Snippets of Happiness
The ceiling fans turn above five women. One holds an almond cookie in her mouth as her hands adjust her notebook and reach for her pen. She moves the rest of the cookie into her mouth with the hand that has finished turning to the correct page, then brushes away the crumbs from the glass table. Another woman sits hunched over a tablet in her lap. She is wearing a black swimsuit and sits on the white canvas cushion of a rattan couch.
A third taps on her computer—a fact that has driven her former sofa neighbor out to the terrace to write––that tapping too distracting. Next door, the crash of chisel on concrete furnishes a counter-tempo to the gentle tapping of the keys. The ocean swells in a continual basso…snippets of a plaintive Mexican song straining in over the fence as well. The sparseness of the view––sea dunes, succulent ground cover, crashing ocean and sky–– is augmented by so many sounds that they blend into a cacophony that can be overlooked…or underheard, as the case may be.
I am the fifth woman, and as the other four write about whatever world each is in, their imagined voices fill my thoughts to a point where my own voice is lost. I can only record what I see and hear. It is as though my own imagination has been sucked up by the morning, lost in the profusion of thoughts of others that grow like liana in my mind.
The blades on the fans spin. Tiny upside-down crosses are formed by the bolts that secure the glass globes of the lights below the fans. Like crucifixes the tortured have slipped free from, they stand useless as metaphors but necessary in actuality. All of the crucified have scurried away…survivors of someone else’s bigotry or fears or cruelty.
Some of the survivors climb up the legs of the coffee table and pull themselves onto my computer keys. They jump on keys to say, “We have voices that will not be stilled. We sacrifice that bullies may be overcome. We expect you to resist as we do. Frightening as it is, it is the only way. Life is choice after choice and those choices, if easy, are not worth making.”
I take over. Brush them like crumbs from my keyboard. I get to choose how profound my life will be, at least on the page, and I don’t want to write about crucifixion, shootings in churches or fast food restaurants, massacres at concerts.
I want my senses filled with tappings and poundings and too-loud strains of music and where the fridge will go in the tiny new sleeping/feeding room I’m having constructed for my dogs. I want another almond cookie, and a sip, two sips of hazelnut coffee. Some of us have to have a happy life. Some need to go on in spite of the slaughter, greed, small-mindedness. We win in this way. Something exists in spite of the horrible chaos some would make of the world.
We win by fighting, but we also win by being. By remaining. By choosing to be happy. The ocean roars and sometimes I must roar, also. But not always.
Since Monday, I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta at a writer’s retreat with seven other women. Since our days start before the prompts come out, there is no time to write before the sessions begin, so I’m resorting to editing earlier work. This piece was written at a retreat attended by most of these same women three years ago. The prompt today was snippet.