Phoenician Goddess c. 2500 BCEShe was standing in line at the deli counter when it happened. Out of nowhere, for no reason at all, she felt something take over her breathing.

Later, she might wonder whether she’d been looking at one too many Venus figurines for her online archeology course.

But now her mind, as it had for days, weeks, decades on end, was chattering non-stop, yammering thoughts (judgments, really) through circles within never-ending cycles of not-good-enough. Such had been her life, so-called, whatever you would call absenting yourself from actual contact with the world's flavors, textures, and other trinkets of sensation. Certainly her world — although some might call it sterile — was neat, tidy, clean.

She wasn't discontent with her circumstances. Any time she had peeked out of her circumscribed la-la-land, however arid — and, to her credit, she had attempted several sorties — she'd encountered bits of barbed wire in her milk, darts flying through the air, cutlery strewn across the sidewalk. In her, yes, limited experience, the world was not a friendly place. If her existence within her self-imposed isolation was a bit lonely, actually loveless, at least she was safe. Trips to the grocery store and library were adventures enough.

As far as she was concerned, the intricacies of the mundane world were either exhausting, boring, or painful. The world of her own making was, however recursive the cursing, if aggravating, at least interesting.

But then, on line behind two matronly ladies, a tattooed punkster with orange hair, and a fraying teenager with a toddler in tow, waiting to place her order for barbecued spare ribs and a pound of mac and cheese, it happened. Suddenly, she felt as if her belly contained a triangular pillow, ruby red, one rounded point reaching down to her perineum, the other two points above her hip bones at the level of her navel. No embroidered initials on the pillow, but its fabric was plush, velvety, deep, richly hued.

When she inhaled, her inhalation made the pillow plumper. When she exhaled, it returned to size. Breath in, breath out: this luxe pillow — call it crimson, call it scarlet — filled, emptied, reached out, receded.

The sensation was pleasant enough. In fact, a sly grin twitched her lips as she enjoyed this private pleasure.

The adventure continued: As the pillow expanded and contracted — a gentle bellows, a petalled pulsing — it sent a rosy smoke, a pink mist, up through the column of her body and into her brain. The mist magnetized her thoughts — the jagged ones, the bitter ones, the tattered ones, the ragged ones. It gathered them together, ushered them down the column of her body into the plush pillow of her belly.

Breath out, breath in. Pink mist herds her nasty thoughts downward; within the luscious pillow they deconstruct, dissolve. Pink mist rises into her brain and soothes it, shushes it, smooths it, lets it rest.

Breath in, breath out: another feature develops. As the pink mist rises up to her brain, a blue mist descends lazily through her legs.

A smile breaks across her face. Her shoulders drop away from her ears. She discovers flooring beneath her feet and, for the first time in a long, long, time, suspects the ground will remain in place.

Peeling some but not all of her attention away from the pink-and-blue-mist-emitting ruby red pillow in her middle, she notices the scalloped edges of the platters in the deli's display case, the confetti-colored salads they hold, the scent of lavender wafting from the woman passing behind her. She notices the curl of hair at the nape of the neck of the young woman ahead of her in line, hears her strained patience as she warns her child away from climbing on the counter. She notices the blue rubber band circling the left wrist of the man behind the counter as he hands the punkster a container of egg salad.

© 2013 Lisa Sarasohn

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Photo credit:
Goddess, Terra cotta, Sidon, Phoenicia, probably c. 2500 BCE
Louvre Museum

in Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, Pantheon/Bollingen (1955); Princeton University Press, reprint edition (1972); plate 14

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