In Which It Feels Like A Sunlit Hardwood Floor

This is the first in a two part series. Part two publishes tomorrow.

Wild Goose Chase

by JOSIANE CURTIS

Portland has more Canada geese than anywhere else I’ve lived. They’re mostly harmless, and occasionally cute in the spring, when the fluffy nutritional yeast-colored babies line up and flop flop flop in a row behind their mamas, or scatter as bikers fly past on the Burnside-to-Steel-Bridge esplanade. I’m skeptical, and I walk in a wide arc away from where they gather on the grass along the SW waterfront.

The only geese I encountered before Portland were hateful and mean, or protective, if we want to give them the benefit of the doubt. A childhood friend of mine, Britta, had two as pets. I don’t remember much about my friendship with Britta besides those birds, and the fact that I was jealous of the snappy names her parents had given their daughters, Britta and her younger sister Brooke, the kind of feminine but original names well-suited for pretty petite girls with blonde bobs and perfect blunt-cut bangs. I don’t remember if the geese had names. I do remember that they chased me every single time I went to her house, somewhere between the front door and front gate of the yard, either coming or going or both.

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Well they can’t chase you if you don’t run, my mother told me once. It seems strange, in hindsight, coming from her. She had been a runner her entire life, literally and figuratively, running track in high school and then moving from coast to coast, always coming or going or both. It seems like the kind of advice a father would give, or at least someone more sturdy, someone grounded.

But if you don’t run… what happens when they catch you?

There’s only one way to find out.

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Do you know when someone gives you flowers for no reason? Do you know what that feels like, versus what it should feel like?

What it should feel like: The sunlit section of a hardwood floor inside a west-facing French door, inside a cool house, on a late afternoon in September. A spot of warmth that is unnecessary but nice. Welcome but not overwhelming.

What it does feel like: What I imagine it feels like to be chased by something when you’re standing still; when something catches you because you don’t run. What I can only imagine that feels like, because I never tried to find out.


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When I swim laps at the SW Community Center pool, I pretend I am being chased by a shark. I am maybe the only person who prefers the pool during peak swim times, when we have to put three people to a lane and swim in loops, trying to match each other’s pace. I choose the lane marked “Fast” even though I am not a particularly fast swimmer. But I pretend the other people in my lane are sharks, and I become a fast swimmer.

Whenever I am forced to stand still, I think of losing my legs. I get visibly nervous on crowded escalators, clench and unclench my fists and step side to side when people stand in pairs in front of me, laughing and holding shopping bags and blocking the path where I would step. When I am still, I picture rounded but strong black beaks pecking at my shin bones, or shark teeth taking off one of my lower limbs altogether.

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He leaves flowers in my car door one morning and I can’t remember if I even smile when I see them. Have you ever felt thank you and I’m sorry in the same sentence, for something someone else did and something you didn’t do, or rather, something, a warmth, you didn’t feel? When, instead of warmth, fear and gratitude and guilt swim fast loops in the pit of your stomach. Those feelings don’t work well together; they crash and curdle.

But if you don’t run… what happens when they catch you?

I want to find out, but I don’t know how to be still without the nightmares. I want to stop running but I am skeptical, walking in a wide arc around where he pauses to catch his breath.

Josiane Curtis is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Portland. You can find her twitter here. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about the first sign of dawn. Her work recently appeared on The Rumpus here.

Drawings by Andrew Smith. You can buy prints and originals here.

“Runaway” – Mr. Little Jeans (mp3)

“Mercy” – Mr. Little Jeans (mp3)

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