Semantic notions about life: an exploration of words and signs, and the stories they are trying to tell.

cau·tion

cau·tion

Corner of N. Williams & N. Blandena, Portland, OR, USA

Corner of N. Williams & N. Blandena, Portland, OR, USA

cau·tion /kaw-shuhn/

Verb (used with object). To give a warning to; advise or urge to take heed.

Under a threat of severe snowstorm advisories,  my mother drives us 43 miles west from our home to visit her mother, whom we call not Grandma but Nana. I am three and a half years old, and nap for most of the drive, heat blasting on high from the car vents to overcompensate for the chill outside. I wake just as we arrive, feral child with sweaty,  chocolate curls cascading past my shoulders and sticking to my forehead. 

The men - my father, and my Papa - are at work. The boy - my older brother - is at school. I am not yet old enough for real school, so I make one of my own. There are no crayons at Nana's house, but she has lined white paper, sharp yellow pencils, and a fleet of ballpoint pens - the color of night, the color of bruises, the color of blood. I improvise, her kitchen table serving as my desk, distracted by the four slices of wheat toast sitting in the center on a glass plate shaped and textured like a leaf. I take one slice of her breakfast leftovers, savoring the perfect blend of crisp corners and saturation, my fingers coated in a buttery sheen.

I can hear the midday news coming from the TV in Nana's living room where she is huddled with my mother, but cannot see the screen from where I sit. It's turned up slightly too loud to muffle their whispered conversation. I do not know what is being discussed, only that it is clearly not intended for my ears.

I am more concerned with time. As in, how much time is left until Ryan's Hope starts. Followed by All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital. My mother is loyal to ABC soap operas, and I am a young apprentice in viewership. I dash into the next room, desperately in search of a status report.

"You know how to tell time," Nana reminds me. "Go look at the clock in our bedroom." But she has also witnessed my sprint, and adds a very specific warning: "Don't run with that pencil. You'll trip, and it will end up in your foot."

I ignore her words, darting down the hallway and find the clock on her nightstand. I know that the big hand means hours and the little hand means minutes, and quickly deduce it is 12:29pm. I pivot and spin back down the hallway, and four, five steps in, I fall, the tip of my lead spear puncturing my inner left ankle.

And then, there is a scream, louder than Delia Ryan, Erica Kane, Vicki Buchanan, and Monica Quartermaine combined.

Nana and my mother mobilize swiftly, two songbirds swooping in to protect their young. Pencil removed but with graphite left behind, washcloths used as compresses to stop the bleeding, calls made to our pediatrician, driving distances calculated against the predicted time of arrival for the forthcoming storm. As I am carried by both to the back seat of my mother's car for transport, there is a glance exchanged. Not a smug, "I told you so," but rather the briefest flash of panic with the memory of what was said aloud. The spell that was cast. This cautionary tale brought to life, and the way we doubt the power of what we can manifest to come true.

luck

luck