraud and my mind played out scenarios where water bottles accidentally fell off ledges and crushed her head and I was so, so tired… the night had never been longer.
I wrote a poem while I was in Europe about the cruelty of time and how, still, I also trusted it to save me. I wrote in my daughter’s baby book that I prayed time wouldn’t take her from me. I wrote in my son’s that time was passing too fast.
I’m not sure if it was time that found me alive or nursed me back to health but it was time that brought me through all of those nights. I’ve almost forgotten them.
I think that it’s time.
I think I am time.