Wifi & Marriage

Personal Essay

It was two days before I left for a semester in London. I was sitting on the couch in my basement, drinking a glass of red wine and watching re-runs of sitcoms from the 90’s. I had been trying to check my phone less recently, but, in this moment, I couldn’t fight the urge; I needed to see if he was online. I opened Instagram and clicked on his profile. A small green dot signified his online presence. I smiled. It was 4 am his time which meant he had either woken up to use the restroom or he was returning from a night out with friends. I sent him a picture of the wine glass in my hand. It wasn’t a good picture, simply dark and blurry since the television screen was the only source of light near me. A vibration notified his response. It was probably something witty or sarcastic like “don’t go too crazy tonight” or “you better watch that drink.” He’s good at showcasing his sense of humor in only a few words. I’ve typed “LOL” to him an excessive amount of times. But it’s true. His short, charming messages make me smile and laugh. The best is when he sends me voice messages so that I can hear his surroundings, car horns and wind. I picture him walking through the city, holding his phone up to his mouth, and singing whatever song happens to be stuck in his head. When I press play my mouth flattens into a thick red grin. Sometimes I draft messages to him, saying how grateful I am for our friendship and how I wish, more than anything, that our lives occurred in the same time zone. The same country. I never send these messages, but I should.

After exchanging a string of sarcastic messages related to my wine consumption, he asked me something serious. I like how he prefaces his inquiries with deliberate phrases like “May I” and “I’ve been curious about you,” being careful not to overstep. He respects my privacy, but I am willing to share.

“You must get attention at school, going out, etc. Are you not interested? What are you looking for?” His question both flattered and floored me. I had been on a few dates here and there, but I had always been apprehensive to talk about them with him. Slowly, and with much concentration, I typed a thorough message. To the question of what I am looking for, I told him that I want to feel chosen. It is a truth to my womanhood that I cannot deny. I want to feel pursued. I ended the message with, “If something sticks, it sticks and nothing has.” I considered adding “except you” at the end but I ended up deleting those two words.

He confirmed to having been a few dates as well, indulging on the importance of a woman’s voice. I imagined him sitting with a tan woman, from work or in passing, eating pasta in a romantically lit restaurant and drinking Aperol Spritz’s and laughing at how irresistible it all is. Of course, I didn’t let on that I was a bit jealous. How could I be? We are not dating. We have never defined our relationship or gone exclusive. It seems strange to do any of this when your friendship relies on a sturdy wifi signal.

We began talking about long distance relationships. The how’s and why’s. The complexities and anxieties. He seemed to be admitting that a relationship with me would be too hard. And I have to agree. I began to feel discouraged and uncomfortable as if I could feel the process of losing him begin. I assume that this is what it feels like to lose something that isn’t even yours to misplace.

“I like you, there’s no denying that,” he typed. “I like you too.”

Then we got married. Not legally or religiously or course, but I enjoyed how natural and light it was to send pretend vows and gifs of rings to each other as a means of matrimony. That huge fat grin filled up my face. The corners of my mouth pushed up into my cheeks harder than anytime before.

“I’m going to bed a married man,” he sent.

“Goodnight husband,” I replied.

“Goodnight wife.”

An Acquired Taste

Personal Essay

I drove home from a date on the cusp of tears. I wanted to cry, but the interior flood gates remained shut. It seemed like a perfect moment to cry with the dreary scent of perfume and hairspray saturating the driver and passenger seats. The darkness weighed in and around me. An obnoxious amount of time passed since another car flicked by. I felt like the road kept existing for me. I began to wonder how far my gas tank would take me. Ohio? Illinois? Maybe I want to go east. New York? Pennsylvania? My father always told me that, if I ever really desired it, I could drive all the way to Miami for a long weekend. He made sure I knew which highways ran north and south and which ones ran east and west. He hasn’t travelled much but, if he wanted it bad enough, I think he could. 

My hands gripped the steering wheel. In a final attempt to cry, I tried thinking of something really sad like my mother dying or working a job I hate. I also tried thinking about the fourth grade boy who returned to school after being treated for leukemia. That had made my mom cry. We watched it on the local news. The boy walked through a channel of classmates clapping and cheering for his healthy return. I saw my mom’s cheeks grow red like a vodka reaction. Then her eyes swelled and I rubbed her back until the feeling subsided. Nothing was sad or happy enough in this moment for me to cry. I felt myself surrendering to the absence of emotion, the place I fear most where no hope or creativity resides. 

The date was a pile of ash. It was like sifting through debris and rubble, trying to make it sound less toxic. When I asked for a glass of the house red, the waiter, with bleached hair and a broad chest, told me that they don’t really have a house red. I told him to bring me any red they had. He asked which blend I preferred. Lighter or darker. Smokier or smoother. I remembered my step father describing a red wine as light at my birthday dinner the week before. It was a lovely pairing with my entree of lamb chops and creamy risotto and crunchy green beans. A light red would be great, I said.

As I sipped my glass of wine, leaving cherry lip stamps on the rim, I tried to let my body sink into the leather booth. I wanted to release my weight and feel permanent. In a few more gulps of wine I would be right there. He drank water from a short, cylinder glass. The ice cubes knocked into each other like chilly bones. He drank cup after cup of water. Our waiter was quick and happy to refill. He carried the water pitcher to our table with a long smirk pulled across his face. He walked with one arm folded along his back like an English butler. I sort of expected him to have an accent. 

There is nothing more deadening inside than scrounging your mind for light-hearted, substantial questions to ask on a date. Part of me relied on the slim chance that our conversations  would be natural and cut smoothly like a crisp apple. But I realized, rather quickly, that instead of effortless transitions and unencumbered questions, I would be picturing a map of the United States as he listed all of the places he’s been. In a flirtatious manner, I told him that it might be easier for him to list the states he hasn’t been to because that would be a shorter list. He might have laughed, but I didn’t hear anything. He carried on with the list and I sipped my wine. 

At some point during the meal we talked about shoes. What are your favorite pair of shoes and why, I asked. This was a question a short, bubbly girl had asked me at my old college. I remember being impressed with the question’s surprisingly personable nature. He finished chewing a piece of grilled Greek chicken and told me that white Nike’s are his favorite. He said he likes how a white shoe looks polished and I agreed. We also agreed that, although they are hard to keep clean, it is still worth buying a pair of white shoes. I put a ripe slice of avocado in my mouth and smiled. Then I decided to share my incredible dislike for black sneakers. They aren’t stylish. It’s not a good look. I can’t stand them. He shifted in the booth and I noticed a pink haze develop on his cheeks. Well that’s good to know, he said. I looked under the booth. His black sneakers were doubled knotted and staring up at me like two offended school girls. He laughed at my passionate hatred toward his shoes but I still felt bad. I apologized and ate a forkful of butternut squash covered in sprouts.

When the check came, I reached for my purse right away. It didn’t feel right to have him pay for the whole meal. I suggested that we each pay half. Actually, my exact words were, “Why don’t we go dutch?” I put my credit card on top of his fifty dollar bill and told the waiter to split the check evenly. Later, when I told my best friend about going dutch, she said he still should have paid. But I was the one who had a glass of wine and insulted his shoes, I told her. Still, she said, it was a date. 

Before we left the restaurant I used the restroom. I walked down a flight of stairs, passed a hallway of oblong mirrors, and entered the bathroom. On my way out, I stopped in front of one of the mirrors. I looked at myself dead in the eye, trying to see if anyone was in there. Brown and white and black with swirls of hazel and tints of the slightest, most lenient green. Then I looked at my nose and mouth. My lips were stained red from the Dior lipstick I had put on in the car two hours ago. When a woman walked out of the bathroom I jogged back up the stairs. 

Outside, the temperature was perfect, a mild January evening. I wanted to stay downtown and walk around or maybe grab a coffee, but I knew the only way to regain my solitude would be to let him walk me back to my car and say goodbye first. We walked side by side, passing bars and restaurants bustling with college students. Our conversation was recycled commentary on his unfamiliarity with the area and his desire to change that. At each corner, I pointed before we turned. His body jolted every time, proving his foreignness. When we reached the parking garage, I told him that my car was on the fourth level, thinking this would separate us but he walked up all four flights of stairs with me. I started counting cigarette butts and bobby pins and colorful splotches of gum smashed by a foot. I smelt the remnants of smoke. When we reached the fourth level, he made a joke about not having to exercise tomorrow after that climb. At my car, I initiated the hug. He pressed his torso into mine like a cold, firm handshake between men. I had a great time, he said. My eyes flickered in the foggy lighting. My words stumbled. We turned away from each other and walked our separate ways. 

I sat in the running car for a while with the heat up and flipping through channels on the radio. I tried calling my best friend but she didn’t answer. She was probably watching a movie with her mom or cleaning or packing up her clothes to move back to college. I stared at the concrete wall in front of me. The solidity and permanence of it. My eyes relaxed, vision fading. I took in the balmy scent of my Jimmy Choo perfume. It is how I imagine an eccentric French grandmother’s cluttered closet to smell, with her vintage jackets and thin, sheer dresses and a tattered jewelry box filled with gold pendants and turquoise. I love how scents make me think up scenes, linking it back to where it was born.

My desire for a cup of coffee had faded. I wanted to be home, peeling the tights off my legs and collapsing into bed. I drove like a slow parade float out of the parking garage, waiting for the radio to acquire a signal. A drowning female voice cut in and out of the stereo in sorrowful fragments. I took a right out of the parking garage and started east toward the highway. On the corner, a black man, wearing a thick wool coat and leather gloves, played his saxophone. A young woman walked by and dropped a dollar into his hat. The man smiled at her and I smiled to myself. 

As I merged onto the highway, the voice of Mina Fossati, an Italian artist, filled my car. Her voice flowed out of the speakers slowly, flattening onto the car floor. As the song continued, the impact of her voice began to rise, reaching the seat belts, the center console, the glove compartment. The sounds purged me. I started to feel heavy and permanent just as I had desired at dinner. Mina’s voice reminds me of what I expected Thursday nights to feel like as a young woman. Lonely and sorrowful, but sexy nonetheless. I stared at the road in front of me. Mina’s voice pulled me under. I let my body yearn and ache with her. The darkness weighed in and around me. My eyes were on the cusp of tears. There is a lot of gambling involved in the early stages of womanhood. Gambling that inflicts sorrow and loneliness I do not know how to bare. I began to think of all the ways in which I belong to myself. It was a quiet dialogue at first, muffled and insecure. Then, I watched it all come together once again just as it had months ago. The answer lies in Sue Monk Kidd’s book titled Traveling with Pomegranates. The passage reads, “Every woman needs to become self-mothering… To learn to take care of herself, to love herself.” The words hung in front of me as if I was driving solely to reach them. I thought I learned this months ago. I thought I had found the mother inside of me. Feeling a little happier, I drove on. Mina and I. We sang our way to the driveway of my home. 

Self-mothering. It is a blanket I will always have to refold. It is scripture I will always reread. It is a taste I need to acquire.

In New York City There is Nobody

Personal Essay

It was the beginning of January in New York City and I couldn’t think of any good reasons to get out of bed. In my defense, my mother and I were staying at The Plaza Hotel for the weekend so our bed was a chic king-size with satin pillowcases and warm cotton sheets; even the most dopamine-balanced mind would succumb to its bedridden pleasure.

My right ear pressed into the satin pillow. The hair around my temples grew moist from sweat. I was uncomfortable but unwilling to do anything about it. When we first arrived at the hotel, my mother noticed, as if by maternal instinct, that the bathroom had no counter space, only the slim, gleaming edge of an immaculately white sink which could balance one toothbrush and maybe a tube of lipstick. Despite the inconvenience, my mother was eager to bathe in the gold framed shower with a golden shower head and a golden soap holder. She showered every afternoon until her skin pruned. I, on the other hand, don’t remember if I showered once. I have no memory of the golden shower head or steam or stretching my toes against the mint tile. I just laid in our bed like a hopeless sweaty thing as my mother washed her arms and belly with the flower and herb scented soaps the hotel provided.

The shower water turned off. I heard my mother clear her throat and flip on the overhead fan. I imagined the hot steam as it began to melt off the mirror’s glass and evaporate into the ceiling. The thought of a wet, steamy bathroom depressed me more. I pulled my cheek away from the pillow and sat up. Sitting up was the first strenuous step in trying to convince my mother that I wasn’t clinically depressed. Mounds of satin pillows surrounded me. On the bed table to my right I saw a rectangular notepad with the hotel’s name curled into the top. I moved the notepad onto my lap. Then I reached for a black pen and began to describe the emptiness I felt. I was a shell. Tears swelled behind my eyes the way nail polish drops of the brush and onto a bare nail. At least I could feel something.

My mother came out of the bathroom wrapped up in two fluffy white towels, one on her head and the other tucked and hanging above her breasts. She looked like one of Mario Testino’s subjects for a towel series in Vogue. She sprayed her wrists and neck with perfume. By the time I wrote two full sentences on the notepad, my mother had already laid out her jewelry and heels for the evening and rubbed a coconut lotion into her chest. I stared down at what I had written and felt miserably worthless. I pitied my mother. She looked radiant and clean and ready to see the city. She didn’t deserve to be pulled beneath the concrete with me. Like any healthy woman would be, my mother had a thrill through her bloodstream. She was excited to call a cab and excited to eat sushi and excited to see Aladdin on Broadway. She took time to select her outfits and curl her hair.

As I watched her move about the room, I began to grow restless and jealous of my mother’s vibrant nature. I threw the duvet comforter to the side and swung my legs off the bed. Color and enthusiasm unfolded in my mind the way it always had when I believed that I could simply stand up and start anew. I thought about what I could do to get ready. Mascara, I thought, will liven me up. Perhaps some lipstick as well. I sat down in front of a full body mirror with my light pink Claudíe makeup pouch. In a slow, sickly manner, I set the makeup out before me. Achey and heavy, my arms continued to move the makeup out of its pouch until the products, like dominos, formed a straight, anticipating line. I looked at my face in the mirror and was horrified. There was no rosiness in my cheeks. My eye whites were dull and lonesome. There was no plumpness to my face. I looked flat and deficient and dead, but most of all, I felt pathetic.

Before taking the elevator down to the lobby, my mother asked me to sit in a teal velvet chair at the end of our hall for a picture. Like our bathroom, the chair had golden edges. Above the chair was a painting of a dark haired woman’s profile with pearls around her neck and a rose in her hair. I sat down and crossed my legs. For a while now I had stopped smiling with my teeth. I flattened my lips into a pink sneer and waited for the flash. Waiting. That’s all I knew. Waiting for sleep. Waiting for the next day. Waiting for our walk through Central Park to be through.

My mother showed me the picture in the elevator. The flash made every colorful thing more vibrant and every dull thing gloomier. I looked at my face and tried not to cry. There was no life behind those eyes. There was no passion beneath her chest. I looked and looked and looked until I memorized the face. There was nobody inside, I thought. There is nobody.

The Sadness We Demand

Personal Essay

Some men love me. Some love me like a daughter. Some love me because I am their daughter. Some love me when I wear denim, call me blue jean baby like I’m on a bar crawl in downtown Nashville. 

Reduce me to my roots. Call me baby or kitty or pumpkin. Judge me by how soft my skin is compared to yours. Daddy used to rub my back before bed and I hated it. His dry palm left scrapes along my spine. His chapped fingers tore me apart. You can’t put bandages on your own back and prayer doesn’t rush the healing. I wonder how much Daddy’s heart cracked when his little girl told him not to touch her. Daddy’s heart always cracks. He cries a lot. I wonder if Daddy ever cried after I yelled at him for not washing my underwear. I feared Daddy’s house for this reason. I hated washing my clothes in the bathroom sink and waiting for them to dry. I wanted Daddy to get rich in quarters just so baby brother and I would always have clean clothes. In the summertime, Daddy hung our bed sheets from the ceiling to save on air conditioning. He moved our mattresses to the living room so that we could all sleep comfortably. 

Whenever I use a staircase, I look over my shoulder to see what’s behind me. It’s muscle memory. I am looking for eyes that follow me up each step. I am waiting to feel gross. I hate it. To avoid his eyes, I started sprinting up the staircase, not giving him a chance. My thigh muscles tightened and became strong. My bare feet stamped the carpet. My body adapted to the exercise. Then my chest started growing and he noticed. I wanted to hide from his eyes forever. His eyes taught me how a man looks at a woman. His eyes taught me to wear baggy jeans and sweatpants. His eyes taught me to run.

I ran up the staircase and back into my Daddy’s dry hands. He rubs my back at night and I no longer complain. Daddy looks at me and I look at Daddy. I would never run from his eyes. In the summertime, Daddy used to take baby brother and I to the swimming pool right outside the apartment’s screen door. Daddy only had one bathing suit. It was red. I wore a light pink two piece that criss crossed several times along my back. Daddy helped me tie it. I didn’t care how much Daddy looked at me. To him I was a girl, not a woman. 

We used to wrestle on my mother’s golden framed bed. He tossed me on top of the covers and I laughed the whole time. He tickled and poked me. He wrapped me in his arms. I knew Daddy would be upset if he saw us. I didn’t want to betray him. But Daddy, you never have clean underwear for me and I don’t like sharing a room with baby brother. I have my own room here and we don’t need quarters to do laundry. I’m going to stay here until it no longer feels like a family. I wonder how much Daddy’s heart cracked when his little girl told him he doesn’t feel like family. 

Now my Daddy holds me and all I feel is family. I want to curl up on the couch next to him and let his dry hands stroke my hair. When baby brother and I went went to Daddy’s house for Thanksgiving I clung to Daddy the whole time. I couldn’t let go. We danced in the living room together. Our bony hips knocked. We cleaned the dishes standing side by side. Daddy’s eyes are harmless and lonely. And maybe I am lonely too.

to the first boy who didn’t love me, please forgive me

Personal Essay

This essay was originally written for a creative writing class in 2018. We were encouraged to play with the format. Enjoy.

It is a debilitating mindset: between how it should be and how it is. It should be easy like peanut butter sandwiches or peeling back the tin covering on a jar of cashews. It should be easy like describing the sound of your voice to my mother over the phone. Telling her how in love with life you are. It should be easy like retelling the story of how your parents met to my mother during the same phone call with traces of your enthusiasm in my own voice. We should have melted together slowly like a chocolate friendship, adding caramel and nuts with every passing year. We should have dove into friendship like a bag of unwrappable Dove chocolate. Mutual interest would have helped, might have allowed me to justify less. 

“How do you feel about it today?” my friend would ask in the dining hall as we forked oily eggplant into our mouths. 

“I mean it’s the same. I still feel the same way,” I would solemnly reply, swallowing a forkful of slimy vegetable and the foreign taste of heartache. 

“He has a girlfriend,” she would remind me, suggesting that technically my feelings are irrelevant, suggesting that technically I shouldn’t be hurting so much. 

Other things that are irrelevant:

  1. Our first conversation was in late August. He told me the story of how his parents met. How easy it was. How peanut butter it was. How dripping with caramel and nuts it was. I remember the details well: the elevator ride, the chili dinner, the phone call, the years in between, the lasting friendship, a flight to Mexico. But, I can remember a lot when I want to.
  2. Our second conversation was in early September. We talked about ice cream. “Hands down…chocolate and hazelnut ice cream. I. LOVE. ICE. CREAM. *hands pulling on cheeks* I swear if a girl brought me ice cream, in any capacity, even a coupon for ice cream, I would marry her right there.” 
  3. September 17th: His 20th birthday. I brought him a plastic spoon and a pint of chocolate gelato.

I knew he had a girlfriend but I walked into my freshman year of college half-blind, breathing through one nostril, and congested. I would have fallen for a box of instant macaroni and cheese (if only it had a longer lifespan). Everything tasted raw and undercooked. Everyone looked sore and underdeveloped. He looked kind of different though, like a ripe avocado sun-basking on a windowsill. His voice tasted al dente. Like a noodle. Italy would be so proud of his perfectly boiled voice. I started listening for his voice in the library. The soft rolling of water. The bubbling of hot liquid. It was a promising game at first. I heard the sound and there he was. The pot reached a boil and there he stood in front of me, leaning over a large table, holding out his hand for mine. He treats his friends so well, I thought. 

More things that are irrelevant:

  1. I considered writing him a note. I crafted the first draft in my head during the second act of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani. The Lyric Opera Theatre of Chicago doesn’t hand out pens and paper for their lovesick patrons. It started like this, “If ever there should be an appropriate time to be honest, I would tell you this…” There was never an appropriate time. 
  2. He was the ‘he’ in my first poem.
  3. I used to pray for people making hard decisions

September. October. November. Thanksgiving break. We were sitting on my God sized bed (God sized is when you push two twin sized beds together because you don’t have a roommate at the moment, thus, creating a space for sleeping that is a little larger than a king sized mattress). My friend, her boyfriend, and I. Tryptophan, carbohydrates, and glucose were still pulsating through our bloodstreams like a liquid Thanksgiving. 

“…I don’t know who he’ll take now,” said the boyfriend all nonchalantly. My friend and I looked at each other suspiciously. We were both shocked and stunned at the information we had just heard.

“Yeah, they broke up over break. He said it was a hard decision but the right one.”

You know the drill:

  1. I wish I could ship a care package through time back to my freshman self. Amid the chocolate chip cookies and extra underpants I would tuck some Vaseline for the congestion, eucalyptus nasal spray for the clogged nostril, and night vision goggles for the blind eye
  2. Swallowing excitement is not easy like hummus or whipped cream. Excitement comes in a big, hard shell that takes contractors and carpenters to crack. Then, once you’re granted access, the inside tickles your throat like cake frosting and you just want to spit it all out.
  3. I did not swallow excitement. I spit it like frosting. 

The opposite of natural takes place when a freshly single boy collides, against his will, with a girl who is 226 months single. It was a few days after his breakup. The interaction was a heterogenous mixture of awkwardness and interest. You could have put it in a bottle, shook it, and observed the cringe fester into a moldy ball. We talked about our shared love for God. I told him that I admired his faith and how he treats his friend, and how he is so in love with life, and how contagious he is, and how if he were a virus I wouldn’t mind contracting it. Needless to say, I jumped the gun like leapfrog for young adults. I should have given him space. [I think I need to give myself a little bit more credit here because about 20 minutes after this interaction my friend told me that her boyfriend texted her saying that freshly-single-boy proclaimed, “I fucking love Kelly. She’s so fucking cool.” Not going to lie, my only thought after reading that text was comparable to the first two lines of Queen’s song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in which Freddie Mercury states, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”]

December. The month of worsening symptoms. A faint cloud in my chest, a minor wheeze, a subtle whistle, turned into full blown bronchitis and I was SO in love with a boy who SO thought of me as just a friend that my bronchial tubes wouldn’t clear up to breathe in reality. Reality stayed outside of me but I was cordial. I didn’t ignore it. I waved to it. Asked how the kids were. Asked if the rents were coming for Thanksgiving this year. I treated reality like a coworker I’d never really get to know. 

It is a debilitating mindset: between how it should be and how it is. How is it? It no longer hurts. Reality is in me. I know her so well. She is less of a coworker, more of a friend. Reality lives at 8592 Berwick St, Westland, Michigan. She has three children under the age of seven. She’s introverted but loves to host Thanksgiving. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie. Turkey. She makes it all herself. She’s divorced. She scoops the best ice cream cones. She’s very ambitious. She’s a great listener and obsessed with food trucks. She goes to yoga three times a week when the kids are with their father. We met at the end of January. I know her so unexpectedly well.

This is Reality:

  1. He was my date to winter formal. I wore a black dress.
  2. I guess he prefers red.

 

When Goodness Crumbles

Personal Essay

I don’t remember how often I’d cry. Maybe two or three times a week. Tears swelled behind my eyes like a sudden pregnancy of grief. Then, equally as fast, they were gone, drained from my system as if I had felt nothing at all. 

I didn’t know how sad I was until I left. Thinking back to the campus, it’s silky concrete and ashy buildings, there was always an arrow of sorrow piercing my palm. 

The only place I found comfort was during my shifts in the library. I never used the elevator. Even when I had to re-shelf a book on the third floor, I climbed the stairs, feeling the muscles in my thighs and butt pull me upward. I liked stamping the interior cover of books with the due date. The stamp made a soft, satisfying noise like kissing a baby on the forehead. I liked closing the cover and handing it to the patron with a full lipped grin.  

I guess the dining hall provided comfort as well. On Friday afternoons, after Italian class, I’d drop my coat and backpack into a booth and head toward the dessert counter for a chocolate brownie. I stood the brownie on its side to cut it in half with a butter knife like two pieces of bread. I spread peanut butter onto one slice before closing it into sandwich. A cold, tall glass of chocolate milk paired excellently with it. On the walk back to my dorm, I felt stupid for spoiling the opportunity to go for a run. A run, I thought, would have been productive, would have made me feel a different kind of good. I felt like I was constantly debating which type of goodness I needed. It felt like I always picked the wrong one. Sometimes, during a run, I would think that maybe taking a hot shower would have been right. 

Weekends were the worst. No one needed me but myself and something about Friday through Sunday made this feeling apparent. One Sunday in particular I remember hauling my heavy back pack down the avenue, across the highway, and onto the large campus next door. By the time I arrived at the study lounge, my armpits and forehead were plump with sweat. My feet ached. I couldn’t take my sweater off because I wasn’t wearing an undershirt. I tried to ignore how uncomfortable I felt. I wanted to go back. I wanted to pack my folders and pencil case and laptop into the backpack and head right back to my dorm room and collapse onto my bed shirtless. 

I stepped outside and called my mom instead. My right leg felt unhinged as if it were floating outside of the socket. It hovered the grass in semicircles and then propelled back and forth. I dug my heel into the ground, trying to look nonchalant. Trying to look like a grown woman catching up with an old high school friend.

My cell phone, pressed against an oily cheek, contained warmth. I pictured my mother on the other end, sitting on the couch with a blanket and magazine in her lap.

You can come home, she told me.

I don’t think it’s that bad, I assured her.

Living at home is different. I make my bed every morning, I eat a full breakfast, I put on mascara before class. It’s easier to decipher my needs. Goodness, it seems, develops in front of me instead of going out to search for it. I don’t feel like I’m wandering or stumbling. I feel grounded. 

I like being close to my family. I like being able to drive twenty-five minutes to my brother’s college to drop off a pencil case he left at home. 

I like being close to my family, they make my life abundant.