This piece was first published on Dear Damsels.
It was a split second, barely even noticeable. One moment I’m handing my card to the woman behind the counter and trying my hardest to tune out the song blasted through the speakers. Something about a bird, freedom, driving down a midnight road. Groundbreaking lyrical genius, undoubtedly. I’m bitter, and cold, and I can’t wait to get out of there. One moment I’m counting cheese, pesto, red peppers, batteries and liquid soap, and did I forget anything? why can I never just make a fucking list, why did mother never teach me that becoming the kind of person who makes lists will solve like, 70% of my problems, why can I not just pretend I’ve got this under control. The next, something cracks and hisses in the air, I feel my knees buckle and my hands lose their grip. It was a split second, barely even noticeable. Anyone could have missed it.
I wish I had. I really do.
The drive back to the house is short and silent. I don’t turn the radio on, you don’t ask me to. You leave the bags in the back and I lock the car, we walk to the door together, but not really. You leave the light off and the living room door open, but for the first time in a long time it feels more mocking than it does an invitation. I scrub the snow off my boots, watch slivers fall to the carpet like traces of diamond dust I wish I could bottle up, like fragile unspeakable secrets that grip my heart and shake my shoulders as I listen to you whispering into the phone on the other side of the wall. Little white dust for little white lies, I think, and I suddenly can’t stop shaking. I walk up to the bathroom and turn the tap on, wait until a thick fog has settled on every surface then step under the scorching hot water, alone.
Winter brings a few surprises, old and new. A frosty wind runs through the house and my frozen bones, my insides grey like mold, weak and rotten like I’ve never felt before. The car keeps stopping and starting. When we get it checked at the place in town they say it’s only old and run its course, and I feel like crying although I’ve never even liked that stupid car. I start shopping at a new supermarket further down over the hills. Their vegetables are mostly brown and they never have my favorite brand of pickles but I can walk around the neon-lit aisles without looking over my shoulders, so I think that’s a plus. I start making lists. It doesn’t solve anything, but it’s a start. The neighbors’ dog runs away and we spend two days looking for him. We find him on the third day, curled into a ball by a log near the lake, quivering and terrified and small, so small. I hold him tight and stroke him softly, thinking I know how he feels. I start working late. The phone is always ringing. You take your phone calls in the bathroom with the water running, loud, and I shut my eyes and feel my body sinking into the bed, into the floor, into the foundations of the house, deep at the center of the Earth where I won’t hear whispers and I won’t make a sound. We eat melted cheese on stale bread sticks sitting on the armchair by the fireplace, flames cracking either side of us as I dream they’d rise higher and higher and engulf us, destroy us, forgive us.