He stood with a group of men wearing red union shirts. He drank from a brown bottle of beer and threw his head back with laughter. The jukebox played Jimmy Buffet and she couldn’t hear his laugh, but it tapped out a familiar rhythm on the soles of her shoes. His forehead was shining with sweat and his thin mouth split his face in two when he laughed. His short hair was pulled into greasy streaks. The shirt stretched across his middle. She drank her beer and watched him. Fear pulsed quietly but it was manageable and this surprised and disappointed her. She walked out of the bar without telling her friends. It was raining and the cobblestones were shining. She didn’t have a thing to say to him. None of it mattered anymore.
When the update scrolled along the bottom of the evening news, Aud’s breath tied a tight knot in the center of her chest. Her blood froze in her veins like ice water. Ice rocked at her elbows and her knees. It settled in her throat and jammed up in her knuckles. She sat on the molded plastic chair in the waiting room of the hospital as the orderlies moved around her like brooms, quietly moving the air into different piles. Nurses whispered to one another behind sculpted fingernails. Their eyelashes rested on their cheeks like heavy metal rakes. The smell of burnt coffee bounced off of sticky end tables. His face darkened the screen while the banner at the bottom scrolled: “DiPietro turns himself in after a 7 month long manhunt. Fate seems clear at this time.” Aud bit into the hook of skin between her thumb and forefinger. The warm taste of blood filled her nose and tears left wet marks where they fell on her blouse. The waiting room was too hot, and the snack machine glowed. Aud’s heavy stomach filled her lap. Her pelvis hummed with motion, one cheerful somersault after another.
A deep breath brings me together. My shoulders pull up my elbows, and the air goes down my throat in a cool burn. I don’t trip over breaths. My forearms don’t sweat. My eyebrows don’t itch, and my temples don’t throb. My body doesn’t tremble like a windchime, a thousand pieces clattering. The rubber bands pulling at my legs release, and I go like jelly for a minute.
Worry lifts me from a fitful sleep and lies me supline, floating an inch above the mattress. My arms are still, my legs motionless. I keep my eyes sealed and take shallow breaths. I pray, quiet repetitive prayers that are wide open to God’s interpretation and intended to cover everything that worries me. “Please, God. Please. Please, God. Please.” I don’t believe the prayers. I could be saying, “Cheeseburgers. With ketchup. Cheeseburgers. With ketchup.” The prayers are meaningless. The depth of their emptiness compounds my worry. I hover over my bed with no good spirit to push me down or pull me up. My eyes open and I look around the dark bedroom without moving my head. My heart jumps rope. The back of my neck flutters with an echo. My shoulders quietly tremble beside my neck. My limbs hover. I pray for sleep. I pray for a still heart, however it can come. I pray for belief in prayer, which used to sit beside me in a rocking chair, tapping its toe to fall back and forth quietly. It placed a warm hand against my cheek so I could sleep. Now it sits on top of the door in the corner of the room and laughs at me.
Relief shakes out the crumpled sheets in the morning. The sheets are soft and worn. The sun pushes through the horizontal blinds. Insistent. When I lift the blinds, sunshine pours across the unmade bed. Or it doesn’t. The sound of rain fills the room with small clapping hands. The air is clear and light and I’m tired but a stretch wakes me, and I can do the day. I am filled with gratitude that things are okay, that life isn’t knocking me to my knees on the floor. There is nothing in this world as good as a deep breath that isn’t dragging with worry. I believe that things are okay and nothing sits on the door in the corner. The rocking chair sways just a bit beside the bed.
- egg yolk
- candle flames
- not sunset
- toor dal
- children’s hair
- the walls in my ideal bedroom
- fresh ginger, kind of
- one of the school colors of my grade school and college
- dish soap
- buttercups held under children’s chins
She is relieved. She has been waiting for this day forever. She is so tired of resting on the shadowy shelf in the back of the cabinet, waiting to be chosen. She holds her breath each morning when the teapot begins to whistle and smoke and every morning, she’s pushed further back into the cabinet’s recesses. Red mugs are chosen. Witty, political mugs. Mugs from trendy coffee shops. And every single goddamned morning she’s rotated further out of rotation. One night Kate is unloading the dishwasher, and she’s shifted left to right and then front to back to make room for someone else. She’s knocked out of the cabinet. She bounces on the green laminate countertop before landing on the linoleum floor with a small but spectacular crash. She splinters into 127 pieces in the air. She yells and kicks the hell out of her feet for a glorious half second. When she is swept into a blue dustpan with a rubber lip, she is smiling. She doesn’t feel broken. She always knew she had exactly 127 pieces anyway, and now she can tend to the shards instead of holding her spine in a straight ladder every second of the day, waiting for something that was never coming in the first place.
- Thanksgiving dinner
- crepe paper turkeys
- clean bunny houses
- Kate’s staredown with Snow White
- train stations
- safe trips home
- remembering to leave on the porch light when you leave at noon so that it’s on when you return at 10:00 at night. it’s so friendly to come home to a porch light.
- good salads for the bunnies
- babies, always and especially at the holidays
- when bunnies extend their legs behind them
- decorating Sarah’s house while we cat sit
- Katie’s sense of humor
- Christmas trees for sale. Can’t wait to see the first one of the year on a car!
- dentist appt on Monday
- can sleep, sleep, sleep tomorrow
- lady gaga
- i love you texts from friends
- the Y
- hope. even when it feels like there’s none, there’s always a little. and a little is enough.