The Tiger Moon

By Lauren Beck

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The bulging moon sits like a giant Buddha belly, low in the sky, magnified by the
polluted atmosphere and bright lights of suburbia. From my view on the ground,
the branches of a weeping willow tree scratch across the moon’s surface, creating
open gashes, unhealed scars. The pond below me is completely still but for an
occasional ripple initiated by the soft autumn breeze.

I decide to memorize this image, to take a mental snapshot. My head rests on the
roots of a willow tree, turned left to face the moon. Blurry blades of grass invade
my peripheral. I shift until the moon is centered among the descending willow
branches, like bony fingers scraping across light. Satisfied, I let my arms flop
to the ground, palms up, summoning.

I burn the image into my mind. I take in the contrast of the bright bulbous moon
against the dark blue canvas, the eerie shadows cast by willow tree, the backwards
reflection of my friend in the pond. He is colorblind; I ask him to describe what he
sees. He is always seeing things so differently from me.



I am in love. But I haven’t admitted it yet.

It’s his birthday. I have a bottle of wine and a blindfold made from an old bandana.
We get in my car and I tell him to blindfold himself. “What is this,” he asks.
“It’s your birthday present. Put on the damn blindfold or you will ruin it.”

I drive around for awhile, but never leave the neighborhood. I ask him to describe
what it’s like to be driven around without the awareness that comes with vision. He
chirps with excitement while I drive around and around the side streets of the suburbs.
I finally park at a school with a long stretch of fields and a great view of the sky. I grab
a bag with the wine and two red plastic cups in it and throw it over my shoulder. I grab
my cigarettes with one hand and take his hand in the other. I lead him across the fields
and up a hill to a bench near the playground. I help him find the bench with his hands
and he sits, gingerly.

I climb to the top of the jungle gym. I open the wine and fill the red cups. He is sitting on
the bench trying to gain a sense of his surroundings, excitement resting on the corners of
his lips. His head instinctively turns towards the sounds of crickets and bull frogs. I love
.  I think it but don’t say it. I have a hard time saying the things that push against the
corners of my mind.

I tell him to take off the blindfold. He is surprised, disappointed to see that we aren’t all
that far from home. I feel foolish. After several silent moments pass, he forces a smile
and climbs up to  join me. I hand him a cup and we toast, to us. We sit and look at the
moon, low and full, scorching against the black backdrop. I wonder if he understands
the magnitude of the event, if he knows I am giving him my heart, the moon. He is
always seeing things so differently from me.



I read. I read furiously. Other people’s words make much more sense than my
own, which makes me love them and hate them all at once. I eat words for
breakfast. I wear them to work. I exploit them at social gatherings. No one
knows what I am talking about. I speak in rhythm, think in paragraphs,
converse in novels. Nothing makes sense, penetrates. I am alone.

At night, I walk. I step carefully to avoid the light of the moon. When the moon is
full, I do not walk at all. It hurts too much.

I take my long hair and tie it into a pony tail. Using dull scissors, I chop it off in one
jagged attempt. I dye it black. I look at myself in the mirror, the dark circles under
my eyes, the creases that have appeared on my brow. My arms aren’t skinny anymore.
My lips aren’t as pink as they once were. My skin looks pale against the slimy tendrils
of black hair hanging loose, uncertain, around my face. I feel old, isolated.
Why can’t I see things like everyone else?



We are not pleased. We are sharing a general discontentment, a disgruntled nose in the
air, our arms crossed in fervor with no explanation. We think that beer might cheer us
up, so we visit the local watering hole; she and I often think the same way. But after a
couple of pints, it isn’t working. So we leave.

I am driving. I am driving towards my house, and we are still sighing and furrowing our
brows. I approach my street, but I do not put my blinker on, I do not slow down. I pass
the street and my friend asks where I am going. We are going to chase the moon. I nod
in the direction of a low hanging moon, a red moon, giant and brilliant. She turns a
knob on my car stereo, raising the volume in agreement.

I am taking us to a place I haven’t been to since high school, a place that my friends and
I used to go when it snowed. Late at night, we snuck thermoses filled with rum out to
the enormous, steep hill to go sledding. I remember that the hill was difficult to climb,
especially in the deep snow, but once there, the view was worth it. We have to find it
tonight. We need to catch this moon.

I park in the lot at the elementary school where the hill lives and lead my friend past the
playground, past the tennis courts, past the soccer fields to the magnificent hill. It is
steep and the climb in the brisk air leaves us without breath. Damn cigarettes.

I turn and see it. The red moon is in the center of a vast and clear sky, except for a few
wisps of clouds. We stand in awe and watch as the clouds creep over the red moon,
creating scratches, streaks, stripes. It looks like a tiger, I say.

We descend the hill to the playground below. We climb to the top of the jungle gym.
We swing on the swings, lean our heads back at the peak of the forward climb, let
our long hair float below us. We laugh. Our arms are not as skinny as they used to
be. I close my eyes and swing up into the darkness. My discontent drips onto the
ground below with each arc of the swing. It glitters on the ground in the light of
the tiger moon. Happy, we walk back to the car, holding hands, laughing.



New Year’s Eve. I am at a random bar. My boyfriend is in a random band.
They are going to play a set right after the ball drops. I am standing with
my friend and her boyfriend near the pool tables. She and I watch her
boyfriend play pool and sip on canned beer. The countdown starts: 10! 9! 8!…

She looks around, worried for a moment that maybe he has forgotten. I do the
same. Except he remembers. He approaches her, just in time to kiss her as the
ball drops. I watch everyone in the bar grab their significant other and they
kiss and hug and clink glasses. My boyfriend is nowhere in sight.

The room is suddenly like a Hitchcock film, dizzying, the couples in focus,
the rest of the room zooming away rapidly. The cheers, the laughter, the
happiness is making me feel nauseous. The love cloud I had imagined is
evaporating. I am standing alone. I am alone.

I don’t know how long I have been standing here, transfixed, when my
friend and her boyfriend snap me out of my catatonic state. They hug me.
She wipes tears from my eyes, tells me I should come with her to the
bathroom to clean myself up. I’m crying? I ask. She tugs my arm and I
follow her.

I look at myself, long and hard in the clouded, filthy bar mirror, my
body awkwardly tucked between girls putting on lipstick and adjusting
their  hair. I wipe the smeared mascara from under my eyes. Let’s just
, my friend says, let’s just leave. Okay.

We run into him on our way out. I am supposed to play and sing an
acoustic set with him after the band finishes. I’m leaving. I think it
but I don’t say it. He asks me why I am crying, why I am carrying my
guitar case. We are leaving, she says as she takes my free hand and
leads me to her car. I don’t lookback.

I try to suppress the tears he doesn’t deserve. I don’t love him anyway.
But the moment let me down. My friend knows what I am feeling;
she understands the rationality of it. She and I often see things the
same way. And despite the disappointment, I am happy to be
understood, even in desperation. It is my own fault for trying to
forge love where there was none. As we drive, I look out the window
at the full moon that sits mockingly in the corner of the sky.
I swear it is smirking at me. (It turned out to be a pretty lousy year.)



I feel the cold glare of the moon on my back. It burns me as I stand
beside of a group of friends and strangers at an outdoor fall gathering.
They talk and I pretend I am interested, nodding and laughing on cue.
But I am looking through them, off into the distance. I hold a glass of
wine in my hand, unconsciously swirl the red liquid around the glass.
I like the sound it makes. My arms are not skinny anymore. I run on
the treadmill and take yoga classes, yet nothing will make my arms
as small as they once were. I am always aware of them, my arms.
I want to throw them out at my sides, open my rib cage, summon.
But I don’t. Not with these arms.

Lauren Beck

Author’s Note:

The Tiger Moon is a work of creative non-fiction that spans a fifteen year period of my life and [discusses] how the moon has affected it and been a part of it. It is divided into sections by year and is factual to the best of my knowledge.