Female Energy

Female Energy (An Old Memory)

I don’t know where you are now, Jodi Green, but I always liked you.

Jessie and I went to visit you when you were pregnant. I doubt that any of us were older than 23. You said you’d been so careful, and gotten pregnant while fastidiously using two kinds of BC. But you were happy.

You said that all you had ever wanted to be was a mom, and this was your dream come true. I want an artful life, and you showed me that you did, too. You showed me that freedom means having all the possibilities of life to choose from — all — even those long associated with a lack of choice. Because of you I was infected with the idea that motherhood can be an art if you do it artfully and mindfully. I bet that you are a hippie mom even now, and you look like an art teacher. I bet you have cool hair and children (I bet there are at least two) who flourish.

I dreamed of you once. You were seated, wearing an antebellum ball gown like Scarlett O’Hara. It was mostly white with a green pattern, and you were cool like a forest and mild like a buttermint. You had an almost inhuman peacefulness. Your skin was like milk, your hair golden, your eyes limpid and wise. I walked to you like a supplicant. You turned up the hem of your gown to show me something printed there as if I needed to know it. It was a strange symbol I did not recognize.

When Jessie and I came to see you, you were wearing a red t-shirt and no shoes. Your kitchen was full of dirty dishes. I’ve always been good at getting past smalltalk to real talk, so I asked you point-blank if we could wash your dishes and clean your kitchen, which was small, white, and well-lit. It was afternoon in Western North Carolina. You said yes, said you hadn’t had the time to keep things up. I liked how you had no shame. You just stated a fact.

God how good it felt to clean! We felt like angels, Jessie and me. We felt like we cleaned a kitchen that had been dirty for a thousand years. It wasn’t that dirty; just dishes, really, although a lot of dishes, spilling out of the sink and onto the counter.

“Female energy!” you said as you sat at the table. For so long it had been just you and your boyfriend at home, and now your tribe had come to visit you. It brought you delight that we cleaned your kitchen like a river running through it. We brought the peace of water and soap, making things shine again. (Years later I smile now at how I loved victory over entropy and time, even then.)

When we were done it was time for the making of food. I’d just returned from South Florida where I’d learned to love Cuban cooking. I made us all a lunch of white rice, sticky and plain. Canned black beans, flavored with vinegar, cumin and lime juice. Red cabbage boiled to purple-pink, a shocking color barely fit for Americans to eat, much less three Southern girls.

I served our food the way I’d seen it in a Cuban restaurant once. You pile a low island of rice in the center of your plate. You top it with the tart beans, leaving a bright perimeter of rice. You surround the rice with a purple circle of cabbage. We ate a lunch that was purple, pure white and black! It was delicious! Your boyfriend came home and said that he had never seen food that looked like that before, but I bet if there were any leftovers (doubtful), he ate them and found them good.

And this is how I spent a summer afternoon in Fairview many years ago.

I don’t know where you are now, Jodi Green, but I always liked you.

One response to “Female Energy

  1. “I’ve always been good at getting past smalltalk to real talk.” I envy that skill.

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