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Things I couldn't have

I just finished reading a book which was so emotionally fulfilling and full of love that after I turned the last page and closed the cover, I had to hug the book against my chest for a minute or so, smiling.

A short while later that morning I lost the book on one bus or another, on the way home from visiting my Dad in Fresno. I wonder if someone else will pick it up and read it, or it will be tossed out by the custodians like all the old newspapers and Coke cans? That would be a loss.

Not that the book was expensive... but with things like this, it's not paying for them that's hard: it's discovering them. (Thanks, Angela!) The book was Dangerous Angels. Don't let its simple language fool you: it is a set of gritty urban fables, rich and dense and bittersweet as chocolate key lime pie with graham cracker crust. One thing I learned from the book is that in order to feel love you have to share yourself; and in order to share yourself, you have to tell your history. Your history is the story of how you were built, and without it nobody knows where you come from. You are a stranger. So from now on, I'll tell more stories from farther back in life... even the bits I like to forget.

Okay, so like most little girls, all my life I wanted a horse. Just being around horses is the best thing in the world. I'd ride any horse I could get my hands on. Right now, I'm taking riding lessons at Golden Gate Park Stables, with Gina. Pretty soon they're closing the stables, so I don't know how long the fulfillment of my lifelong dream of riding horses regularly will be able to continue. For now, though, it's absolutely delicious.

We get there early so we can groom whichever horse we've been assigned before tacking up. Sometimes they try to bite me because they don't know me, even swinging around to nip my butt while I stand next to them, in a nasty show of ersatz viciousness I now understand to be a game. If I don't stand my ground and retaliate with a strong word and thump on the muzzle, it's gonna be a hard ride for me later. It's like they don't get that they're the big dangerous one at all; they think it's all just in who can dominate the other, and it's more attitude than anything. Actually I guess they're right.

Anyway, whether it's a horse I've ridden before or an unfamiliar one, I take my time grooming them. This is a small chance to bond before it's all work voice (like Ash uses when I call the office). I'll touch it all along its neck down to its muscular shoulders, feeling the thickness of the neck muscles and slick silkiness (or soft furriness) of the coat. I place my palm flat on the forehead and rub down the flat plane of the forehead, and touch the back of my fingers to the soft fuzzy part of the muzzle and upper lip.

Then I'll just start brushing them, scratching in circles on the neck and shoulder with the curry comb until the horse is delirious with joy, stretching its neck out with a twist and twitching its lips, sometimes nodding with drooling pleasure.

The smell of a horse's skin... there is nothing so sweet!! It is like... like fresh-cut grass, lime, honey and peat moss mixed together. I put my cheek on the smooth neck, close my eyes, and inhale and inhale it, sometimes wrapping my arms around its neck. I'm just like a little girl all over again, only it's not a fantasy.

When I finish tacking up and lead the horse out of its stall, I feel *so* cool. Like some people feel on a motorcycle, I guess: like, I am sooo cool! Look what I've got. Nyah, nyah.

Other girls I knew got to have a horse. They're super expensive to board and feed, and we were never rich. Even unrich people I know had horses, though. They just had, like, a field near their house where a horse turned up one day, or maybe it came with the house like a dishwasher or a couch. And wham, they were the proud owner of a nag they could sit on and tear around the field in.

Now, we lived in the suburbs when I was growing up, mostly; and often in apartments or rented houses. So no field, no horse, not for me. When I was 7 my parents got divorced, and there went most of the money. Horse dreams went out the door with my dad.

My mom kept up my ice skating lessons for a while, but even that got too expensive and came to an end... plus I was (allegedly) developing a great amount of frustration when I was unable to do a spin or a jump correctly, and I was accused of having a bad attitude. I mean, sure? Why not. My dad, whom I adored, had just left us for some woman in Fresno. I had no idea if I'd ever see him again. I guess I can see how that might have affected my concentration. My mom has told me that sometimes my dad would arrange to come pick me up to take me for a weekend visit, and would never turn up. Her face is a mask of anger as she describes to me my own 7-year-old inconsolable sobbing when he failed to show, and I can only believe her because I see the emotions in her face, hear the bitterness in her voice... but I don't remember.

When I was 15 or 16 my best friend had a horse, and I used to go with her to the ranch to see her ride. At that time my mom sprang for lessons for me, for a month or two. I haven't really thought much about how much of a financial stretch it must have been for her, but it was... well, it was the best thing in the world, just like now. And just like that, it was over just after it began.

One of the great things about being an adult is you can do whatever the hell you want. I want to ride horses, and now I can. And I want my dad back? Well... now I can at least arrange my own transportation to Fresno.

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