The train to Vermont almost left without me.
The train pulled into the station, and I confirmed with the conductor who stepped onto the platform that it was the Vermonter. I walked toward an open car door, my husband B beside me and pulling my traffic-cone orange behemoth bag. I turned to take my bag and kiss him goodbye, but he lunged past me, arms outstretched, and said, “Shit!”
The train doors were closing! Not even sixty seconds had passed since the train arrived. The jerk on the platform knew I needed to board, but there was no warning bell, nothing. I felt like I watched it all in slow motion: B pried the doors open like he was Indiana Jones and yelled, “Get in! Quick!” I jumped onto the car with a bag as big and heavy as the arc, turned and kissed B right before the doors tore us from each other, and the train pulled away.
First stop: Brattleboro.
Everything I’ve heard about pigs is true.
My dear friend J’s landlord raises pigs on his vast property. I knew this before we arrived to the beginning of the driveway and saw the pig-shaped wooden sign that listed numerous ways to enjoy pork, e.g., bacon and roasts. A smaller wooden sign hung from the belly of the big pig, and read, “Piglets.”
I saw the pigs the next morning, after J and I had lingered over coffee, fresh muffins, and fruit in the kitchen of her sunny aerie. Lesson one for this urban boricua: In the country, the edible scrapings from the cutting board, kitchen counter, and plates that went into the bucket on J’s deck are called “compost”, and fed to pigs. We arrived at the pigsty, and it was a mess. J laughed when I pointed this out, and asked what I had been expecting. By pig standards, it was an enviable gated community with two lines of pig shacks in vinegary smelling mud bordered by forested expanses.
The piglets swarmed upon the bucket contents we dumped onto the mud and ate like, well, pigs: they snorted, squealed, pushed each other, dug their snouts into the mud, and urinated. I looked away, but what I saw in the short distance disturbed me even more.
“Holy cow, that’s some pig!” I exclaimed. The pig in the distance was bigger than my suitcase, likely as large as a cow. I saw there was more than one, each huge and resting in the mud and looking as happy as, you guessed it, pigs in shit. The face of one speckled monster’s planted in the slop reminded me of how I must look on my pillow in drooling surrender. I got concerned, and ready to run when it lifted its head and made eye contact with me.
“Is that thing going to charge me?” I asked J.
She laughed so hard she couldn’t answer immediately. It didn’t matter because I was already rushing back toward the safety of the house.
What you wish for is a reflection of what you fear.
That’s what another writer told me this evening at the welcome reception. I’m highly anxious, or am I highly hopeful? That means I was filled with hope last night when I arrived to the studio center. I was one of less than ten people who arrived last night, before the official opening day. The studio center guide picked me up at the train station, and dropped me off at the home I would share with five housemates for the next month. But there was no one else there last night.
It felt like there was nobody else in the whole town, except maybe the psycho that I am convinced is lurking in every dark corner waiting to pounce on me. Or la chupacabra. If pigs can grow to the size of cattle, the goat-blood-sucker of Puerto Rican legend can find its way to Vermont. I had finally arrived at my writing residency, for which I had wished and anticipated, only to be scared senseless. I wanted to go home. I wanted to ask the guide not to leave, consider letting me sleep on her couch, in her garage, I didn’t care. I was scared, but too embarrassed to admit it. So I wished her a good night, and smiled and waved as she pulled out of the driveway and drove into the night.
My anxiety is one of the biggest things that keeps me from moving forward. It’s bigger than the damn suitcase I lugged up north, and bigger than the pig I thought was challenging me earlier in the day. I’ve waited for this residency opportunity for too long, and it’s up to me to make the most of it. That meant deciding to stay alone in the house last night, and using the time to unpack, organize, and sleep so I could start my first full day ready to go. I awoke this morning refreshed from a night of sound sleep, glad that I had decided to stay, and had propped the biggest chair I could find against my bedroom door.