It took Joy 14 years to write her new memoir. Revisiting the hard stuff can take a while. Sooooooo worth the wait! We recommend reading it with one of her CDs playing in the background, the more sax riffs the better. And potatoes frying in the skillet.
That night as we walked home from the bar and I waited for him behind the motel, he seemed to take forever. It was about two-thirty in the morning, and as I stood there the avenue grew quieter after the initial rush of traffic from the bar. The desk lamp inside the motel office made me lonely. I felt far away from everything.
I carried an ache under my ribs that was like radar: it told me I was miles away from the world I intended to make for my son and myself. I saw my easel set up in the corner of the living room in our apartment, next to my son’s box of toys. I imagined having the money to walk up to the motel office to rent a room of my own. I knew what I would do: I would sleep until I could sleep no more. I would wake up with my dreams and listen and sketch and paint the visions I had put aside to take care of everyone else.
I recalled the dream I’d had of a daughter who wanted to be born. I had been painting all night when she appeared to me. She was a baby with fat cheeks, and then she was a grown woman. She asked me to give birth to her. This isn’t a good time, I told her. I was in the middle of finals and assisting in planning for a protest of the killing of Navajo street drunks for fun by some white high school students. They had just been questioned and set free with no punishment. Why come into this kind of world? I asked her. Her intent made a fine unwavering line that connected my heart to hers.
I walked behind the motel to look for him. I found his shoes under a tree. Beyond them were his socks, like two dark salamanders. A little farther beyond his socks was his belt, and then I followed a trail of pants, shirt, and underwear until I was standing in the courtyard of the motel. My stomach turned and twisted as I considered all the scenarios a naked, drunk Indian man might get into in a motel on the main street of the city.
I heard a splash in the pool. I remember thinking, He’s a Pueblo Indian; he can’t swim. I considered leaving him there to flounder. It woud be his foolish fault, as well as the fault of a society that builds its cities over our holy places. At that moment, his disappearance would be a sudden relief. It was then that I first felt our daughter moving within me. She awakened me with a flutter, a kick. As I walked to the pool, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I never told her father about the night she showed up to announce her intentions, or how I saw her spirit when she was conceived, wavering above us on a fine sheen of light. I never told my daughter how I pulled her father from deep water.