Where I go when I’m not with you

“Because you can get free of everything except the space where things have been.”

I wake up in the morning on my left side. When my eyes open I am looking at the bookcases along the wall, the beige carpet on the floor, the fake wood of the open bedroom door. Sometimes the sun is shining and I follow the stream of it with my good eye as it lights up the room with its quiet warmth.

I’m the last one to arrive at the gym. During the warm up, I jog alone most days. I jog slowly, feeling the ache of my leg, feeling the tightness of my quads. Wondering when the pain will stop returning. I flex and tighten and pull and push and sprint until my shirt is soaked through, until my hair is frizzy and sticky, until the directions stop and I’m alone again. When I’m not with you, I want you to know how my muscles feel when they’re hot and taut and tearing. Let’s get a microscope and look.

I wonder how I bruised the knuckle of my thumb. I wonder how I will explain this to you later when I cannot place the cause.

I shuffle through the hallway in my flowy dress. The whispers and the stifled laughter and the smell of coffee push me back into my office. I sit in the dark and stare at the screen and wonder how I will convince you of the air of mutiny. As a unit, we try to laugh to maintain our perspective, but we always circle back to the source of our discontent. I try to commit the jokes to memory to tell you later but this has never been my strong suit.

I want the days to matter. This expression of me, although I know the days will pass without much notice and so too will the details fade. When I’m writing the chapters for my memoir, I want you to be able to remind me of the stories I forget. I ask you what to do, how to remember, but you don’t know either. You tell me just to keep doing. “Just do.” I know what you mean, but I don’t know what that means.

She tells me they have been married for 30 years, and she didn’t like him at first; she tells me her son drowned in a lake; she tells me she will give me her shirt; she tells me she’s ashamed; she tells me she used to work for corporate America; she tells me she feels self-conscious in her clothes; she tells me she wants to be loved; she tells me she’s afraid; she tells me her nephew beats her at chess; she tells me her mother was good.

I don’t remember how I did it, but I remember when you told me this and that is what I write about. This morning an old woman with short white tufts of hair walked past and said good morning and for a moment I saw myself as she saw me: young, slouched, quiet. I want to tell you how she seemed to laugh at me in that moment, but you would ask how I could tell and I wouldn’t have a convincing response.

I want to tell you how if I were in one of those movies–those survival movies–I would be alive at the end, but I know you would doubt me because you’ve only heard me talk about giving up. I remember to tell you about a time I didn’t give up, but I’m drowned out by the air conditioner. Speak up, you say, but I don’t care any more.


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