WRITING WELL 14 - jata

by Susan Weber

I’m the kind of person who can tolerate a fair amount of obnoxious behavior before I get up the nerve to air my complaints. But this perpetrator lives in my house, and this time she’s gone too far. I tap at her door, thinking to keep the conversation civil. Not even the proverbial floorboard does she creak to acknowledge having heard me.

She calls herself Jata, some Sanskrit word for dreadlocks, of which she has enough to hang nine cats ten times, possibly more. But she can’t fool me with her fancy hair and her ancient name. What I know, I know. I will call her Dread.

Having knocked my knuckles numb I try the handle. The door flies open and I lurch forward, winded but still erect. Dread is sprawled across the chaise longue, one enormous foot buttressing the dead trunk of my monstera delicosa plant, the other keeping time to the back beat bleeding from baloonish headphones. Though facing me she looks to have missed my entrance. The minuscule device she holds inches from her nose appears to be delivering video to her bloodshot eyes. When I squint I can make out horrid scenarios pulsing within her distended pupils.

“This one’s your worst nightmare,” she says, slipping the headphones down around her neck. "Highlight reel." She pockets the device and shoves a mound of notebooks, clearly the bulk of my journals, from the sofa to the floor. “So you’re here. Finally. Sit,” she says, nodding me into the moldering upholstery.

Though I am exhausted, I do not sit. “Look,” says my mousy twang, barely loud enough to drown out Metallica’s tinny roar. “I don’t want you lurking around the bedroom at night.” I had a better speech worked out but I hadn’t bargained on the brute force of her persona. “It’s invasive,” I squeak, “and I need my sleep, especially now.”

This gets a good laugh from Dread. I would call it side-splitting but I don’t care to dwell on the expanse of her. “Funny,” she says with a bleat, “how you don’t seem to mind when I commandeer your night life!”

I’m embarrassed by the next chunk of monologue where I gripe about her traipsing around my dreams even though only now do I realize she’s been taking over my subconscious for some time. It was in bed last night I figured out Dread was the one roping down my comforter, ruining my joie de vivre, treating my troubles like a toy for her amusement. Picture her switching off the headphones, crossing those musclebound ankles, and spreading her massive arms along the worn-down shoulders of the couch.

“Tell me to go, I go,” she says. There is no scorn in her voice this time.

It will not surprise a keen observer of human nature that I change the subject posthaste. I ask her why the heck she’s snooping in my journals. She says she can’t do her job if she doesn’t know me.

“What exactly is your job?” I say.

Outer space. That’s her answer. She is sitting up, or standing, I’m not sure which. She looks like a chakra, a labyrinth, a god on a cross. My anguish is painted in the pores of her sky tattoo, her miles and miles of knotty spirals raining down. Every curtailment of freedom I expect out of life, every love to be lost, all the nameless fears of my imaginings are taking shape in Dread. I am dumbfounded and profoundly sad.

This is not one of those scenarios that wraps up neat and clean. I back out and shut the door with care. There’s been an invitation given, I suppose. This Jata might turn out to be a toxic friend, one I should ignore completely. Or she’s a seer and I’m her seen. Maybe she’ll see me tonight, before or after sleep has claimed me. One thing I keep going back to is her skin. It seems to be molting winter fur. Beneath the pelt, inside of her, I see that too. And yes, for those who wonder. There are stars.

Photo by Ian Norman CC BY-SA 2.0