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March 11, 1999 - Image 25

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-11

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10B - The Michigan Daily - Literary Magazine - Thursday, March 11, 1999

Solace in a Closed Closet
By Renee S. Zukin

The Michigan Daily Literary Mag
Aloe Vera's Mysterious
Malady or An Indigo Dream

I don't remember the first time I spent
time in my closet. It must have been dur-
ing a game of hide and seek or while seek-
ing refuge from noogies, spit balls, and
unfair wrestling matches between my
older brothers and me. Shutting myself
into the closet of the house on East
Larkmoor provided comfort in the chaos.
Though the closet in my bedroom with the
shaggy red carpet was a haven during day-
light hours, the doors had to be kept shut at
night. It was a ritual. When my mother
would tuck me in bed, she would check the
closet for monsters and make sure those

doors were closed tight - ensuring there
was no chance of the goblins escaping and
torturing me in my sleep.
The comfort of the closet would later
become precious moments of self-reflec-
tion and much needed solitude through
life's trials. There is something uniquely
serene about entering that tiny space, sit-
ting down, and shutting out the world. In
every bedroom I lived in, I could find that
solace in the space of the closet though
never really understanding what drew me
into it.
The house on Arbury proved to be
more conducive to closet sitting. During
my teen years, I kept a dresser in my bed-
room closet. I would climb on top of it
and shut the sliding doors in front of me.
There was just enough light peeking
through the bottom of the doors to see the
silhouette of my hands as they twisted and
turned with each passing thought.
Sometimes, I wondered if it were the
monsters in the closet that I was coming
to sit with - cavorting with the demons

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that never seemed to disappear complete-
ly from my early childhood. In the dark-
ness, the world stopped just long enough
to ease my mind of the changes going on
around me. Sexual awakening, cognitive
enlightenment, and emotional awareness
were so much for a young girl to handle.
But the feel of my soft shirts hanging
above me and gliding against my back
reminded me of cuddles I received as a
baby girl from my daddy and gave me
hope for a future of warm touches and
sincere embraces. And then the creaking
of the hangers would remind me that
silence is never long lasting, and I must
move on with the task of growing up.
In my early years of college, I only had
one closet with a door that would actually
close. I made that closet my own, painting
the outside with my signature daisy and
boxes of red and blue and black across the
bottom of a green door. I even added my
initials so that all who lived in that room
after me would know I had been there and
know that this space had been something
special, maybe even magical.
There were only two occasions in
which I remember spending time in there
with the door closed. The first time was
the night my boyfriend and I broke up,
and I couldn't escape my roommate in
that tiny apartment. The need to be alone
was so powerful that I didn't care what



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she was thinking as she sat on my bed
staring at the closed door in front of her.
The second time was the day before I told
my mother I was pregnant.
I left the lights on this time, for there
were parts of me I didn't want to turn off
when I closed the door. I sat down slow-
ly, with just enough floor space for me to
sit Indian style and touch the walls with
my elbows and knees. In the calm, I
looked up in search of something, some
guidance perhaps, and found cracks in the
paint on the ceiling. I noticed one major
crack in the wall which all others sprout-
ed from. Reaching in all directions, the
lines reminded me of veins - a blood-
line, the line from which my blood ended
and my soon-to-be daughter's blood
began. And then I became momentarily
blinded by the uncovered light bulb and,
in that instant, felt that things were going
to be okay.
When I moved into my parents new
house in the middle of my pregnancy, I
found new meaning in my closet sitting.
All these years, I had wondered what
being inside a small space was all about.
Why was it that being inside of a closet
made everything inside me calm and
serene enough to focus and breathe effort-
lessly? I figured it out one night as I spent
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time organizing newly acquired baby
items and sAt in the closet that would soon
be my daughter's.
Sitting inside the cubelike walk-in clos-
et setting tiny clothes on tiny hangers, I
decided to shut the door on the world once
more. All was quiet. I could hear my
breath and the echo of my quickened
heartbeat that was now beating for two.
Sounds from the other rooms of the house
were muffled - voices murmuring as if
floating through fluid to reach my ears. I
lay down and curled my legs up to my
bulging belly, my hands resting gently on
my daughter's body. I closed my eyes and,
for a few moments, was lost in the world
of the Womb. "This is it," I thought to
myself. "We are home."
And so I realized that the closed-in
feeling of the closet doors was not only
refuge from sibling rivalry, puberty, or the
lack of solitude in the college setting, but
also a return home to the place of my ini-
tial existence. Sitting in a closed closet
embodied a feeling of floating in fluid
with protection from the outside world by
walls representing the amniotic sac that I
elbowed and kneed and was first
embraced by. And now it is my daughter
who crawls and explores the world out-
side of the womb, who will take a time-
out from the struggles of learning before
bedtime. As we play quietly in her room
after her bath, she crawls up the one step
into her closet, turns to sit, and looks up
toward me with a smile, as if to say,
"Mama, I'm home."
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She was the weird one. Even
though, she always said that I was
the weird one. She had loved to
point out the way people's interest
turned to poorly-contained nervous-
ness when they saw me push some
invisible strand of hair behind my
ear a billion times in a conversation.
Or she would laugh in reliving all
the times that bums picked me out
of a crowd to harass and rant to. It
made me pick my lip and reach
around for some way in which she
was strange; any quirk with an easy
grip handle. But there wasn't any,
not one. Her strangeness was broad
and smooth without chink or hand-
hold. It was the way she spoke,
without comment on herself. She
couldn't hear how the words might
sound, if they might limp out in a
motley formation. It was only the
idea. She spoke with complete can-
dor, without consideration to appro-
priateness, or the potential awk-
wardness of the listener. So she felt
hurt a lot, too. Often enough her
verbal troops were a deformed
bunch, and leading them into dis-
cussion was like charging into the
valley of death with the six-hun-
By some cruel twist of fate her
full name was Aloe Vera Cummings.
If the great God in heaven had only
allowed the grace of Vera Aloe
Cummings, maybe she wouldn't be
filled with such self-loathing. We
lay on a rooftop, high above the city.
We lay on our backs, exactly -oppo-
site each other, ear to ear, with the
crowns of our heads touching each
other's shoulders. The fireworks
were mostly star bursts stretching
languorously across the night sky in
blue, green, red and white. The
whites were the best, looking like
meteor showers or something
bizarre and catastrophic. The muf-
fled booms of the explosions were
soothing, rather than surprising.
Every once in a while, I would turn
my head to watch as her face was
brushed with light from the explo-
sions overhead. Her lips were
slightly parted in sightless feeling.
Inevitably, it would fade into dark-
ness again.
"How can these things be birthed
by a machine?" she asked, her
breath whistling into the folds of my
I pictured a grotesque machine,
all perpetual motion and gears,
cranking out divinity. Alternately, I
thought ofa kind old man lighting
them one by one, tenderly, and I
scratched this out also.
"They're just lights, is all. I'll tell
you, I feel kind of stupid finding
bright lights and loud noises as
beautiful as I do. It's like thinking
that an amusement park is the
height of culture," and I felt dumb
as soon as the words faded. Aloe
turned her head and kissed my ear

By Edward Kehog
"I feel like the fourth is the
orgasm of the summer or some-
thing. It's in the dead center and
filled with heat, noise and light. I
think it's my favorite holiday," she
remarked. I smiled.
She knew as well as I did that that
wasn't the truth, but, for Aloe, it
was her favorite, one now and that
was the important part. With
patience mingled with a near super-
stition, we watched the display. We
felt the heat radiate up around our
ears from the black rooftop. We
could hear the monotonous murmur
of the crowd in the street.
"If I squeeze my eyes closed
wicked, wicked tight, I can see the
fireworks in blue on my eyelids. It's
like a souvenir," she said.
I smiled again in the dark. Her
body stirred the gravel beside me. I
felt the scene change there but given
the chance, I couldn't name what it
was, what thing had meant change
of scene . But there was.
"You know, I think that perhaps
the nature of the perfect lover is
uneasiness," she said. I could feel
her nod her head. I looked over and
saw little specks of light reflected in
her eyes. She began again.
"I don't want somebody smooth. I
want someone who is desperate and
shaky. I think that there is beauty in
the uncertain movement. like a
falling body reluctant to give up its
She spoke to me but her words
inevitably floated up to the sky. The

irregular thump of fireworks sound-
ed vaguely, a mile away, a heartbeat
after the lights filled our eyes. I felt
the gravel pressing into the backs of
my arms and legs. I could almost
see the tattoos they would leave
minutes after I stood up.
"How can I find comfort in a liq-
uid hand, something rolling on me
like oil?"
I exhaled. I heard the crunch of
gravel as she nodded again, agree-
ing with herself. It was nearly a
soliloquy. No, I guess she wanted
feedback. But the sky took the
words from us. I just watched them
as they passed by, on their way
upwards. The rooftop was so airy
that it felt like a vacuum. And
instead of the fireworks providing
definition and boundary to the sky,
they merely enhanced my feelings
of groundlessness. I forget that
word; the word for 'fear of wide
open spaces.' The gravel and the
gravity sandwiched our bodies. She
spoke again but I didn't hear her. I
was thinking of the sky. With each
new revelation, I wondered more
and more what she thought when we
were together.
The absence of the fireworks
made the rest of the night seem
See ALOE, Page 16B



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