My father really just seemed angry that I was this and that, all things specific to my essential nature, to my composition. I waited for some acknowledgement that he simply did not like me. I waited for his email.
I got busy organizing the drawer of my bedside table, throwing out old receipts and putting dirty pennies in the penny thing and stacking letters and postcards into piles, my lip and lotion stuff into rows, a small blue candle in the shape of a heart beside them.
What is wrong with me? I suspect: I go through hard times and I say “I’m going through it.” I’m not so restrained. I’m not all that feminine. I’m not polished and I feel that — the shame of it in certain company. I don’t respond well to baby talk. When I hear it, it’s like I’m trying to swallow a pin. My body becomes stiff and my voice rock-like. I want to be seen.
Women, here is what they should be: deferential. You must speak to others with deference. Passion is supported only if packaged right. If not, it is a high offense, on par with dealing drugs to children. You must be a caretaker, not only of the home, but of everyone around you. It is your responsibility to be responsible while also being light and breezy. Men, they flake out, it’s adorable.
I took a shower and thought, if someone is watching me through the shower window, then fine. If there is someone crouching in the dark and looking at me, so be it.
I washed my hair with purple shampoo and opened my mouth to the jet of water then spit on my feet.
After the shower I walked around with a towel on my head. Everything felt weighted in place; the coffee maker a block of metal, the stack of mail a block of metal, my jacket on the couch a block of metal. The air around it all thin and brittle. I thought about eating a clementine, but if I’m honest I don’t like them. I thought about eating a slice of swiss cheese and opened the refrigerator and looked at the cheese and decided it wasn’t worth it. I made some lemon tea instead and heard something walking in the yard. Maybe someone coming to kill me.
I thought well, so be it. I can’t control anyone. I can only defend myself with what I’ve got.
There was a time when a stranger on the street did seem as though he were about to kill me, and I thought how unfair, how unfair. I thought that for many months. I let the facts of it rip through me and it was because I thought that I should be able to undo even the possibility — the seed of thought in the man’s mind. But I don’t know him. What has he been through? Where’d it all start?
I opened the side door and shouted “Hey!” No one answered. I stepped out into the blue darkness and looked left and right and saw a fat skunk nosing around in the leaves. I watched for a while. It was busy and unbothered by me.
I returned to my computer, pulled the towel off my head, and refreshed. Droplets of water fell to my shoulders and there was no email. I felt flimsy and confused. I thought, what if I am a very bad person? Just a rotten, pathetic person? What if I need my essential nature slapped out of me?
But what if I am a very sad person? What if he is? I looked up and around the room thinking I could grab sadness and turn it around in my hands and see all of its sharp, ugly sides and wipe them away. Then there would just be sadness left, not all of its wreckage; sadness is enough.
I lay down and tried to close my eyes, but they pushed open against me. I turned my head on the pillow and looked out the window at the neighbor’s illuminated porch. She had started painting on road signs as an art thing. She’d invited me over the week before and explained that there was some message there about order and chaos, but she was still working it out.
I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up in the morning. I was on top of the quilt with chalky teeth and all of my clothes. I pulled the computer onto my lap and opened my email and refreshed. Some ads, an email from a friend inviting me to dinner, but nothing from him. Something great about the sun then, the way it speckled the walls of my room. A lot of great things all around me, and I looked at them.